A call to political action

The Future Forum, an association of young Democratic representatives seeking to address issues and opportunities that affect millennials, co-hosted a forum by the same name with Rio Hondo College. The legislators and audience engaged in a discussion on controversial issues such as climate change, police accountability, student debt and the power money has in politics. The town hall style meeting with Rio Hondo students and members of the House of Representatives occurred Oct 24 in the Administration of Justice building at the base of the college.

The forum was moderated by Brandon Pablo Lean, Rio Hondo’s elected student trustee and organized by Russell Castaeñeda-Calleros, director of government and community relations.

California representatives Grace F. Napolitano, Norma Torres, and Eric Swalwell spoke with students and community members about the importance of millennials not only voting in this election, but also partaking in political activism.

Congresswoman Napolitano stressed the importance of our representatives having transparency and being held accountable to their constituents, stating “That is our title, US House of Representatives, not US House of Politicians.”

The first issue to catch steam was the influence that money has in elections and policy making. Congressman Swalwell spoke about a new policy of allowing low dollar donations that can be matched with taxpayers dollars to be more inclusive. All of the representatives were against what was called “dark money,” which is the use of super PACs or Political Action Committees as a means to finance political campaigns.

Prior to the existence of super PACs, independent groups that supported a candidate were limited to donations of $2500 and were heavily regulated. Coming into existence in 2010, after the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, super PACs allowed businesses to donate money as individuals and could raise a limitless amount of funds. This form of campaign running is seen by many, including most of the forum attendees, as money buying elections.

The representatives believe that this election will be instrumental in revoking the Citizens United decision. Should Hillary Clinton win, liberal Justices will be appointed and may challenge the previous ruling.

Congresswoman Torres emphasised the importance of millennials voting and the lasting effect that this election will have on the country’s future.

“We can come up with a lot of solutions, but if you’re not a willing player we can’t implement them.”

The second issue discussed was the lack of congressional action against climate change, and the Republican party burying their head in the sand on the issue. Napolitano expressed frustration with the efforts that her Republican colleagues go through to prevent a serious discussion to take place on the issue. She stated that regardless of how individual Republican lawmakers feel, the leadership refuses to acknowledge it so they cannot deviate from party policy.

Swalwell believes that because it isn’t an imminent crisis, people don’t take the consequences seriously.

Torres talked about the importance of highlighting the communities that go the extra mile in their efforts to handle the effects of toxins and climate change as an incentive for others to follow example.

From there the audience’s questions went on to police accountability, mental health care in prisons, and student debt.

At the conclusion of the town hall Lean, on behalf of the college,  presented the representatives with mugs as a thank you for choosing Rio Hondo College to co-host the forum.