Pete Stark holds tele-town hall

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, schmoozed with about 750 of his constiuents in his living room last night.

Well, Stark was in his living room – the rest of them were in their own homes, participants in what Stark’s office says will be the first of many town-hall meetings conducted by telephone. Constituents on the call were able to signal if they had questions to ask — about 20 were asked and answered during the hour-long session — and Stark was able to poll them on a few questions.

There was at least one technical glitch, but it had nothing to do with the mega-conference call. “I’m sitting at home, it’s been about 100 degrees for three days now, and our air conditioner is out,” Stark said early on, though he admitted conducting such a meeting from home had its upside, too. “My wife is here helping me trying to help me keep the names of all the people who want to ask questions and making sure our children don’t interrupt.”

“I’m trying this forum because it provides a simple and convenient way for us to have a dialogue, and for me to learn more about your concerns,” he said, quipping it’s part of his ongoing effort to earn Congress more respect “than used-car salespeople.”

Stark’s office plans two more such calls this month, with registration through his Web site.

Get more of the skinny on Wednesday night’s town-hall-by-phone, after the jump…

“The major issues that I’ve been hearing from you about continue to be the downturn in our economy, the ongoing Iraq war and the need for universal health care,” Stark told constituents. “We need a change in administration before we can tackle any of them.”

Constituents dialed “0” to queue up with their questions, with Abe Mazliach, 62, of Fremont up first.

“I think we all have the oil prices or gas prices on the top of our minds right now, and the more I talk to people about it and the more I read in the papers about it, it seems this pricing problem is not due to any major supply loss or any hurricane or anything else, but besides it’s a commodity that’s being bought and sold for the sole gain of those who are buying and selling it,” he said. “It doesn’t sound right to me that people can raise the price of gasoline because its being sold as a commodity, I think this is where Congress needs to step in.”

Replied Stark: “Half of the oil-price increase, just about half, has been caused by the drop in the value of the dollar,” he said, a drop that’s due to deficit spending on the Iraq war while borrowing money from overseas. Efforts to bring gas prices down should start there, he said.

Stark’s office did three polls during the hour-long event, with constituents voting on their telephone keypads:

  • Is Bush handling the economy well? 92 percent said no.
  • How do we end the war in Iraq? 40 percent said get out now, 48 percent said within six months, and 12 percent said until the politicians in DC decide we’ve “won.”
  • Was this call very valuable, somewhat valuable, or not valuable at all? 89 percent said very valuable.
  • Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.