A warm day greeted Congressman Ted W. Lieu, U.S. Representative for California’s 33rd congressional district, when he arrived at the Topanga Library on February 8 to meet with constituents and talk about the impeachment, the 2020 Census, and Veterans’ housing.
The brunch-time event was hosted by Dorothy Reik, President of the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains (PDSMM), and brought the politician and the public together for a productive town hall meeting.
It was standing-room-only, as more than 100 Topanga residents packed the Community Room along with PDSMM members to meet and greet their Representative.
While waiting for Lieu to arrive, Peter Alsop, an award-winning singer/songwriter, lecturer, and humorist, opened the gathering with a song that political activist Lila Garrett, who died in January, always played to open her KPFK morning radio show, Connect the Dots.
The audience sang along to the signature song, “Let’s make the world a much better place.” Alsop, obviously pleased, insisted that it is this kind of enthusiasm that will save democracy.
Reik, who was busy running the regular meeting while waiting for Rep. Lieu to arrive, was stopped short with the arrival of a huge birthday cake, ablaze with candles. She later shared in an email, how the celebration came about.
“We had our regular club meeting yesterday, but thanks to Myla Reson, Wendy Gladwin, and Kristina Rocco Levy, it turned into a birthday bash. “Myla made calls that resulted in certificates from Congressman Ted Lieu and State Senators Henry Stern and Ben Allen, an award from Larry Gross’s Coalition for Economic Survival, and words of praise from Alan Minsky, Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America. There were even cakes and balloons.”
Reik, who is running on the March 3 ballot for re-election to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee, blew out the candles, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and Minsky presented her with a bouquet.
Reik also received official commendations for her political leadership from State Senators Ben Allen and Henry Stern, represented by his Community Engineer, Nick Gaines, who presented Reik with a commendation for her “resilience regarding climate change.”
“Topanga has a greater risk of fire than Paradise, CA,” Gaines said to gasps from the audience.
Allen, with his infant son, Ezra, on his hip, presented Reik with a Senate Proclamation for her “passion, dogged relentlessness, and fearlessness.”
“I am lucky to call her a friend,” Allen said. “We hold each other to account; she is fearless.”
Reik then took the microphone to declare that PDSMM is endorsing George Gascón for Los Angeles District Attorney. He is running against the current DA, Jackie Lacey.
“Lacey has not been a friend for the people we care about,” Reik said.
It was time to introduce Lieu, who presented Reik with a “Certificate of Congressional Recognition” for addressing issues he felt need addressing within the House of Representatives.
Lieu has been the U.S. Representative for California’s 33rd Congressional District since 2015. His district encompasses much of western Los Angeles, as well as Toapnga, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Bel Air, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and the Beach Cities.
“Hello, so thank you,” Lieu said to wild applause. “Donald Trump is the first Republican to be impeached; it is a stain of dishonor that will follow him the rest of his life.”
He continued with an explanation of how the House, now with a Democratic majority, has been highly active before, during, and after the impeachment hearings.
“We have now passed more than 400 bills, including 270 bipartisan bills, that sit on [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s desk,” Lieu said. “They should not just sit there with no action; a lot of these are common-sense bills that a majority of Americans support…[such as] the Equal Rights Act, reauthorization for the Violence Against Women Act, and legislation to reduce generic drug prices, also bipartisan, also on Mitch McConnell’s desk. There is a whole host of bills that would pass if the Senate simply would only take a vote on it.
“Then we have universal background checks. It’s the first time in committee that we have anything on gun legislation in over 25 years, that was passed in the full House, also bipartisan, and supported by 95-99 percent of the American people.”
On the topic of housing for veterans, Lieu said that there was substantial progress on the building of 1200 housing units on Veteran’s Administration property in West Los Angeles.
Lieu reminded the group that on March 12, U.S. Census letters will go out to every mailing address in the United States.
“There are ways to participate—by phone, by mail, and online,” he said. “The United States Census is completely confidential by law and each uncounted person represents a loss of $2,000 to the district every year for 10 years.”
He urged Topangans, who traditionally have a low response rate, to participate so their district is properly represented and does not lose money or Congressional seats, especially in Democratic districts.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
During the Q & A following Lieu’s presentation, Valley resident Jim Hoffman asked, “How do the homeless play into the Census?”
“That’s a good question,” Lieu said. “There is a one-day county-wide homeless count done by the Census Bureau.”
Another man, concerned about defeating Trump, asked, “How do we inspire young people to vote Democratic, how do we get them to show up to meetings like this?”
“We flipped the House,” Lieu said. “In order to get young people to vote, we don’t need a Millennial to show up; we just need them to do one thing, vote!”
Susan Nissman, former Senior Field Deputy to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, asked about budget cuts and if they affect the operations of the Centers for Disease Control regarding the possible outbreak of the Wuhan Corona Virus in the United States.
“The administration did give a briefing on this; it was non-partisan,” Lieu said, adding that he felt the CDC was well funded regarding handling pandemic diseases. “A majority of cases are in China, [but] it’s true there is no vaccine…. The bad news is the virus spreads very quickly; the good news is that fewer people are dying, according to the New York Times, but we need to make sure we don’t have an outbreak in the United States.”
With that, the Congressman had to leave and thanked the audience for their patience and good questions.
“Ted Lieu was his usual intelligent and thoughtful self as he addressed the group and handled difficult questions from some very passionate activists,” Reik wrote. “We are so fortunate to have him in Congress!”
Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains is a chartered club of the Los Angeles Democratic Party, whose website states, “We strive to cultivate progressive ideals within our community by supporting reformist elected officials. We believe that awareness of current events and involvement with local officials aids in our commonly shared goal of “Waging Peace.” We uphold a revered reputation with such officials by continuously jumping on pressing issues and advocating for moral justice. There is no compromise when it comes to the environment and equality among all.”