Congressman visits Portola to discuss issues

Congressman Doug LaMalfa speaks about issues affecting his constituents during a meet and greet at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola on Friday, Aug. 9. Photo by Lauren Westmoreland

Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola hosted Congressman Doug LaMalfa at a Plumas and Sierra county meet and greet Friday, Aug. 9, with light attendance.

LaMalfa welcomed the attendees, noting that the visit was part of his August recess tour. “We’re just here to exchange information, ideas, questions, answers,” LaMalfa said.

LaMalfa went on to state that one of his top priorities is fire safety, saying, “We have Redding, we have Paradise, and both of those suffered incredible fires last year. What is it we need to do? In mountainous communities like this, that have a real interface with the forest, there are several ways to go about this.”

LaMalfa said there was a happy medium, referring to a recent meeting with the Grass Valley community with CalFire and other FireSafe council members. “These are the folks that really have the vision for what it should look like.”

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“CalFire is very effective at promoting defensible space,” LaMalfa continued. He explained some of the ways that fire can start and noted the need to look at how we are building homes.

LaMalfa then addressed the fact that it is becoming more and more of a challenge for people to obtain fire insurance policies for their homes, referring again to the Redding and Paradise fires having added to expense and difficulty.

“Many people have been insured for years, and have never filed a claim, and are getting cancelled,” LaMalfa said. “That is part of the awareness of this state being set on its ear by these fires.”

“I’m an advocate for finding a solution and pushing for better forest management, and wildland urban interface — we could be more aggressive on that.”

LaMalfa noted legislation being looked at to ensure that roads are clear for 150 feet on either side. Another aspect of the issue has been addressed through work with Senator Diane Feinstein and noted that any legislation has to be something that will “realistically pass.”

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“We want an effective management plan for a perimeter around communities, within them, and other areas such as roadways to give a better fighting chance with a fire,” LaMalfa added.

He explained that there had been ongoing issues on keeping an air tanker fleet, issues in the past with contracts, but most of those barriers have been reduced.

LaMalfa then moved on to the topic of immigration, saying, “There’s been a lot of hype a misperception put out because it is a hot button issue,” LaMalfa said. “It’d sure be nice if we could all come together and solve the real bottom line issue. We have a right and an obligation to control our border in this country. Every other country does. Everybody controls their own property — you lock your car, your house, because it’s up to you who comes in your home.”

LaMalfa went on to say, “That doesn’t mean these are closed off borders, but that we have borders with gates with well-oiled hinges on them, and people at those gates deciding if you meet the criteria that our government laid down for you. We’re a welcoming country. We just want to welcome that effort legally. What we have right now is chaotic.”

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LaMalfa continued, “Are there some undesirable things happening here? Certainly. Some people are concerned that we are separating families, but there are a lot of counter balancing issues to go along with that. When people try to enter the country illegally, are we supposed to just let them go in, 90 percent of which are not coming for a true asylum purpose?”

LaMalfa also addressed the employer’s aspect, saying, “Why can’t Congress pass a better jobs package for employment? We have a bipartisan working group on that right now, working on ag labor.”

LaMalfa stated, “When you survey it, many folks that come across the border don’t really want to have permanent residency here, and don’t want to necessarily drag their families over here if they know they can get back home to them freely and with regularity.”

“Who are we helping by having the system that we have?” LaMalfa stressed. He went on to emphasize that the asylum system is there for a reason.

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LaMalfa then expressed that people are making the choice to enter the country illegally and addressed the legalities of holding children with adult parents. “If they’re already in the country, how do you accommodate the children? It’s very humane, these centers, despite the hype that’s out there. In many cases they’re getting better nutrition and medical care than where they left, so there’s a lot of false hype around this.”

Water storage and water supply was also touched on, and issues in Iran and the Middle East. “It’s tough, but when you recognize it, Iran is one of the major sponsors of terror around the Middle East.

“Nobody wants a war, but I think we have an obligation to partner up with other NATO partners to help keep the Strait of Hormuz open, where tankers are being pirated. We’re allowing this to happen,” LaMalfa said. “We need a stronger coalition of everybody inside and outside of NATO.”

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“At the very least, we need to keep the sanctions up and make them hurt,” LaMalfa said. “I hope that the people will rise up and throw off the shackles of the regime that they have in place.”

