By Nick Diamantides
United States Congresswoman Laura Richardson, the Democrat who represents California’s 37th Congressional District, was well received by the Signal Hill City Council during its Tuesday night meeting. Even before she gave the council an update on what she has been doing in the past year, Mayor Ed Wilson said, “We want to thank you for all the work you have done for our residents and for our city.”
In her opening remarks, Richardson noted that she and her staff have a very good relationship with all of Signal Hill’s elected officials and city staff. “It’s an open door going both ways,” she said. “I just feel really fortunate being able to represent you.” The congresswoman’s 35-minute presentation covered services her staff is providing to the entire district she represents, and legislation that she has worked on or is currently working on. She also mentioned some issues that are specific to Signal Hill.
Richardson noted that unemployment is one of the biggest problems across the nation today, and California’s 37th Congressional District is no exception. “Although Signal Hill has an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, it is the lowest one of all the cities that I represent,” she said. “I think you’ve made a lot of effort to bring in a lot of businesses so that your residents would have a place to work and to raise their families. We are going to continue to help you with those 9.8 percent that don’t have jobs to make sure they are aware of some of the things that are accessible to them.”
Richardson pointed out that, starting several months ago, her staff comes to Signal Hill City Hall every Friday to meet with residents who are having difficulty in their dealings with a federal agency. She thanked the council for allowing her staff to use a desk at City Hall for that purpose. The congresswoman also noted that a steadily increasing number of people are coming to her offices for help with various federal agencies. “In 2008, when I first got elected, we had helped with 71 cases,” she said. “In 2009 we had 273 cases. This year, by the end of July, we have helped 214 people.” Richardson stressed that a member of Congress should not just work on legislation, but should work hard to help constituents solve real-life problems.
Talking about federal funding for local programs, Richardson told the council that one of her priorities is to make sure that Signal Hill gets the federal dollars it deserves. She noted her recent appointment as chair of the House’s subcommittee on emergency communications preparedness and response. “When we were looking at needing interoperable radios last year through appropriations, we were able to help with that,” she said, explaining that she helped secure funding for the SHPD to be able to purchase such radios for its officers to be able to directly communicate with other law-enforcement and emergency responder agencies when necessary. “Now I am happy to say that all of the urban security grants will be falling under my jurisdiction,” she said. “That makes it a whole lot easier for me to help you get some of the funding that you so desperately need.”
Richardson noted that she is also on the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, which, she said, would enable her to help Signal Hill get the funding it needs for the Cherry Avenue widening projects and other necessary infrastructure improvements. The congresswoman praised city staff for their speed and efficiency in submitting plans to her office that qualify for federal funding. “Your folks are always on time in getting us what we need to be able to advocate for you,” she said.
The city’s population is also a factor in how many federal dollars flow into Signal Hill programs and projects, and Richardson noted that early this year, some US Census forms mailed to Signal Hill residents had Long Beach listed as their address. “We’re going to make sure that Signal Hill residents are not counted as Long Beach residents,” she said. “We are going to be meeting regularly (with Census Bureau staff) to make sure the numbers are correct, and, if you feel they are not, you will have the opportunity to contest it.”
After her presentation, all the council members took turns praising Richardson for her hard work on behalf of the City and residents of Signal Hill.
“We are very pleased to have you working for us,” said Councilwoman Ellen Ward. “We have never been represented like this before.”
Councilman Mike Noll agreed, noting that, in his 18 years on the council, he had never seen a congressman or congresswoman more accessible to the residents, councilmembers or city staff of Signal Hill.
Wilson echoed those comments. “Being accessible is really important,” he said. “It’s the effort that you put in that makes the difference.”