Congressman Steve Knight and his wife Lily leave the congressman's town hall as protesters line the exit at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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PALMDALE — Gone are the days when only 18 people came to Steve Knight’s town hall meetings — though Knight admits that was before he was a congressman.

Now as representative of the 25th district, Knight filled the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale to capacity Saturday morning with nearly 300 constituents, and hundreds more rallying outside, to discuss healthcare, the economy, the environment, veteran’s services, women’s care, immigration and education.

“I want to be productive,” Knight said to The Signal before the event. “People who are there who want to learn and hear about the issues, I want them to get their voice. I want people there who want answers and want to have a discussion.”

Among the 275 people in attendance, some wearing pink in solidarity with the Women’s March on January 22 and others in red “Make America Great Again” hats, time was allotted for 27 people to stand and voice their concerns or support to Knight.

Santa Clarita resident Harry Reed asks Congressman Steve Knight a question during the town hall at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“I believe in this district with my whole heart and this will be a great town hall,” Knight told The Signal.

Identification was not checked at the door as anticipated, and constituents filed in on a first come, first serve basis. One woman at the front of the line said she had been there since midnight.

The event began after constituents requested Knight lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Congressman Steve Knight answers questions from constituents during a town hall at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

As anticipated, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was addressed by multiple speakers. Among his comments, Knight said he is in favor of maintaining some lifetime caps in the act and not others, and in light of concern from a senior citizen that the “donut hole” of the ACA would be closed, Knight ensured he would vote to maintain that protection for the elderly.

“Absolutely, I want to keep that in the next plan,” Knight said.

Another constituent said she was passionate about the ACA because it covered her when her appendix ruptured. Knight said he has gone to every congressional listening session to learn as much as he can about the pros and cons of the healthcare act, and said it is a complex issue. He said he wants to provide Americans with more options and more products without raising premiums.

Congressman Steve Knight and his wife Lily leave the congressman’s town hall as protesters chant line the exit at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Constituent Lorraine Roe questioned where Knight got coverage for his healthcare and said others should be granted the same privileges.

“Your constituents should have the same level of care you have,” Roe said.

To that, Knight said he agreed.

Knight also said he felt the new healthcare bill should be released online in order to garner feedback before it is voted on.

“That’s how representative government should work,” Knight said.

Antelope Valley constituent Michelley Benitez said she felt it was important to go to the town hall because she did not agree with the ACA, as her insurance doubled in cost after it was implemented. She said she agreed with Knight on his views of allowing those with preexisting conditions to get coverage, but does not agree with his view of letting people up to 26 stay on their parent’s healthcare and thinks the age should be lowered to 18.

Constituents from the 25th district wait for Congressman Steve Knight’s town hall to begin at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“It is no longer affordable,” Benitez said after the event. “I feel there is a better way than taking from the middle class to give to the poor.”

When asked about his views on Planned Parenthood, Knight affirmed that he was pro-life but thought women should still have access to screenings. He said he thought the money funded to Planned Parenthood would be better spent in community health centers that offer similar services, as there are 14 in his district while there are only two Planned Parenthood Centers.

In light of President Trump’s discussion about bathroom laws, one constituent asked Knight how he would protect transgender students. In response, Knight said he had voted against the bathroom bill and believes school districts should dictate bathroom policies, not the federal government.

“When you’re closer to children, like in a city council or school district, you know the needs of the kids better,” Knight said.

Constituents from the 25th district climb the stairs to enter the town hall at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Speaker Gregory Wolff of Simi Valley asked Knight about his views on what Wolff called “out of control military spending.” The congressman said the budget is similar to what it was last year, but wants to better use the funds for military operations and maintenance, readiness and equipment.

When Wolff asked where he thought Trump’s proposed $54 billion increase in military spending would come from, Knight admitted he did not know.

“I’ll tell you right now, I don’t know where we’ll get $54 billion in funding,” Knight said. “I agree with you.”

Knight said he did not support Trump’s plan to build a wall at the border between America and Mexico, but he does think there needs to be better border security.

Another constituent appealed to Knight’s faith, telling him that he should abide by Pope Francis’ call to care for the environment.  She said as a fellow Catholic, he should not loosen environmental regulations.

Congressman Steve Knight answers questions from constituents during a town hall at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The woman then asked Knight to vow not to vote to discontinue the Environmental Protection Agency, to which he agreed.

One constituent, sitting among a group of people wearing Trump hats, stood up to tell Knight she supported the president and thought Americans should become unified under Trump’s leadership. She said she supported Trump and his agenda and thought his actions were reflective of American ideals.

More questions followed asking Knight about his views of President Trump’s actions. After chants telling Knight to share his views about Trump’s tax returns, Knight agreed that he thought the president should release them.

Knight also said he thinks an FBI investigation concerning Trump’s ties to Russia is called for.

“The Trump administration shouldn’t be involved in the FBI investigation,” Knight said to one constituent. “I think if there was involvement with Russia, there should be an investigation. I support the FBI to do that.”

