Upcoming events

• Deschutes County town hall — 10 a.m. Saturday at Summit High School gym in Bend.

• Crook County town hall — 3 p.m. Saturday at the Crook County High School auditorium in Prineville.

MADRAS — Sen. Ron Wyden held his first of a series of three Central Oregon town halls Friday at the Madras Performing Arts Center, where he answered a wide range of questions on topics from the Mueller investigation to public lands.

Wyden, a Democrat from Portland, will continue hosting town halls Saturday in Bend and Prineville.

Many in the crowd Friday were students from Madras High School, and some stood up to ask questions during the town hall.

Allen Hair, a government teacher at the high school, said the town hall was an educational experience for the students to interact with a U.S. senator, especially because many of them are learning about how the legislative branch of government operates.

“Actually getting to see Sen. Wyden is a good opportunity for them to put a face with the government,” Hair said.

One of the Madras students asked Wyden about his thoughts on President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border.

Wyden said he strongly supports border security and has voted over the years for more than $100 billion in funding for fences, security personnel, drones and radar. But building the wall would be a big mistake, Wyden said.

“Let’s be smart here,” Wyden said. “I just don’t think the wall makes a real cost-effective contribution.”

Wyden fielded a few other questions on national topics such as his thoughts on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between President Trump and Russia.

There are concerns about whether Mueller’s entire report will be released to the public when it is complete, Wyden said. He understands the need to redact information to protect national security, but he said he will work to make the full report publicly available.

“I’m prepared to go to the floor of the United States Senate and fight to make sure that document gets out,” he said.

Wyden dismissed a question about the possibility of him running for president in 2020, saying he will pass on that opportunity. But the upcoming presidential election reminded Wyden of his intention to bring Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to every state in the country.

“I want everybody to know I’m going to keep working to get Oregon vote by mail national,” he said. “I think it’s high time.”

Wyden began his town hall Friday by recognizing Stu Steinberg, vice president of the Crooked River Ranch Homeowners Association board of directors, who helped Wyden understand the community’s wildfire concerns.

Through working with Wyden, Steinberg contributed to the Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act getting closer to approval in Congress. The bill, originally sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River will likely pass and be signed by the president, Wyden said.

The bill would remove several hundred acres from a Wilderness Study Area to create better wildfire projection for the Crooked River Ranch community.

Wyden presented Steinberg with a copy of the legislation and an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol.

“This bill will hopefully go a long way for helping protect us from wildfire,” Steinberg said.

Toward the end of the town hall, Wyden thanked everyone for the thoughtful questions, especially the questions from the Madras students.

“There has not been a bad question in the house,” Wyden said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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