Plenty of frustration at Lee-Pelosi town hall

I’ll be filing a more complete story tomorrow on the “Speak Out for Good Jobs Now!” town hall meeting Rep. Barbara Lee hosted tonight in Oakland, but for now, here’s a taste…

This was by no means a straight up Democratic pep rally. Other than the one conservative standing outside (an older white man with signs saying “Democrats kill jobs” and “Democrats love abortion, sodomy, socialism”), the critics were Democrats themselves, and the target of their ire was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

“Sellout!” somebody shouted just after Pelosi began addressing the crowd of about 900 in Acts Full Gospel Church of God in Christ on 66th Avenue. Her speech about the need for job creation was often punctuated by shouts of “Tax the rich!” and while her castigation of House Republicans – for trying to gut the National Labor Relations Board, for delaying the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization and so on – drew some cheers, the critics remained focused.

When she brought up the issue of the recent deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling while cutting the budget, someone angrily shouted out, “Why did you vote for it?”

“Because default is worse,” Pelosi replied, and the deal at least protected Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

In segueing to the audience’s statements – which were recorded to be considered for entry into the Congressional Record, Green for All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins insisted the evening’s story “will not be about the two people in the back who are angry at Leader Pelosi; tonight the story will be about jobs.”

But the handful of Lyndon Larouche followers at the rear (holding signs calling for the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act) were the least of Pelosi’s worries. The frustration was palpable throughout; when the audience comments were paused to watch a video of similar statements made at other town halls across the nation, one young woman paused from stalking toward the door to shout, “We could’ve been speaking now, but they made us watch an ad!”

Tomorrow’s story will feature the tales of unemployment and, in many cases, desperation shared by audience members. Toward the end, however, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., summed up much of what had been said: “Democrats need to act like Democrats in Congress … Boldness has to be part of the agenda.”

After the meeting concluded, as dozens of people who had lined up in a vain attempt to get to a microphone turned instead to video cameras to record their statements, Lee said she wasn’t surprised by the frustration in the room.

“No one thought this was going to be a love-in,” she said. “We wanted to hear the truth, and that’s what we heard.”

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.

  • Elwood

    What wonderful irony!

    Pelosi not nutty enough for the dimmiecrats!

  • Disillusionedwithdems

    Pelosi needed to hear the truth? Waaahat? The unemployment rate in Oakland and the homicide rate don’t tell her enough?

    Pelosi could have and should have been pushing Congresswoman Schakowki’s Emergency Jobs Infrastructure Act, a piece of jobs legislation to put Americans back to work either rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure or in insulating buildings making us more energy efficient.

    It’s this simple: Cut $500 billion from the Afghanistan war budget and profiteers in the military industrial sector and transfer it to a domestic jobs program that will actually help the country rather than corporate investors by investing in people and America.

    And why is that so difficult Pelosi? Because Obama, Clinton and Panetta are invested in the war machine called the Pentagon? The message should have been conversion.

  • Kyle

    Yay for obligitory contentless name-calling comment.

  • lars54

    We can deal with deficit by increasing the taxes of Warren Buffet, Chevron, and GE and all these other super-wealthy individuals and firms that aren’t paying thier fair share of taxes. But also, the other 50% of Americans who pay no taxes ought to be kicking in a little too, I think. If you have a job you probably ought to be paying at least some federal taxes, low income or not. Low income people hit the goverment pretty hard for services, so they ought to pay a little taxes too, I think.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Town hall meetings, and I have attended a bunch, are next to useless. They attract cranks, weirdos and fools by the score. A real waste of time.

  • John W

    I agree that even low income people should pay some income tax (not just payroll taxes and sales taxes), even if the income tax is only $10. Skin in the game. But we can’t do that. King Grover Norquist would deem that a tax increase. So, we would have to offset any taxes on those not now paying any with a tax cut on the higher income people who do pay taxes.

  • CE

    While reducing DOD spending would help, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the social programs. It’s time to slow down the gravy train.

    and for those who think that town hall meetings are a waste, I beg to differ. It allows our elected representatives to hear the opinions of the “common man.” They sit in their ivory towers too much. Even if some “cranks” do show up. Pelosi is the queen of disconnect and she needs to go. Unfortunately the northern half of CA is also out of touch with reality.

  • anonymouse

    Did they import those poor mentally handicapped people from some institution? Can they even read?

  • TJBlacken

    WoW, Lefties in revolt. We’re all out of other peoples money, and now they are pissed. What are Obama and Pelosi going to promise in exchange for a vote now? Socialism is a failed system…proven again now, in the USA.

  • Linda O

    I watched this on the news last night. Thoughts,this must be the August tour to get out with the people to let them know that they do care about what you have to say. HA. People there is no difference between the Dems/Republicans in Washington. Washington is broken. Their only goal in Washington is to hold onto what they got by taking corporate dollars to stay in power. In return for this they let corporations outsource jobs overseas through legal tax codes where they have to pay no taxes. This is why we have no jobs in America. Its called free trade agreement Then they sit back on both sides and say we the American people might have to give up all or portions of programs we have paid into our whole working lives. Its disgusting.

  • whosebone

    hmmmm……I thought liberals were big on separation of church and state…..so whats with ole botox head doing talking politics in a chur…….oh yeh, I forgot, democrats are exempt from any rule when it serves their purpose.

  • Elwood



  • Elwood

    Can you find the black boy in this picture?


    Blacks are wondering where the hell he is.


  • John W

    Re #7

    Obama won because of the historically crappy economic situation he was about to inherit and may well lose because “we the people” decide to give the keys back to the team that was driving the bus when that situation was created. Can hardly wait until January, when President Perry (or pick a name) tells Congress they need to immediately raise the debt ceiling or, in the alternative, announces an immediate, Great Depression-inducing 40% cut in spending.

  • Elwood

    @ #13

    If a cut in federal spending induces a depression, this country is further down the tubes than even I imagined.

    The government should be the facilitator of the economy, not the economy itself.

  • Elwood


    “Industrial Policy: The fact that President Obama’s “green jobs” campaign has been an enormously expensive failure is now so glaringly obvious even the New York Times can’t ignore it any longer.”


  • Elwood


    ““Finally, to put everything in perspective, think about what would need to be done to erase the federal deficit this year: After everyone making more than $200,000/year has paid taxes, the IRS would need to take every single penny of disposable income they have left. Such an act would raise approximately $1.53 trillion,” reported the Tax Foundation.”


  • John W

    Re: #17

    Using the word “rich” to label people who have taxable income above $200k/$250k as though they were billionaires has always rubbed many people the wrong way, including liberal old me. However, what has been proposed — returning the tax rates on income above that level to what they were under Clinton, indexed to inflation — hardly seems like a radical socialist idea if it would help with the deficit(by about $70 billion a year). They would still pay less total taxes than under Clinton, because they and everybody else would still get the full benefit of the Bush tax rates on taxable income below that amount. My preference, per Simpson-Bowles and many economists (including Reagan/Bush economics adviser Martin Feldstein), is to broaden the tax base by phasing out the tax expenditures and leaving rates at current levels or perhaps a bit lower. I would also reduce the corporate tax rate to 15% (even lower than TeaPubs have demanded) but tax dividends at ordinary income tax rates, as they historically were except under Bush. Significantly lowering the corporate rate makes us very competitive globally, minimizes the “double taxation” phenomenon that bothers some people, eliminates the incentive to offshore profits and probably yields more actual corporate income tax revenue than the status quo.