‘Conversation Series’ brings Congress to the Miracle Mile
Residents of the Miracle Mile had the opportunity to speak with Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., Tuesday night at the first “Congressional Conversation Series.” Bass will visit neighborhoods in her district to meet residents, hear their concerns and answer questions.
During Tuesday’s event at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, nearly 50 residents discussed topics ranging from Metro Purple Line construction to lighthearted anecdotes about President Barack Obama’s recent visit.
“There are so many communities in the district, and they each have their own issues,” Bass said. “I talk for a little bit, but it’s primarily a question and answer event.”
Bass addressed most of the comments herself, but Metro representatives answered questions as well.
Residents asked how the new Metro stations will fit into the area’s existing architecture, and many had questions about how Metro will work around the area’s natural landscape, such as the La Brea Tar Pits.
Mindy Lake, construction relations officer for the Purple Line Extension, said Metro has been working closely with the Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA). She and other Metro representatives also said they are monitoring construction sites carefully and are in constant communication with the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum to protect the geological conditions of the area.
“I live very close to the Tar Pits, so if something is off I’ll know right away,” Lake said.
Homelessness was another concern for many residents and Bass explained how she is working on legislation that affects prisons and mental health facilities. The lack of mental health support and current prison regulations she said, are two contributing factors to homelessness.
Brandon Abraham, a teacher at Manual Arts High School, said he came to the event to raise awareness about encroaching charter schools. He said many teachers in the district and across the state have concerns about charter schools using public school facilities, and while he doesn’t oppose the charter school system as a whole, he said he wanted to bring the issue to Bass’ attention.
“It’s one thing to start your own charter school with your own space, but when you infringe on an existing public school you change the culture of our campus. That’s a big problem,” Abraham said. “[Bass] seemed to be listening, and she seemed full of empathy. She was taking notes the entire time, and I think she did a good job at trying to address everyone’s concerns. I hope she takes what we said to heart and looks into the issues raised tonight.”
Bass said she cares about education and will continue to research ways to provide adequate support to public schools.
Dan Roth, communications director for Bass, said the Congressional Conversation Series provides a pathway between citizens and Congress.
“It’s a very useful event because not only do these constituents get to discuss what’s on their mind, [Bass] genuinely listens and wants to hear from people,” Roth said. “She also follows up with many of the comments. A recent example is from a recent town hall meeting where people raised a lot of concerns about Apple and the FBI. [Bass] took those questions directly to the FBI. She really sees herself as being a representative for the people.”
Bass said the Congressional Conversation Series evolves after each event, and while she is eager to hear from constituents, she also makes an effort to talk about Congress.
“My sense is people don’t know a lot about what goes on in Congress because the news only reports conflicts. So I also try to talk about some of the good things happening right now,” Bass said. “It’s really a lot of fun. It’s sort of in the experimental phase because we’ve been figuring out the best way to reach people to come to conversations, and we wait and see what the turnout is. I really enjoy these opportunities to interact with people, and they seem to really like the idea of meeting their Congress [member] because many have never seen me.”
Bass said the events help her be a better representative for the 37th District by not just addressing issues, but by going forth with ideas.
Bass said she encourages individuals to reach out to her and be proactive in their communities. She will continue the Congressional Conversation Series and hopes to return to the Miracle Mile again.
“You can be at a meeting like this and wind up with legislative ideas,” Bass said. “There have been countless times where I have followed up with my own research on ideas people have discussed.”