Rep. Salud Carbajal sounds off on climate, health care as he hosts first town hall of 2020
By CHRISTIAN WHITTLE
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Locals packed into the Dos Pueblos High School’s Performing Arts Center Tuesday evening for Rep. Salud Carbajal’s first town hall of 2020. The Congressman laid out his vision for his incumbent campaign, and fielded questions from constituents on housing, climate and the political landscape.
“I believe these meetings are vital to our democracy, and hearing directly from you makes me a much better representative for you in Washington,” Rep. Carbajal told the audience. “I’ve been working hard to make sure the voice of the Central Coast is heard loud and clear in the halls of Congress.”
Rep. Carbajal is running for a third term as representative for California’s 24th district, which covers San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties as well as the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura. A political veteran in Santa Barbara, Rep. Carbajal served as 1st District Supervisor on the Santa Barbara County Board for 12 years before leaving for Washington in 2017.
Over the last year, he has been a part of a Democrat-led U.S. House that has passed more than 400 bills, according to Rep. Carbajal. He introduced 20 bills on issues ranging from environment, education and agriculture to gun violence prevention and disaster preparedness.
“You should know that 50% of those bills are bipartisan,” said Rep. Carbajal.
Most recently, Rep. Carbajal voted in favor of the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, and voted to limit President Trump’s ability to authorize military action against Iran by invoking the War Powers Act. The audience Tuesday gave Rep. Carbajal a hearty round of applause when he mentioned both votes.
“Look, none of us came to Congress to impeach a president. I certainly didn’t come to Congress with that intention, but it’s clear that President Trump abused his power by withholding aid and soliciting foreign interference in our elections for his own personal and political gain,” said Rep. Carbajal.
At Tuesday’s town hall, Rep. Carbajal explained his priorities going into an extraordinarily volatile election year as Democrats and Republicans face off over the Senate’s impeachment trial. Rep. Carbajal highlighted the climate as a major issue and pointed to his work on the Coastal State Climate Preparedness Act and the California Clean Coast Act.
“Climate change is real, and the Central Coast has seen the impact first hand. We need bold action on climate now to protect our coastal cities from the increased threat of fire and other disasters, to ensure access to clean water and breathable air, and to preserve our beautiful central coast for future generations to enjoy,” said Rep. Carbajal.
Rep. Carbajal also spoke about the need for healthcare reform, calling for a lowering of prescription drug costs and insurance premiums with the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. Although he wishes more was done, Rep. Carbajal praised the work done to restructure North American trade with the USMCA. Rep. Carbajal also touted a pair of bills designed to help veterans and farmers in his home district.
“We are also standing for workers with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bill to strengthen our agriculture industry and address the ag-labor shortage. It creates a modernized guestworker program, and provides a path to earn legal status for farmworkers,” said Rep. Carbajal.
While impeachment and climate policy received loud applause, attendees, who submitted questions beforehand which were sorted by topic, raised several issues to the Congressman including misinformation on social media, veteran healthcare, national debt, and the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement.
Not all speakers asked policy questions, like Melody Hunt, who asked what can be done to heal the divide seen throughout the nation in government, communities and even families.
“I’m looking to our representatives to give us some indication of how, as a country, we move forward from this incredibly divisive time,” said Ms. Hunt.
Rep. Carbajal explained his guiding principle and said he hoped it makes his constituents proud. He told the audience he had taken a civility pledge when he first got to Congress.
“Not only did I take that civility pledge, but I have vowed to do everything possible to work and find opportunities for bi-partisanship, and I also made a commitment to not demagogue or be uncivil with my colleagues,” said Rep. Carbajal.
When one speaker responded accusing Rep. Carbajal of needlessly bashing the President, the Congressman said he is doing his part but constituents should call the White House to tell the President to be decent.
“Every time that he does something or moves forward an executive order that takes us back as a country, separating children from their families, I will stand up to this president,” said Rep. Carbajal.
Several speakers also raised housing issues during the town hall, like the need to expand the Safe Parking Program in Santa Barbara. Local shelter volunteer Michael Merenda told Rep. Carbajal that seniors are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to getting assistance in California, as they are often neglected over those with drug and alcohol addictions.
“There’s something terribly wrong here. Let us know what can be done about it. This is happening all over the United States. People tell me, social workers I’ve spoken to say it’s even worse here in Santa Barbara,” said Mr. Merenda.
Rep. Carbajal said the government should invest more in resources for seniors, like Meals on Wheels.
“We could and should provide more strategic resources programs, and funding for our seniors, whether its housing or nutrition programs, we can do better. There are a number of bills that are attempting to do that, some of which I’m a cosponsor of,” said Rep. Carbajal
Also among Rep. Carbajal’s future legislative priorities are a national $15 minimum wage, his climate action bills, various infrastructure bills, education and civil rights inclusion.
“2020 will be a year of great importance. It is up to the American people to determine the fate of our country by being actively engaged. Everyone has a part to play,” said Rep. Carbajal.