you are on, the constant whirlwind of meetings
and speeches and appearances. And, if something like that works for you, that’s the greatness
of the job. I like that I just came from a town hall
meeting in Corte Madera where, in an hour and
15 minutes, I answered more than 25 questions
ranging from dog control policies in the GGNRA
to Israeli-Palestinian conflict issues to international trade agreements and much, much more.
You finish a discussion like that and, for me at
least, you feel revved up. You’re exhilarated.
If there is a typical week for you, what’s it
like? On Monday morning I’ll leave SFO early
and arrive in Washington around three, in
time for a few meetings. Most of the work in
the nation’s capital gets done on Tuesdays and
Wednesdays; then on Thursdays we usually
vote and I’ll fly home in time to see the kids off
to bed. Friday is my day to work in the district
and weekends could easily be filled up with
parades and politicking. But that’s where I
try to keep a balance and spend time with my
family as much as possible.
How do you handle the wide range of subjects?
Are you a fast reader? I’m not a quick reader.
Six years ago, I took a speed-reading course
because I wanted to improve my reading skills.
I needed to assimilate so much information
and my deliberate reading pace was, and still
is, a constraint on my bandwidth. But the good
news is that I’m a good retainer. When I do
read, or hear, or observe something, it tends to
stick with me. Then, maybe six months later, I
can usually pull it out of my mental archive and
usually it will be in pretty good shape.
What has been your biggest surprise with
Congress? I’m surprised at the slowness and the
inertia of Congress as an institution. Especially
after serving in the California Assembly. In my
six years there, I was a prolific legislator. I passed
over 60 pieces of law. It would take more years
than I have to live to do that in Congress.
Any surprises regarding fellow congress-
So far, what is your biggest accomplishment
men? If I formed my judgments regarding
my colleagues by watching cable news, I
would really dislike a lot of them. But I
form my judgments by how I encounter
them personally. So probably some of the
Republicans most reviled by people in my dis-
trict are colleagues with whom many times,
on a personal level, I get along with quite well.
An example is Trey Gowdy, the Republican
congressman from South Carolina who’s
chairman of the Select Committee on
Benghazi. He’s the point person going after
Hillary Clinton, continuing what Darrell Issa
started in this witch-hunt. But I think if you
follow that issue you’ll see he’s going about it
in a much more professional and responsible
way than did Congressman Issa. I still don’t
think the investigation should even be hap-
pening. But there’s a lot more to Trey Gowdy
than meets the eye. He’s a very interesting
and colorful character. I may not agree with
him on a heck of a lot, but I respect him as a
person; he’s a straight shooter.
in Congress? Helping create a new coastal
national monument on the Mendocino coast.
It’s permanent, forever and I feel really good
about it. It was also a great experience for me,
as a new member of Congress, to be in the Oval
Office with the president at a signing ceremony.
And now I’ll be able to take my kids to the Point
Arena–Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal
National Monument and let them know I did
something big — it’s 1,665 acres of coastline,
estuaries and beaches — and permanent. And I
did it during my first term.
What have you done for Marin County lately?
Well, I got $20 million put into the president’s
budget for SMART to extend its rail line from
San Rafael to Larkspur. We’ve got a lot more
work to do, but I’m cautiously optimistic that
eventually it will happen. Also, last week we
got a bill out of committee that will allow
Marin County and local affordable housing advocates to purchase the surplus Coast
Guard property in Point Reyes Station that
just about everybody wants to see remain as
workforce housing rather than be sold to the
highest-bidding developer. As for Highway 101
going through the Novato Narrows, I’m working very hard to keep federal transportation
programs funded. In California, 48 percent
of transportation funding comes from the
Federal Highway Trust Fund and, if we don’t
get it reauthorized, all that funding will dry
up and that would definitely affect the Novato
Narrows. So I’m working very hard on that.
Your biggest controversy to date seems to
be attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s address to Congress. Do you
regret doing that? I’d do it over again exactly
the same way; I think I struck the right balance. This was a situation where I was never
going to please everyone. Some of my constituents urged me to boycott the talk; others asked
that I not only attend the talk, but also agree
with Mr. Netanyahu. Some even supported
the idea that we move forward with military
The congressman plays a few tunes at an event
at Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma.