Job creation a focus of Sen. Merkley town hall meeting

‘We’ve been losing living wage jobs. Sixty percent of those jobs that we lost in the 2008 recession were living wage and only 40 percent of the jobs that we’re getting back are living wage.’Sen. Jeff Merkley

Photo by Ben Mitchell.
‘We’ve been losing living wage jobs. Sixty percent of those jobs that we lost in the 2008 recession were living wage and only 40 percent of the jobs that we’re getting back are living wage.’Sen. Jeff Merkley

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley was in Hood River Tuesday morning as part of keeping his 2008 promise of holding a town hall meeting in each of Oregon’s 36 counties every year.

And like in past years, job creation was a primary topic of conversation.

The meeting was held at the Hood River County Public Library and was well-attended by county and local officials who made up a good portion of the approximately 50 people who came to the library’s reading room to hear the Democrat senator speak.

Sen. Merkley told the audience he advocated investing in infrastructure, education and manufacturing to promote living-wage jobs, which he said have been woefully slow in returning since the economic downturn of the late 2000s.

“We’ve been losing living wage jobs. Sixty percent of those jobs that we lost in the 2008 recession were living wage and only 40 percent of the jobs that we’re getting back are living wage,” Sen. Merkley reported. “So, millions of families have gone from middle class to near-minimum wage, part-time, possibly without benefits.”

According to Sen. Merkley, the economic recovery has been more favorable toward the wealthy than the middle class. He stated that the U.S. is “more polarized now than we were in 1928” regarding the distribution of wealth.

“Of the expansion in the amount of revenue in this recovery, 95 percent of that new revenue has gone to the 1 percent at the top,” Sen. Merkley said. “That raises, real concerns, if you will, about the tide lifting all boats.”

Sen. Merkley also touched on the importance of restoring unemployment assistance for families who are still struggling to find jobs — living wage or otherwise —

“We had 18,000 Oregon families lose their extended unemployment on Dec. 28,” he said. “We will have a total of about 75,000 Oregon families lose their unemployment early, if we don’t reinstitute this program.”

To help people secure jobs, Merkley advocated for access to affordable college education and reported he was working on developing a multi-state version of the “Pay It Forward” program, which requires students to pay a small percentage of their income to their college upon graduating as opposed to paying tuition up front. Merkley stated that college students should not have to graduate with “a school loan the size of a mortgage that will be a millstone around their neck.”

On a more local level, coal and oil trains running through the Columbia River Gorge were also topics of conversation during a question-and-answer period with the audience. Sen. Merkley said he was particularly concerned about oil trains coming from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, which he said carried oil that was “much more volatile” than other shipments.

Merkley, who lives in Multnomah County, was elected to his first term in the U.S. Senate in 2008. He is seeking re-election to the Senate for the first time this year and currently faces multiple challengers, predominately Republican, who are looking to unseat the incumbent Senator. Merkley will also hold town halls in Wasco, Gilliam and Sherman counties this week.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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