Sam Farr Offers Take On Local, Foreign Violence At Santa Cruz Town Hall

More than 50 people gather to hear local lawmaker

Rep. Sam Farr speaks to members of the community during a town hall meeting at Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz on Thursday night. (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Rep. Sam Farr speaks to members of the community during a town hall meeting at Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz on Thursday night. (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ Community policing and not the militarization of local police forces is what this country should be moving toward, Rep. Sam Farr told an audience of more than 50 people Thursday evening.

Citing Humvees responding to protesters over the police killing of Michael Brown earlier this month in Ferguson, Missouri, or a series of recent officer-involved shootings in Salinas, a police force needs to relate to its community to be effective, said Farr, a Carmel Democrat.

Much of the turmoil and public discussion about the militarization of local police forces began after Congress went on break Aug. 1, Farr said.

"We're going to have, I'm sure, hearings and discussions on this. But it is up to the local community by the hiring of their police chief and policies that they make," Farr said. "If Ferguson taught us anything and what we're seeing in Salinas there's no way in the world you're going to arrest your way out of this."

Farr fielded questions for more than two hours at Santa Cruz's Peace United Church of Christ, formerly First Congregational Church.

He was questioned on issues ranging from traffic congestion and mental health funding to domestic spying and the influx of immigrant children at the U.S. border. The issue garnering the most discussion and audience rancor, however, centered on the Israeli bombing of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a conflict ongoing since July.

Locally, the issue has drawn community members to protest weekly against the killing of civilians in Gaza.

Debra Ellis, of Santa Cruz, said she was concerned about the special relationship U.S. weapons manufacturers are creating overseas.

"For the future, will we watch people in Iraq, Syria or Gaza be the guinea pigs to the new advanced weapons technology?" Ellis asked Farr.

Farr said that Congress is at the mercy of existing international treaties negotiated and approved in the past.

"One of the areas we've negotiated treaties around is military arms. We allow sales of American-made military equipment around the world," Farr said. "(But) we tie the arms sales to humanitarian aid.We do this to all these countries. We require that to use the military money, you've got to also use the humanitarian money."

Farr said that when Congress votes on foreign aid, it's on over-arching bill, one vote up or down," not broken down conflict by conflict.

Rabbi Phil Posner commended Farr on his candor, honesty and his willingness to face difficult questions from the community. Then, he asked Farr to help shorten lengthy political campaign seasons that has his phone ringing off the hook with callers seeking campaign funding.

Later, talk turned to health issues, from health insurance to the congressman's own "Sam Farr 30-Day Challenge," which urges the public to look toward healthier alternatives for eating and exercising. Farr admitted he did not expect his acceptance of the challenge, set by nutrition Santa Cruz educator Mary Toscano, to gain such public attention.

"Anything that goes with feeding and nutrition in this country, I'm supportive of," Farr said.

Farr, 73, has been a member of the House of Representatives for more than 20 years. He serves on the Appropriations Committee and is the ranking Democrat on a panel that oversees agriculture.

This article was first published at Santa Cruz Sentinel.

CONCLUSION: by CognitiveLiberty

A question posed by Reverend Herb Schmidt of Santa Cruz, which did not make Sentinel news, may shed light on the unanimous support of the U.S. Senate (Resolution 498) and the U.S. Congress (Resolution 657) for the massacre in Gaza, "Operation Protective Edge":

"...many of us feel that the issues between Israel and Palestinians has been made more difficult with the tremendous political clout of AIPAC. What isn't as well know, however, is the fact that 29 members of Congress, 12 Senators, and at least 33 appointed officials in our government are citizens of Israel as well as the United States. Since at times the self-interest of the United States and the self-interest of Israel are not necessarily the same, although some would have us believe that, doesn't that create a conflict of interest and has anyone raised the question whether members of congress who are citizens of Israel should not vote on policy and financial issues related to the State of Israel? And if the question has never been raised would you be willing to raise it? How Does a person get dual citizenship in the country where you do not reside? ~ Rev. Herb Schmidt

If you are concerned about whose interests your U.S. representatives favor and you are concerned about the endless flow of weapons to the Middle East, purchased with your tax dollars, act for change.