Protecting immigrants, saving the Affordable Care Act, fending off environmental deregulation and avoiding nuclear war with North Korea were among the wide-ranging topics discussed during a packed town hall meeting in Sonoma Thursday night hosted by Rep. Mike Thompson.
Thompson, D-St. Helena, made it clear he was willing to work with President Donald Trump on issues such as investing in infrastructure, tax reform and bolstering services to veterans. But he said he would take a stance against policies that he felt were harmful to the public, including building a wall between along the U.S.-Mexico border, privatizing Social Security, repealing the ACA and gutting the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I don’t like this president, I didn’t support this president,” Thompson said. But he added, “when I agree with something he does, I’ll work with him. When I don’t, I’ll fight him like hell.”
The town hall, held in the gym at Sonoma Valley High School, drew more than 300 people, with many sitting on the floor or standing in doorways.
The two-hour forum featured a panel of speakers including Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose 1st district includes Sonoma Valley; Sonoma Mayor Rachel Hundley; Cheryl Johnson, CEO of the Sonoma Valley Health Center; Lucy Benz-Rogers, a staff attorney with the International Institute of the Bay Area in Sonoma; and Alan Piombo, a health insurance counselor with the nonprofit Senior Advocacy Services in Petaluma.
Gorin said promoting affordable housing, fixing the county’s roads, maintaining a “clean and healthy watershed” and supporting the local immigrant community were key local issues to address in the face of Trump policies. She said White House policies have caused anxiety in the local undocumented community.
Johnson warned of dramatic cuts to local health care services for low-income residents should the ACA, also known as Obamacare, be repealed.
One audience member asked if Thompson supported legislative efforts aimed at creating a universal health care system. Thompson pointed out he supported that goal but now was not the time to wage that battle.
“To shift gears right now,” he said, would be “strategically a huge mistake.”
Some members of the public agreed with Thompson’s willingness to work with the current administration on certain issues.
“I think he focuses on what you have to accomplish today and then you make it incrementally better,” said Jack Burkam, a Sonoma Valley resident.
“That’s how you get progress in our country. When Social Security was passed, it had holes in it.”
Lorrie Hohorst, a Sonoma resident, agreed.
“I don’t like to see the gridlock based on personal hatred,” Hohorst said. “That’s not why I send people to Washington.”
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.