As a teacher for over 37 years and a community activist for most of that time, I am appalled by what I observed Thursday during the Howard Berman-Brad Sherman Debate at Pierce Community College.
One goal of the program was to provide students with the opportunity to observe first-hand how the democratic process works. What they saw, instead, was appalling—an abomination!
A debate should be informative, balanced, and even-handed. Yet, when one candidate, Brad Sherman, literally accosted (both verbally and physically) his opponent, he only brought shame to our political institutions (not unlike what transpired in the 1800s with the caning of Charles Sumner by Preston Brooks). As Paul Ryan noted that same evening (though I strongly disagree with why he said it), when one cannot stand on one’s record, one tries to diminish the opposition. Sherman, obviously, cannot handle the truth!
Sherman has been making scurrilous comments, outrageous distortions, and libelous aspersions on the very character of Rep. Berman (who, by the way, handled himself throughout the debate as a gentleman and a lion of the House; he could have pressed charges against Sherman and have him arrested but chose to take the high road). Attention to the facts (something Sherman rarely does) demonstrate unequivocally that throughout Berman’s career, he has served his constituents in particular and the nation in general in a most distinguished way.
The students at Pierce learned that it was Berman who long ago introduced the Dream Act which would provide a pathway to citizenship for young people (those who are currently undocumented through no fault of their own) but who are now and will continue to be productive assets to our nation.
Berman has addressed environmental issues. Pierce is instrumental in offering classes which is assisting so many of our young people to pursue permanent, career, prevailing-wage green jobs, positions which will not only help them earn a decent living but will ameliorate the carbon footprint in our community. Incidentally, Berman has worked to create the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy—another commitment to our environment.
After the earthquake in 1994, it was he who prevented the demolition of Kaiser Hospital in Panorama City and Kennedy High School in Granada Hills. Nationally, he has worked diligently with our European and Middle Eastern partners (and especially Israel) to develop and perpetuate a deep and abiding and trusting relationship with our friends abroad.
These are the issues on which the Pierce students should have been able to concentrate. Instead, they witnessed reprehensible behavior by a weak congressman who lashed out because he does not have a record to stand on. Sherman has only delivered for his community as an add-on co-sponsor when the vote is already clearly supported by his fellow House members (he frequently waits to see how others will vote before he casts his).
Furthermore, as I frequently comment to others that a staff is a true reflection on the elected. There is such a high turn-over in Sherman’s office—both locally and nationally—because the workplace is so disturbing. What is more, constituents are too frequently dismissed by insensitive, uncooperative, and dismissive staffers that they often wind up getting the help they seek from Berman’s office even though those residents are not actually Berman’s constituents.
These behaviors were also observed by those in attendance at the debate. All of this served as an outstanding teachable moment for the professors and public/private school educators who were in the audience: How is an elected official expected to act and react and reflect the values and moral principles on which our country was founded, survived, prospered, and grown throughout the centuries of our history?
Finally, if you are already a Berman voter, you have every reason to continue to be. If you are a Sherman supporter or undecided, please take the time to assess and re-assess your position. Good government demands it!
AD 39 Chair, Los Angeles County Democratic Party
Green Chair, Neighborhood Council