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Congresswoman Laura Richardson
As the representative of a diverse district, Congresswoman Richardson has to understand the core meaning of diversity in order to readily serve a clash of various cultures.
By Yussuf J. SimmondsManaging Editor
Brian W. CarterSentinel Staff Writer
Kaylee DavisSentinel Intern
As one of 535 Members of Congress (435 Representatives and 100 Senators), Congresswoman Laura Richardson speaks with an authority of someone who knows first hand about the intricacies of what goes on not only in the halls of the U.S. Congress, but also what goes on in her district, the 37th Congressional District of California. Along with some of her staff members, she relayed intimate details of matters with a global reach and of community service in her district.
The Congresswoman came prepared to speak to the issues affecting individuals, the community, the state and the nation, and she started with, "First of all, I want to talk about the district. You have three African American members (including Reps. Maxine Waters and Diane Watson) who represent the Los Angeles area, but our districts are very different." She went directly to statistics. "The median income in my district is $34,006. I print that out because when people wonder why we fight for healthcare reform--and some of the things we're doing--that's because a lot of the people in my district some of these basic things that we would like to them to really have."
According to the information that she prepared, poverty and unemployment are rampant in her district, moreso than in many other areas because of its diversity. Past census reports show that 21 percent of individuals and 18 percent of families in the 37th District lived in poverty. However,, the current economic recession has more than likely increased these numbers. But the report went on to state that despite the high rate of poverty and unemployment, the workforce represents a valuable asset.
Less than 15% of her district has a BA. and concerns are: will this generation be able to work? As a UCLA graduate, Congresswoman Richardson knows the value of a proper education and she believes math, science, and engineering are important. "We need to get our young people really learning these subjects," she said, because she feels that we need to talk to children about gaining professional skills. The Congresswoman wants to work on the advancement of people educationally and vocationally; she shares the notion that often the federal government's money is not spent where it can do the most. Funds are so limited, "All I can do is continue to fight," she said.
"Just to illustrate a sense of the difference in the neighboring districts, to the left and right of me (the 37th), the median income in their districts is $51,633. and $61,567. respectively, "so it's totally night and day... almost double," the Congresswoman continued with the unemployment figures in her district, specifying the numbers in Carson, Compton, Long Beach and Signal Hill. "So unemployment is still very much a serious issue in my district and that is the focus of what I've been doing."
To provide maximum services for her constituents is a top priority, and Congresswoman Richardson has opened satellite offices in every city in her district, "a first for the 37th District," she proudly proclaimed. "We're there available for the people so they understand that they can come and get help on some of the key services we provide."
The Congresswoman was a guest of the Sentinel's editorial board and in addition to the message she articulated to her constituents in general, she brought documented statistics to validate her words. Referring to the casework services, she categorized the services her office provided and they were broken down into meaningful everyday realities. As a sampling, there were social security needs, veterans' affairs, visa/immigration, IRS and Medi-care. In each named category, an actual case was referenced.
The ability to communicate with the public in general, and her constituents in particular, is of vital concern to Congresswoman Richardson. To this end, she is currently developing a new website, dedicated to helping the people within her district by keeping them informed. She is being proactive and is looking at the big picture, not only to address present needs, but preparing for future eventualities.
The new and improved website will allow visitors a much more interactive experience via photo and video galleries, and updates through Facebook and Twitter. It will be a more interactive tool for the public. In addition, the Congresswoman plans to also implement a newsletter, which has proven to be informative and effective in educating the public on policies, district issues and local government. Her team has also developed a "Telephone Town Hall" to readily access her office. Her main message: encourage people "We are open and happy to help."
One of her top priorities is encouraging her constituents to become actively engaged in crafting public policy that is helpful to them and their community. To that end, Congresswoman Richardson is creating a citizens' advisory body called the People's Congress to facilitate information, ideas and opinion-sharing, as well as to promote increased participation in federal policy formation, event planning and implementation processes.
On a more personal note, the Congresswoman spoke of her own personal challenges that made her more responsive to her constituents' needs saying, "That's why our number one priority should be fighting for the people. It's always easy to play Tuesday night quarterback."
Congresswoman Richardson works with disaster preparedness for natural disasters (including the oil spill) and FEMA. Her website is at www.house.gov/richardson, and she can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepLauraRichardson and on Twitter at RepLRichardson.