Rio Vista High students snag a congressman

By From page A3 | May 25, 2014

RIO VISTA — Students in an advanced placement government class at Rio Vista High School learned a lesson in the power of persistence, registered letters and the Nov. 4 election, their teacher says.

Paul Heaney had students contact U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. John Garamendi about issues that include the inability of Democrats or Republicans to enact laws for the public good rather than political parties.

That effort, started at the end of March, provided the first lesson for students: silence or roundabout answers followed from lawmakers after emails students sent to their offices, Heaney recounts.

The second lesson surrounds Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who said he’ll go Tuesday to the school with an enrollment of about 360 to talk with students in the government class. The congressman’s announcement, Heaney said, came after registered letters were sent this week to the three federal lawmakers, including Garamendi.

Boxer still hasn’t responded, the teacher said, while it took a half-dozen emails by students to Feinstein’s offices to get more than generic answers to students’ questions about the Affordable Care Act, immigration and other matters.

Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for Feinstein, said the senator receives about 2.5 million emails, calls and letters every year and that she has a strict policy of answering every one.

“These students are no different,” Mentzer said.

A representative of Boxer said about the same volume of correspondence comes into the office and that the staff tries to follow up on every contact.

Garamendi going to Rio Vista High School has caught the students’ attention.

“They’re pretty excited,” Heaney said.

Frederick Alvarez, a student in the government class, said in a letter that the second semester was spent identifying major issues that face America.

“What we discovered is that it is possible to come to an agreement,” he said. “What we want is for our political leaders to take what we did as an example and start working together instead of hurting our country through inaction.”

Heaney said he’s interested in how Garamendi will address the students’ concerns and how the press reports the congressman’s responses.

Garamendi’s residence is within the boundaries of the school district and he has ties to the area, Heaney said. The Nov. 4 election may help motivate the federal lawmaker to meet with students, the teacher said.

“I don’t see anything wrong with that,” said Heaney, 66.

The congressman won’t see a spruced up a site Tuesday.

“He’s going to walk into a working classroom,” Heaney said. “I’m not real big on dog and pony shows.”

“I am old school,” Heaney said.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 1 comment

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  • Rich GiddensMay 25, 2014 - 9:10 am

    The first thing that needs to be addressed is Johnny's refusal to answer questions and his non stop pointing fingers at the Republicans in a hyper partisan manner. Tax'n'spendimendi needs to explain his votes on a whole range of issues from absolving Lois IRS Lerner on contempt charges to the lack of water storage in California.

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