Last week's news was dominated by Occupy Wall Street, and rightfully so, but another interesting seed was planted in rural Oregon last week. Over 125 people gathered in small town Scappoose, OR to interact with candidates for Oregon's First Congressional District in a forum that we co-sponsored. Numbers like that for a candidate forum in rural Oregon are unheard of, especially this far away from an election cycle. Locals peppered the candidates with questions and comments for over two hours. Attendees were encouraged to share their own personal expectations and experiences with the American Dream, rather than focusing on dry policy questions. This process resulted in a real dialogue, creating a much better experience for both the audience and the candidates. Here's what one attendee told us about the forum:
Questioners included representatives from the previous owner of the now closed paper mill that was the mainstay of this small community; nurses from the local hospital that was planned but never built; public workers who describe the water and sewage system that is near complete failure due to lack of a tax base, and more. Questions from the audience followed. The Contract for the American Dream was nicely printed and widely circulated at every table. The Republican candidate was in a somewhat hostile environment and you had to reluctantly admire her courage promoting her pretty radical right wing aswers. It was not well received. All of the Democratic contenders were quite progressive sounding. Brad Witt is a State Senator who doubles as a Rep for the AFL-CIO. Suzanne Bonamici and Brad Avakian are both lawyers with careers highlighted by service to the underprivileged. Avakian is the States Labor commissioner and Bonamici is a State Senator. Suzanne Bonamici was just a little more temperate in her condemnation of free trade agreements, probably due to the influence of Nike and Intel, who are both major players in her district.