Boos Follow Rep. Garamendi at Davis Town Hall on Climate Change; Lawmaker Won’t Sign onto Measure


By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau

DAVIS – Rep. John Garamendi seemingly wanted to talk about everything – his life and accomplishments in state and federal politics, Trump, the military and yes, even the climate – in a nearly two-hour long jam-packed Town Hall Tuesday night at the Davis Veterans Theatre.

However, virtually all of the 150 people attending wanted to hear him just say one thing: that he will sign on to the “Green New Deal” legislation now circulating in Congress.

But Garamendi couldn’t do it. He talked all around the GND. He teased, and at the end of the evening it almost seemed like the longtime lawmaker would leave  his constituents pleased as punch. Not quite.

Instead, Garamendi had to push through the crowd and beat a hasty retreat from people and the loud, pounding chants of “Green New Deal.”

Local climate organizer Nick Buxton summed up the experience a short time later like this:

“I didn’t have high hopes of Congressman John Garamendi tonight but even I was surprised at his evasiveness and failure to answer our repeated question on why he would not endorse the Green New Deal. His answer about his efforts to ‘green’ military bases shows how much our political system needs to change. No, solar panels on military bases will do nothing to tackle the biggest crisis we face.

“He should be asking why the US has 1000 military bases around the world, why they are mainly deployed in oil-rich regions, and why the US spends more on its military than the next seven largest militarized nations. $716 billion dollars to be spend on the military in 2019, all of which invested in a Green New Deal could transform this country for the better,” Buxton said.

And Buxton was polite. Others were not so kind.

Garamendi recited stories about how he helped get the first solar panel programs going in California, how he worked with former VP and presidential candidate Al Gore on climate problems decades ago, and how he is using that knowledge to, in a practical sense, make change.

“This document (the Green New Deal) is aspirational. I agree with nearly all of it. I will drive this into policy,” Garamendi said. “I know many of you want me to sign it…if I thought it would (make a difference) I would do it,” he added, but to the dismay of the impatient crowd, he did not make that commitment.

“You are going to make us run a progressive against you. You’re going to hold off until climate change is even more out of hand,” yelled many in attendance toward the end. Garamendi, who had kept the group at bay most of the evening, seemed to lose his temper just a bit, raising his voice to say: “I have been to the famine camps…caused by climate change.

“Washington is in chaos, it’s absolute insanity. It’s the most corrupt administration in our history,” Garamendi said to open the town hall, jokingly adding, “I can blame you (for electing him).”

He talked about how the U.S. military was the largest user of petroleum in the world, with a $200 billion budget, and he is more than surprised that, after working for the Peace Corps in his youth, he’d now sit on the House Armed Forces Committee and key subcommittees.

Garamendi said that the Clinton Administration more than 20 years ago knew the warming of the earth would cause sea rise, stronger storms and bigger hurricanes. “But we underestimated it,” he said. “I knew in 1995 (this) would happen. And it did.

“I’ve dedicated most of my life to this challenge. Now, I want the U.S. to do what it can and must do. I can’t do everything but I can absolutely do this,” said Garamendi, asserting that his new role in the House gives him the power to “green” the fossil-fuel Goliath of the U.S. military.

Garamendi admitted that – to the applause of the room – the U.S. is in wars in the Middle East, Africa and the other places “as a result of the climate crisis.” He talked about “climate refugees.”

Some attendees asked for – and received – his promise to sign on to legislation that would charge a fee on carbon emissions that is expected to reduce emissions by up to 90 percent by 2050.

But others in room screamed “that is too little, too late….it’s two decades too late.”

Garamendi scored more points when he said PGE was responsible for the Camp Fire, noting, “That’s my view. Why didn’t PGE turn off the power?” Chants of “Get corporations out of the power business” followed that.

“The Dept. of Defense is a  huge problem. It’s a primary polluter. We strongly insist that you support the Green New Deal,” said another questioner before Garamendi explained again how he was trying to “green” the military, its buildings, bases and materials.

The crowd tried to shout Garamendi down, imploring him to realize that “tanks don’t run on fairy dust,” and that the answer to the military’s polluting is to downsize the military and “stop the wars.”

Other speakers noted that Native American lands are suffering the most, asking Garamendi to sign the GND to resolve the pollution in Native American lands that have coal mines and huge fracking operations disproportionate to the rest of the nation.

