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Rep. Bentz talks postal service, wildfires during Jackson County town hall

three men standing and talking, one on the right with grey hair, a grey suit jack and a red tie. One with his back facing the camera with a red shirt and black hat. And one obscured wearing a blue suit jacket.
Roman Battaglia
JPR News
Oregon Representative Cliff Bentz (right), talks to a voter at a town hall in Jackson County, August 22, 2023.

Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz visited the Rogue Valley on Tuesday to hear from voters about pressing issues in the region.

Over 60 residents came to the Jackson County Expo to ask questions about topics including dam removal, climate change and a looming federal government shutdown. Bentz, a Republican, represents Oregon's 2nd District, which encompasses two-thirds of the state in Eastern and Southern Oregon.

One group showed up in force: postal workers. They were there to encourage the representative to help while the USPS considers the consolidation of some services from Medford to Portland.

Bentz said he supports the postal workers, and fought a decade ago to save rural post offices in Eastern Oregon that were in danger of shutting down.

“As far as updating and mechanizing the system, they’re going to have to do it," he said. "But, they’re gonna have to take into account already existing systems such as this one and make sure that people in these areas are protected, otherwise it won’t work.”

Bentz said he only learned about the controversial issue less than a week ago, but plans on pressing the USPS for their reasoning behind it.

Outside, looming over the Jackson County Expo, a thick layer of smoke had blown in from wildfires in Northern California. Bentz said making sure Oregonians are adapted to the changing climate is important, as summers become hotter and drier.

“We can’t keep choking to death on this smoke," Bentz said. "It’s killing our kids, it’s killing people. This is not good. And the way that you address it is you try – and I’m basing this on I don’t know how many studies – you go in and you reduce the fuel loads.”

Bentz said he supports the Resilient Federal Forests Act, a bill that would in part remove the need for environmental review to expedite forest health projects. The latest version of that bill didn't received much support from his Democratic colleagues, including any in Oregon.

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, secured billions in funding for wildfire prevention and forest health in last year’s budget bill, which Bentz voted against.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.