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Wilsonville resident, state rep. discusses the legislative session and her plans for the future

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Courtney Neron hosts town hall at the Wilsonville Public Library.

This article was updated from its original version

"It's been a whirlwind of a year" — State Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, said to open the first town hall in her city of residence Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Wilsonville Public Library. At the meeting, Neron detailed highlights from the legislative session, which ended in June, fielded questions from the audience and talked about her plans for the future.

The issue the audience was most vocal about during the event was the potential expansion of the Aurora Airport. Neron is in a similar camp as the City of Wilsonville, stating she would like to see more transparency and adherence to public process before expansion is initiated.

"Process is the drumbeat that Susan McLain (Salem state representative) and I have been really hounding. Without it we will not have a result that people can trust. One of the things that's broken now is not only the process but the trust," Neron said.

Another audience member criticized a boater education bill Neron supported that establishes a boater safety program water skiers and water surfers must complete to perform those activities in the Newberg Pool portion of the Willamette River, which includes Wilsonville. Neron said she would talk with the audience member after the meeting about her concerns. However, she also explained the issue that this bills and others are trying to address.

"We have a really unique geographic feature here in the Newberg Pool and that is a narrow and deep part of the river that has become a popular place to boat and play. Boats that create so much energy are eroding banks and deteriorating steep high cliffs," Neron said.

Some legislative accomplishments Neron mentioned include bills that: guarantee paid family leave, direct the Oregon Department of Transportation to conduct a study on a project to add an I-5 southbound auxiliary lane near Wilsonville and seismically retrofit the Boone Bridge, make it harder for domestic abusers to obtain firearms, stabilizes the Medicaid system and funds education statewide through a tax on businesses, among many others.

"I celebrate the unprecedented investments in early childhood education (through the Student Success Act). We know if we are able to invest in quality education for our youngest (that) has a high return on investment for our dollars and a high return in confident, connected children," Neron said.

She also said a bill that did away with single family zoning in bigger cities throughout Oregon was a step in the right direction toward solving the housing crisis. However she said there is more work to be done including mitigating potential adverse effects of densification.

"I would like to see an emphasis on not only a logical amount of parking spaces dedicated when we are densifying neighborhood but also making sure that we're not overdeveloping at the risk of ignoring our green spaces," Neron said.

One audience member asked Neron what surprised her about her first legislative session. She said her fellow legislators did.

"Being new to politics, I had this assumption that our politicians were untouchable, different than all of us here in this room and one of the things I found so remarkable was the people I worked with everyday are very real and they care a lot. Even if I disagree with them they're there for the right reasons," she said.

Now that the session is over, Neron said she currently works at least three hours a day on legislative responsibilities and has her eye on legislation that bolsters safety protocols for students returning to school after experiencing a concussion and expanding school recess requirements. And in light of the fire at a condominium complex in Villebois earlier this year, she's considering proposing legislation pertaining to security requirements for buildings under construction.

"I'm working with the fire safety council to figure out how we can keep our neighborhood safe as we densify and provide reasonable security when building sites are vulnerable," she said.

She also said she wanted to fund the Family Preservation Project, which provides more time for some Coffee Creek Correctional Facility adults in custody to interact with their children, and would like to see a clean energy bill gain steam at the short session in February.

At the end of the town hall, one audience member thanked Neron for the work she's doing and the rest of the audience gave Neron applause.

"There's so many different areas I care about and I am hungry to get my fingers on different topics and learn more. It's an incredible learning curve and an honor to serve you guys," Neron said.

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