Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s 23rd District field representatives Keenan Hochschild and Cole Karr met Tuesday, Feb. 28, with an overflowing audience in the Mineral King Room at the Three Rivers Historical Museum. McCarthy’s staffers, who are based in the Bakersfield Office of the House Majority Leader, opened the meeting by explaining the difficulty for the congressman to attend events held in the district because his time is devoted to Majority Leader responsibilities.
Among priorities is to hear problems that constituents have with federal offices or programs. Hearing none in Three Rivers, the agenda was an opportunity for attendees to voice concerns and ask questions.
As dozens of hands went up in the audience to speak, Hochschild called on each person in turn. After stating their name, most offered a comment or raised a topic relative to an action or perceived effect of the new Trump administration. Most speakers asked for clarification on where Congressman McCarthy, a Republican, stands on issues including education, the Affordable Care Act, the EPA, immigration, LGBTQ rights, family planning and women’s health, media, foreign relations, racism, a border wall, Clean Water Act, and income inequality.
Both Hochschild and Karr discussed positions of Congressman McCarthy on certain issues but they made it clear they could not speak for the Congressman. Karr took copious notes as well as the first and last names of commenters throughout the meeting.
Lee Goldstein, a retired medical professional and public health advocate, asked if the Congressman was familiar with the recently released study: “An Epidemic of White Death: A Canary in a Coal Mine.”
Goldstein cited the findings of the 20-year ongoing study that reports an unprecedented surge of 11 percent in deaths for middle-aged white males living in Kern, Kings, Tulare, and Fresno counties. The reasons, the study determined, are high unemployment, poverty, drug use, and limited access to health care.
Susan Hammond, a Lemon Cove school teacher and orange grower, said her brother, John, died at age 51 because he had no access to medical services.
“He couldn’t qualify for Medi-Cal and was too young for Medicare,” Hammond said.
George Kulick, retired U.S. Forest Service and currently a Three Rivers School board member, pointed out that Three Rivers has a newspaper and that a member of the press was present.
“Does the Congressman view the press as an enemy of the people?” is the question Kulick wanted relayed to McCarthy.
Lisa Lieberman, a freelance journalist and artist, asked whether the Congressman was for or against the free lunch program.
“For many of these children it’s the only meal they get all day,” Lieberman said.
Rick Lafferty, a local insurance agent, applauded President’s Trump’s “push back” on the media. He cited several national news organizations that he said fabricated a story that 100,000 National Guard troops were being deployed to round up illegal immigrants.
Esther Huecker expressed concern about a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and what the replacement will be. Karr responded by saying that the Congressman is on record that he supports a new health care act that covers those with pre-existing conditions and keeps children on their parents’ plan until age 26.
Carole Clum, an artist, said she was appalled by the spike in hate crimes. Bettina Birch, a North Fork organic grower, said she wants assurances that there will be no fracking in Tulare County.
There were numerous comments relative to the protection of the environment and the national parks, forests, and other public lands. Several others raised concerns about immigration policies.
Trent Coleman wanted to know if the Congressman supported the rights of LGBTQ citizens. He made an impassioned plea that the federal government must guarantee the civil rights of all people.
Frank Avalos, a retired educator, summed up the consensus in the room when he said Congressman McCarthy should attend a meeting here in Three Rivers and listen to his constituents.
“We can send you information but it’s just information,” Avalos said. “What you are missing out on is the emotion.”
Karr said he thought that Tuesday’s meeting was the first ever for the district field office to visit Three Rivers. He said that he is hearing what Three Rivers has to say and plans to conduct these local meetings monthly.
Also on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Congressman Kevin McCarthy released a statement on the President’s action to begin rescinding the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States Rule. He wrote:
“Today President Trump took action to begin rolling back one of the worst regulations targeting private property rights — an executive order implemented by the Obama administration that greatly expanded the EPA’s jurisdiction to regulate waterways — including on private property. This rule was an example of how unreasonable and illogical the Washington bureaucracy can get, especially when applied to the water needs of the west. More broadly this rule would have greatly impacted our communities and farmers’ ability to use their land. In the House, I have voted to repeal this rule numerous times and today’s action… represents the joint commitment to return rationality back to government and restore freedom and opportunity to all Americans.”