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Go talk to your congressman

With only two weeks left in Congress’ summer recess, there are still a few chances to see and be heard by your lawmaker.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has several events coming up. First, I’ll moderate a Commonwealth Club of California discussion with him at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $20 for non-members or $7 for students, and are available online.

DeSaulnier also is continuing his series of free, public town-hall meetings as well. The remaining three are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26 in the Harding Elementary School auditorium, 7230 Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito; Wednesday, Sept. 2 in the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way; and Thursday, Sept. 3 in the Clayton Library’s Hoyer Hall, 6125 Clayton Road. All three will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, will host a town hall forum on Social Security at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Florence Douglas Senior Center, 333 Amador St. in Vallejo. Special guests will include Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Sandy Goodman, District Manager of the Vallejo Social Security Administration field office.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will host a California drought solutions forum from 10 to noon Tuesday, Aug. 25, in the San Joaquin County Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave. in Stockton. Open to the public, the forum will feature experts and voices that include farmers, water technology innovators, policy makers, federal and state government, academia, and others.

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Mike Honda to hold town-hall meeting on drought

Rep. Mike Honda will hold a town hall meeting on California’s drought at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday, Aug. 20 at Santa Clara City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave.

honda.jpg“We are experiencing an historic drought in California that could last for many years and change the way we think about and use water. The drought is a consequence of climate change, and we need to talk about how we’re going to deal with the impacts as a community and as a region,” Honda, D-San Jose said in a news release.

“I welcome everyone in the community to join me at the town hall not just to learn more about the drought, but to ask whatever questions they may have about how it will affect them and their families.”

The town hall will include a panel discussion moderated by Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews featuring Honda and representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Water Resources, and Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Honda has taken heat from critics – including Democratic challenger Ro Khanna and his supporters – for not doing enough general-subject town hall meetings with constituents. Honda has held some public events on specific topics, such as the April event on Social Security benefits for same-sex couples, but none lately in which everyone was encouraged to come ask questions about anything. Some Bay Area members do a lot of those – notably Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – and others don’t.

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Carly Fiorina talks tough in telephone town hall

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina renewed her call Thursday for a citizen-led government that would grow the economy, cut spending, better support our Middle Eastern allies against ISIS and cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, formerly of Los Altos Hills and now of Virginia, held a 45-minute telephone town hall Thursday, taking 10 questions from supporters across the country.

Fiorina 5-14-2015 AP photoFiorina – whom the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows is in a three-way tie for 12th place among the 16 major, declared GOP candidates – sounded undaunted by her lack of traction and likened herself to a beloved party icon.

“At this point in previous presidential elections, the polls, the pundits and the money said that Jimmy Carter couldn’t win, Ronald Reagan couldn’t win, Bill Clinton couldn’t win and Barack Obama couldn’t win,” she said, adding “the media may want to control the process, the party may want to control the process, but you know in the end the voters control the process.”

Reagan won the White House in 1980 “because the people decided he should win,” she said – though she didn’t mention that 1980 was Reagan’s third presidential run, and he had served two terms as governor of the nation’s most populous state.

Fiorina said even Republicans who support other candidates are telling her “I would love to see you debate Hillary Clinton.”

“They know what I would do, they know I would win that debate, they know I would bring up all the tough issues that are not being brought up,” she said. “We’re at a pivotal point. We need to challenge the status quo in Washington, D.C.”

More on Fiorina’s policy answers, after the jump…
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CA17: Battling over 2005 vote, PAC support

Rep. Mike Honda and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley held a news conference Tuesday to give an update on their efforts to eliminate the backlog of rape kits locally and across the nation.

Honda-O'Malley news conference 8-12-2014 (photo by Josh Richman)It was one of about 20 events Honda, D-San Jose, is holding in his district or the Bay Area during this August recess. But Honda’s lack of any town-hall meetings with constituents during this recess, along with his vote against a somewhat-related bill nine years ago, gave Democratic challenger Ro Khanna fodder for a renewed attack.

And later Tuesday, Khanna’s campaign also took Honda to task over a fundraising email in which campaign manager Doug Greven noted the recent formation of a Super PAC to support Khanna – a plea Khanna’s camp says is the height of hypocrisy.

