Turlock’s representative in Congress, Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA19), hosted a town hall meeting in Salida Monday night.
Congressman Denham is currently representing the 19th Congressional District of California, which includes Turlock, and will be running for 2012 re-election in the newly drawn 10th Congressional District (created during a redistricting process) that will also include Turlock.
The freshman Congressman sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee., while chairing the sub-committee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
Representative Denham started the town hall meeting out by going over a questionnaire in which the answers shocked most of the people in the audience as the person who answered the most questions correctly only got 12 out of 16 right. The questionnaire asked if people knew that the federal government would spend 23% of the 2012 U.S. federal budget on healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid), in 2010 the U.S. borrowed 40 cents of every dollar it spent, 47% of Americans currently pay no personal income tax, that in 1940 there were 159 workers for each Social Security beneficiary and as of 2009 there were 3 workers for every Social Security beneficiary, and if they knew that it was true that President Obama’s budget (by the White House’s own projections) will accumulate more debt by 2020 than every president in American history (from President Washington to President Bush) combined.
Other question and answers framed the poor economic state of the U.S. by pointing out that the Country’s 2010 federal deficit was $1.5 trillion, $100 billion of the 2009 federal budget was attributed to waste, fraud, and abuse while also stating that even if the government were to roll back Bush tax cuts for all Americans that it would still not balance the budget.
Congressman Denham asked people by show of hands if they were worried by these facts and most of those in attendance raised their hands.
“I am (worried) too,” stated Rep. Denham. “I knew it was bad before I got there. I knew that spending was too high. I knew that debt was too high. I don’t want to be the first generation that doesn’t leave our country in a better place than it was left for me.”
Denham said that the U.S. has a debt of $14 trillion and going to $16 trillion.
“I don’t care which side you’re on in the political spectrum, that is an issue that Americans have to deal with,” said Rep. Denham. “We have to have real world solutions. We’ve got to come up with the answers to pull both parties together to solve this right now.”
Denham talked about political gridlock and how the State of the Union Address presented some big picture issues that are certainly polarizing but the fact that there hasn’t been a budget in over 1,000 days involves both political parties… in the Senate. Denham stated that even when democrats had control of both Houses and the Presidency there was still no budget that came out of the Senate.
“That’s not a Republican or Democrat issue, that’s an issue with the Senate,” stated Rep. Denham. “Both Houses have to work together.”
“From a valley perspective, I’m encouraged and feel that your valley delegation is working well together,” said Rep. Denham. “To move the valley forward we are going to have to work together to solve our valley’s issues.”
Denham believes that agriculture will continue to be the area’s number one industry and that water is a piece of certainty needed to sustain our economy. Denham believes that there is a direct correlation between water and jobs here in the valley.
“We can’t solve our unemployment issue until we address water.”
Denham stated that he has a water bill he’s working on with Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D- CA18) involving raising the height of New Exchequer Dam. Denham also said that he’s working together with Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA20) on water issues and Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-CA11) on solar fields.
“I use those just as examples to show that there are important issues that we’ve got to get your valley delegation to work together. There’s still going to be some challenges during campaigns, and obviously this is an election year, but you elect us to get something done,” said Rep. Denham. “I take that serious and getting all of us to work together to solve all of these problems.”
Denham also spoke of a 5 year highway bill out of the House, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, and that it’s just one way to create jobs in the valley. There will be no earmarks and it will be a block grant to the State of California. The amount will be divided up by need and amount of money, and funds have to go to highways. California already has lists of shovel ready priorities.
Another area Representative Denham has always focused on, even while he was a State Senator before becoming a U.S. Congressman, is vacant and unused government properties. Denham stated that Federal government was even worse than when he was in the State Senate with no accountability in regards to vacant and unused properties.
In regards to cutting back waste, Denham said, “One of the things I’m working on that I’m very proud of, that I’m going to continue to work on and have worked on in the past, is selling off a lot of things we just don’t need.”
Denham would like to see vacant and unused government properties sold, thus creating jobs in redevelopment by the private sector while also increasing property tax to be put back into the system.
In a couple weeks Denham said that the Civilian Property Realignment Act (H.R. 1734) will get off the House floor, and hopes to see it go through the Senate and get signed into law by the president. Denham projects that $15 billion in new revenue will come just from the sale of properties and sees even more long term benefits.
“It’s one way to show that we’re doing are part and at least taking some steps,” Denham.
While Denham open the meeting with a questionnaire and a brief update on his work in the Federal government, he only spent 20 minutes speaking before he fielded questions and heard comments.
Congressman Denham said, “I’ve got a lot I’d like to talk about tonight, this isn’t for that, this is for you. I want to hear from you. I’d rather spend more time answering questions.”
Denham spent just over an hour interacting and listening to his constituents.
People came from further than Sacramento, and one person drove back home from Orange County to listen to what his Congressman had to say.
Some people thanked Denham for his service and for coming to speak. Some people had questions regarding water issues for farmers, job creation, and the economy in general. Much of what Congressman Denham spoke of before was reiterated as his priorities and that his projects would all benefit the economy.
Social Security and Medicare were both issues of concern brought up, and both were referenced by Denham as going broke. Denham stated that Social Security reform hasn’t really been addressed as it should be due to the fact that things like Medicare have taken priority. Denham pointed out that the President’s healthcare plan took $500 billion out of Medicare and accelerated the rate at which Medicare would go broke if not reformed. One proposed reform would be that no change would occur for those 55 and older but anyone younger would pay more.
Many more people had questions or comments regarding bike paths, the collapse of America, wind/energy tax credit, foreclosures, the Patriot Act and citizens’ rights, illegal immigration, support of small business, veteran’s issues, tax equality and capital gains, credit card high interest rates, banks, concern with the President’s healthcare plan, getting a balanced budget amendment, national debt, and more.
Congressman Denham closed the town hall meeting by complimenting those in attendance as being civil while everyone may have had differing views.
“If Washington could work like this audience did today, obviously I don’t expect everyone in this room to agree, I know that there’s going to be a lot of differences, but we were all very civil. We were able to have a discussion,” stated Rep. Denham. “Now we have to figure out how we can all come together. That’s what I’ll be taking back to Washington. I take my vote very seriously. We can work together where we can come together. I’m a public servant and I’m working for all of you.”
Denham asked that people communicate with him because his staff gives him a packet with everyone’s letters that he reads through when on his 6 hour flights to and from D.C. and tries to respond to quicker than most Congressmen. All his contact information is here on his website.
Congressman Denham had to go back to D.C. to vote the next day but still stayed after the town hall meeting was officially over to talk to people until the Salida Regional Library closed.
Congressman Denham Mobile District Office Hours in Turlock
The Office of Congressman Denham announced that a member of Congressman Jeff Denham’s staff will be holding mobile office hours in Turlock, Oakdale, Waterford, Chowchilla, Mariposa, and Oakhurst this month. During these office hours, Congressman Denham’s staff will be able to provide assistance to constituents on a variety of services and issues, including Medicare, Veteran’s Affairs, Social Security, Internal Revenue Services, matters regarding federal legislation, or any other questions and concerns you may have.
The Denham Mobile District Office is located in the Turlock Chamber of Commerce (115 S. Golden State Blvd.) on the 1st Wednesday of each month from 10am – 11:30am.
Constituents need only to come to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce or an appointment can be made by contacting the Modesto Office at (209) 579-5458.