WARM SPRINGS, Ore. - Sen. Ron Wyden's first-ever town hall on the Warm Springs Reservation Thursday afternoon started with a question regarding the health of the Warm Springs community from a resident who said each generation does not have more hope than the last, and that there is little room for upward mobility.
Wyden responded by saying he wants to revive the reservation's economy by focusing on recreation, drone testing, and most of all, health care. He pointed to southern Oregon's success with the health care industry as an example.
He then asked the crowd for suggestions, two of which were recreational marijuana and infrastructure. Several residents pointed to the latter as a chief area of concern.
As for young people having fewer opportunities than their parents, Wyden pointed to a fellow in his office from the reservation.
"Making sure that talented young people from the reservation have more opportunities, starting with fellowships in our office, is a pretty good way to send a message that there is a path for upward mobility," he said.
Another question pointed to Oregon's travel tax, the first of its kind in the United States. It's based on the mileage Oregonians put on their cars. Warm Springs resident Carol Sahme argued the tax is unfair to people in Central Oregon.
"When you live on this side of the mountain, you put in a lot more miles than you do in the Portland/Salem area," she said.
The comment invoked all of Central Oregon, but the issue affects Warm Springs residents the most.
"In Warm Springs, more so than any other communities, if we want to, for instance, go to Costco, go to Target, Fred Meyer or Walmart, we've got an hour drive ahead of us," Sahme said.
Wyden stressed the need for better infrastructure and better sharing of state transportation funds.
He closed the gathering by announcing this would not be his last town hall meeting in Warm Springs.