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[whitespace] Mike Honda talks to citizens and answers their questions

The energy crisis, taxes and violence in schools discussed at meeting

Campbell--Rep. Mike Honda spoke about education and transportation at city hall on April 17, and answered questions from community members in attendance.

"I wanted to have an informal opportunity to hear questions and concerns and talk about my reaction to the first 100 days," Honda said, referring to his first three months as a congressional representative.

Honda said he'd worked hard to get on the House Committee on Transportation and spoke about that for the majority of the first half of the meeting.

"I lobbied for that position because it was an issue that I felt was critical for this area," he said.

Honda spokesman Ernest Baynard said Honda is on three subcommittees, which is unusual for a first-time representative. The subcommittees are Surface Transportation, Aviation and Water Resources and Environment.

"Because of the district that he represents, Mike is constantly trying to find ways to improve our commute and travel," Baynard said. "Overcrowding is becoming more and more of a problem."

Honda said the Bay Area is improving as far as congestion is concerned and that he is optimistic about the Vasona light rail extension reaching Los Gatos.

Honda spoke about a bill he's introduced that would enact a program called National Education Technology Corps, NET Corps for short.

The initiative, which would create a nationwide program to recruit volunteers in the technology industry to put their tech expertise to work in the classroom, was launched by Honda at Rosemary Middle School.

"It provides tax credits to high-tech companies so they will go into the schools and help teachers understand computers," Baynard said.

So far, Baynard said many high-tech companies, such as Novell, 3Com and Lucent Technologies are supportive of the program.

The fiscal impact of the bill would be about $7 million, relatively low considering that it would be a national program.

"It'll help us promote math and science in the way we promote sports," Honda said.

Honda is a former science teacher and was also an elementary school principal.

"It's really fitting that Mike's first bill that he introduced is NET Corps, and it's fitting because it really draws upon the different areas of his life," Baynard said.

Honda also fielded questions from the audience.

One Campbell resident asked him his opinion on President Bush's tax cut plan, of which Honda said he is not in favor.

"The people it's going to help is only about 2 million people," he said, adding that these are the wealthiest, and most likely Republican, citizens in the nation.

Another concerned attendant asked about the possibility of moving Veteran's Day to election day, something one member of Congress has proposed so that Americans would have an entire day off to vote.

Honda said that he doesn't think this will happen and that he hopes it doesn't.

"Veterans need to have their own day," he said.

Surprisingly, there was only one question about the California Energy Crisis, which Honda seemed to anticipate. The question referred specifically to "energy producers gouging" the consumers.

"We know there have been some rates that have been imposed," Honda said. He thinks Congress will be able to pass legislation to put a cap on the price of energy. Producers have said that the market should determine the price, but Honda said the market is "dysfunctional." His own energy bill has gone from $75 to $300, he said.

In the meantime, Honda said alternative energy sources need to be found.

"We cannot be held hostage to a handful of countries for the price of petroleum or a handful of states for the price of gas," he said.

There was one young man in the audience, who told Honda he is in the eighth grade. Honda asked him what his greatest concern is about school, and the boy told him he was worried about all of the things he'd been hearing about violence in schools.

"We have to figure out how to make it OK for youngsters to tell us stuff, without feeling like they're snitching," Honda said.
Erin Mayes

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