Monday, December 12, 2011
Outside U.S. Rep. Greg Walden's district offices this week passers-by could hear the chant "Whose streets? Our streets!" ringing up from a group holding the now familiar "We are the 99 percent" posters.
Walden, who lives in Hood River, has served the Second District since 1999. He was re-elected in 2010 by a 70-30 percent majority.
In recent weeks, representatives of the self-identified "99 percent" Occupy movement have organized recent sit-ins at two of Walden's district offices, leading to 14 arrests.
Walden's Second Congressional district of Oregon, CD2 for short, covers an area of close to two-thirds of the entire State, includes Hood River and is made up of 20 counties, mostly east of the Cascades. The two most populous areas in CD2 are Bend and Medford.
On Dec. 5, two "Occupy CD2" sit-ins were staged at Walden's district offices in both Medford and Bend - ultimately resulting in the arrest or citation of 14 individuals for trespass.
Those protesters, and the two dozen or so, who showed up at Walden's Wash., D.C. offices on Dec. 6, expressed dissatisfaction with Walden's accessibility. They asked Walden to hold five more town hall meetings in the district by April 2012 and to hear how economic policies and his votes have hurt CD2 constituents.
A News records search yielded a reference to a 2005 Walden town hall meeting in Hood River on the topic of methamphetamine abuse, but no others since then. Walden's staff provided no other record of an open town hall meeting for Hood River.
Public town hall meetings traditionally involve un-scripted, open-topic, direct question and answer exchanges between the politician and any local constituent wishing to attend.
The protesters also charged Walden to place more limits on "Wall Street" rights and reduce corporate influence over legislation and citizens.
According to Walden's staff, protesters in Medford and Bend were informed that Walden was in Washington D.C. but insisted on waiting inside the offices until closing time. They then refused to leave and were eventually arrested for trespass.
Andrew Whelan, Walden's press secretary, said police were called because protesters could not be left in the office after closing and their disruption of services needed to end.
Allen Hallmark, one of those arrested in Medford insisted the town halls were needed so that Walden "gets real feedback from real people."
Protesters at both sites indicated they are upset that the majority of Walden's meetings have not been in a town hall format, where anyone is invited to ask questions.
Whelan later responded to News requests for a listing of town hall meetings held over the last few years in the second district and any information on Hood River town halls in particular.
Whelan listed twelve completed community or town hall meetings in 2011, with two more scheduled for December. None have been in either Bend or Medford.
In an email, Whelan did note Walden's many other regular visits throughout the district.
"Representative Walden has now completed 437 round trips between Oregon and the nation's capital. By year's end, he will have visited each of the 20 counties in the second district at least twice. Each visit usually consists of multiple meetings and events, and he gets to many counties more often than that."
The remaining noted 2011 district visits on Walden's website have been events based on group invitations, dedication ceremonies topic-specific gatherings or public addresses.
To view a map of Walden's visits over the last few years click the "Where's Walden" button on the Congressman's website at: http://walden.house.gov/
The towns (and their respective populations) in which Walden has held community meetings or town halls in 2011 include: Heppner (1,395), John Day (1,821), Mitchell (170), Burns (2,659), La Pine (5,799), La Grande (13,082), Enterprise (1,895), Prineville (9,253), Ontario (11,366), Arlington (524), Lakeview (2,474) and Baker City (9,828).
Community meetings are not always synonymous with town hall meetings in format.
Reviewing 2010 listings according to Walden's website, town hall or community meetings were held in five towns - four of which were repeats from 2011.
The population of four cities in which no town hall or community meetings were held during 2011: Bend (76,639); Medford (74,907); The Dalles (13,620) and Walden's hometown of Hood River (7,167).
Two upcoming town halls have now been scheduled by Walden for Rufus (268) and Fossil (454) on Dec. 28 with details as follows:
In Rufus - a no host breakfast meeting at 7:30 a.m. at Bob's Texas T-bone,
101 E. First St.
In Fossil - Dinner at
5:15 p.m., at the Family Services Building Conference Room,
401 Fourth Street.