Congressman David Valadao a no show at Hanford Town Hall

By Ed Martin, Editor
There was a packed hall on Saturday, Aug. 19, for a Congressional Town Hall. Congressman David Valadao did not attend.
There was a packed hall on Saturday, Aug. 19, for a Congressional Town Hall. Congressman David Valadao did not attend.

Approximately 130 Kings County residents were on hand Saturday (Aug. 19) for what became an engaging Congressional Town Hall that was supposed to feature District 21 Representative David Valadao.

The appreciative audience was treated to an informative two hours of discussions ranging from healthcare to immigration.

Unfortunately, Valadao was conspicuously absent. But a cardboard cutout copy stood visibly at the front of the room quietly observing the give and take, and like the flesh and blood congressman failed to defend his legislative record and accomplishments.

The Congressional District Town Hall was represented by a number of local organizations, among them Planned Parenthood, SEIU, Kings County Democrats, United Farms Workers Foundation, Health Access California, Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings County Central Labor Council, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Indivisible and others.

The gathering was initially scheduled for Hanford’s Longfield Center but was moved across the street to a school auditorium to take advantage of the air conditioning.

One of those in attendance was Lemoore’s Connie Wlaschin, a regular audience member at Lemoore City Council meetings who said she appreciated the opportunity to speak out Saturday morning. “I’m really happy to see all these people here and all this diversity.”

She said she learned a lot, particularly about the region’s water issues and immigration. “It’s so important that we all get together and do what we can to make our lives better. That’s what we need to do, and I think this is a good start.”

Valadao has not held a town meeting in the last year, raising the ire of many local constituents. His most recent effort to connect with voters occurred in March when he hosted what he referred to as his “Hometown Huddle,” where on March 6, he met with constituents on a first-come, first serve basis. Each constituent got 10 minutes with the congressman.

Other representatives have scheduled town halls, and many have faced the wrath of voters, thanks to the ongoing debate over healthcare. Many Republicans have decided against hosting town halls, including neighboring representative Devin Nunes, who like Valadao, has steered clear of open town hall gatherings.

Despite Valadao’s glaring absence, the event went on without him. An informative panel, comprised of legislative experts, were on hand to discuss their views on such issues as healthcare, water, and immigration.

Isabel Sanchez, a policy advocate for CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, brought the audience up to speed regarding Valadao’s mixed legislative immigration record, while Melissa Hurtado, a spokesperson for Health Access, addressed the state of California’s health care, which she says has improved dramatically since implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Hurtado cited statistics revealing that before the implementation of Obamacare, California’s uninsured rate was 21.5 percent. In 2017 it’s 7.1 percent.

Daniel Fernandez, a spokesperson for the United Farm Works Foundation, spoke on immigration while Daniel O’Connell, a Fresno advocate, and scholar, delivered a short presentation on a dissertation he wrote about the history of the San Joaquin Valley as it relates to socioeconomics.

Saturday’s moderator, Julia Shatz, told the audience that Valadao was officially invited to the town hall. “Yes, he was invited,” she said, “and my understanding is that the response was that his office needed to check his schedule and that was the final response to the organizers.”

Shatz was pleased with the turnout and the focus of the town hall. “I think it went well. I was really impressed with the turnout from the community, and we had a full house. I think we were able to have really interesting and informed discussions about these issues – healthcare, water, and immigration – issues that are affecting the 21st District, and it sounded like the community was really engaged and eager to learn about the congressman’s positions, and learn about what they can do in their communities.”

Visibly on display was a report card, listing failing marks for Valadao’s legislative efforts on health care, immigration, women’s health and rising costs in California.

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