Wednesday, April 19, 2017
LaMalfa listens to constructive comments, yelling haters
Rep. Doug LaMalfa's two-hour town-hall meeting at Sequoia Middle School tonight was highlighted by some constructive comments and well-informed questions but marred by screaming haters who were just there to cause disruptions and spew vitriol at anyone brave enough to offer differing views.
In the photos, from the top: LaMalfa speaks from the stage; retired Forest Service employee Nancy Van Susteren of Mount Shasta holds a sign saying she was not a paid protester; retired teacher Judy Champagne of Redding holds a sign protesting President Donald Trump's deportation policies; retired teacher Damon Cropsey of Redding shows his distaste for the idea of a border wall; and attendees hold up signs indicating they agree with a speaker.
I had a chance to talk with LaMalfa and numerous attendees beforehand, and will have a story addressing ag-related issues at CapitalPress.com tomorrow.
The question of the night came from teacher Alysia Krapfel of Cottonwood, who challenged LaMalfa for voting against a bill while in the state Assembly to fix the Oroville Dam's spillway and asked if he would vote for federal funding for repairs now.
"My daughter was working in Oroville that day" in February when the dam was thought to be near failure, Krapfel told me later. "We weren't sure if she would get out alive."
LaMalfa said he agreed that there was "a severe oversight" regarding the dam in 2005 but legislators voted based on assurances they received from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state Department of Water Resources. A dodge, to be sure.
But LaMalfa said he will support federal funding this time, and not just for Oroville Dam.
"I will support funding for infrastructure," he said.
Krapfel's question was fairly typical of folks who stood in the line on one side of the room to pose questions. Another line was set up for people to just make comments, and while there were some typical speeches about the Russians, global warming and Trump's tax returns, there were quite a few well-considered statements about the need for more support for veterans' care and pleas to not cut health care funding.
But it was the people in the middle of the room -- the ones who had no intention of going to a microphone and giving their name, who just wanted to scream out one-liners and shout down LaMalfa and others -- who really soured the evening for a lot of people. Some women in the row behind me loudly booed the opening prayer, screeched "aw, come on!" during the flag salute and yelled catcalls at other participants throughout the evening. I have no idea whether all these folks live in LaMalfa's district, but they had no intention of providing coherent or constructive input into the legislative process. They want to tear it all down.
And that's the problem I'm having with these town-hall meetings. The room tonight was in no way representative of LaMalfa's actual constituency. It was largely a group of activists organized by Indivisible Shasta, whose leader I spoke to. She was handing out signs and talking points to people before the meeting, and she very openly told me they were working out of the guide that I described earlier today. The behavior of many of these folks caused others to leave early out of frustration, and I'm certain that a lot of average voters who normally might have attended stayed away.
So what's the point of having them, if a congressman isn't going to get a true picture of his constituents' sentiments and if average voters are too intimidated to come and speak up? There are lots of ways that elected officials can hear from folks who are are affected by their decisions, answer questions and gather opinions without subjecting themselves and their well-meaning constituents to abuse from modern-day Bolsheviks.