Knight faces polarized crowd at Santa Clarita town hall

Congressman Steve Knight answers questions from constituents during a town hall at Canyon High School on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Congressman Steve Knight’s much anticipated town hall meeting brought about 200 District 25 constituents to Santa Clarita Thursday evening.

Knight was flooded with requests to hold a town hall in Santa Clarita as he did in Palmdale in March and Simi Valley in April, especially after his May 4 vote in favor of the American Health Care Act.

Santa Clarita’s turn came when Rep. Knight (R-Palmdale) met with people at Canyon High School’s Performing Arts Center.

In a back-and-forth volley of questions and answers, topics raised by constituents attending the event ran the gamut from health care, the economy, the president’s budget and national security.

The event began with a question from John Windsor, a Santa Clarita resident and author of a collection of essays entitled “Lies My President Told Me.”

“I’d like to get your input on how you cope with working with a pathological liar,” Windsor asked about President Trump.

“I work to represent the district,” Knight said.

Health care

It only took until the second question for an attendee to mention the American Health Care Act. The constituent said the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act was “garbage” and mentioned his concern for the implications for his wife who is a cancer survivor.

“You represent the 25th District of California, not the 1st District of Wisconsin,” he said referencing Paul Ryan as the author of the bill.

Congressman Steve Knight talks with constituents following a town hall at Canyon High School on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

A constituent then shared her concern that special education students like her son would not be protected by Medicaid under the AHCA.

“Your son would continue to be on Medicaid,” Knight said. “On the AHCA, no one will be kicked off Medicaid.”

Addressing a 7th grade student who asked about the health care bill, Knight said people with disabilities, the elderly and pregnant women will stay protected.

Another woman asked Knight to commit that he would not vote to reduce Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security Disability.

“I don’t see cutting any of those programs,” he said. “You’ve got my commitment.”

Broader issues

Knight addressed several questions about Trump’s budget proposal and said he disagreed with the reductions for education, the arts and NASA but agreed with providing more funding to the military.

“Congress builds the budget,” Knight said. “Because the President says he’ll kill this or do this, it doesn’t mean it is going to happen.”

An attendee who said he was a combat veteran said he sees a disconnect between what constituents want and how Knight votes. One woman in the audience shouted that she believed this was not true.

“There are going to be things you disagree with my vote, and there are going to be people who say, ‘Thank you for your vote,’” Knight said.

Another community member asked about Knight’s view on Trump pulling out of the Paris climate agreement on Thursday.

“I will always stand up for the planet,” Knight said.

B.J. Atkins, a member of the Board of Directors of the Newhall County Water District, expressed his support for President Trump, thanked Knight for the way he votes and expressed his distaste for Barack Obama.

“We have a president, he deserves respect,” Atkins said. “The office of the congressman of the 25th district deserves respect.”

Congressman Steve Knight answers questions from constituents during a town hall at Canyon High School on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Knight then emphasized bringing specific jobs that target a specific location, saying aerospace brings 6,500 jobs to the state.

“Bringing jobs is something we can agree is the best thing government can do,” Knight said.

One woman said she vowed to stand in favor of any candidate who was pro-life and said she believed Planned Parenthood should be defunded, though she admitted she used Planned Parenthood’s services when she was in her first year of college.

“Everyone knows I care about life,” Knight said to the woman. “I think Planned Parenthood will continue to go on whether they are funded by the government or not.”

Multiple community members pressed Knight on a recent vote concerning cyber security regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s privacy rules.

“Google goes and sells your information, all search engines do,” Knight said. “We said we want a clarification across the board. You’re okay with them selling your information every second, every day?”

Knight also discussed how social media has affected police relations in America and said most law enforcement officials do “a very difficult job and they do it perfectly.”

Several attendees also asked about the Fiduciary Rule, which would legally and ethically bind financial professionals. Erin Miller, who said she holds an MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles said Knight skewed the bill when he described it.

“What you said it is about is an egregious misrepresentation,” Miller said. “It was written with the purpose that financial advisors have to represent the people. I think it represents what you’re about. We do know better.”

Knight responded by restating that he had read the bill.

“I’ve just read the bill again, but I do appreciate the comments,” he said.

A different constituent asked Knight if he thought this vote was the best option available. Knight said the man was obviously educated on the issue and the man said Knight clearly was not.

“Going back to the FCC and asking for a distinction across the board seems to be the clearest way to do that,” Knight said.

Knight also said state and federal governments both need to “step up” their help for people who are homeless or have disabilities, but said this is done well at the local level.

A member of the Young Democrats, who Knight recognized as someone he had met with before, asked Knight how he planned to help young people have a voice in politics.

“We will meet any time and you know that,” Knight said. “I love meeting with groups that may not support me. Every piece of my legislation has Democrat co-sponsors. I try to reach across the aisle.”

One woman said she had read on the internet that the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System in West L.A. might close. Knight said he had not heard anything about this and said he would fight to keep it open if the rumor was true. He also promised her he would post information with facts on the issue within 24 hours.

At another point, Knight said the VA is increasingly improving after years of issues.

A constituent asked about Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act, H.R. Bill 1761, and questioned Knight whether children in sex trafficking would be counted as victims or criminals.

“I think you know where my commitment is,” Knight said. “You have my commitment that the young lady or young boy is the victim, not the suspect.”


Multiple community members expressed their distrust of the federal government. A Vietnam veteran said he has seen disrespect from government since he became an adult.

“Today, I have a government that lies to me,” he said. “We need honesty in government. We need to get back to having the government respect us. When are the elected officials going to be candid with us and not going to talk to us like fools?”

To this, Knight said he wanted to serve the public.

“I think it’s very divisive going both ways,” Knight said. “I’d like to get back to working on the people’s business.”

Congressman Steve Knight answers questions from constituents during a town hall at Canyon High School on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Closing the event, Carole Lutness, an elderly Valencia resident, said she believed America was witnessing the collapse of democracy and said Trump is a “crook” who only cares about himself.

She was met with a standing ovation.

Lutness told The Signal this was the core issue America is facing and said the “one percent” are stealing from the rest of Americans.

It is the change of the whole structure of government,” Lutness said to Knight. “We have to get money out of politics.”

Knight said if money was going to stay out of elections, it would have to be all money.

“If we want to get corporate money out of politics, they also want to get union money out,” Knight said.

Knight’s event comes one day before CA25 United for Progress is putting on an “adopt a district” town hall-style event in Santa Clarita with speaker Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena).

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