President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union on Tuesday night in front of Congress and a television audience in the millions. Below is reaction from local politicians, educators and business advocates.
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton
McNerney sat with Republican Rep. Charles Boustany from Louisiana. They know each other from serving on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the 110th Congress.
“The State of the Union address was an important moment to reflect on both the challenges we face and all that we can achieve as a country. I appreciated the president’s recognition — in light of the tragedy in Arizona — of all that unites us Americans and what we can accomplish by working together. Our country faces many challenges right now, but we’ve overcome great obstacles before and we have the fortitude, spirit and innovation to do so again.
“There’s no doubt that one of greatest challenges we face is improving our economy and creating jobs. I represent an area that has been hard hit by the bad economy, and I’ve heard from many people who have been laid off and are worried about losing their homes to foreclosure. I was glad to hear the president’s commitment to steps that will help create the next generation of jobs in this country, such as investing in clean energy technology.
“During my time as a wind energy engineer, I saw first-hand the result of American energy technology going overseas — that technology created jobs in other countries instead of right here at home. We’re faced with that same challenge now. With the right investment in clean energy projects, our country has great potential to create jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
“I’ll continue to advocate for these and other policies that will help get our economy back on track and create good-paying jobs for American families.”
Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River
Reaction to president’s speech: “The most positive thing I can say is that I’m very happy he endorsed my bill, H.R. 4 (The Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011). It was the only piece of legislation he individually endorsed. To have the president admit that that’s part of the health care bill that should be deep sixed was pretty good.”
Who did you sit with? “I sat next to Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo. She called over and asked if I would sit with her, and I said fine. It was our kumbaya moment.
“When I served as California Attorney General and she was in the (California State Senate), we worked in several areas. We believed pepper spray should be allowed as a non-lethal defense weapon. ... We worked on a bill to allow members of the public to carry it.
“We probably disagree 90 percent of the time, but where those opportunities are available to work together, we try to do that.”
Did sitting together work? “I don’t think there are any lasting consequences to it. It’s far more important what (Speaker of the House John Boehner) has done to give greater power to all members of Congress. Over the past decade, rules have been enacted that squash minority dissent. He wants to get everyone’s ideas heard because he believes that everyone in the legislative body should be expressing their own views. There will be tough, hard, vigorous debates.
“He wants the minority to be able to argue their point. Even if they lose, they are going to be disappointed they lost, but I don’t think they are going to be as bitter as I have seen things in the house for the last few years because at least they were heard.”
What are your critiques of the president’s speech? “The president misread what the public views as the major problem. People want job creation but the overspending of all government crowds out the creation of jobs as the main problem.
“He only used two pages in the entire speech to talk about national defense and our relationships around the world. There was also not a single word about homeland security. I know he takes the priority seriously, but I think he missed a real opportunity to bring that to the attention of the American people, so they can decide to support it and understand why they’re tax dollars are being used for these types of thing.”
Kim Parigoris, president, Lodi Citizens In Action
Lodi Citizens In Action is affiliated with Tea Party Patriots.
“I felt it was more of a campaign speech. President Obama has lost of his credibility between what he says he’s going to do and what he does. It seems like an empty speech with very few statistics. I think people are getting more educated. They need figures. We just aren’t falling for these flowering speeches full of rhetoric.
“That’s what I like about Michele Bachmann’s response. It was full of facts, full of figures, full of charts. (Bachmann was speaking for the Tea Party Express, not the Tea Party Patriots.)
“I don’t think Obama’s ever taken ownership of his job. He loves the pageantry, the campaigning.”
Bob Mattheis, past president, Greater Lodi Democratic Club
“I like it a whole bunch. He said what I hope will happen. The best way to advance the interests of our country is education, economics, innovation and economic stability. Anything that might be criticized by progressive Democrats is that he was more conciliatory (to Republicans) than he might have been. I think that’s his nature, and that’s how he wants to govern.
“I think civil discourse is very important. You have to honor the other person while disagreeing with other person. I don’t understand how Republicans feel the health care plan is a bad idea.”
Ann Mehrten, member, Lodi Republican Women Federation
“I thought it was boring. It was full of platitudes. He promised things he didn’t get done the first two years, many of them I’m glad he didn’t get done.
“I thought Michele Bachmann was right on. She gave specific examples. Paul Ryan — his analysis was right on, but less interesting to listen to.
“I think civility is necessary. Compromise is good if it’s not a half-bad idea or a half-good idea.”
Pat Patrick, CEO and president, Lodi Chamber of Commerce
“I agreed with him that the United States is seeing countries around the world catching up to our standard of living and surpassing us in some areas, including education offerings.
“It’s time for a change in America. We need to change our educational system to focus on innovation and research and we need to take off some of those shackles on our businesses, such as some of the regulatory things and high corporate taxes, which were all things that he addressed, to make United States businesses more competitive.
“He had some ideas on building infrastructure and doing things, but almost everything he mentioned raises the question of how do we pay for that? That’s the crux of the issue: How well can he work with the Republican House and how is the Senate going to play into this? I think the president needs to make the first move and offer some ideas on how to get the ball rolling in some of these areas with specifics.
“What is a primary concern for the business community is the uncertainty. We need to know what’s going to happen to our costs in terms of doing business, especially health care costs.”
Dr. Mick Founts, Superintendent of Schools, San Joaquin County Office of Education
“In my opinion, the president's priority of improving education is admirable, but what president or governor has not had this as a priority? Each president has been critical of our schools: yet, the federal (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) restrictions have not resulted in the improvements that the federal government has sought. This has been true for the state, too. Our student scores on standardized tests improve, but our students are less ready for the world. Perhaps funding our schools appropriately, allowing local folks to determine the path, and holding schools accountable after allowing that flexibility might yield a different result. Doing more of the same certainly won't.”
Karen Schauer, superintendent, Galt Joint Union Elementary School District
"Our president's speech spoke to the importance of innovation to create new jobs...the revolutions of technology rapidly changing how our world does business and how important education is to prepare a winning American workforce for the future.
As I think about this part of the speech, districts must consider how to not only better instruct students to innovate and be problem solvers but also acquire resources to provide them with needed technology tools. California's economic future is tied to a quality and forward thinking education.
Nihad Awad, National Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations
“At a time when American Muslims face the prospect of agenda-driven hearings in Congress targeting their community, we welcome President Obama’s decision to emphasize the fact that Muslims are contributing members of our society. It was a timely and important reminder to our nation’s leaders and the viewing audience that America’s strength and security lie in the unity of its people.”
Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
“President Obama spoke pointedly of the dire need to get our economy moving again. We couldn’t agree more and urge his administration and Congress to work together to ensure that everybody — including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — have the opportunity to contribute their talents, skills and expertise to this nation’s workforce.
“If the president is truly serious about job creation and boosting America’s economic well-being, he must provide leadership and action in helping to pass employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and ending the costly and unjust federal marriage ban.”
Alex Bauer, Galt Joint Union High School District teachers’ union president
“The president is a little off with his Race to the Top program. It’s not research-based. It’s political.”