Upcoming town halls

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden will host two more Central Oregon town halls Sunday in Jefferson and Crook counties.

The Jefferson County town hall will be at 11 a.m. Sunday in the Jefferson County Senior Center, 860 SW Madison St., Madras.

The Crook County town hall will be at 2 p.m., Sunday at Crook County High School, 1100 SE Lynn Blvd., Prineville.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, held his first town hall in Bend in nearly two years Saturday to discuss national and local issues facing his 2nd Congressional District that includes Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties.

A crowd packed into the Mountain View High School auditorium to hear from Walden. It was Walden’s first town hall in Bend since April 2017, when he faced a rowdy crowd in Mountain View High School’s gym. It was also Walden’s first Bend town hall since he lost Deschutes County in last fall’s general election for the first time in two decades.

The town hall had a more civil tone with a mix of supporters and challengers seated together in the auditorium. Walden did not allow people to bring signs, and only a few people shouted in disagreement.

“Let’s be civil to each other as Oregonians,” Walden said before fielding questions. “That is my pledge to you from this podium.”

A big issue hanging over the town hall was Walden’s thoughts on the federal government shutdown and President Donald Trump’s offer Saturday to exchange three years of deportation protection for some immigrants for border wall funding.

Walden did not offer a firm answer on whether he supports Trump’s proposal, but he earned applause from many in the crowd when he reminded them he recently voted with Democrats to reopen much of the government.

He also told the audience he supports Trump’s views on strengthening border security.

“We have a humanitarian crisis on the border, and we have a broken immigration system in the interior, and we need to fix both,” Walden said.

Walden received push-back from some in the audience when he described his support for the federal tax cuts that some say benefit corporations more than individuals.

“It is no secret I supported them, and I think they have had a strong effect on the economy,” Walden said as audience members bellowed in unison, “No.”

Erik Fernandez — wilderness program manager for Oregon Wild, a conservation organization that works to protect the state’s wild lands, wildlife and waters — questioned Walden’s approach to logging practices. Fernandez said he was disappointed in Walden’s focus on aggressive logging in the region, and asked that Walden consider a more balanced approach to protect the area’s natural resources.

“I would encourage you to move more toward the middle, and not be so far to the right when it comes to forest policy,” Fernandez said.

Walden, who is familiar with Fernandez and Oregon Wild, playfully asked if they could move more toward to right, the Republican viewpoint.

Fernandez then jokingly moved his body to the right, to which Walden responded from the stage, “It’s actually left from my point of view.”

All ages were represented, and many men and women came directly from the Central Oregon Women’s March in downtown Bend.

A couple of high school students asked questions about planning for Bend’s growing population and Walden’s plans for gun safety, especially after all the school shootings in America.

“I’m fully committed to making sure our schools are safe,” Walden said.

Walden explained he is working on creating more training for law enforcement around active shooter situations, more access to mental health services and a stronger background check system for gun owners.

Walden said he fully supports the Second Amendment.

“I also take an oath of office to stand up and support every amendment of the constitution,” Walden said.

A group of Mountain View High School juniors said they were encouraged to attend by their government teacher. They saw it as a good opportunity to hear from Walden and learn more about the issues facing their generation.

“I just like to be involved as possible in politics as a young person because I feel like not enough young people are these days,” said Sydney Pickett, 16. “So I try to get out there as much as I can.”

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