Hearing from my constituents is an important and rewarding part of my job as a Member of Congress. Since my job is to represent my constituents, I can only do it well if I know what’s on their minds.
I am so lucky to represent a district with such engaged citizens who take the time to call, write and email me with their comments, concerns and questions about the federal issues affecting them. Whether it’s a group of letters from a local Girl Scout troop telling me how much they love their library, or a small business owner wondering what kind of tax breaks he might qualify for, the communication I receive from all my constituents makes me proud to serve.
I receive almost 2,000 letters and emails a week—more than most of my colleagues from other parts of the country. Although the entire 53rd district is active in corresponding with me, I receive the most letters from the neighborhoods served by Uptown News. Mid-City residents sent me 16,000 letters and emails last year alone.
And what are they writing about?
One of the issues of particular concern to many people year in and year out is animal welfare. Just last month, around 100 constituents in Uptown neighborhoods wrote me to express their opposition to the use of steel-jaw leghold traps. As a member of the Animal Protection Caucus and a strong advocate for animal rights, this is an issue close to my heart. Steel-jaw leghold traps are an incredibly inhumane way to trap an animal, leaving it immobile and in pain for hours before it dies. That’s why I signed on as co-sponsor for the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act. This bill would prohibit the use of any body-gripping trap in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In fact, of all the letters and email that come to my office, animal welfare is one of the top issues that the entire 53rd congressional district writes to me about. So you can imagine I make it a top priority in Congress, and I am honored the Humane Society of the United States has recognized my efforts with a score of 100 percent on its legislative scorecard for the first session of the 114th Congress. I’m proud that so many of my constituents share a passion that animals deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Another top issue? I frequently get letters and emails supporting increased federal funding for conservation efforts. Sharing those concerns, I consistently support legislation and initiatives to protect wildlife, safeguard our rivers and wetlands, and care for our national parks and forests. Conservation is an issue that I care deeply about, and it’s always inspiring to hear from so many constituents who feel the same way. Our environment is a treasure that we must protect for future generations.
And then there are the current events that inspire people to take action and weigh in. When something shocking happens in the news I get letters from many people who have never written before.
Like many of San Diegans who wrote, I was horrified by the recent revelations about the contamination of water in Flint, Michigan. It is devastating to think that a whole generation of young children in Flint will likely suffer from developmental and learning disorders due to lead poisoning. Many from the neighborhoods served by Uptown News wrote me with their concerns about lead poisoning.
I recently visited Flint and took part in a Speak Out Session to hear firsthand from residents affected by this disaster.
The House recently took action to prevent the crisis happening in Flint from happening in other communities. The Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance and Awareness Act, which passed the House with my support, will require water system officials to alert their customers if the EPA notifies them of increasing levels of lead in drinking water. This bill will ensure that consumers are not left in the dark when it comes to water safety.
Residents should never have to worry about the safety of their drinking supply and the fact this happened at all is a betrayal of basic good governance. Congress should continue to look at ways to help Flint.
I am not surprised by the amount of mail I get each week. The time I spend listening to constituents proves to me they are passionate about the things that matter most to them. I can’t do my job without your input. Please continue to give me your thoughts and opinions. I always look forward to hearing from you and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can.
This editorial first appeared in Uptown News.