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So what were you doing last Saturday morning? Maybe sleeping in after a busy week? Me, I had to wake up at 5 a.m. – and no, I’m not a farmer. I just wanted to attend Congressman Steve Knight’s one and only scheduled town hall, and if I wanted a shot at getting into the event, that was what was required.

You see, after much cajoling and guilting from his constituents, the Palmdale Republican finally committed to holding an actual, in-person public town hall.

However, no doubt wary after seeing national news of his fellow congressmen greeted by huge, angry crowds, Congressman Knight took some precautions to try to game the system and reduce any possible downside for him.

First, the town hall was scheduled at a time designed to annoy and dissuade potential attendants, giving them an easy excuse to skip it: 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. Never mind that most town halls are scheduled later in the day to maximize attendance, but okay – not so bad, right?

Except rather than choose a location in his sprawling district that would be equidistant to most people, he picked a remote spot in Palmdale. While convenient for him and a few folks nearby, it was not so terribly convenient for the vast majority of constituents in the district that stretches to include Simi Valley.

Also, rather than pick a venue that could accommodate a large crowd – like, say, a high school auditorium, he instead booked a relatively small community center that could only seat 279 people. So if you wanted to get inside rather than be shut out on the cold sidewalk, people were encouraged to get there early – like 6:45 a.m.

It got so bad that people actually camped out near the community center and booked nearby hotel rooms so they’d be able to make it in time. Yes, you heard that right: People spending the night not to buy the new iPhone or catch the new “Star Wars” movie, but to attend a congressional town hall.

If that wasn’t enough, the Knight staff let it be known that certain things wouldn’t be tolerated. They didn’t want people filming the event, all the better to prevent some embarrassing question or confrontation from going viral – like Knight’s previous scuffle with protesters, where he threatened to “drop” one of them who was giving him a hard time.

Additionally, no signs would be allowed. Free speech had its place, just not written down on poster boards for people to see, lest their messages of protest offend anyone. I guess liberals aren’t the only ones trying to create “safe spaces” in 2017.

Further, Knight’s staff demanded that people would have to show I.D. at the door, proving they actually lived in the district, to attend the event. How else to keep out Astroturfers and paid protesters bused in to start trouble? And here I was showing up for free like a sucker.

Dutifully, my son and I woke up before dawn on Saturday and made the pilgrimage to Palmdale, arriving around 6:50 a.m. Despite the early time and distant venue, there was already a huge line when we arrived, and we were worried we’d be stuck outside.

Within the hour, the line of people swelled, and best estimates put the crowd at well over 600 people. You’d think Knight was opening for Kanye West.

By the time the event was set to start, things were so bustling that attempts to check I.D., prevent people from filming or holding signs went out the window. Fortunately, my son and I were some of the last few people to make it inside, but more than 300 people were locked out.

Soon after, the town hall began. Knight’s always been a smooth retail politician, and he came off as sharp, reasonable and earnest, picking out attendees to speak at random.

The topics were exactly what you’d expect given the news cycle: people worried about losing their health care with the ACA being on the chopping block, people worried about new draconian immigration laws that threatened to tear families apart, people worried about the rollback of environmental regulations.

Congressman Knight was gracious enough to let me ask the penultimate question: did he have any thoughts on how to address the 11,000 Americans killed every year by gun violence?

Other than his agreement that we should have universal background checks – legislation I’ve never heard him personally champion in the House, by the way – he offered no new ideas on reducing one of the most preventable threats that Americans face each year.

All in all, Knight did a solid job in his first big town hall. While he didn’t answer every question to everyone’s satisfaction, he was respectful and never lost his cool.

Turns out after all the trepidation, he really had nothing to worry about: his constituents just wanted an opportunity for their voices to be heard. I sincerely hope he’ll take a cue from this experience and hold more town halls on a regular basis to encourage this civic engagement.

Except next time, maybe not so early in the morning? Thanks.

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.

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  • Brian Baker

    So, after spending 2/3 of your column whining about having to get up early and make a drive, it turned out being worth the time? You do now realize, maybe, that the point of checking IDs was so people like you, actual residents, could get in and make your comments without time and space being wasted by Soros-paid “activists”, right?

    Or is that expecting too much logic?

    • charles maurice detallyrand

      Yes clearly hosting the event far from many of his constituents early in the morning in a room that could only seat 279 people is because Knight wanted to protect his constituents from outside forces and guarantee them greater access. Good one Brian.

      Hey, do you have any evidence that there were any Soros-paid “activists” who attended this event? Do you have any evidence that there have been any paid activists at any of the recent town hall events held across the nation by congressional members? Do you have any evidence that there was ever an expectation that Knight could have realistically thought paid activists would show up at his town hall event to begin with, or is that just another crazy unsubstantiated conspiracy that has no basis in reality?

      Or is evidence expecting too much?

    • Phil Ellis

      Brian, remember some people have no concept of logic.

      • Brian Baker

        Yeah, no kidding, Phil.
        In fact, I just submitted a proposed LTE on exactly that subject. Stay tuned.

  • Bill Reynolds

    I watched the streaming live video and it seemed to me that there were many in the audience who were bordering on hysterical behavior. I’d like to learn exactly what was accomplished by liberals in attendance. Were you satisfied with the outcome, Charlie? It appeared to me that Congressman Knight handled himself extremely well in the face of so many disgruntled progressive citizens.

  • Gil Mertz

    “””he was respectful and never lost his cool.”””

    Could this be said of the participants of GOP town hall meetings across America?

  • Ron Bischof

    “Congressman Knight was gracious enough to let me ask the penultimate question: did he have any thoughts on how to address the 11,000 Americans killed every year by gun violence?”

    Did he offer that the State of California should change their policy of denying 2nd Amendment rights of sane, law abiding citizens and offer shall issue concealed carry permits like the majority of other states? And that CA should assist ICE in enforcing our immigration laws to reduce drug related gang crime?

  • lois eisenberg

    “House Republicans released their disastrous plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. It puts at risk the health coverage of millions of Americans while handing more than $465 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and the biggest health insurance and prescription drug corporations.”
    This is why so many scared Americans have attended these town hall meetings
    because of the above statement !

  • lois eisenberg

    “Senator Rand Paul, who like many other conservatives is in revolt over the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.”

  • lois eisenberg

    Charles, bravo to you and your son and all the other participants who attended
    Knight’s town hall meeting.!

  • Guy Nohrenberg

    Was that just one Hippies opinion?

  • Jeff Clericuzio

    More news commentary instead of actual news. Liberal bias at its best, pushing a BS fake gun agenda instead of actually posting answers from Mr. Knight to the questions that were asked of him. Guess the answers didn’t fit into your liberal agenda. Talk about a damned if you do, damned if you dont scenario. The guy has a town hall meeting and you start by slamming the way it was done.

    Liberals will complain that their elected officials are not listening to them because they don’t like the answers, then complaining the town hall meetings didn’t meet to their standards. Then they will complain some more because they didnt get the answers they wanted.

    Liberals don’t want town hall meetings so their voices can be heard, the want town hall meetings so they can complain to an audience that they are right and everyone else is wrong.