Congressman Holds Town Meeting

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Have the Sept. 11 attacks shaped Americans in a positive way? Surprisingly, our nation is experiencing a time of growth as Americans become “one people in an incredible way, given their diversity,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Pasadena, told a town hall audience in Pasadena Monday.

“I’m very confident that we will rise to this challenge,” said the congressman, whose district also includes Glendale.

The 27th Congressional meeting at the Pasadena Senior Center was hosted by Schiff to discuss the local measures that are being taken in the war on terrorism and the threat which bioterrorism has inflicted on the United States.

An audience of about 50 people attended the event, which also featured a panel including Phyllis Bushart, CEO of St. Luke Medical Center; Chief Ernie Mitchell from the Pasadena Fire Department; Lt. John Perez of the Counter-Terrorism Section of the Pasadena Police Department; Marion Thorpe, Division Manager of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control; Dr. Kevin Lake; Robert Mysel, Postmaster of Pasadena; Patricia Smith, Postal Inspector; and Ben Russo, Director of Business Development at St. Luke Medical Center.

The majority in the audience were senior citizens with the exception of a few who were between 20 to 40. Schiff welcomed those who attended the meeting, and Bushart was the first of the panelists to speak and inform the public that St. Luke Medical Center is taking precautions against bioterrorism through emergency disaster drills. She also reassured the public that the medical center is in touch with nationwide resources and is working in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other state and federal agencies. Mitchell later said that the Fire Department is receiving training for a ?tremendous preparedness effort.”

Mysel said that masks and gloves are provided to those postal service employees who ask for protection.

Schiff called the meeting an effort to “restore a sense of proportion” by educating the public. This informative event covered his proposals against the war on terrorism starting with an explanation of the PATRIOT (Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct) Act of 2001, which he cosponsored. This is a bipartisan anti-terrorism legislation that will overall allow further surveillance over suspects via Internet tools and telephone wiretaps and give the Justice Department, CIA and FBI more freedom to exchange information about suspects. The PATRIOT Act of 2001 also triples the number of inspectors on the northern border of the United States, including the Border Patrol, Customs Service and INS. Schiff also said there needed to be a significant plan to stimulate the economy. In his opinion, a short-term stimulus will be wiser for the economy in order to prevent the aggravation of the United States’ deficits and an increase in long-term mortgage rates. However, he said, “The stimulus package can’t turn this battleship around.”

A good portion of the time was dedicated to answering questions from the audience. Schiff answered a question regarding the federalization of the screening procedure for passengers and their luggage. He stated that it would be legitimate to have the federal government in charge of safety procedures at airports.

Schiff addressed a question concerning laid-off workers from the airline companies by referring to the COBRA Coverage Act of 2001, which he has introduced. The act will provide continuing health care coverage for laid-off workers at half-price for up to 18 months. Most of the participants made positive remarks about the meeting. On the other hand, Patty Rhee, who is one of Congressman Schiff’s supporters, had a different opinion. “I was disappointed that the fear of terrorism wasn’t as well addressed as the political matters, she said.”

However, David Czamanske, South Pasadena resident and an Environmental Consultant said, “Adam Schiff is very interested in interacting with the public. He is a sincere nd excellent representative.”