But Garamendi seemed fixated on Trump – as much of the nation is – and the damage the current President is causing to the environment, drifting back to Trump and how three presidents – Bush Jr., Obama and Trump – all took the power of war from the Congress unconstitutionally.

“Only Congress can declare war. If President Trump is successful (calling an emergency to get the funds for his border wall), we’ll have an imperial presidency,” said Garamendi.

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29 thoughts on “Boos Follow Rep. Garamendi at Davis Town Hall on Climate Change; Lawmaker Won’t Sign onto Measure”

  1. Matt Williams

    I did not arrive at the Town Hall until 7:00 (coming from another meeting), but in the second of the two hours what Crescenzo Vellucci has reported in this article is consistent with my observations … especially the quoted comment

    “This document (the Green New Deal) is aspirational. I agree with nearly all of it. I will drive this into policy.  I know many of you want me to sign it…if I thought it would (make a difference) I would do it,”

    That comment by the Congressman was consistent with other comments he has made where he expressed concern that the Green New Deal needs to be more than slogans if it is going to get broad support in Congress.  A pragmatic approach like that was not what the bulk of the Town Hall audience wanted.

  2. Sharla Cheney

    Signing onto the Green New Deal…if only it were so simple.  As far as I can understand, the elements of the New Green Deal, with some exceptions, are not new and require real effort to make happen.   Trump has undone some of the progress already made and Garamendi is correct in identifying his administration as a real problem in making effective change.   Acting like the Tea Party and screaming at representatives at a town hall meeting (that I wasn’t even aware was scheduled) may help bring a sense of urgency, but these people need to convince the broad community that he represents as well.

  3. Seth Sanders

    It all depends whether you believe the climate science or not. The science says that no matter how we happen to personally feel, and no matter whether it is convenient or inconvenient for politicians, we have about 10 years to turn this around or lose civilization as we know it to famine, violence, and social collapse.  The term that the IPCC report uses is “historically unprecedented” action. Garamendi emphasized his work with Al Gore but unlike Gore, who was already talking about the unavoidable need for a Green New Deal in 2009 (!) and immediately endorsed the current resolution, Garamendi behaves in practice like he does not believe the climate science.

    As far as acting like the Tea Party goes, it is worth noting that Indivisible’s strategy was explicitly modeled on the Tea Party (minus the racism), and that Indivisible-based groups from Yolo, Colusa, and Winters made up a very important and politically effective part of the audience last night. See for example the beginning of the official Indivisible Guide

    1. Don Shor

      Garamendi behaves in practice like he does not believe the climate science.

      I can’t really let this pass. Congressman Garamendi’s record on conservation issues and climate change is very strong. I think it holds up very well compared to the main author of the GND, who has literally no voting record yet. She is strong on rhetoric, but he’s been working on these issues for many years.
      I really hope the rhetoric will get ramped down and allies will be treated with more respect than adversaries.

  4. Bill Marshall

    The crowd tried to shout Garamendi down, 

    So much for ‘free speech’… will remember that is an acceptable tactic when someone speaks at a CC meeting, and I disagree…  good precedent…

    But others in room screamed…

    Another good, ‘civil’ tactic… reminds me of the Chief Executive’s tweets… new normal…

    it’s absolute insanity

    True.  The audience proved their point… by exemplifying it… much to be said about insanity… you are no longer legally responsible… good defense…

    1. Seth Sanders

      The shouting and booing part of the story is a little exaggerated. The meeting was about 80% Garamendi talking, usually at length, about his reminiscences, policies, how he got into politics, things he did in the 90s, recent stories from the Economist etc, about 18% questions from constituents, and about 2% loud arguing.

      Also believe me Trump would have anyone who loudly disagreed just removed from the room. To his credit Garamendi went with it and recognized that different constituents engage in different ways–some with loud applause and praise and some with arguments and booing. That’s democracy!

      1. Matt Williams

        I concur with Seth’s assessment.  The chants of “Green New Deal” came after the meeting was declared to be over by the Congressman, and 2 minutes of loud arguing out of a total of 120 minutes is probably a good estimate … and they were the final 2 minutes of the meeting.

