Recap of President Obama’s Town Hall in LA today

President Obama came to the LAUSD Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in the heart of Los Angeles today to recant some of his recent rhetoric on jobs, education, health care, housing and AIG in what was billed as a Town Hall meeting. Representing the Cutting Edge-a-talk show we were able to get a press credential enabling me to attend this event. Joining him on stage were LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Introduced by president Obama were several elected officials including CA Attorney General Jerry Brown, Speaker of the CA Assembly Karen Bass, Eric Garcetti, President, LA City Council and US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis (who addressed the public prior to the appearance of the president.) One elected official that I spoke with off the record in the school gymnasium, not recognized by the president, was Orange County Senator Lou Correa representing District 34.

In his teleprompter supported opening presentation President Obama acknowledged that our housing prices have fallen over 20 percent in the past year. President Obama acknowledged our having one of the highest foreclosure rates in America. He pointed out that “we are going to meet these challenges” adding “I can promise you this–there will be brighter days ahead.”  He went on to say that “we are making major investments right here in California to create jobs.” With his Recovery Act he hopes to “create or save 396,000 jobs in California over the next two years.” In that plan first-time borrowers get an $8,000 tax credit that can be applied to your 2008 tax return.
Today he launched a new web site

A few of the President’s one liners.

“We can’t go back to a culture on Wall Street that says it’s OK to bend the rules and a culture in Washington that say’s it’s OK to look the other way.”

 “We cannot allow what happened at AIG to ever happen again.”

“We need to bring about a recovery that endures.”

Addressing his programs and the deficit he said “everyone will have to give something up.”
There were several interruptions with standing ovations from the 800 to 1,000 attendees in this gymnasium, especially as he discussed his heath care reform plan.

The Town Hall segment began with a lady named Patricia who had the media scratching our heads. She was so wound up in trying to make her comment that president Obama politely interrupted her to say (paraphrased) “if you burn that many calories asking a question you can eat whatever you want.”

The second citizen was a well dressed man in a wheel chair asking about opportunities for people with disabilities.

The third person selected from the bleacher seats questioned the tax code as household income in CA needs to be higher than elsewhere in the nation due to our higher cost of living.

Gilbert comment. At this point, rather than fully answering the woman’s concern president Obama goes off topic and responds with transportation needs of California. He also goes off script to comment that he inherited a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit and responds to those who attack his current decisions by questioning “where have you been and what have you been doing.” The president adds that “the path we are on now is unsustainable. For the next couple years we will have to tolerate deficits much higher than I would like. We will suffer some big deficits until we get a recovery over the next couple years.”

He also stated that “we will end the Iraq war which will save us money.”

In addressing the concern of “pink slips” for school teachers president Obama said that he is ramping up federal education funding but the lion’s share is covered by the individual states.

Another clue as to increased taxes was his comment that “you can’t have something for nothing.” He did acknowledge that “I am a huge supporter of Teachers Unions. For those teachers not performing he suggests they “choose a new career.”

Between public questions he repeats what we all fear. “It’s going to cost some money. It won’t be pretty.”

Another area to watch closely relates to his remark that “if we want clean energy, we will have to get rid of dirty energy.”

Gilbert comment. This is a clue to future Cap and Trade as it relates to fossil fuel used for energy for which we will take a major hit in our utility costs.

President Obama did acknowledge “I guarantee we are not always going to be right. The important thing is that we are moving in the right direction.”

What surprised me was the lack of questions relating to illegal immigration as there were two large groups outside with banners that I shall cover shortly. The other area overlooked today was the status of the war or any foreign policy questions.

As we exited the school we heard children chanting “save our schools, no more cuts.” Mayor V answered a few reporter questions then crossed the street to acknowledge the CHIRLA, (Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles), crowd that was perhaps 60 wide by four deep.
When they first arrived, prior to the event, one of their leaders handed me a NEWS RELEASE which reads in part “students and families welcomed the president as he entered the town hall meeting at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in Pico Union this morning. Waving American flags and colorful banners that read “Mr President, You can Count on Me.”  Yes, they surely had the banners but I questioned this leader as to where were the American flags as stated in their preprinted press release to which she responded they are here somewhere, while across the street I counted three large Mexican Flags. At no time either before or after the event did I see a single American flag among these greeters. “Trust, but verify,” comes to mind for anyone receiving their flyer.

In addition to discussing the state budget with Senator Correa I also discussed property rights, namely Bernard Luggage and the Hollywood and Vine W hotel redevelopment status with LA City Council President Eric Garcetti. As you may recall we saved Bernard Luggage from the wrecking ball and delayed that $500 million hotel complex for over a year or more. Eric recalls our MORR/CURE and IJ efforts and stated that they were “very fortunate in that the hotel funding was granted prior to the latest financial” meltdown. I did acknowledge driving around the area adjacent to the school to check out their redevelopment activities. Eric said we “still won property rights protection because of the passage” of Prop 99. As he was leaving with his Chief of Staff I decided not to debate him on the lack of protection in that bill.
Having spent seven hours on site there is much that I could add such as heavy security including bomb squad trucks, bomb sniffing dogs, LAPD, LAFD and Secret Service staff making sure that the president was safe and secure throughout the day. One thing about this award winning school, that serves 1,800 9th to 12th grade students is that they have both a stadium and a swimming pool right in the heart of downtown LA.


Let me not overlook some of the many signs and banners seen as I first arrived.

Legalization Si   Deportation  No!
Economic recovery includes immigration reform
Raza Si   Migra No!
La Hermadad Youth and Family Center
Marcha Alta Las 28 De Marzo, Olympic Y Broadway

One huge banner reading “legalization”

“Obama. On Nov 4th I voted for immigration reform”

Note: Photo’s to follow

About Larry Gilbert