One-on-One with Congresswoman Val Hoyle

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 4:34 PM PST
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CORVALLIS Ore. (KPTV) - It’s been about two months since Congresswoman Val Hoyle was sworn in as the representative for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, and she’s already tackling many issues for her constituents.

FOX 12 caught up with Hoyle after touring Oregon State University’s WAVE laboratory on Thursday. Below is the full sit-down interview with her. She talks about her transition to life in Washington, D.C., higher education, and the Coos Bay Port project.

FOX 12: “Thank you for joining us, how are things going? How’s D.C?”

Val Hoyle: “It’s really exciting, it’s a lot. I got on the two committees I wanted to get on Transportation and Infrastructure and Natural Resources. As the 4th congressional district, there are 250 miles of the Oregon Coast from Lincoln County down to the California Border. It is 85 percent forestland, natural resources are important and then to carry on the great work that Peter DeFazio did on investing in transportation and infrastructure and making sure that we have those investments that came from the bipartisan infrastructure act coming back here to Oregon.”

FOX 12: “How’s the transition been to D.C.? Anything that took you by surprise when you got out to the nation’s capital?”

Val Hoyle: “First of all, we have an amazing Freshman Class on the Democratic side. They’re just bright, energetic, and very supportive, but people have been incredibly supportive, Democrats and Republicans. I’ve started to build working relationships with people. I guess I didn’t quite expect that because what you see in Washington, the news coverage in Washington, D.C. is that nobody gets along and it’s just a terrible environment but what I have found is, I found the people I can work with but Democrats and Republicans. I’m looking forward to doing some really great things for this district.

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FOX 12: “The Oregon delegation, you got an extra member on this delegation now, how’s been working with everyone that’s representing Oregon?”

Val Hoyle: “I’ve known Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici for a very long time. My daughter met her husband at Suzanne’s special election campaign. I’ve known Andrea Salinas for a long time since she was in the legislature and working in the legislature before that. Cliff Bentz and I are on the Natural Resource committee together so we’ve talked about some things we can work together on. Then Lori DeRemer is on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee. My main priority is making sure we get the funding we need and the support we need for the Coos Bay container port project and we are unified as an Oregon delegation, and the delegation from Northern California and Washington to get this port done an I’m excited to be able to work on that.”

FOX 12: “I want to switch over to your new district, District 4, newly redrawn like so many districts here in Oregon. It’s very diverse. You got Douglas county, you got the coast, you got Eugene, how are you building relationships with all constituents no matter their political views in District 4?”

Val Hoyle: “I’m lucky because I was a state-wide elected official and as Labor Commissioner I w worked on workforce issues helping people get wages when they were stolen, working with small businesses to make sure they have access to know what the laws were and supporting them and building up their workforce needs so I had a lot of these relationships and I worked very well with people, whether it was Curry, Coos and Douglas Counties which are more conservative or Lane, Lincoln and Benton Counties. The district I represented in the legislature was West Eugene, some very progressive parts, a lot of blue-collar people who just really wanted to have good jobs and good schools, and then Junction City which is very conservative. This district almost mirrors my house district. I worked really hard in the conservative parts in my district and the progressive parts of my district to make sure that I was representing the community and what I found, again, Peter DeFazio also did this very well, is that if you fight for people and you do very good constituent work and mee them where you are, it doesn’t matter what party they’re in so I’ve been traveling the district and working to make new relationships but I have worked with these people for a very long time.”

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FOX 12: “Your district also has two very prominent universities. Oregon State University which we are at right now, and the University of Oregon. So higher education, how are you fighting for funding for higher education, specifically for these two universities in your district.”

Val Hoyle: “So it’s the universities and the community college system that works in very interconnected ways. For a lot of people, this is the lowest-income district in the state and there are a lot of people who see higher education as very daunting because you must take on a lot of debt from a lot of money or you don’t have a scholarship. So we’re talking with the university, Oregon State’s president, about how we can increase funding. The pell grant, is a grant for students that are lower income. I was a pell grant student when I went to community college. I’m going to advocate to double that pell grants so it covers more things. Also, here in Oregon state, this is a wave energy research center, they work a lot with the federal government in places all throughout the country and the world on the research that they’re doing. So if we get grants to come back to Oregon State which is a land grant school, or to the University of Oregon. It benefits not only the 4th congressional district but also the entire country and world. They’re doing groundbreaking work here in engineering, earth science, and wave and water technology and preparing us for what we know is going to happen which is a tsunami or earthquake. So we want to make sure that we’re resilient and Oregon State really is at the forefront in studying how we can become more resilient specifically on the coast.”

FOX 12: “I was going to say, just looking around this room you can see flags of all the national universities. I even see one from Japan. You can just see the influence just this one university across the country and around the world.”

Val Hoyle: “These are all the universities that Oregon State works within these programs and I’m very proud to represent Oregon State and the work that they do. It’s profoundly impactful.”

FOX 12: “What overall challenges face your district right now?”

Val Hoyle: “People here need jobs, they need good-paying jobs and we need to rebuild the middle class, which is something we have previously had when people had jobs in mills and the Timber industry. So we need to look at what are the jobs of the future, how do we educate people for the jobs of the future. We have employers who have good jobs that are going unfilled because we aren’t filling the pipeline of young being trained in those jobs. We also need to create investments like the Coos Bay Port. The Port of Coos Bay which would be a deep-water container port would create 9,000 jobs in Coos, Douglas, and Lane counties. It would be a green energy-powered port that would take containers straight to rail. It’s also two days closer to the far east than California so it would allow our farmers to get their goods to market more quickly. Fundamentally, that project would be a game changer for our economy. It would reduce the supply-chain congestion on the West Coast by 10 to 12 percent. But the biggest thing is that it will rebuild the middle class and allow people here on the South Coast to be able to go into good-paying jobs and have their kids stay here for their future as opposed to having to leave to get a job in Portland or somewhere else. Our biggest export right now is our kids because they have to leave to go get jobs and we’d like them to stay.

