Congresswoman Laura Richardson has known since the age of six that she wanted to be a politician. Growing up in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement with a White mother and an African American father she couldn’t understand why the same people that she was taught were supposed to be there for her protection (law enforcement), were the ones beating people up and turning water hoses on them. Her mother told her that she should grow up to be a person who makes better laws; Richardson has been working towards that goal ever since.
Although she knows many people see her as a “Black” politician, Richardson makes a diligent effort to focus on all of the people in her district which is one of the most diverse ones in the country.
“I work 20 hours instead of 10, because I do have to take care of them (African Americans) and their issues but I also have to work on the other ones as well. You have to work twice as hard. You have to have a diverse staff. It is part of my responsibility to educate the people that I represent,” said the former Long Beach councilwoman.
Richardson has also made herself and her staff much more accessible to her constituents by opening new offices throughout the district.
Richardson is moving towards opening an office in Watts as well, and incorporating expungement classes for individuals who have been convicted.
Richardson has also been very successful at bridging the gap between her office and her constituents by incorporating innovative telephone town halls, which allows constituents to call in to a meeting with the congresswoman, and ask questions. So far more than 22,000 people have participated.
In January 2011, Richardson plans to launch a “People’s Congress” to give her constituents the opportunity to get actively involved in the creation of public policy that is helpful to their community. The program will have a proposed 13 caucuses including, city, education, business development, senior citizens, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT).
Richardson was recently named the subcommittee chair on emergency communications preparedness and response, which encompasses the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“To have a local rep there who can help us and understand our country’s response is a very pivotal place to have me. (Recently) I went to the oil refineries, and I asked them what (emergencies) have happened in the past and what could happen in the future (with the idea of) making sure they are prepared, and if they aren’t, getting them together.”
Congresswoman Richardson has worked to secure millions in federal appropriations and among her successes are obtaining $400,000 for the Signal Hill Emergency Operations Center Communications System; $800,000 for an enhanced Emergency Operations Center in Compton, which will include a fire station; and $1,000,000 for an interchange modification at the Avalon Boulevard exit of the 405 freeway which will reduce traffic and accidents.
“I take care of Long Beach, but I also take care of the other people too. We helped Watts get the Dash buses, which helps the seniors to move around the community. We are reaching out to all parts of the district.”
One interesting piece of legislation that Congresswoman Richardson has introduced is the Chef Act, a program that will allow the incarcerated to obtain training in the culinary arts. The program will provide them with marketable skill sets to use upon their release, help them get jobs, and lower their chance of recidivism.
Richardson has also introduced the Expanding Opportunities for Older Americans Act of 2010 which reforms the community work programs in the Older Americans Act of 1965 by lowering the eligibility age, eliminating the requirement that the spouse must be unemployed, and eliminating the cap on hours worked.