Rep. Howard Berman, was the guest speaker at the Encino Neighborhood Council meeting Wednesday at the .
Berman is presently engaged in a hotly contested campaign to retain his seat in Congress. On Wednesday evening, he said that he was in Encino not to campaign but to speak about the issues—local, national and international—that impact day-to-day life in the Valley.
The single international issue that Berman raised was
“There are essentially two horrible options in this regard,” he said. “We can either use a military strike to stop their nuclear capabilities, or we can learn to accept Iran as a nuclear power. This latter option is terrible, as a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to Israel. And if Iran develops nuclear weapons, then the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Turks, they all will also attempt to develop nuclear weapons. And the nightmare of a nuclear explosion becomes more real.
“There is no member of Congress,” he added, “who is spending more time on this issue.”
A woman in the audience protested that American sanctions against Iran hurt the Iranian people more than the Iranian government.
“I wish we could only sanction the terrorists,” Berman said, “and those in charge, but not sanction civilians. But it is not that easy. I know this is causing suffering. But that suffering of the people can lead the government to change, which is the goal.”
Berman also addressed the overwhelming size of the U.S. national debt.
“Our debt has never been higher than it is today,” he said. “And this is complicated by a high rate of joblessness. It’s an unmanageable situation, with people living longer than ever, and entitlements being paid out far exceeding our capabilities.
“And all of this is being played out against a context of a polarized congress. There are those who are true believers, and for whom any compromise is considered selling out. But without any compromise, there can be no progress.”
An audience member pushed Berman to define the essential problem facing America.
“Do we have a spending problem,” he asked, “or a revenue problem?”
“We have lots of problems,” Berman replied. “And as long as we want this to be an either-or proposition, we will get nowhere. The only solution is a blended solution. We must make significant cuts in entitlement spending. But we also need significant increases in revenue.”
Asked what he thought of the proposed Keystone project, which would build an oil pipe-line from Canada to Texas, Berman stressed that although it would create jobs, the environmental dangers far outweighed any benefits.
“I feel that further research into the environmental impact of such a pipe-line is warranted.“
Another audience member asked him about the price of gasoline. “I drove down Ventura Boulevard from Woodland Hills to Van Nuys today,” he said, “and the lowest price for gas I found was $4.05 a gallon. How do you propose to keep gas prices down?”
Berman said he wished he had a simple answer, but that oil prices are not simple.
“One would think there is a world oil price which is consistent. But we know it isn’t so. I can’t explain the price of oil. The oil companies are making record profits. Five companies this year have made $150 billion in profit. So why are prices going up? And why is the price of gas in California different than it is in Texas?
“There are a few simple remedies. We have to make improvements to public transportation, so that we lessen our need for cars. New discoveries in natural gas as well as oil shale is providing an enormous amount of oil, so that we are now importing less oil. This is due in no small part to our adaption of conservation standards, and these standards extend into the future. By 2015, cars will get 35 miles to the gallon, and past that, 55 miles a gallon. Which will have a profound impact.
“We still create serious tax incentives to spur more research and development into alternative energies.
Asked if he considered nuclear power a viable solution, he said, “I am not ideologically opposed to nuclear power. But it is very expensive to build new nuclear power plants, and it can be dangerous.”
Berman also addressed a local issue which impacts millions of lives in the Southland, the renovations to the I-405 freeway.
“I was a leader in the effort to widen the 405,” he said. “As painful as I know it’s been, when the freeway is widened, it will not be the complete solution, but it will be a much better traffic artery and will have a considerable impact on traffic. I was the one who pushed to move this construction from 2019 to 2011.”
As the meeting wrapped up, Kathy Moghimi-Patterson of the Neighborhood Council personally thanked Congressman Berman's office for sponsoring a set of banners for Los Encinos State Historic Park. Patterson is one of the key figures in the Save Los Encinos task force.