The Government Night/Town Hall event on 4-17-17 was my first opportunity to hear Representative Denham speak publically. What I encountered was not entirely pleasing. I will admit to going into the meeting with a bias against the congressmen. His lack of clarity over positions on the repeal/replacement of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s immigration Executive Orders and systematic removal of environmental protections made me weary of his ability to accurately represent the people who live in this district. Never the less, I was willing to give him a fair chance to share his current vision and plans to help promote the desires and needs of his constituents.
I learned very quickly that Representative Denham has a very thin skin. He shushed and reprimanded audience members who did not respond to his words in a positive manner. He explained to one constituent that he was going to allow them to ask their question…just not right now. It makes me wonder how effective he is fighting for our district in Washington D.C. if he resorts to pettiness with the people that he is paid to represent.
I also learned that he is an expert at evasiveness. He was asked a question about his support or lack there of for Charter Schools or school voucher programs and instead of answering the question, he insinuated that the teacher who’d asked it didn’t know the difference between the two. “You’re a teacher, you do know what a charter school is…?” This was a patterned I noticed; when he was flustered, he lashed out with sarcasm.
Stunningly, our representative also seemed unclear as to whether or not California was a right to work state. The audience member who asked the question regarding the policy actually had to take time to explain the issue. There was also the moment when a constituent called him out on a letter she received signed with his name. He at first insinuated that she had given him a random letter that was not authentic, and then several audience members yelled out that they’d received the same letter and he relented and began explaining all of the messages he receives and has to go through.
I will give Denham credit for staying for almost three hours. I will also give him credit for grudgingly admitting that global warming exists and for stating on record that he’s told republican leadership that he will not vote for a health care plan unless his concerns are addressed. The question is whether his concerns and the concerns of the district are similar.
Several times throughout the night Denham stated his belief that the biggest issue we have in our district in the area of healthcare is lack of providers. I agree, but that is not an authentic issue with the ACA which only became law in March of 2010. According to the Center for Health Journalism, the number of specialists per capita in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties is significantly lower than other California counties; the problem affects all residents regardless of the type of insurance, though those on medical are hit the hardest. This is not a new problem for Central Valley residents, particularly in the area of specialty medicine. Representative Denham is using this “pre-existing” condition as a red herring in the health care debate. For example, I asked a question about the lack of mental health resources and providers for adolescence in the district. I explained that I have very good private insurance and that I struggled to find local help for my own daughter. He had no response to my calls for help. He only continued to try and tie the ACA with lack of providers in our district, which is in my opinion, a cop out on truly taking a position on legislation that will effect tens of thousands of his constituents.
I think that one thing is very clear: Representative Denham needs to spend more time face to face listening to his constituents needs and less time hiding behind “telephone town halls”. With nearly 1,000 constituents (ID’s were checked) in attendance, there is obviously a clear demand for him to spend some more time with the people he represents. (C)