    2. Alan Miller

      Another good, ‘civil’ tactic… reminds me of the Chief Executive’s tweets… new normal…

      WM, you ain’t seen nothin’ . . . you should have witnessed the January 22nd meeting held by ASUCD at the Coffee House on campus.  Two hours of loud people yelling their thoughts and anger.  At ASUCD, at speakers . . . it was complete chaos.  ASUCD set up speaker stands and then didn’t even try to control the anarchy that ensued.  People who spoke for the resolution to honor Corona, even when the said they understood the other side, were shouted down and told to stop talking, those against were allowed to shout out as long as they wished with no attempt to limit time.

      If this is the new normal . . . City Council meetings should become quite interesting!

      1. Bill Marshall

        “Political climate change”/”Civility climate change”, as it were (is?).

        Indisputably caused by ‘human’ activity…

        Appreciate you sharing about the ASUCD meeting… those students will be our future leaders?  Scary… one might even become president if they shout long enough, and attempt to squash/belittle/dismiss other views… has happened before…

        Fully agree with your last sentence.


  5. Nick Buxton

    Thank you for covering this meeting, Crescenzo. A comment on issues of aspiration and pragmatism and why people were so frustrated at Garamendi’s obfuscation on endorsing the Green New Deal.

    As Seth Sanders says we need to start with whether we agree with what climate scientists are saying and the clear evidence unfolding of climate instability knowing this is already leading to loss of lives and heartbreak worldwide, particularly in the world’s most vulnerable communities. We heard during the meeting from someone in our own community who has seen the kind of impacts firsthand when she talked of her terrifying escape with her life from the unprecedented fires in Paradise.

    What all the consensus shows is that even the most progressive leaders and nations worldwide are doing far too little too late – and this is not something that can be reversed later. Every delay in inaction locks carbon into our climate with huge costs, economic, social and environmental. It demands an emergency response and leaders like Garamendi and much of the political system have proved completely unable to grasp this and deal with it.

    We don’t want him to endorse the Green New Deal as a mere aspirational statement but because it is the first framework presented in Congress which reflects the scale of ambition and urgency we need – and which combines that with a determination to bring the population on board with a positive vision of jobs and equity. Of course it needs to be followed up with concrete worked out proposals. But his refusal to endorse and his self-satisfied talk of all the good but completely inadequate measures he has endorsed suggests he has no idea of either the urgency or the scale of action we need.

    In terms of the anger, yes, this is the future lives of my children and grandchildren and of my many friends and relatives across the world who will be affected. So yes we will be angry if our political leaders say they understand the science but then don’t act to solve it. Pragmatic partial measures have not been used when the US has faced wars or banking crises so why should we rely on them when our lives on this planet are at stake. As the Swedish school student Greta Thunberg says so clearly: “We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilisation – and the entire biosphere – must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.”

    1. Don Shor

      Garamendi and much of the political system have proved completely unable to grasp this and deal with it.

      The Obama administration released a detailed and carefully constructed set of policies and regulations for implementing climate change policy at the federal level. Obama’s Clean Power Plan had specific goals for each state and methods for getting there, although it allowed states flexibility. It was one of the first things the Trump administration cancelled.
      Your assertions that current political leaders do not grasp the situation or have policies to act on are simply false. Crafting legislation and getting it passed is what will make a difference, not pushing for people to sign aspirational goal statements.
      Removing the non-climate parts of the GND might make it more palatable to public officials. Putting forth some actual proposals to be discussed and debated would be more productive.
      Rejoining the Paris Agreement and restoring Obama’s Clean Power Plan would be tangible actions almost every Democratic candidate and representative could rally behind. And those would set them apart from the GOP immediately and clearly.

      Obama’s Clean Power Plan:

      Undone by the Trump administration:

    2. Matt Williams

      Nick, based on the 7:00 to 8:00 portion of the Town Hall that I attended, I don’t believe Congressman Garamendi obfuscated.  I felt his GND is “aspirational” in its current form was a very clear explanation of why he wasn’t willing to sign on at this time.  That answer was not acceptable to the audience, but that is not lying (obfuscation being a polite words for lying).

      The crowd was in binary mode.  “You are either with us or against us” was the rallying cry.  Garamendi was very clear that he does not see the issues in that simplistic On or Off way.  He took the time to provide examples from his long career of specific decisions where he was clearly “On.”

      The question he appears to be asking is whether the framework you describe is more than a collection of slogans.  With that said, you are probably right that he does not see the same level of urgency or the scale of action that you and most of the audience last night see.

