Q&A with Congressman Sam Farr
ONE—He’s not sweating the election.
GT: You’re running against Republican Jeff Taylor in the Nov. 2 election. How’s your campaign going, and what has your main message been?
I’m the first to know and admit—because I’ve seen it all—that we’re in tough times; that there is a lot of hurt. There are a lot of stores closed. And behind each store is a person who worked there, their family, and a janitor, and a property manager. It’s a crisis.
I’m running on if you want someone to jumpstart our economy, it’s got to be about jobs, jobs, jobs. First is jobs. Second is jobs. Third—it’s all about jobs. And who has the experience in the federal system to make sure we get those jobs? Seniority counts back there. It’s a huge learning process.
My message is [that] I’ve been an effective legislator—and effective is about measuring results. It’s easy to throw rocks or vote on things, but what have you delivered? What resources can you get for the area? I bring a lot of that to the table. In tough times you want someone who knows how to respond.
TWO—He says ‘screw the banks.’
GT: More than 17,750 homes were repossessed in California in September alone. But states, including California, have now passed moratoriums, freezing foreclosures while the banks are investigated for faulty procedures. Are you in favor of these moratoriums?
I’m in favor of screwing the banks any way I can. They become the evil empire. They don’t return phone calls, they aren’t professional, you call a number, it’s an answering machine, you email and never get a response. They are rude and on the verge of criminality when it comes to their customers’ concerns.
I’m investigating; I’m doing anything I can. I joined the task force in the Democratic Party that is taking on the housing issue. I’d also like to be really critical of the [housing appointees] of the Obama administration—they’re all from the industry, and now they regulate the people they used to work for. There is too much insider in this.
THREE—He dreams of getting rid of the senate.
GT: The house has passed many bills that haven’t made it through the senate yet—lending to the media’s widespread depiction of congress as useless.
There are about 300 bills sitting in the senate, and some of them are big bills. For instance, the Supreme Court’s decision about corporations contributing to [independent expenditure] campaigns … We [the House] passed a bill to say we can’t deny you corporations the right to contribute to these independent expenditures, but we can require you to disclose [who you are] and require corporations to make it a part of their bylaws that if they are going to contribute to campaigns, their staffs, shareholders and board of directors know that. But we can’t get the bill out of the senate.
Same with the global warming/energy bill; the Clear Act which has all of the oceans policy that came out of the oil spill; the Child Nutrition Bill. A lot of the 300 bills are smaller stuff, but I’d bet 50 of them are major bills.
GT: What’s that feel like?
I’m madder than hell at them. I say get rid of ‘em. Let’s have a unicameral legislature. It’s not going to happen, but…
FOUR—He thinks we’re on our way to ending the war in Afghanistan.
GT: When and how can we get out of Afghanistan?
Stop giving [defense] the money. That’s how we ended the war in Vietnam—congress cut off the money.
GT: Is that going to happen anytime soon?
It’s growing. Congress is receiving the information from constituents. I was [against the war] early on because I represent this amazing city that says ‘Yeah, right on, vote that way and we’ll support you,’ but in other districts, people have now shifted. They don’t want to be building schools in Afghanistan when our schools here are failing. That’s the selfishness of Americans, but in essence they’re right. The [war] is loosing political support.
FIVE—He’s put Salinas on the national radar, and it may help Santa Cruz.
GT: Salinas is now part of a national task force on gangs. What is the program all about?
Just like the military says we can’t win this war in Afghanistan militarily, well we can’t arrest ourselves out of the gang problem. It’ll never stop unless we have intervention, and intervention doesn’t come from cops. Suppression can come from cops, but [we need] early intervention when kids are just dropping out of school and never committed a crime.
There were only six cities chosen [for the national task force on gangs] and all of them are big except Salinas: Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, San Jose, and Salinas.
We want to bring in the whole community structure: what is out there? What are the after school sports and other activities kids can do? Why are they dropping out? Where are you going to get the counselors? Where can they get a job? Where are the workforce investment counselors? Can we get those high risk kids jobs and give them motivation to do something other than harm?
You need the whole team at the table, but none of these entities talk to each other. This is why we are struggling with a governance structure for prevention of crime. There is crime where there is poverty. And there are other reasons [gangs are such a problem in Salinas]: we have the biggest prison in the United States in Soledad, we have a high per capita truck load – all of this produce comes out each day on 5,000 trucks, and they have a lot of potential for smuggling contraband—you’ve got a geographic position that’s in the middle of the state so you have the Norteno gangs and Sureno gangs. A lot of reasons Salinas is the epicenter of gang activity. And it seeps up to Santa Cruz County and the surrounding areas. This [program] will benefit all of the cities in the region.