It was a ‘remarkable’ legislative session this summer in many ways according to Rep. David Gomberg and he spoke to the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce members about what he observed this past week.
On Aug. 9, Gomberg joined the LC Chamber and gave a presentation on the progress he has seen at the state level for the Oregon Coast. With all the happening’s in Salem this past June, including walkouts, rallies and protests, Gomberg said the legislative session saw more public participation than ever, which he feels is a good thing.
“It was remarkable for the drama, but it was also remarkable, I believe, for the amount of public participation that we saw in our governmental process,” Gomberg said. “I saw more people in Salem, more people at the capital than I've ever seen before.”
But aside from the drama, Gomberg said he believes there was real progress made for the state of Oregon.
“I would say it was also remarkable for the things that were accomplished,” he said. “The things we accomplished for our schools, for housing, our veterans, for healthcare and for the environment.”
During the presentation, Gomberg detailed three specific events that occurred throughout the legislative session that will have a direct impact on Lincoln County. The first involved Rogue Brewery in Newport as they prepare for a national rollout for cocktails in a can.
“They called me and said we’re said we're allowed to sell it in Oregon, we are allowed to import it into Oregon, but if there is less than 10 percent alcohol in the can, we're not allowed to make it in Oregon,” Gomberg said.
With two weeks left in the legislative session, Gomberg was in search of a fix and found a bill that was languished in the Senate and already passed the house that dealt with alcohol. Gomberg then wrote amendments to the bill and was able to get it passed on the last day of the session.
“Tuesday, we are going to be at Rogue doing the first run of cannings for their new cocktails because we were able to get legislation through and authorize them to compete on a national basis for stuff they're making here, so they could sell it everywhere else in the country, and that was a good day,” Gomberg said.
His second example detailed the issue behind the failing dams in Newport. The City of Newport relies on two dams that have been designated the second and third most seismically vulnerable dams in the state.
"Now, this is not when cascadia slips and we have a 9.5 earthquake, this is if we have a 3.5 earthquake, they'll lose the dams in Newport or if a big truck goes by it hits a pothole will lose the dams in Newport,” Gomberg joked. “Now they're finding that these dams are also starting to seep, which is a sign that the dams are aging out and then they're looking at a catastrophic dam failure.”
Gomberg said the impact could be a total loss of water supply for everyone in the area.
To address this issue, Gomberg brought a bill into legislature to provide $4 million to start the process of replacing the two dams. That measure was approved in the House and approved in the Senate and sent to the Governor on the last day of the legislative session.
This past Thursday, Gomberg received a call as they were considering vetoing the funding to do a statewide evaluation on which dams were most vulnerable.
“I said, well, we've already done studies, and we're already number two and three on the list,” Gomberg said. “If we do that we're going to take two years to do a study that’s going to confirm what we already know, which is they’re number two and three on the list. But in two years, the project's going to cost more.”
On Aug. 6, Gomberg scheduled a one-on-one meeting with Gov. Kate Brown to talk about the risks of vetoing the bill.
“I told her if those dams go, we're going to have what I call a reverse tsunami going out toward the ocean when these dams collapse… So we're putting lives at risk,” Gomberg said.
On Aug. 8, Gov. Brown called Gomberg directly to let him know that they will be moving forward with the project and have chosen not to veto the project.
Gomberg then spoke on the Cultural Center Plaza Project in Lincoln City. He explained that the Cultural Center asked the state for a $600,000 grant for the project but Gomberg wanted more and they ended up getting $1.5 million.
“We want to transform it for the tourism industry and give more people more reasons to come here,” Gomberg said. “We want to transform it for the retirement community and give them other things to do here. And we want to transform it for the art industry.
“We have an art industry in North County that we should be proud of and the cultural center is at the very center of that.”