BEND, OR -- It was standing room only at Senator Ron Wyden's Bend town hall meeting, Friday. The question and answer session dealt with a number of topics from environmental issues to veterans' concerns to the planned closing of Bend's mail processing center. The sorting facility is scheduled to close in July and that means Central Oregon mail will be sorted in Portland, not here. Senator Wyden expects this to be a continuing battle. "The question is, are we going to turn rural communities into sacrifice zones? My guess is they will continue to look for further reductions. I don't favor that. I think there are reforms that make better sense." The closure of the Bend processing center will mean the letter you send across town, which only takes a day right now, will take two or three days after July. The Postal Service is shutting down the processing center, in part, because first class mail delivery has decreased significantly in recent years.
At Friday's town hall, one attendee asked the Senator about the upcoming Republican majority, and the chances of passing any public lands legislation. Wyden responded, "Certainly, if you look at the public statements made by new members, the real question is 'How are we going to advance some of the priorities we're talking about today?' I've always said public lands are an economic engine and they can generate a lot of economic activity." Wyden said that during the last government shutdown, the most consistent complaint was a lack of access to our public lands. He told the town hall, he plans to reach across the aisle to try and strike some middle ground and pass sensible legislation.
Wyden also said he believes the cost of senior healthcare needs to be addressed. "Medicare today is about cancer, diabetes, it's about heart disease, stroke and Alzheimers. That's the program, that's the whole ball game. In terms of the federal budget, Medicare's up 'here' and everything else is down 'here.'" He says lawmakers need to do a better job bringing costs down, by rewarding better outcomes.