2017-04-21 / Front Page
Hundreds turn out for Knight town hall
Healthcare sparks the most discussion
Nearly 400 constituents from Simi Valley and across the 25th Congressional District packed the Rancho Santa Susana Community Center Tuesday night to question U.S. Rep. Steve Knight about healthcare, the environment, Russia, President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other hot-button issues.
Although tempers occasionally flared, with booing and heckling at times drowning out Knight and other speakers, the Republican congressman said he thought the evening went “pretty well.”
“There were some contentious times, but that’s part of the town hall because you’re always going to get people who come to just be difficult,” Knight told the Simi Valley Acorn the day after the event. “But for the most part, people were there to either listen or get some information that might help them.”
This week’s town hall, the second such event held by Knight this year, was organized partially in response to the anger Simi residents expressed over a March 4 forum held early in the morning 60 miles away at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale, Knight said. Limited to 275 people, that event left hundreds protesting outside the venue.
In contrast, most everyone who attended Tuesday got a seat at the Simi Valley town hall, with only a handful of protesters, including advocates of Planned Parenthood, holding ground outside.
“We read and listen to what people say and we’re trying to be responsive, but it’s a big district,” Knight told the Acorn. “We’ve done a town hall in Simi and Palmdale, so now we’re looking to have one in Santa Clarita, which will hit the major areas of the district.”
Those who had a turn at the mic Tuesday questioned Knight about his positions on the Affordable Care Act, the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Lab, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and Trump’s frequent trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort. Many asked Knight to publicly support or oppose legislation that could affect those matters.
Comments from Ed Tingstrom, a Simi Valley resident and active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10049, fired up the crowd when he asked about ethics investigations into the “elephant in the room,” alluding to Trump.
“How can you, as our representative, justify not only the nepotism, but the outrage of a president that is flaunting his money to gain control of our country that I love very dearly? What are you going to do about the investigations?” Tingstrom asked Knight.
Before the congressman could answer, the crowd erupted in applause and chanted “Do your job.”
Knight then responded by saying an investigation into gifts given to foreign leaders has been “going on, or it should be starting very shortly.”
Peggy, a Simi Valley resident who did not give her last name, brought up Trump’s decisions to bomb Syria and Afghanistan and send military ships to North Korea without prior congressional approval.
Knight said he does not want war, and he believes the Authorization for Use of Military Force from 2001—a resolution allowing military action against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and any “associated forces”— should be updated.
“I’m not going to use the word ‘stale,’ but that’s what it is. The (AUMF) has been in place for 16 years and we should update it to say what we’re going to use military force for, when . . . and how we’re going use it,” he said. “The issues happening in Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea are very tense situations and Congress should be involved.”
The top issue of the night seemed to be healthcare.
Lee James of Simi Valley asked Knight to “defend Medicare” for current and future participants because she doesn’t want a “Republican administration and Congress to take away” the benefits.
Knight told James his goal is to ensure that Medicare is “strong, healthy and sustainable” for generations to come.
Tiffany Countryman, who made the 68-mile trek from Lancaster, said she wanted only for Knight to pledge that he would vote based on constituents’ needs and not just toe the party line.
“This is a 50/50 district so I have to listen to Republicans and Democrats. So yes, you have my commitment,” the congressman said in response.