Shortly before Honda’s and O’Malley’s news conference, Khanna issued a news release noting Honda in 2005 was one of 23 Democrats to oppose HR 3132, the Children’s Safety Act, which would have created a national sex offender registry database. The bill passed the House 371-52, but it died in the Senate.

“Congressman Honda has made it clear that he will do anything to avoid a close examination of his record,” Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said in the release. “His August recess consists of closed door meetings and press conferences – there’s still no open events for the public to come and engage with their Congressman. Since his constituents don’t get a chance to ask him any questions, we hope Rep. Honda will finally be forced to answer today about why he opposed the Children’s Safety Act and if he thinks we should be taking convicted sex offenders off of the registry.”

Asked about the 2005 vote after Tuesday’s news conference, Honda replied he’d have to “look at it again, there must’ve been a reason; there might’ve been a ‘poison pill’ or something.” Honda spokesman Ken Scudder later Tuesday noted the 2005 bill contained a small section about rape-kit testing – three pages out of 128 – but “in many areas it would cause more harm than good.”

Scudder provided the statement that Honda issued in 2005 to explain his vote:

“Today the House debated and passed H.R. 3132, the Child Safety Act. I opposed this measure which sets new standards for state sex-offender registries and creates a National Sex Offender Registry. While I believe it is important to have a National Sex Offender Registry and I support increased funding for state registries, several provisions in this measure create more harm without truly addressing this serious issue.

“One provision I strongly oppose is the inclusion of juveniles in the definition of “sex offender” – a designation that would trigger lifetime registration. This nation has traditionally separated the handling of juvenile offenders from adult offenders in the legal system so that youth who break the law can have the chance to correct their behavior.

“As a society, we do not stigmatize individuals for life based on their childhood transgressions. Under this bill, however, a 12-year-old convicted as a delinquent for non-violent sexual contact with an 11-year-old playmate would face lifetime registration.

“This bill also includes unduly harsh mandatory minimum sentences, expands the death penalty and limits habeas corpus review in certain cases. Studies have shown that the use of mandatory minimums distort the sentencing process and promotes plea bargaining, thereby subverting the trial process. Regarding the death penalty, reports show this ultimate and irreversible punishment has been incorrectly applied in numerous cases; limiting habeas corpus review only makes a bad situation worse.

“As a former teacher and principal, I am deeply concerned for the well-being of our nation’s youth. We absolutely must address the problem of violence committed by sex offenders against our children. But rather than address the root causes that give rise to these abhorrent crimes, unfortunately, this bill simply uses the blunt and largely ineffective tools of mandatory minimums, death penalty and onerous registration requirements to give us the mistaken notion that we have made our children safer. Because of these misguided provisions, I opposed passage of H.R. 3132.”

Honda declined Tuesday to address his lack of town-hall meetings; his website, however, notes he’ll take part in a Facebook Q&A next Tuesday, Aug. 19 and a Crowdhall online event during the week of Aug. 25. Khanna is holding a Facebook Q&A at 8 p.m. tonight, and will hold a live town-hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Aug. 19 at 3200 Coronado Dr. in Santa Clara.

On the Super PAC matter, Khanna’s campaign cited an fundraising email Greven sent to Honda’s supporters Tuesday afternoon.

“We need to be ready to fight back once these outside groups start sending mail and going up on TV to attack Congressman Honda,” Greven wrote. “We don’t have a Super PAC – but we do have you, and thousands of grassroots supporters like you.”

But Honda already has received help from a Super PAC – the union-funded Working for Us PAC sent two mailers to district voters shortly before June’s primary election. One mailer praised GOP candidate Vanila Singh, in hope that giving her a boost among the district’s Republicans could cost Khanna votes. The other accused Khanna of “sending jobs overseas” and trying to “outsource our jobs.”

“The Honda campaign appears to be operating in an alternate reality where the truth doesn’t matter at all,” Law said Tuesday. “Ro repeatedly asked Congressman Honda to sign Elizabeth Warren’s ‘People’s Pledge’ to keep outside money out of this congressional race. Congressman Honda refused. Ro also asked Congressman Honda to denounce racially offensive mailers sent by his donor’s Super PAC on his behalf. Congressman Honda refused. For the Honda campaign to blatantly lie about having a Super PAC shows that they will literally say anything to win.”

But Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said the pot is calling the kettle black.

“The fact is, when Ro Khanna’s had three times the resources of our campaign, he said he was opposed to outside spending (but turned down our proposal to limit it),” Kembaiyan said. “Now that he has $200,000 in debt and is clearly not gaining traction, he has no problem with the fact that one of his biggest Wall Street donors has created a Super PAC solely to prop up his campaign. Ro can try to spin his blatant hypocrisy and desperation all he wants, but voters will see right through it.

“There’s a difference between a Super PAC whose sole reason for existence is to provide another avenue for Khanna investors to prop up his campaign, and an organization that has been around for 8 years, supporting multiple progressive candidates nation-wide,” Kembaiyan added.

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Eshoo & Speier to host town hall at Palo Alto VA

Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier will host a town-hall meeting Monday at the Palo Alto VA Hospital on veterans’ access to care – a touchy topic given recent revelations of VA shortcomings and malfeasance.

Veterans are invited to come and get answers to questions about the VA’s health care appointment process; Palo Alto VA Director Lisa Freeman will be there, too.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May amid revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment.

“Amid deeply disturbing revelations about delayed care of veterans throughout the nation and the scandal of information being manipulated, it is critically important to not only review wait times for care but also have veterans ask their own questions and have them addressed,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release Wednesday. “This town hall meeting will provide a forum for veterans in our region to share their experiences with access to care at the Palo Alto VA, and, moving forward, help to develop even better systems to improve the VA hospital for our veterans.”

Speier, D-San Mateo, said in the same release that the “scandalous issue” of VA employees in other states manipulating appointment lists to conceal long waiting times “has damaged the credibility of the VA health care system.”

“It doesn’t appear that this despicable behavior exists in Northern and Central California,” she said. “But I want veterans who use VA hospitals and clinics in our area to have a chance to comment on the quality of the access to care they receive. I thank the VA Director for not only providing my staff with their insights on the challenges they face in caring for over 130,000 veterans, but also in agreeing to host a town hall meeting at the hospital.”

The meeting will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 7 in the auditorium of VA Palo Alto’s Building 101, at 3801 Miranda Ave. in Palo Alto.

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore, plus seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, and Sonora.

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Upcoming events with FCC chair, First Lady & me

Tom Wheeler (AP photo)This Thursday, Jan. 9, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will be in Oakland for a town hall giving local residents a chance to share their stories and speak about the impacts of an increasingly corporate media environment. The event – from 7 to 9 p.m., in Nile Hall, 1233 Preservation Park Way – is hosted by Voices for Internet Freedom, the Center for Media Justice, Free Press, ColorOfChange and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Other featured speakers will include California Public Utilities Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, Greenlining Institute energy and telecommunications policy director Stephanie Chen, CIVIC Co-Executive Director Christina Mansfield, The Utility Reform Network Executive Director Mark Toney, and representatives from the host organizations. The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited, so attendees should RSVP online.

In the realm of shameless self-promotion (though not really, as I don’t get paid), I’ll be part of the Commonwealth Club’s “Week to Week” news roundtable at 6:30 p.m. next Monday, January 13, in the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. I’ll be joining attorney Melissa Griffin Caen, a contributor to KPIX-TV and San Francisco magazine, and the Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli, with the club’s John Zipperer as moderator. Come early at 5:30 p.m. for a wine-and-cheese social – current events are always better after wine. Tickets cost $5 for club members, $15 for non-members or $7 for students, and are available online.

Michelle ObamaAnd, First Lady Michelle Obama will join House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to headline a women’s luncheon and reception to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday, Jan. 31 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The fundraising page makes no mention of the First Lady, but a White House official speaking on background confirmed Monday that she’s scheduled to attend. Tickets range from $500 each to $32,400, the latter of which buys two tickets to the VIP reception and photo line and a table for 10 at lunch. The First Lady had been scheduled to raise money for Democrats in October in the Bay Area, but cancelled her trip amid the government shutdown.