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Denham Outreach - Congressman Hears Variety Of Community Concerns
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Robert Guardiola of Riverbank, far right, discusses mining concerns with Congressman Jeff Denham, left, at the H-B Saloon in Oakdale. - photo by RICHARD PALOMA/ The Leader
Capping off his morning travels on Tuesday, June 28 with a lunch stop at the local H–B Saloon, Congressman Jeff Denham heard from local constituents as he enjoyed the “Kim & Jim” special from the menu.
“Our big focus right now is jobs,” Denham said. “I’ll be meeting with various businesses, chambers, and individuals to see what we can do in Congress.”
Denham’s travels were part of a scheduled “district workweek” that included making visits at various locations within his 19th District that stretches from Fresno to north of Oakdale.
Denham’s day on June 28 started in Turlock for a similar sit-down breakfast with local constituents and then to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce to discuss small businesses.
Once arriving in Oakdale, Denham visited the historic Cowboy Museum before his working lunch break at H–B. Once inside the restaurant, he heard a multitude of issues from various concerned citizens.
“Small businesses are the biggest job creators in our communities,” Denham said as he spoke about the importance of streamlining and reforming the permit and application process that deters and delays so many of the potential and existing owners. “Not only is it important to create these jobs, but also to keep these jobs.”
Since Denham sits on the Natural Resources Committee, Robert Guardiola, a gold mining enthusiast from Riverbank, asked about dredging and mining restrictions.
The conversation expanded to energy to where Denham voiced his belief about the US taking advantage of its own natural resources that he described as 65 percent of the world’s energy with oil, coal, and shale.
“It’s ridiculous that our president has to go to Brazil and ask them to drill for more oil,” Denham said.
Former Oakdale Mayor Pat Kuhn stopped by and asked about local water issues and Medicare concerns.
“We can do something about it and be leaders,” Denham responded about Medicare, “or we can sit back and watch it fall apart.”
The healthcare discussion got H–B owner Suzy Bacigalupi to join in, speaking about healthcare premium costs for her employees.
“My hands just shake when the healthcare policy comes up,” Bacigalupi said. “I have to sell a lot of cheeseburgers to meet that.”
From the H–B, Denham was off to the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce where he met with officials from the city, Oak Valley Hospital, Oakdale Irrigation District and a few business leaders to hear local concerns.
“We have 89 new freshman members of Congress that are fired up and bringing hope,” said Denham about himself and the other new members that were elected to Congress last November when he addressed the group. “I came to hear from you though rather than filibuster about Washington.”
Oakdale Community Development Director Danelle Stylos advised Denham about plans for a skatepark and the importance of a federal grant that would fund the endeavor.
Oak Valley Hospital CEO John Friel voiced his interests about cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, stating that as the economy worsens, the proposed cuts would have a larger impact on the hospital.
Police Chief Marty West advised Denham about the recent cuts to the police department, dropping its manpower from 28 to 21 sworn officers. West lobbied for the COPS grant program for hiring, speaking of the rise in gang activity and copper wire thefts in Oakdale.
“I’m only asking for just one officer from this grant,” said West, telling Denham that larger cities like Modesto were asking for multiple positions. “This grant would go a long way to helping the community. Can I count on your support?”
“You got it,” replied Denham.
Steve Knell of Oakdale Irrigation District spoke how federal regulations were making operations of the organization difficult.
Holding his thumb and index finger two inches apart, Knell said, “When a fish this big can shut the whole operation down, things are wrong.”
Knell went on to explain that the money spent on environmental studies was taking away from capital cost items.
“A lot of government programs have grown from what their original intent was,” Denham replied.
Denham said he was encouraged by what he heard during his visit to Oakdale and would be bringing back the concerns to Washington. He stressed he is available to be contacted from interested constituents by email through his congressional web address at or his Modesto office telephone number at (209) 579-5458.