Questions at the Santa Clarita Valley telephone townhall hosted by Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, Friday afternoon covered a variety of issues, including Afghanistan, COVID-19, elections, domestic terrorism, homelessness, domestic violence funding and rental assistance.
Garcia responded to eight questions over the course of 40 minutes following 30 minutes of introductory remarks, where he shared metrics that spoke to the assistance he’s provided the 25th Congressional District and his attentiveness to his constituents’ needs.
Questioners were identified by their first name only. Kim asked Garcia what he planned to do to address homelessness, which Kim said “is growing by leaps and bounds in Santa Clarita.”
“I have a daughter and we can’t even go on the bus anymore,” she said, noting the homeless are sleeping at bus stops with their belongings.
Garcia said homelessness is a complicated and growing problem, highlighting Simi Valley as a success for enforcing the laws.
“What needs to happen at the state level is they need to start enforcing some of these laws and actually make it OK to get people the help they need, incarcerate the people that need to be incarcerated, but also get the mental health and drug addiction (support) as part of a regime to get these folks to help that they need,” said Garcia, expressing his support for law enforcement.
Sharon asked a question about relief for landlords whose tenants have not been paying rent during the pandemic.
Garcia, who is also a landlord, called for an immediate end to rent moratoriums.
“If someone is willing to work, there’s a job out there waiting for them (and) they can get back to work,” he said. “The pandemic and the virus itself have been mitigated to the point where most businesses are now open and we should be able to get back to our normal work routines, with kids back in school, and start making a living.”
Garcia said landlords, most of whom he said are not millionaires, may have to sell their properties if conditions continue as is.
“This is all going to come to roost and land in the lap of the tenants and makes the tenants’ lives more difficult in the form of either having to move or paying higher rent to get the landlords healthy again,” he said.
Garcia, who heads the newly formed Election Integrity Caucus in Congress, heard a concern about elections shared by Rick.
“We will never have an honest election unless they have voter ID,” Rick said.
Garcia said he supports a policy of requiring voters to present an ID to vote in an election.
“When people vote, and that vote is counted, we have 100% assurance that the person that they say they are is in fact who they are and they’re not getting double counted or left out,” he said of the policy, which he said 80% of Americans support. “It’s not a racist thing, right? To say that because you’re Hispanic or minority or Black, that you can’t get a voter ID, in my opinion, in and of itself is a prejudiced statement. We can all get voter ID. We have access.”
Nicole asked Garcia if he plans to work to combat domestic terrorism, given that he voted against creating a commission in the House of Representatives to investigate the events at the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The current push right now by many is saying that domestic terrorism is just from the far right, when in reality, when you look at what’s going on, domestic terrorism comes from the far left (and) it comes from the middle,” he said. “It shouldn’t be used as a weapon against any one political agenda or message or one group. We need to defend ourselves as Americans at the national level against all terrorism, foreign and domestic.”
Garcia said he voted against a Jan. 6 commission because it wasn’t going to be bipartisan, its scope was limited, and active investigations were taking place in the U.S. Senate.
“It is literally a commission that’s been weaponized for the sole purpose of going after politicians who don’t agree with the commission members’ philosophies, and that’s not the right thing to do,” he said of the House’s commission, which includes seven Democrats and two Republicans.
In his introduction, Garcia said his office has responded to 7,300 pieces of mail and e-mail since taking office last year.
He said he has also held 236 meetings with local officials and businesses and attended 22 chamber of commerce events throughout his district.
“I’ve made 32 round trips back and forth between D.C. and the district. This isn’t normal. This isn’t something that most folks do,” Garcia said. “I come home on the weekends, because I want to not only be with my family, but I want to be here in the district. And I want to see what’s going on.”
Garcia noted he has cast all of his votes in person.
“Probably greater than 80% of the members of the House of Representatives have actually cast their vote by proxy, meaning they decided to not go to D.C. to vote on certain issues,” he said. “I think this is a very dangerous practice and … a very irresponsible thing to do.”
His loyalty while in office, he said, has been to the U.S. Constitution and his goal has been to provide the American people security without sacrificing freedom.
“I think we’ve got to be mindful of the policies that we’re putting in place, both at the federal level as well as at the state level, to make sure that we’re not sacrificing the freedoms of any Americans while we pursue what’s right for all Americans,” he said.
Since taking office last year, Garcia said the most rewarding part of the job has been the casework that has helped constituents with issues related to Medicare and Social Security benefits, passports, federal loans and, most recently, evacuating from Afghanistan.
“I’m proud to say that we’ve gotten now more than 100 Americans back here in the United States, or at least en route to the United States, despite some of the bureaucratic challenges that we had,” said Garcia, adding he opposes President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan strategy.
Garcia told The Signal after the townhall that the questions he received aligned with the questions and concerns he hears on a daily basis.
“I hope (listeners) take away that we are literally fighting on every front that we can to make sure that we’re looking after our nation’s security at all levels — international security, national security, local security, neighborhood security,” he said.
Garcia said he looks forward to being able to have an in-person townhall next time, noting that Los Angeles County restrictions have made it frustrating to organize an in-person townhall like the one he hosted in Ventura County on Wednesday.
“The warmth of the conversation and the communication,” he said of the benefits of an in-person town hall. “In-person and face-to-face is literally how this is supposed to be done.”