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Two opportunities to make your voice heard

Southern Oregon residents have two chances this week to speak directly with elected officials on the state and federal levels, despite coronavirus restrictions and winter weather, thanks to modern communications technology.

  • Tonight, the Oregon Legislature’s House Special Committee on Wildfire Recovery will hold a virtual public hearing from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Lawmakers want to hear from people directly affected by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires last September.
  • On Saturday, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden will hold a virtual town hall for Jackson County residents starting at 2:30 p.m. on Facebook. The event is open to anyone on or off Facebook. Go to

    facebook.com/events/883092525819705 for details.

Tonight’s legislative hearing is especially important to those who lost homes or businesses in the Labor Day fires.

We know, from news stories in this paper, letters to the editor and posts on social media, that many fire survivors are frustrated by the pace of cleanup and rebuilding efforts. This is a chance to speak directly to Oregon lawmakers who have the power to do something about it.

Members of the Special Committee on Wildfire Recovery include Reps. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, and Lily Morgan, R-Grants Pass. Brian Clem, D-Salem, chairs the committee, and Rick Lewis, R-Silverton, is vice chair.

Under ordinary circumstances, it’s often necessary to travel to Salem to testify before a legislative committee, although some panels have held special hearings around the state in the past. But because of the pandemic, not to mention the snowstorm that struck the Salem and Portland areas in recent days, this hearing is being conducted online and by telephone.

To register for the hearing, go to survey.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dopIQ6y2k7Tz6XI and enter the requested information. You will receive an email with a meeting link and instructions on how to testify.

To participate by phone, call 833-588-4500 to register.

To submit written testimony — recommended even if you plan to speak directly to the committee — email hwrec.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov.

Wyden’s town hall is likely to cover topics including COVID-19, vaccines, the impeachment trial and the local wildfires. As a senior senator in the majority party, Wyden has some influence with federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency that is engaged in fire recovery efforts. To submit questions to the town hall in advance, go to bit.ly/2N1WoQQ. For more information, email info@townhallproject.com.

It’s easy to complain about government, but officials can only do their best work if they hear from citizens about the job the government is doing and how it might improve. Even if all you do is fire off an email, join in the discussion and make your voice heard.