State Representative-Elect David Gomberg is still a few days away from being sworn into his freshman seat in Oregon’s House of Representatives but he’s already on the road, trying to stay close to the folks he will soon represent in Salem. Late Thursday morning he met with a number of local residents at Oregon Coast Community College to tell them what he knows about the upcoming legislative session that starts next month, and to begin many opportunities to listen to resident views and concerns on major issues facing the coast and the state.
Gomberg said although he will be taking over the seat held by retiring Representative Jean Cowan, “I, in no way, am replacing Jean Cowan. She was an outstanding state representative who is irreplaceable but I will strive to live up to her strong standards of representing central coast residents in the state legislature.”
Gomberg said he was assigned to three committees in the House; Human Services and Housing, of which he is vice chair, Education Committee, and the Joint Committee for General Government. He said with the Central Coast having among the lowest incomes per capita in the state and high homeless numbers, his assignment to the Human Services and House Committee will offer opportunities to get work done for low income families on the coast. And because he’ll be serving on the Education Committee, he’ll try to make a difference there to ensure that K-12 education gets every available resource possible. He also said he’ll be following the Public Employees Retirement System reforms very closely.
Gomberg told the gathering that state revenues are picking up so lawmakers should be able to do something about bolstering education funding. He said when the economy comes back we’re going to need well educated young people to help America pick up where it left off.
Gomberg also indicated his strong support for continued funding for Oregon’s Project Independence which enables our senior neighbors and family members to remain in their own home to continue living healthy lives with dignity.
Marine Mammal Institute chief Dr. Bruce Mate challenged Gomberg to do what he can to help the Hatfield Marine Science expand the campus with some new buildings. Mate says the state appears to be at the upper limit on floating more bonds, yet the HMSC campus is terribly crowded and in need of new facilities, especially with the added oceanographic research enhancements as the result of the NOAA Pacific Fleet becoming headquartered in Newport.
Economic and jobs booster Guy Faust asked Gomberg to spend some time to understand how important Oregon Coast Community College’s Small Business Center (SBC) is to the community and to the coast in general. Faust said the SBC’s funding has been cut by half at a time when helping people develop and grow the area’s employment base is critical. Faust lamented that while the SBC creates as many jobs every year as a major new industry might, it does it in one, two and up to five jobs at a time around the calendar which doesn’t get much media or community attention as it would if they occurred all at once. Faust asked Gomberg to spend time helping to preserve the SBC programs. Gomberg told Faust that his request fits right in with his main three goals; Bolstering jobs, education and health care. He said he was especially excited about the creation of local health care coordinating committee to help Oregon hook right in to the Federal Affordable Care Act.
Another resident told Gomberg that the state prison system is eating up more and more of the state budget and that Oregon is not being properly reimbursed for taking care of incarcerated aliens who break the law but for whom the federal government won’t take responsibility for. Mayor Sandra Roumagoux chimed in saying she too is weary of hearing about cuts to vital services like education while funds by the hundreds of millions go to expanding state prisons. Gomberg reminded the group that Oregon voters decided to get tough on certain kinds of crime and it’s causing prisons to fill up and overflow. Another resident piped up that the government continues to fight a war against drugs that its been losing for a quarter of a century, and that it’s time to get a fresh perspective on things. Gomberg said he agreed the issue needs some fresh eyes on it.
Toward the end, Gomberg expressed his interest in holding frequent town hall meetings throughout his extensive district, which runs from Sheridan all the way down to Yachats, covering three counties. He said he will be conducting a number of “party line” telephone town halls and promised to look into doing something similar on internet Skype, where everyone can see each other as if they were in the same room.
Gomberg said he was excited to begin his term as House District 10 State Representative. He said “I have an excellent staff and we will be very responsive to the views, problems and concerns of central coast residents.” He said they intend to keep the lines of communications open.