Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - December 30, 2011

GUEST OPINION: 'I've been listening to you'

by Eric Swalwell

In September, I announced I am running for the U.S. Congress for California's new 15th Congressional District, which includes all of Pleasanton. As a prosecutor, Dublin City Councilman and former Tri-Valley soccer player and coach, I feel a connection to each city in the district and can offer new energy and ideas. But I don't know it all.

To fully understand the issues facing the voters in the district, I spent the past eight weeks on a "Listening to You" tour of many of the district's downtown areas. I talked to hundreds of business owners and patrons about what they expect from their next Congressman. I have listened carefully. And I hear you.

Voters have "partisan-bickering" fatigue. You often asked, "Why can't they just get along and work for me?" You expressed disgust at a "Super-Committee" that failed to reach an agreement on debt-reduction, a Jobs bill that won't pass, and endless gridlock. Sadly, today's Congress has too many finger-pointers and not enough problem-solvers. I will lead by example, as an independent congressman who is willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me. The unemployment line is single-file only and draws no distinction between parties.

Voters want policies that spur job creation. I will advocate for policies that enable entrepreneurship, entice small businesses to hire, and inspire individuals to go out on their own and start something big. For our workforce, I will seek to provide a meaningful payroll tax holiday (not the measly two months currently proposed in Congress) and fund job re-training for the unemployed in emerging fields like green technology and high-skilled manufacturing.

For small businesses, I will strive to have government work for you rather than stand in the way, so you may hire more workers, be more profitable, and bring foot traffic for surrounding businesses. I will introduce a one-year tax deferral for any new small business that opens its doors and hires three or more employees. We need businesses focused on getting off the runway and into the air,not grounded on the tarmac in government bureaucracy.

Finally, voters want an end to Congressional double standards and corporate greed. Regardless of political party, you have told me it is unacceptable for members of Congress to engage in insider stock-trading. You conveyed outrage that bailed out banks are rewarding their executives with fat bonuses, freezing small business loans and increasing fees on the backs of working families. No one can believe that Congressman Pete Stark can physically live and claim a primary residence tax exemption in Maryland, and yet "represent" a district in California. This is unacceptable conduct and we can do better.

As a prosecutor, I have worked to enforce the law, deliver justice to victims of crime, and punish bullies. I will take that same spirit to Congress and fight to reform government and hold banks and lawmakers accountable for their actions.

The people I have heard from are not asking for a lot. They want Congress to work for them within a budget, policies that will stimulate the job-market, and for Congress and big banks to be held to the same standards as the rest of us.

This tour has reinforced the idea that you can learn a lot from hard-working folks, if you just listen.

--Eric Swalwell is a city councilman for the city of Dublin and a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination to the new 15th Congressional District, which includes Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore, Dublin, Hayward, Union City, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Sunol, part of Fremont and unincorporated Alameda County.

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