One constituent, who said he was a legal immigrant from Mexico, asked Knight what his plans were for immigration reform. Knight said the fact that only 50,000 of 3 to 4 million immigrant workers having agricultural visas was a travesty. Knight said that while immigration is a large concern for California, the topic was not an issue for the majority of the country and would likely not bring nationwide reform, but should be worked out in individual states.

“I don’t think we’ll get immigration reform,” Knight said. “We need to do little bits.”

Constituents from the 25th district wait in line for entry to Congressman Steve Knight’s town hall at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Only 275 seats were available, though many who did not get in stayed outside to protest. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Additionally, Knight said that there should be background checks for people to buy guns, it would be beneficial to move toward more people learning English and said he supports vouchers for private schools.

Agua Dulce resident Carlo Basail said he thought the town hall was effective and believed people asked good questions. However, he did not think the demographic was representative of the district because many of the attendees were not Knight’s supporters.

“It was the beginning of the 2018 Congressional District race,” Basail said. “I want to let Steve Knight know he’s not alone. If he runs again, I’ll vote for him again.”

Bryan Caforio, Knight’s opponent in the last election, was in attendance as well.

Knight’s office plans to discuss the outcome of the town hall to see if it would be appropriate to hold more in other cities in his district.

gender@signalscv.com
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Gina Ender
Gina Ender is a journalist covering city government and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in February 2017.
Comments
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  • Jill

    While he did FINALLY agree to have a town hall meeting (after numerous constituents called and visited his office demanding one), he set it for 8:30 AM on a Saturday, in Palmdale. He also limited the size to 275 with the meeting room he selected. The 275 number was then reduced by about 25 when he brought his own people in, leaving hundreds who drove from mikes away outside unable to get in. When directly asked to hold more town hall meetings, he did not commit to it. So, Rep. Knight iwants us to somehow believe that he is magnanimous for holding a town hall and having it run over time, when the truth is he is a coward that does not want to hear a large portion of his constituents’ concerns!

  • Volunteerthis

    Jill, it’s a shame that Knight’s political opponents organized themselves through social media with the explicit purpose to disrupt his town hall and shout down and drown out his supporters, who are the majority in this district. Your shrill methods only galvanize sane voters.

    • gremmie69

      you weren’t there.

      • Volunteerthis

        Why would I want to go there? I don’t want to yell at my representative, and I sure don’t want to get beat up by a couple hundred misguided souls who think they are fighting fascism.

  • Ajax Flemming

    These townhall meetings are a joke. Enough is enough and time to move on. For the majority of us with jobs or kids and other real life responsibilities, something like this isn’t a priority. Get a life, you’ve had your chance.

    • Nathan Bousfield

      we shouldn’t be able to speak with our elected representatives?

    • John Zaring

      Get a life? That’s funny. And silly. For example, you spend your precious time belittling people on the Signal website … so who needs to get a life?

    • gremmie69

      when our country is on the brink of a fascist dictatorship – that is a real life responsibility. Real Americans, regardless of party, made the effort to attend a meeting at 8:30 on Saturday morning because the fate of our country is important to them. Some stood in life for over 3 hours to attend. If the governance of our country is not important to you – that’s pretty sad.

    • Mike

      Dimwitted comment regarding Sherman. Get a grip!

      • Ajax Flemming

        ???

        • Mike

          Comment regarding Art Sherman. Does that ring a bell? Baffert must be your hero. lmao

          • Ajax Flemming

            Ok? Not sure that this has to do with the Knight town hall …..

          • Mike

            I’m not able to post at BH. Bottom line- Dortmund didn’t win a single race under Baffert.

  • gremmie69

    There were no significant disruptions or shout downs. Anyone who was actually there would know that.
    The people who didn’t get in to the hall – about 750 – held a rally with speeches outside. It was something like this – ” …. the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (1st Amendment).

  • KadyCee

    Attendees were voters in his district – that means they represent the district. Silly comment from the Agua Dulce resident at the end of the article. I’m sure Mr. Knight wants to keep his seat – which means he must listen and respond to everyone, not just those who voted for him in the last election. I’m really weary of this dismissiveness from certain people who seem to believe their fellow citizens deserve to be ignored.

    • Volunteerthis

      In a democracy, the losing side does not get to be in charge. If you want to “resist” and try to intimidate the majority, instead of trying to work collaboratively in search of common ground, then you deserve to be ignored.

      • KadyCee

        Spoken like a true authoritarian. In a democracy the losing side does not just go quietly away (especially in a presidential election in which the “winner” did NOT get the majority of votes — and the “winner” is the main reason most people are even showing up to see their representatives. And yes, they’re angry. Deal with it). Also, that attitude about “winners” and “losers” totally precludes any idea of working together. One last thing – Knight won by a slim margin. And he knows it. So, in 2018, you might be on the “losing side” and you may want to ask questions of whoever your Democratic rep might be. Would you like to be told to be quiet and “work collaboratively?” Will your attitude about how democracy works be so arrogant then? I doubt it.

  • PrimeRibOnARoll

    This riffraff might reside in the district but likely didn’t vote for Knight. These town halls are a joke