      I’m not sure that I agree with you when you say “Pragmatic partial measures have not been used when the US has faced wars or banking crises”  The response of the United States to the Japanese Attack at Pearl Harbor was full of pragmatic partial measures, that when added together in the aggregate produced a whole that was greater than the sum of it’s parts.  There was no William Shakespeare writing a unified script for the theater that unfolded after December 7, 1941.  There were many actors and many authors.

      Last night’s meeting seemed to follow a highly binary and absolute “We have come here to bury Garamendi, not to praise him” theme.

      It is worth observing that Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations (AKA the California Building Standards Cod) is very clearly a pragmatic partial measure.  Does that mean it is by definition “bad”?

        1. Don Shor

          The IPCC climate mitigation summary for policymakers for 2014, which is about 30 pages, lists a variety of mitigation measures with predicted outcomes and discussion. As far as I know, the IPCC doesn’t have specific goals, it just provides information about likely consequences of various scenarios. Climate scientists, who are generally not policy-makers or policy experts, are not unified in their assessments about what needs to be done, nor is that necessarily their area of expertise.
          The Obama plan was intended to get the US to meet the UN process as outlined in the Paris agreement, to meet our pledge with regard to our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. The EPA has a scientific advisory body (well, it had one then, anyway) which advised the EPA administrator and regulators in developing the plan.

        2. Seth Sanders

          I’m asking about the goals in the more comprehensive and up to date report that people have been discussing for the past few months and that the GND is responding to. It came out in October 2018. This one does set specific targets because “The UN asked the IPCC to figure out what it would take to hit the 1.5°C target, and what’s in store for the world if we did pull it off.” This is a quick summary

  6. Alan Miller

    “You are going to make us run a progressive against you. You’re going to hold off until climate change is even more out of hand,” yelled many in attendance toward the end.

    Amazing, they all yelled the same two sentences.

    ‘run a progressive against you’ . . . oooooh, scary.

  7. Alan Miller

    It seems time to release the S word here . . .

    Garamendi, and a lot of other Democrats, don’t want to be associated with a doctrine that is not only ‘green’, but “S”ocialist.  A.O.C. could have got a lot more aboard and a lot fewer backlashing at her ‘plan’, if she’d actually stuck to climate change and green.

    I don’t like Garamendi and haven’t voted for him in 30 years.  But he is doing the right thing not signing on to the Green and Socialist New Deal.

    1. John Hobbs

      “he is doing the right thing not signing on to the Green and Socialist New Deal.”

      He  may also be missing the boat. The wind of change will topple many old line democratic fiefdoms.

      AOC is energizing the base that “moderates” in the democratic party have long ignored.

      Even old line liberals like me are listening.

  8. Ron Glick

    This could get interesting. If the progressives can run someone who could get more votes than Charlie Schaupp and have the top two be Garamendi versus a yet to be determined candidate in the mold of AOC only more tailored to the specifics of the CA-3 congressional district. Such a race would certainly move Garamendi’s positions on a host of issues or even possibly cause a generational change in the representation of this district. The danger lies in splitting the Dems and having a traditional Dem versus Rep runoff with the split not being healed and the district going Republican. If 2020 is anything like 18 the chances are better that the top two would both be dems as in the first scenario.

    Its looks like its going to be a wild ride, buckle up.

  9. Ron Glick

    In the 2018 primary the Republican Charlie Schaupp got 42% of the vote so it is doubtful that the top two in 2020 would both be Democrats. The people who are unhappy with Garamendi could challenge him in the primary but only one Dem is likely to advance to the November 2020 election.

    1. David Greenwald

      The other problem is that the congressional district, much like the Assembly and Senate is set up for moderates to win. That’s why Dan Wolk wasn’t able to finish in the top two either time.

      1. Ron Glick

        That is quite a bit of revisionist history David. Here is a different scenario. Dan Wolk didn’t win because the Davis vote got split both times, first against Krovosa and the second time against Saylor. Dan beat both of them but still couldn’t get enough votes to make the November ballot. Not only that Curry got $2 million dollars for the primary from Ed Voice who got the money from the anti-union so called ed reformers Walton, Broad, Hastings and others.

        1. David Greenwald

          I met with the consultants who ran one of the opposition campaigns and they shared with me the polling. I know Dan believes he would have won but for the split, the polling says otherwise.

  10. Ron Glick

    We can agree to disagree but moving forward there are people in Davis who could give Curry a run for the money while Garamendi is a harder lift but these days it seems anything is possible. First you must convince them to run.

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