December 6, 2004

Rep. Stark Speaks to Constituents

Representative Pete StarkAfter arriving more than 10 minutes late to his town hall meeting at the San Leandro Library on Saturday, December 4, 2004, Congressional Representative Pete Stark thanked the crowd for re-electing him and for those who didn’t vote for him, promised to make the next two years as painless as he could.

The following Monday (December 6, 2004), Stark said that the House would likely vote to remove a controversial provision of a spending bill that would have permitted certain Congressional members to review the tax returns of any person. He also expected the House to vote on an intelligence bill containing reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission, although he thought that more conservative members of the House may try to delay a vote on the intelligence bill until a more conservative Senate convenes next year.

Stark expects the GOP to begin its session by focusing on privatizing Social Security, followed by a similar plan for Medicare and a reform of the tax system. Although a reform of the tax system is sought by some Republicans, Stark thinks that there are enough disagreements within the Republican party that tax reform is unlikely to make any significant progress. He holds no hope for education, human rights, the environment, or getting out of Iraq any time soon. Stark also predicts that Republicans will prevent Democrats from fully participating in the legislative process, as they have done for much of the past four years.

As a result of the Anthrax letters sent in 2001, Stark noted that mail to his Washington, D.C. office address is often delayed by six to eight weeks and letters are often unreadable and even destroyed by the time his office receives them. He advised his opponents to not "waste you money on Anthrax you don't like me; it won't get to me." Stark said that mail should be sent to his Fremont office address, which is 39300 Civic Center Dr., Suite 220, Fremont, CA 94538.

After his brief statement, Rep. Stark took questions from the audience, which, as usual, touched heavily on Social Security and Medicare. The first question was about when Congress will reconvene to privatize Social Security. Stark noted that it was one of the first items on the GOP agenda and he expects the issue to be taken up shortly after Congress reconvenes, in February 2005. Stark noted that Social Security is funded through 2050 or 2070, depending on which report you believe. He also stated that nearly half of Social Security recipients are single women, mostly surviving spouses receiving a disbursement of less than $1,000. [Editor’s note: For more information about Social Security, see the 2004 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds.

The next questions were about the threat to US jobs from NAFTA and, in particular, Mexican trucks being allowed into the United States, and illegal immigrants receiving Social Security benefits, medical treatment, and education. Stark answered the question about Mexican trucks by suggesting that enforcement of US safety standards should reduce competition from Mexican trucks. On the question of illegal immigrants receiving Social Security benefits, Stark noted that nobody receives Social Security that hasn’t paid into it over the last 40 quarters. On medical treatment of illegal immigrants, Stark said that, by law, hospitals are required to stabilize all patients that arrive at the hospital and that he thought that this was a good thing. As for the children of illegal immigrants, Stark said he did not think that the children of illegal immigrants should be punished for the transgressions of their parents.

When one audience member noted that part of the problem with the Democratic party is its lack of a clear policy about the direction in which it wants to lead the country, Stark largely talked around the issue, but agreed that the Democratic party needed to better convey its goals and directions to the public.

Stark was asked whether he thought the U.S. would intervene militarily in Nicaragua if the Sandinistas win in the next presidential election, noting that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Nicaragua in November. Stark said that he hopes not, but is more worried about what the US is doing in Colombia.

Stark’s last question was about why he wasn’t mentioned in an ANG newspaper story (This one, I think) detailing other Bay Area Congressional Representatives' success at bringing home "pork" to their respective districts. Almost immediately, Stark fired off the figure of $9.5 million that he had helped get for his district, and then rattled off a list of projects and dollar figures. Stark noted that often works with the Bay Area Congressional Delegation on things like transportation projects, but noted that he failed to secure funding for needed dredging in Alameda. Stark said that he doesn't pride himself on bringing "pork" to his district but that he works to get a fair share and to ensure that his district is not overlooked.

Representative Pete Stark's next town hall meeting will be held in January 2005.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at December 6, 2004 1:00 AM | TrackBack
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