About 50 Wilsonville residents gathered at City Hall on Saturday, March 4, for an hour of conversation with state Sen. Aaron Woods, D-Wilsonville, and Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville.
Both representatives have sponsored bills for the current legislative session that address issues and needs relevant to the city.
“We’re so glad and honored to have two of our most active and very dedicated leaders living in Wilsonville,” Wilsonville Mayor Julie Fitzgerald said.
The two were seated at a table with Fitzgerald, who moderated the event. Handouts detailing the city’s legislative agenda were available, and, after the representatives introduced themselves and their committee assignments, they answered six questions submitted by the audience.
The first question gauged whether Neron and Woods thought House Bill 2662, which asks for a study to be done on the feasibility of extending TriMet’s WES transit line to Salem, would be successful.
Both legislators said they were optimistic about the bill because they had heard ample support for it from members of both political parties, as well as from other cities.
“The bottom line is there’s major interest,” Woods said.
The conversation quickly moved to tolling, with an audience member asking about rumors that a Senate bill to prohibit the Oregon Transportation Commission from establishing a toll on I-205 or I-5 wouldn’t move forward.
Woods said he hadn’t heard those rumors, but encouraged people to write letters of support to the Joint Committee on Transportation co-chairs.
Speaking against the implementation of tolls in the area, Neron said that while the state needs funding to replace aging infrastructure, the current plan from the Oregon Department of Transportation feels half-baked and disproportionately affects Wilsonville.
The legislators were also asked to discuss the possibility of a semiconductor chip plant being built in French Prairie, and what citizens can do to stop it. Both legislators said they were passionate about the issue and working to prevent it in order to preserve the farmland in the area, but residents can help by writing letters.
Two questions related to what the city is doing about homelessness and mental health services.
The mayor said to stay tuned to the changes the city is making to its camping policies this year, and asked the representatives to talk about the issue from the state level.
Neron said Wilsonville is often seen as a model for housing people with mental health challenges because of the dedicated housing in Villebois, and that she feels secure living near it.
“I feel very safe, and my children feel very safe in our community,” she said.
Woods said there are bipartisan bills related to affordable and emergency housing going through the Legislature this session, and that housing is one of the governor’s main areas of concern.
He said he plans to bring up issues of mental health facilities and services in the future, because the state is lagging behind in these areas.
Another audience member asked the representatives what they thought about House Bill 3198, which establishes the Early Literacy Success Initiative to promote child literacy. According to an article in The Register-Guard, the bill would authorize up to $10 million in funding for children in pre-K through third grade.
Neron said that Oregon’s reading test scores aren’t keeping up with other states, and that there’s an opportunity to have a serious discussion about what schools need to do to improve. Woods advocated for directing more funding to schools.
The final question asked Neron and Woods about the safety concerns surrounding the possible Aurora Airport expansion, and both legislators brought up the importance of public involvement in land use decisions.
The hour ended with the legislators instructing the audience to submit testimony for bills they care about, which can now be done online. They also shared their contact information, with Woods adding that his office typically responds in 48 hours or less.
"We're not afraid to sit here in front of you and take your questions and answer them very truthfully,” he said.