The Contra Costa College Democratic Society club hosted an informative evening of question and answer discussion with Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, congressman of California’s 11th District, who said he is always happy to come out to speak to students when asked.
The discussions, which brought up many issues including race, wages, environmental safety and ethnic and LGBTQ studies, were held on Oct. 12 in the General Education Building.
The evening commenced with an introduction by Democratic Society club President Andrea Webb who detailed a brief overview of the congressman’s 20 years in politics.
This includes the passage of 61 bills as state legislator, re-elected three times to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, mayor and councilman of Concord, as well as six years in the California State Senate.
Webb, who invited DeSaulnier, said “the idea is to get politicians into the local community so that they know who we are so they can represent us accurately.”
DeSaulnier received a warm welcome with applause from an auditorium of 27 students, who waited eagerly to ask their questions.
“It’s a weird time in our country, politically,” he said before going into a PowerPoint presentation which consisted of a more in-depth look of what he has done and is doing, the committees, law and amendments, and congressional district including a map of how the district is laid out.
He explained the workings of local government and grants, and concluded with the different outlets he is using to connect with the public, including a mobile office, district hours and an educational listening tour.
DeSaulnier was asked what he would do to ensure ethnic and the LGBTQ studies classes in K-12 grade. This seemed to be an underlying theme as this question was brought up multiple times.
DeSaulnier said that having two siblings who are gay and lesbian, he has witnessed the struggle they have gone through.
“If 23 percent of the population is gay or lesbian, we should have programs that reflect this community.” Working in this district, DeSaulnier said, “I have seen the huge amounts of diversity we have here.”
“Making sure we have a functioning ethnic studies program is important for people to understand the different aspects of culture and race,” he said.
Marisol Contreras, biology major, said she never had an opportunity to meet a public figure, and she jumped at the opportunity, asking five questions. “I’m pushing for education,” she said.
Her questions brought up discussions on teachers’ wages, which DeSaulnier said contains a huge gap because of demographics. “We have to pay teachers more,” he said, “and we do this through income grants, tax increases and tax credits.”
Contreras also asked about grants for programs, such as Metas, which is a free weekend tutoring and academic program offered on the CCC campus for pre-K-12th grade students.
“I hope he pays attention to everything that was said,” Contreras said.
Another question brought up race relations and the policing of the community.
“It’s a real challenge when those who are policing our communities are not made up of the diverse people living throughout these communities,” DeSaulnier said.
Other questions that were brought up during the discussion ranged from the rising housing costs, the environmental racism and job outsourcing brought on by Chevron, carbon taxes, and the closing of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo.
DeSaulnier ended by encouraging the students to get involved.
He told those in attendance to set up open and honest discussions on campus, put pressure on public officials and local politicians, and create dialogue with staff about the problems that are affecting the community and the college.