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U.S. senator fields questions on education, jobs at Mount Angel town hall meeting


by: MAYGAN BECKERS - U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley speaks to a crowd gathered at Kennedy High School in Mount Angel Tuesday for a town hall meeting.U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley spoke at his 198th Public Town Hall at Kennedy High School in Mount Angel Jan. 21.

Merkley answered questions from Kennedy High School students and local community members in the audience about tackling recent challenges facing Oregon and America.

He mentioned the audience asked excellent questions and highlighted his desire to hear from as many individuals as possible to conclude his decisions to bring to the state.

“It’s a pleasure to have community members and students together for the conversation. This was a chance to come out and hear about the local challenges with infrastructure, agriculture, concerns about timber and so forth,” said Merkley. “You hear about different issues in different places.”

Topics ranged from Janet Yellen taking the place of Ben Bernanke, reasoning of Oregon’s minimum wage increase to $9.20, legalization and taxation of marijuana, new sanctions in Iran, immigration, mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, gun control laws, extending unemployment, the Legislature’s progress on renewable resources and concerns of speculator abuse of the Oregon Trail Card.

by: MAYGAN BECKERS - U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley greets a Kennedy High School student after his Town Hall meeting in the school's gymnasium Tuesday afternoon.He specifically enjoys including students who have questions about graduating and postgraduate plans and encourages them to be engaged as citizens.

Daniel Glaede, senior and Associated Student Body president at Kennedy High School, expressed his concern for funding education to Merkley. Glaede talked about the importance of having enough money for valuable classes without restrictions, having access to textbooks and resources, including technology devices, assisting students with homework, researching and furthering their knowledge in learning.

“The importance of education comes from both my parents being teachers, so I’ve always been around education,” he said.

Merkley continued by emphasizing his main focus on the creation of living wage jobs.

“Investment in infrastructure would be very powerful. We need to strengthen manufacturing. Oregon is more dependent on manufacturing than any other state in the United States,” said Merkley. “Furthermore, we need to strengthen our minimum wage, restore the federal employment insurance act that creates a bridge between jobs for families and protect our food stamp program.”

Merkley also recognized Chemeketa Community College President Cheryl Roberts for the work the college has done in the community through College Credit Now, a program that allows high school students to earn Chemeketa credit at a reduced rate. With more than 466 college credits being completed by 55 Kennedy students, the program has saved $36,000 in credit tuition expenses, Merkley said.

“We’re very appreciative to be acknowledged by Sen. Merkley for the considerable work we do around high school partnership,” said Roberts.