Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I often use this "e-letter" to let you know what I'm working on during the interim between sessions. Right now I'm continuing work on an idea we started late last year, to make it less attractive for thieves to grab jewelry and sell it for quick cash. Legislators return to Salem this month for several days of committee hearings and other meetings. And here's a sample of my other activities in the past few weeks:
- short trips related to my committee work, including a radio tower on Walker Pt. to support statewide emergency communications, the solar project and electric vehicle charging at Cafe Yumm, a railroad operation in Albany, and the King Estate solar power installation;
- legislative hearings and the Passenger Rail Leadership Council in Salem;
- presentations by a national expert on funding models for public universities, and by a power utility on current and future trends in supplying energy;
- Oregon Health Authority town hall on transforming the health care system;
- special events supporting local organizations, including WomenSpace, Eugene International Film Festival, CASA (Court Apppointed Special Advocates), and Eugene Education Fund;
- ... and a wonderful performance of Ballet Fantastique in Eugene!
Please feel free to contact me to share your ideas and thoughts. You can email me at email@example.com or call 541-343-2206.
Rail Leadership Council
Visiting the Portland & Western Railroad
I am happy to report that I have been appointed to serve on the newly created Oregon Passenger Rail Leadership Council. The Council will begin studying options for improved intercity passenger rail service between Eugene and Portland. I've had a long-standing interest in improving Oregon's rail system and our regional economy with expanded passenger and freight capacity, and I'm disappointed that Oregon has fallen behind while better-prepared states have been making significant improvements with federal grants. Talk about jobs for now, and the future, ...!
There have been two other rail developments in recent weeks. The Coos Bay rail link, connecting Eugene to the coast, was recently re-opened. The line closed when the private owner scheduled it for abandonment and removal in 2007. Hundreds of manufacturing jobs were threatened when those rail cars -- 6,000 a year -- weren't available to move freight. Freight will once again move by rail to reach national markets. Also: ODOT has received a $13.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to do preliminary engineering work for track replacement and expansion, more work at Portland's Union Station, and plan improvements for the Cascades route from Eugene to Portland.
Escorting the Georgian delegation into the House of Representatives Chamber.
Last month I had the opportunity to host a group of judges from the Republic of Georgia. The judges were participating in the Open World Program for a week-long visit hosted by Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters. The program brings public officials from countries in the former Soviet Union to the United States to meet with legislative, executive, and judicial leaders. The goal is to let them experience the American political system up close and take home the information they've learned.
On our one-day tour, the judges had the opportunity to speak with a dozen state officials. They learned about our legislative process, including committee hearings, voting, and vetoes. They also learned about the role of the non-partisan and impartial professional staff that provide financial and legal analysis for legislative proposals. It was an enjoyable experience and I was glad to host the group.
Health Insurance Rate Review
The Legislature has expanded opportunities for the public to review and comment on health insurance rate increases. The Joint Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, voted last month to approve a federal grant to the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) to continue detailed analysis of health insurance companies' requests to increase the rates. DCBS plans to hold more than 20 hearings a year, broadcast the hearings so you can watch them from your computer, and fund the work of a consumer interest group to represent the public at the hearings. I'm pleased about this significant development, especially following the legislation I sponsored several years ago to open up those rate requests for public review on the Internet.
Despite the tough economic times our country is facing, we continue to have bits of good news. Continued investment in infrastructure and housing for long-term benefit also means jobs in our local area. A few examples:
- The Oregon Housing and Community Services Department is providing $517,669 to the St. Vincent dePaul Society of Lane County. The money will allow them to acquire and rehabilitate 12 units of housing for homeless veterans.
- An $8.3 million broadband improvement project administered by the Lane Council of
Governments broke ground in September. The project, made possible by the 2009 American Recovery and Investment Act, will bring high-speed internet services to schools, police and fire facilities, medical buildings, and other critical facilities in the region. Projects in our area include Fire Station 9 on Goodpasture Island Rd., Lane County Public Health, several medical clinics, and Eugene Police Headquarters.
At the 13th Ave. event with ODOT Dir. Matthew Garrett, Councilor Alan Zelenka,
Rep. Phil Barnhart
- On September 27, I participated in an event to celebrate the transportation improvements around 13th Ave. and Kincaid Street in the University District. Lane Transit District has increased sidewalk widths for pedestrians while retaining the current level of parking for cars, and painted green boxes on the pavement to remind drivers to provide space for cyclists. The project required remarkable cooperation between the construction company, businesses, and pedestrians during construction, at times even escorting people around large construction equipment and deep holes in the street to access businesses. With hundreds of people passing through there every day, these changes are designed to keep traffic flowing, whether on foot, on bike, or in a bus or car.
Last month we said goodbye to Dorothy Waller. Dorothy worked tirelessly over the last two years in a number of roles, keeping the office running smoothly and efficiently, arranging activities around the district, and helping organize the efforts to pass legislation. But Dorothy has not gone far!
Adam Renon, Legislative Assistant
She is working in the Capitol assisting former representative Ben Cannon, who serves as the Governor's Education Policy Advisory.We wish her the best in her new role and future endeavors.
Taking over for Dorothy is Adam Renon. Adam is a recent graduate of Willamette Law School, and has earned degrees from Oregon State University, and studied abroad in both Bulgaria and Costa Rica. He has also served as a legislative intern in the U.S. Senate. We also appreciate the continuing assistance of Daniel Strauss, UO graduate student intern, and Renee Buchanan, volunteer and active community member.
Upcoming Events: Constituent Coffee Meet and Greet
I hope you can join me for coffee and informal conversation to disucss community issues and what's happening in Salem.
What: Coffee Meet and Greet
When: Sunday, November 6, 2:00 - 3:00 pm
Where: Laughing Planet Cafe
760 Blair Boulevard