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Legislators agree, disagree at Colusa town hall meeting
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Loma Rica, serves District 3, which includes northern Colusa County, including the city of Colusa, as well as all or part of Glenn, Sutter, Tehama, Butte and Yuba counties.
Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, serves District 4, which includes the Williams and Arbuckle areas of Colusa County, as well as all or parts of Lake, Napa, Solano Sonoma and Yolo counties.
The influence of environmental interests and state regulations on farmers in California were discussed in a joint town hall meeting with Assemblyman Dan Logue and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada at the Colusa Theatre Thursday night.
The event may have been the only bipartisan town hall of state legislators in California in five years, according to Logue's chief of staff, Cliff Wagner.
Logue and Yamada responded to audience questions and found common ground, but stated differences clearly.
Many issues brought by audience members reflected agricultural interests in infrastructure projects such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which includes the construction of north-south tunnels to move water, a proposed 500-mile high-speed train, and flood planning and levee setbacks.
"I support high-speed rail, but not high-speed pails that would send our water south," said Yamada, D-Davis, whose district includes areas in the Delta that would be directly impacted by the plan.
Logue, R-Loma Rica, said he was opposed to both high-speed rail and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
"We have battles we agree on," Logue said.
Yamada said that there is no legislative oversight of the Delta Plan, but that they could have an impact on the plan through budget votes. She said the plan will likely be litigated.
Some citizen speakers, including Chris Torres, said they are concerned with the amount of influence and access environmental interests seem to have in Sacramento. They said that farmers bear the burden of over-regulation.
"Your side of the aisle seems to have the ear of the environmental aspect which means more regulation," Torres told Yamada.
"Unfortunately, agriculture is not understood by urban people. As a rural Democrat, I'm not that common in my caucus," she responded.
She said that farmers versus environment is a false dichotomy and farmers have been stewards of the land for hundreds of years.
She said urban Californians have misconceptions about farmers and use pejorative language such as "country bumpkin" to stereotype farmers. She said those labels are incorrect and she is proud that UC Davis is the top agricultural school in the world.
"We have to reduce the amount of false conflict ... (and) we have to move toward the greater good," she said.
Logue suggested local farmers could host tours of their farms to legislators on both sides of the aisle so they could gain an understanding of the issues.
He said that regulatory agencies have tremendous amounts of power and he is concerned that legislators aren't the voice of Sacramento.
"It's regulatory agencies," Logue said.
That statement was in response to Gene Beauchamp's concerns about poor flood planning and plans for levee setbacks. He said that the river should be dredged.
"You can't do it because of some endangered plant," said Beauchamp.
Logue responded, "We've got to fix the levees and dredging should be part of that answer."
Colusa County Supervisor Chair Denise Carter attended the event and said she was impressed by the informed, state-level questions brought by the audience, and by the bipartisan efforts made by the members.
"I wish more of the Assembly would be bipartisan. They sat in the same room and shared their thoughts, where they agreed and they disagreed. I was impressed with that," Carter said.
Other audience questions touched on legislation expanding alternative treatment of cancer, regulation of lead bullets, the realignment program impacting state prisons and county jails, the lack of taxes paid by casinos, and regional governance.
Logue said he arranged the town hall because he wanted to bring members of the other party to hear from people first-hand.
He said he believes there is enough common ground in interest for he and Yamada to work together.
"We agree on 50 percent of the issues and we disagree on 50 percent. Let's work on the 50 percent that we agree on," he said.
Both Logue and Yamada will be termed out of their Assembly offices in 2014.