- Bill Schaffer
- Central Oregonian - News
About 50 central Oregon residents turned out last weekend for a visit from Oregon Legislature Rep. George Gilman and Sen. Doug Whitsett.
>WEB - Gilman, Whitsett come to town
"We had a good turnout," said Gilman.
At the town hall style meeting, the discussion centered primarily on Oregon's methamphetamine problem.
"One of the suggestions was to pull their drivers license to curb meth distribution, which is something we hadn't though of and that we are going to look into," said Gilman.
He also pledged to look to the new school speed zone legislation. Gilman hopes to start hearings on the legislation the beginning of March.
"They are very confusing. I have been driving around the district and we couldn't have done a much better job with them," Gilman said.
"Hopefully in this session we'll clean it up and make it so it's more understandable," he continued.
A resident at the meeting brought up the idea of using Astoria as a port, which Gilman said his team would be researching.
The session also came with its share of criticism.
"We took some criticism of why are we wasting time with wolves. Senator Whitsett and myself agreed totally with that attitude," said Gilman.
"There are much more important things than that we think," he continued.
Gilman will be holding a town hall meeting this Saturday in Eagle Point.
"I appreciate the opportunity to be there. It was informative for me and a pleasant change from the Salem scene," said Gilman.
Whitsett was also pleased with how the town hall turned out, adding that there were "a lot of people with some very thoughtful comments."
He talked of the topics that came up, and said "certainly trying to get more transportation dollars into freight corridors in central and southern Oregon" is a high priority.
Whitsett said there was also a discussion about ports and one man talked about developing the Port of Astoria so ships don't have to come up river. Whitsett added that the Port of Coos Bay could also be helped. He said by dredging out six to eight miles, extending the railroad and dredging the turn basin, people could make a container port out of Coos Bay.
"Anyway, it's kind of a a chicken and egg thing," Whitsett said, referring to whether one spends money first on freight or ports.
"We talked quite a lot about methamphetamine," Whitsett added. "We're recognizing it for what it is: A menace to our society."
He said more money needs to be spent on research for treatment, and he said the drug courts in Crook and Klamath counties seem to be "pretty effective."
But he added that drug courts are only about 30 percent effective.
"The huge thing is the importing," he added, saying between 90 and 95 percent of meth in Oregon comes in from out of state. Whitsett said that until people can find a way to interdict it and shut the meth traffic down, there will still be a problem.
"It seems that drug sniffing dogs would be a huge boon to interdicting that methamphetamine traffic that is running up and down Highway 97 and Highway 26," Whitsett noted, and he said drug sniffing dogs are not a huge cost.
Another topic that came up during the town hall was the Legislature's revisiting of the 20 mph school speed zone law. "The sense is that it needs to be fixed and let's go slow and do it right so we don't have to revisit it two years from now," Sen. Whitsett said.
"It is important to me that the people who sent me to Salem understand that I represent them," says Senator Whitsett. "I am not a citizen of Salem. My life and all the things I care about and have spent a lifetime fighting for are in Southern and Central Oregon."