I recently went to a town hall meeting in Banning that Ruiz was scheduled to attend. I had been alerted to it by an email from the progressive caucus in Congress who were wanting people to go and ask representatives to sign on to the pledge to vote against any cuts to Social Security and Medicare. So I went in order to do that and to bring up two other pressing issues, even though it was raining cats and dogs and I still had to get my trash out.
Ruiz began the meeting by telling a little “story” about his “humble beginnings,” then opened up the discussion for the city councilmembers, then to the audience. Several people spoke up about the social safety net, jobs, VAWA, etc. (and one crazy individual who urged him to vote for the Keystone Pipeline of all things (!) at which I groaned audibly). I had my hand up for a long time but he ended the discussion with only two of us waiting to be called upon.
I had chimed in earlier with regard to the social safety net letting him know I had a letter for him to sign pledging that he would vote against any cuts to SS, Medicare, or Medicaid, to which he was dismissive, offering to “shake our hands” and “look us in the eye” instead of signing a pledge, so I think he was trying to avoid being pressed on it or any issue because he rather pointedly skipped over me, choosing instead to spend the remaining time telling another anecdote from his childhood about a mango and how it “taught (him) an important lesson.” I was a little too annoyed to pay much attention, so the lesson was lost on me–something self-congratulatory about how unselfish he is. . . (though obviously not when it comes to self-promotion over hearing from his constituents).
At the end of the meeting, I walked up and said, “Since you didn’t let me speak I am leaving you these documents” and he made excuses about time constraints, asking me what organizations I was with. I answered “several” mentioning the email alert as well as Occupy, at which he took almost a visible step backward and directed me to leave my papers with his Head of Staff, Greg Rodriguez, who took down my name and email address. The documents consisted of that pledge letter, along with the question I was going to ask regarding the TPP letting him know I am outraged at the way our government and the corporations have been conducting negotiations in secret, urging him to get the TPP documents and look at them, along with a copy of the “We the People Amendment” which has just been introduced into congress—the one we need to get behind because it is the one that MTA has sponsored which addresses both corporate “personhood” and money as “speech.”
I don’t have much confidence in Ruiz—I first met him at a fundraiser when he was running for office and I find him self-aggrandizing and evasive and my experience at this townhall meeting confirmed this impression. Hopefully he will come through on issues like Social Security, corporate “personhood,” and the TPP, but personally I don’t think he is much of a leader–I think he will roll over to whatever the White House wants in the end. I get the strong vibe that he doesn’t want to be associated with anything too “controversial;” if he was that slippery with regard to making a firm commitment about Social Security to a room full of older adults, I think he would have been speechless regarding the TPP.
We will have to make sure he really feels the pressure and see how he votes—hopefully he won’t turn into another Joe Baca/Barack Obama who says one thing and does another. I’m glad at least he voted for VAWA, but WE NEED TO LET HIM KNOW HE NEEDS TO JOIN THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS along with Grayson, Mark Takano, Raul Grijalva, and the few others who have spine enough to take on not only the Republicans but the White House over issues that count.