Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection
Dear fellow Oregonians,
Greetings from Hood River, where I am home today following a shortened workweek in Washington, D.C. I'm looking forward to heading down to Jackson County later today for a series of events, but before doing so I wanted to update you on my activities of the past week.
ON THE OREGON TRAIL
I planned a pretty busy schedule over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend before flying back to Washington, D.C. to begin my 326th round trip between Oregon and the capital.
As you may remember from the last newsletter, I joined Governor Kulongoski and scores of central Oregonians on Saturday at the memorial service for Sgt. Zachary McBride of Bend, who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country earlier this month in Iraq. Zach was honored as a smart and funny young man who was devoted to his country and his faith. We all owe Zach and his family a debt we can never repay.
Later that evening, I made my way to Klamath Falls to attend the retirement party for Crater Lake Superintendent Chuck Lundy, whose outstanding stewardship of one of the country's crown jewels will certainly be missed. I rounded out the evening at the Klamath Falls Chamber of Commerce dinner, where the newly released water settlement proposal was a hot topic. I'll talk more about that a little later in the newsletter.
I joined the Madras Chamber of Commerce to talk about local issues over lunch on Monday. Their major concern was obtaining funding for the Highway 97 South Y relocation project. I offered to facilitate a meeting with Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett to open up a better dialogue with the Chamber and the community. County payments, the economic stimulus (which I'll talk more about later in this newsletter), healthcare, and energy were among the other topics we discussed.
Following lunch, I held meetings with mayors from Deschutes County organized by Redmond Mayor Alan Unger and attended by Bend Mayor Bruce Abernethy, La Pine Mayor Stu Martinez, and Sisters City manager Eileen Stein). Then I met with Deschutes County Commissioners Dennis Luke and Mike Daly, County Administrator Dave Kenner, and County Forester Joe Stutler. We covered lots of pressing local issues, including the Highway 97 project in Redmond, the pursuit of funding for the Bend Municipal Airport, and the cost of maintaining costly railroad crossings that provide little benefit to local economies. The meeting with the commissioners was dominated by talk on forests and forest health. Joe Stutler informed me that the valuable Project Wildfire and FireFree projects (which provide information on fire prevention and safety to residents for central Oregon) will be coming to Washington, D.C. to hold some informational meetings for members and staff. I look forward to attending and supporting their efforts.
Then it was off to the Deschutes County Fair Association's dinner in Redmond. The association is an all-volunteer group who does great work managing the fair and boosting the local economy every year. At the dinner, I auctioned off two U.S. House of Representatives Afghans that raised $740 for the local 4-H Animal Project Scholarship Fund.
Finally, later that evening I attended the Central Oregon Visitors Association (COVA) gala in Bend. I joined NFL legend and Hall of Famer Dan Fouts to auction off several items, including footballs he signed, and threw to the winning bidders at their tables. Fortunately, his arm and aim are as good as ever! The gala ended up raising $230,000 for the Heart of Oregon Corps. That organization was co-founded in 2000 by Denny Maloney with the goal of reducing poverty, stimulating economic growth, and maintaining the natural environment of central Oregon. Denny, as you may know, passed away in February 2007, and we certainly missed his presence at the gala and in the community. However, it is heartening to know that the spirit of public service that defined Denny remains strong as ever in central Oregon, thanks in large part to his lifetime of dedication to making the community around him a better place for everyone.
On Tuesday morning, I flew out of Redmond at 6:30 am to get back to the nation's capital for votes that evening. The big news out of Washington, D.C. this week is the bipartisan agreement on an economic stimulus package that will contain a mix of tax rebates and business investment incentives. While I am very disappointed that the Speaker did not include an extension of county payments (as I and much of the Northwest congressional delegation requested), I am hopeful that the agreement will help bring some relief to the middle class and prevent a recession in our economy.
On Wednesday morning I met with representatives of the different stakeholder groups involved in the Klamath water settlement talks, including the Klamath Water Users Association, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, the Klamath Tribe, and the Yurok Tribe. The group was in Washington, D.C. to talk to federal decision makers about the recently released settlement proposal that grabbed national headlines. It will take a while to digest the full scope of the details, but as I've said all along, the best solution will come from those most affected, and not a group of judges in San Francisco or bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. The people who stuck with these highly sensitive talks for two-and-a-half years are to be commended for their cooperation and perseverance. There is a long way yet to go as the stakeholder groups still need to ratify the proposal. And, as with any discussions surrounding a highly charged issue, it is not without controversy. The long process of serious deliberation over the terms begins now.
I also met with Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan on Wednesday. Oregon's regional universities are a wonderful resource for students of all ages in the our district and I am impressed by SOU's dedication to making educational opportunities more accessible through traditional on-campus classes and courses offered via distance education. Currently, they are working collaboratively with Rogue Community College to develop the Medford Higher Education Center, which is a unique partnership between the two schools that will provide college entry-level coursework through Master's-level classes.
In other news, one of the committees I sit on, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, is known for its wide-ranging jurisdiction over federal policy; this week, I participated in one of its subcommittee's hearings on combating nuclear proliferation. Throughout the rest of the year, the subcommittee will continue to investigate whether the government is doing enough to control, interdict, and secure nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology throughout the world. My other committee, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, held a hearing on the concept of auctions and so-called revenue recycling under a carbon cap and trade system. You'll be hearing a lot more on this topic as Congress goes to work on climate change legislation.
Finally, when I get back to Washington, D.C. on Monday, I will attend the President's State of the Union address. I look forward to telling you all about it in the next edition of the newsletter. Until then, for more on what's happening in Congress, you can refer to the Library of Congress website here. You can always reach me through my website or by contacting any of my offices in Oregon or Washington, D.C.
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Member of Congress