Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) answers a question at his town hall meeting in the Arcata High School gym on Thursday evening. An estimated 1,200 people attended, an aide said. Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard
POSTED: 02/23/17, 9:44 PM PST |
People react as Rep. Huffman answers a question at his town hall meeting in the Arcata High School gym. Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard
An estimated 1,200 people attended a town hall meeting put on by Rep. Jared Huffman to discuss local, state and national policies that affect the North Coast.
While the meeting was originally set to take place in the Arcata High School Fine Arts Center, Huffman said the location had to be moved to the school’s gym to accommodate for the number of people who RSVP’d. People filled the bleachers and some were left standing at the entrance of the building while others were seated on the floor.
“Ordinarily, I’d be out doing a lot of site visits and restoration projects and meeting with school kids, and doing things a congressman does when he gets a chance to be out and about the district,” Huffman (D-San Rafael) said. “Right now, it’s very clear to me that the most important thing I can do is to engage directly with as many of my constituents as I can.”
Brian Fallon, who identified as a veteran living in Humboldt County said he was concerned about what Huffman would do to help the VA with providing primary care doctors to the area.
“The VA does a lot of good here, but Humboldt has no primary doctors. We have good nurses, and good nurse practitioners and services but when a person gets hurt they need more than that,” Fallon said. “I’m asking you to roll up your sleeves and help us veterans. We have no primary car doctors. I walked around for a month with five ligaments torn off my shoulder and I didn’t get any help.”
Fallon said most doctors won’t come here because they take a pay cut to come to the North Coast and that he’s had to consult with doctors in San Francisco about conditions via web camera.
“This has been a problem for a long time. I toured the clinic a few years ago when they weren’t totally out of providers but they were pretty close. The clinic is a great wonderful shiny new building and it’s state of the art. It’s got everything you need except doctors,” Huffman said. “I want to do everything I can and you’re right, the economics are a part of it. This is not the VA. If you talk to St. Joes, or the Open Door clinic or anyone else it’s very hard to recruit and retain health care providers up here in a spectacular place to live.”
Huffman said the compensation formula for doctors needed to be adjusted to keep doctors here.
“I’m introducing a big national service bill that would look at what we need to do to support service all across the board,” he said. “It will support and help people in their professional path and also do a lot of good in underserved places. Helping physicians who chose to work in places like Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties by giving them loan forgiveness or other incentives would go a long way.”
“People in Congress need to wake up and smell the coffee on climate change,” Huffman said. “The Trump Administration has doubled down on the EPA and are trying to dramatically gut them. In Humboldt County, we know better. The EPA is a watchdog and critical safeguard for us here.”
Speakers also addressed the Dakota Access Pipeline and how critical it was to keep projects like that from progressing. Huffman agreed that the return to fossil fuels like coal was not in the best interest of the American people. He mentioned the Oroville Dam was a huge wake up call for Californians.
“I know at the state level we have some better policies, but we need to push to make sure they’re enforced. The Trinity Dam does not have an emergency spillway. It wasn’t designed in quite the same way as Oroville was,” Huffman said. “Anybody who’s followed my work in Washington knows we’ve just been having the wrong conversation. … We should be talking about the neglected infrastructure we see all over this state. That conversation has not yet happened. We still have folks in Washington who still believe new dams will help. New dams in the central valley is a pipe dream that wont work”
Community members were also adamant about questioning whether the president could cut off federal funding for areas that opt to become sanctuary cities.
Betty Dickerson asked whether or not California’s federal funding would be in jeopardy and was concerned about stopping Trump from ceasing federal funding.
“It concerns me because of all the social help and social welfare that California gets,” Dickerson said.
Huffman said that while California receives a good amount of money from the federal government, the state also donated a lot of money toward the national treasury.
“As much as you occasionally hear Donald Trump tweet about punishing California or any sense that he’s going to withhold funds, he can’t do it. That’s the bottom line. The constitution prohibits him from doing it. There’s actually a case law out there called commandeering when the federal government tries to do that. We will fight if there is any attempt by this administration to play politics with grant funding or social services or emergency response. The state of California is geared up for this as well. We’ve hired a pretty good lawyer, a guy named Eric Holder, so I think we’re going to be ok,” Huffman said.
The congressman also said there was nothing in federal law that required local law enforcement to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“They understand that if they’re perceived in their community as arms of ICE that no one will trust them and nobody will report crimes in their neighborhoods or turn people in,” Huffman said. “Pretty soon you’ll just have a complete erosion of that trust within the community.”
He later said that the state will, if needed, take the issue to the court and will fight for undocumented immigrants and Dreamers under DACA and will prevail.
The conversation within the town hall meeting extending the originally set time by about half an hour and dozens of community members were allowed to speak about other issues like elections, the division among the democratic party and DNC, the Affordable Care Act, teachers and education, and whether or not Trump would release his tax information.
Natalya Estrada can be reached at 707-441-0510.