Congressman says private meetings with constituents gives more flexibility than open town hall

Congressman David Wu was in Tigard, Monday, in the first of a series of closed-door meetings with constituents that ranged in topics from health care to unemployment.

Called Wu's 'open office hours' the meetings were meant to give constituents the opportunity to talk to the congressman, face-to-face, rather than an open town hall meeting.

Wu represents Oregon's 1st Congressional District, which includes Washington county and Southwest Portland.

'We do all sorts of different meeting formats,' the Hillsdale Democrat told The Times Wednesday morning, saying that the closed-door format 'lets people have privacy. They get to talk about their situation and getting to talk about unemployment or health care. Many wouldn't have felt OK to talk about this in a room full of people.'

The closed-door meetings were held in a private conference room at the Tigard Public Works building. Reporters were not allowed to sit in on the meetings.

About 18 slots were available on Monday for a total of 90 minutes. Each meeting lasted about five minutes and was scheduled in advance.

Visitors included supporters invited by Wu's staff to discuss the economy and job creation in Washington County. Others, like Beaverton resident Russell Jones, heard about the event and came to show their support for the seven-term congressman who has come under fire in recent weeks after a number of news reports emerged showing erratic behavior, the departure of several key staff, and the demand by some staffers for him to seek psychiatric care.

'I was here to reassure him to keep up the good work,' he said. 'I'm here to support him in his next election cycle.'

Monday's meeting came just days after reports emerged that an executive assistant had left Wu's staff. The staffer is the ninth person to leave since Wu won re-election in November.

Many who attended Monday's meeting said that they cared little about the recent media reports about the congressman.

'People said, 'This stuff that's personal, that's not what I care about. I care about land and water conservation, or what's happening at Tualatin High School,'' Wu said. 'That's what representing people in Congress should be about. It should be about them. Their challenges, their problems and how the state government or Congress can try to address their problems.'

Wu said that the meetings were meant to shift the focus back to issues affecting constituents.

'What's really tragic about what's happened in the last month is that the focus is on me, and I really want to turn that around and get back to talking about them,' he said.

Wu is scheduling town hall meetings in April and will continue his 'open office hours' in Yamhill, Columbia and Clatsop counties today and tomorrow.

Wu's office requires those interested in attending to schedule an appointment by calling 503-326-2901 or 800-422-4003.

Thursday, March 24: Seaside City Hall, 989 Broadway St., in Seaside and St. Helens City Hall, 265 Strand St. in St. Helens.

Friday, March 25: McMinnville Police Department, 121 S.E. Adams St. in McMinnville.

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