FOX 12: “Going off that, hearing from the Department of Transportation, Coos Bay wasn’t awarded that money, you’re on the infrastructure committee, what was your reaction to that?”

Val Hoyle: “We applied for a mega grant, which is a large grant for projects that have national significance that wouldn’t happen otherwise. There is a private company that is developing the port in conjunction with state and local governments and they’re very large grant. So the grant request was for $1 billion. We did not get this in the first round. I’m very lucky in that the republican chairperson of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Sam Graves, the company developing this port, North Point, is in his district, so he is as committed and supportive as I am. Maybe not as committed and supportive as I am, but very supportive. We also have Wyden and Merkley. We met with Secretary Buttigieg and Secretary Mitch Landrieu to express our frustration that we weren’t given anything. We’re pursuing multiple avenues for funding. But I will tell you, I spend a lot of time talking about the Coos Bay Port. We had a photo op with the President and the Vice President during a reception for new members and I lobbied him on the Coos Bay Port. I said, Mr. President, you expressed support for the Coos Bay Port and I want to thank you for that and we really need this investment. And he said ‘I love that project, the Coos Bay Port.’ So at every opportunity, I’m talking about this project because it is a game changer in taking diesel trucks off the road, it is a game changer in helping reduce our supply chain congestion, it’s a game changer for the economy of Oregon and it really means my community and my home can be very successful and that’s what I’d like to see.”

FOX 12: “I know the president was here back in April talking about the Coos Bay Port, that was going to be my question, what did you ask him or if you reached out to him?”

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Val Hoyle: “Literally at a photo op, I was like sir, thank you for the expressed support of the Coos Bay Port, now we would like to see the funding for it. Again Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley have really gone to the mat and we’re working in the house on a bipartisan way because this isn’t a partisan issue and it really is of national significance. The Prince Rupert Sound in Canada has 70 percent of its containers going to the U.S. We have should have that business. We should have it right here in Oregon. And again getting those containers onto rail and having that green energy power port would just be tremendous so we’re just going to work for it. Again, everyone that I can talk to, I am talking to from, the president and his administration right on down to every single agency to the army corps of engineers. I feel very hopeful because when we really talk to people about the impact of this port, nationally, it’s exciting. People are very excited, so just because we didn’t get money in the first round doesn’t mean we won’t. So we’re going to look towards the second round and other avenues of funding Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley will be looking at in some of the Senate Bills.

FOX 12: “People listening in Portland, they think Coos Bay is five hours away. How critical would this port be for the economy in the Metro Area and the whole state..”

Val Hoyle: Again this is of national significance. When you decrease our supply chain congestion from 10 to 12 percent. That means our goods will come in more quickly, and we will have fewer shortages of things that we want or need. As we’re building and manufacturing things down here in the Willamette Valley where grow food for the whole world, we’re going to be able to get those goods to market more easily. It takes away some of the congestion with trucks on the road. The Port of Portland is also a really amazing resource, it just does some different things. This would be a deep-water container port that is 90 minutes from the open ocean to be towed into the port, where it takes almost a full day to come down the Columbia. There is a place for the port of Portland. But what this does is it allows us to be more efficient in our supply chain. Also as we move to green energy, as we take diesel trucks off the roads, as were decrease congestion on the road as we’re trucking things up to Seattle or down to Long Beach, people are going to see fewer trucks and less congestion on I-5 and everybody wants to see that.”

FOX 12: “Infrastructure in general has been a topic of conversation throughout the state at least in Portland. There’s work to get bridges earthquake-safe as well and getting buildings up there earthquake safe. I just want to hear from you, being on the infrastructure committee, what are you guys doing to get things earthquake ready?”

Val Hoyle: “We we’re also looking at things to retrofit existing structures and bridges with titanium and different things that they can do and they’re studying it right here at Oregon State. Whether it’s the bridge on the Columbia River that right now is one wooden pilings. We definitely need to fix it. Roads and bridges throughout the state, we are in great need. We should be investing in our infrastructure. We had done that previously and the bipartisan infrastructure act that Peter DeFazio was a lead on as chair of the infrastructure committee is going to be critical to make sure those resources come back here. These are federal taxpayer dollars that Oregonians pay and we should bring them back here to invest and shore up the existing structures, roads, and bridges that we have and also build new ones where possible. So, that matters. That matters to the people in Portland and over in John Day and again that is one thing I can say that we as a delegation, both republicans and democrats, are focused on working together to bring things back for Oregon.”

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FOX 12: “My final question before we run out of time here. It’s your first term, what should your constituents expect from you over the next two years?”

Val Hoyle: “One of the things that we’re focusing on is making sure that our constituent outreach and work, fighting for the constituents, whether it’s helping them with their social security. My first bill was shoring up and expanding social security benefits because so many seniors rely on that. So helping them with social security, veterans’ issues, student loan issues, on housing issues, we want to work with all of our communities, both rural and urban to make sure that if they need something and someone to work with the federal government for them, we’re doing that. We’re also working with our cities and counties on many things. Whether it’s navigating HUD to make sure we’re investing and partnering with the state as we can on housing or again on natural resource issues, on our ocean health, or forest land and timber issues, making sure we protect our environment while still allowing people to work in the woods. Those things are complicated but the way that I can best serve my community is to get out and talk to people in my community. That’s what I’m doing here in Corvallis today.”