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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Economy Takes Center Stage at Bend Town Hall

Economy Takes Center Stage at Bend Town Hall

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR
August 16, 2011

BEND, Ore. - A town hall meeting to discuss the sagging Central Oregon economy and possible federal solutions might be lacking one key ingredient this week: Rep. Greg Walden, the Republican congressman for Oregon's Second District, has not yet indicated he will attend to answer the crowd's questions.

Greg Delgado, Central Oregon organizer for the immigrant-rights group CAUSA, says members of the Latino community will be there nonetheless, with views on immigration and trade agreements with Mexico that they feel are being ignored. And he says local postal workers who have just learned that their jobs are in jeopardy also plan to show up.

In person or on paper, Delgado says, their messages will be delivered.

"We're not just venting, either. We're going to get everybody's statements and we're going to send 'em to Congressman Walden, and we're going to use these as follow-ups to have this discussion. Let's just get the community voices together and take it to him."

Delgado says the congressman has held one local meeting in the past year, in La Pine, which he describes as not well publicized. He adds people have a lot of questions about how to turn the area's major industries around.

"Construction was a major job creator here in this Central Oregon region - and of course, with the real estate market the way it is, the growth has just collapsed, pretty much. And the other industry that we rely heavily on here is tourism. Also because of this economy, the tourist industry is suffering as well."

Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, says Walden's turf in Oregon's Second District has some of the highest home foreclosure and unemployment rates in the state, and not everyone there is convinced their views are being heard in Washington, D.C.

"We're very concerned about his position on unemployment extension, on stimulus to create jobs, his position on passing the Transportation Reauthorization Act. And that's why I think it's very important for Congressman Walden to show up at the event."

Rep. Walden has said the best way to revive the economy is to reduce government spending and give small businesses incentives to create jobs. If he does not attend the town hall meeting on Thursday, several groups are planning a panel discussion about job creation, immigration and trade issues. They include Oregon AFL-CIO, CAUSA, the Human Dignity Coalition and the Rural Organizing Project.

The groups say they want the gathering to be respectful and informative. It is scheduled for Thursday, August 18, 6:00 p.m., at Central Oregon Community College, 2600 N.W. College Way, Bend.


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