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Yamhill Valley News Register: Bonamici draws overflow audience in Mac

By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • October 10, 2016

Overflow seating had to be brought in Friday at McMinnville’s Golden Valley Brew Pub for people interested in seeing Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. Even that didn’t prove sufficient, but those left standing didn’t seem to mind.

Bonamici, a lawyer seeking re-election in Oregon’s First Congressional District, spent most of her time fielding audience questions. Topics included education, climate change, veterans’ issues, international relations and vaccines.

Challengers in the race for the 1st Congressional District are Republican Brian Heinrich and Libertarian Kyle Sheahan.

A member of committees on education and the workforce, and science, space and technology, Bonamici told constituents both assignments hold local importance. Of the topics they cover, she said, education is her major passion.

She said she had helped rewrite federal laws on education funding, to allow a greater element of local control and provide better management of college debt.

Bomamici said she favors more focus on vocational skills in public schools. She said many classes in that area were lost under the No Child Left Behind program, which placed too much emphasis on test scores.

Classes in subjects that weren’t included in the testing were often sacrificed, she said. “The new law returns to the focus to a well-rounded education,” she argued.

“We need to recognize that not everyone is on the same path,” she said. “Students need to know there will be jobs for them.”

Bonamici deplored elements of gridlock in Congress, but said it’s not really as bad as it might sometimes seem. She noted, for example, that she is currently serving on a bipartisan committee on climate solutions.

She said the environment has not traditionally been a partisan cause, and shouldn’t be one. She noted Richard Nixon had signed several of the nation’s major environmental programs into the law, despite being “not exactly a leftie.”

She said, “People understood that we needed to protect our environment.”

Bonamici said the nation needs to do a better job supporting its veterans. She said she keeps in mind the words of one combat veteran, who told her he doesn’t think people understand “how horrible it was.”

She drew broad applause when she argued, “The best thing we can do to support veterans is to stop making veterans.” In the meantime, she said, people who need help with veterans’ issues — or “any federal issues,” for that matter — can seek assistance from her Oregon office.

It’s located in Beaverton. The phone number is 503-469-6010 and the web address bonamici.house.gov/office/oregon-office.

Bonamici also spoke in support of paid family leave, telling her audience, “We are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have paid family leave. Estonia has a year and a half of paid family leave.”

She said businesses which have started offering paid family leave privately have told her it improved employee morale, productivity and loyalty.

Bonamici said one possible way to make a national system work is to follow the lead of Estonia, where people who are unemployed obtain job experience and build their resumes by filling in for people on family leave.

“They made it work in Estonia,” she said. “We can make it work here.”

She agreed with another audience member that health care costs need to be reduced. But she said it’s important to “keep what’s working” in the Affordable Care Act.

Posted on October 10, 2016.