LaMalfa stated the importance of learning from nation-building mistakes of the past and stated that action must be taken.

One woman then raised a question about immigration saying, “Let’s not forget that this land was taken from indigenous people, long before us, illegally. Becoming a legal immigrant takes a lot of time and is very expensive, so that is a system that needs to be made more user friendly.” She went on to ask what had happened to a previously existing program, the Bracero program.

LaMalfa answered that the program had been lost over time, with many organizations stamping it out. “So many people say, why don’t we put that program back in place? I agree. The formal process is better for all of us.”

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A local man spoke up, saying, “First, nobody is in favor of open borders. You have a president who is clearly using this as an issue to get reelected, and most of the chaos on the border is the fault of the administration. How do you get past this? Clearly this is a need; how do you get to the point of getting everyone in a room to make an agreement?”

LaMalfa smiled and said, “Well, maybe you can help. With the president, he is underlining what’s going on. We do have a problem, and the thousands on the border don’t come here ready to assimilate. I think our president is tapping in to a lot of people that feel that they are paying for this.”

LaMalfa described the difficulties of politics, and said, “I’m okay with the Dreamer and DACA fix if we’re doing border security at the same time. We’ll call it a fence, with a gate with well-oiled hinges. We still want people to come in and out, we still want people to be a part of country, as citizens and workers.”

LaMalfa acknowledged that the process for legal entry is rigorous and described a recent ceremony of naturalization he had attended. “Maybe we’re going to have to get through a cycle of strife and polarized thinking to reset and start concentrating on getting this stuff done. We have things we need to do.”

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LaMalfa then asked, “Is a secure border … with a fence and patrols and other types of technology to secure our border a bad thing?”

LaMalfa then went on to touch on the issues of infrastructure and tax dollars, addressing concerns on gas tax increases and potential future “per mile driven” taxes.

“All I hear is more ideas for tax, but where’s the accountability for all the dollars being spent? We have to study to death the simplest things. Why is it so difficult to go salvage timber left from a fire?”

LaMalfa expressed thoughts on managing forests without fire and referred to the Loyalton co-gen plant. “We have so much material to burn that the plant should be functioning at 100 percent, not 30 percent,” LaMalfa exclaimed.

“It all comes down to what can we get done. What low-hanging fruit can we pick before the elections in 2020? A lot of stuff is due to the scope of the next election.”

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The hope, LaMalfa stated, comes from bipartisan efforts to get things done, and expressed the give and take communication with Senator Feinstein. “If you want to do something positive, call her office!”

Another woman expressed her wish that the meeting that day had been more publicized, but thanked LaMalfa for attending the meeting. She also asked about HDR 48, stating her feeling that it was a key top issue with the “corporate rule in this country.”

LaMalfa answered that it wasn’t something he was aware of, but would look into it, going on to express that corporations can only donate money to PACs. “Corporations don’t control votes,” he stated. “That is like saying Google controls votes.”

Talk continued on the topic of best practice in funding politics, then moved to a question regarding the presidential level of government. “The lack of morality is distressing to me. How can you reconcile being a Christian with the fact that you are in support of such a worldly, corrupt president?” one woman asked LaMalfa.

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LaMalfa answered, “I think that with Christianity comes redemption, and with redemption comes the chance to seek forgiveness and turn over a new leaf. People in politics — some have worse backgrounds than others or do things off the cuff. Voters put forward the candidates, and the people chose him out of the 17 nominees.”

LaMalfa went on to state that he couldn’t say anybody in politics was perfect, adding, “The only perfect person was our savior.” LaMalfa added that on the President’s cabinet, there are regular morning prayer meetings held prior to session.

“I’m trying to make the best possible situation for all of my constituents. People may disagree with what I do, but I’m not doing anything out of spite,” LaMalfa added.

Another woman expressed that we are in the “American Experiment,” and that it takes constructive criticism to properly apply such criticism.

LaMalfa invited and encouraged his 750,000 constituents to reach out to his office with questions and concerns, and thanked WPRM for hosting the meeting. “Thank you all for the great interactions,” LaMalfa said with a smile.

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More information about LaMalfa can be found at lamalfa.house.gov.