Small California city applauds its pro-immigrant Congresswoman

March 6, 2017 10:56 AM CST By Henry Millstein

MORGAN HILL, Calif.—On March 4, over 500 people packed the City Council chambers in Morgan Hill, a small city south of San Jose, for a town hall meeting with Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, a long-time supporter of immigrants’ rights.

Morgan Hill City Councilperson Larry Carr pointed out in introducing her that, to his knowledge, never had the city hall had so many people. Loud applause erupted when he said that Lofgren was the senior Democrat on the Congressional subcommittee on immigration and border security, and attendees repeatedly applauded as she detailed her progressive stands on immigration and other issues.

Though immigration was the announced focus of the meeting, questions from the audience touched on many issues of concern in the face of the Republican assault on pro-people policies. The first questions concerned the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, popularly known as “Obamacare”). Lofgren responded that though the Republicans hold majorities in both houses of Congress, “the American people can give Republicans cold feet” about repealing the law, and she was met with vigorous applause when she declared, “I will stand up for the ACA” and again moments later when she indicated her support for “Medicare for all,” a single-payer health care system such as exists in all other industrialized nations. She urged her constituents to call the White House and the Speaker of the House to register their support for healthcare for all.

The next round of questions focused on immigration, an issue on which Lofgren has long been active, starting her years as an immigration attorney. The audience again broke out in applause when she stated her support for the refusal of local authorities in many parts of California and elsewhere to function as “immigration police,” and yet again when an audience member posed the question, “How do we get ICE out of Morgan Hill?” Lofgren gave a moving description of seeing mothers and children in deteriorated immigration detention facilities that had only one doctor for over a thousand detainees, mentioning a psychologist’s report that children growing up in such conditions would suffer permanent damage. “This is not the America I know,” Lofgren declared to renewed applause, calling on the public to take responsibility for alleviating this situation.

In response to a question about Medicare, Lofgren denounced House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system, pledging that Democrats in Congress would “fight tooth and nail to keep Medicare alive” and expressing confidence that “we can win that fight” but that “the American public needs to stand up and say no” to Republican plans to destroy popular programs.

Other questions concerned the high cost of college education, Republican reluctance to fund public transportation, hate crimes and Islamophobia, and election and voters’ rights. On the latter question, Lofgren—to more applause—announced that she had introduced a bill to require all states to have a non-partisan system of establishing election districts such as exists in California, to prevent the gerrymandering that has helped put both the House of Representatives and many state legislatures into Republican hands.

Lofgren earned yet more applause when, in response to a question about how to stop “right to work (for less)” legislation recently introduced in Congress, she pledged to do all she could to oppose such efforts, declaring “I grew up in a union family” and pointing out that without unions there would be no weekends.

As the meeting concluded, Lofgren emphasized that, while she could not always defeat conservative attacks, there were two things that she—and everyone—could do: “I can speak and I can vote,” urging all present to do the same, particularly in regard to the 2018 congressional elections.

This government-funded town hall was officially “non-partisan” and “non-political,” and when at its end Lofgren asked whether the audience wanted a follow-up political meeting funded by her campaign, virtually everyone present raised their hands.

Via People’s World

At town halls during Congressional recess, Californians urge support for Affordable Care Act

February 24, 2017 12:49 PM CST By Marilyn Bechtel

OAKLAND, Calif. – Amid the nationwide wave of town hall meetings during the Congressional recess, many gatherings and actions have been held across California, with saving and improving the Affordable Care Act high on the agenda.

California has been a leader in implementing all aspects of the health care law.

More than one-third of Californians – and 60 percent of the state’s children – are now covered by Medi-Cal (the state’s Medicaid), while another 1.4 million are covered through the state’s exchange, Covered California.

Worry about losing their coverage animated many of those participating in a Feb. 21 town hall with U.S. Representative Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, one of the few California Republicans hosting town halls. The gathering drew some 900 people, who also expressed their concerns about the environment, education and other issues.

The scarcity of town halls hosted by Republican representatives aroused the ire of many constituents.

In the Central Valley city of Modesto, several hundred gathered at a constituent-organized town hall to demand that U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, oppose ACA repeal unless an even better plan replaces it. Denham was not there, though he sent a representative to  listen to the discussion. So far he has not scheduled a town hall on the topic. Nearly 110,000 people in his district would lose their coverage following repeal, the great majority of them having gained coverage through the Medi-Cal expansion.

In southern California, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, angered many constituents by failing to show up for a Feb. 21 town hall on the repeal of the health care law, despite “missing person”-style posters reading “Last Seen in Washington supporting President Trump,” and a full-page newspaper ad published the previous week, inviting him to the town hall.

Other districts represented by Republicans, especially in the heavily-agricultural Central Valley, also have large numbers of people covered under the ACA. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the House Majority Leader, represents one of them.

On a more positive note, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, joined Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan in holding a town hall here Feb. 18, which drew an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people. Health care was a major issue, along with immigration, racial issues and women’s rights.

In an interview, Lee told Oakland North that it is important for people to hear from others who have benefited from the ACA and how they would be impacted by repeal. “Second of all,” she said, “it is important for people to know that we are together in this resistance movement against this anti-American backwards Trump agenda.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, also held a town hall Feb. 18, where she was joined by California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley and the CEO of S.F. General Hospital, Dr. Susan Ehrlich.

Three members of Congress in nearby Contra Costa County – Reps. Mike Thompson, Jerry McNerney and Mark DeSaulnier – joined in hosting a town hall in Martinez on Feb. 18, with saving the ACA at the top of the agenda.

California mayors announced their own Feb. 22 Mayors’ Day of Action in a press release signed by the mayors of San Francisco, Union City, West Sacramento, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Oakland, Davis and San Jose. The actions focused on virtual phone banks to members of Congress. The mayors said “staggering numbers” of Californians have benefited from the ACA, and added, “When we work together, Californians can accomplish great feats. We’re confident that standing together, we can save the ACA.”

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) says over two-thirds of Californians covered under MediCal are people of color), with every racial/ethnic group experiencing increased coverage since 2013. Latinos make up half those enrolled in Medi-Cal, while coverage has more than doubled among Asian/Pacific Islanders and risen by one-third among African Americans.

CPEHN warns that “Proposals to drastically change Medi-Cal by eliminating the Medi-Cal expansion for example, would significantly harm low-income communities overall with particularly negative impacts on Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders and African Americans.

An analysis by the University of California/Berkeley’s Labor Center says California also faces major economic consequences under a partial repeal of the ACA. Besides the loss of coverage by millions now covered by Medi-Cal, and the loss of federal subsidies helping those covered through the exchange, the state would lose $20.5 billion in yearly federal funding for the expansion, and more than 200,000 jobs would also be lost, the majority of them in the health care industry.

No wonder that back in December, Health Access’ Tam Ma told a Sacramento symposium on the Affordable Care Act, “It would be hard to imagine going back to a world without the consumer protections and financial support provided through the ACA and our other health care programs.” And Anthony Wright warned participants to prepare not just for a sprint, but also for “the marathon ahead.”

Via People’s World