EAOP student and Progressive Caucus Fellow
June 8, 2009
It has been two weeks since I first arrived to my place in Maryland, one Metro stop out of D.C. I have lived in many states in the central Atlantic region but not here, this close to Washington D.C. Where I live is nice. I am in a community of houses and families that is safer than I had expected. That is something I have noticed; I underestimated the city. I was expecting crime on every corner, everything to be filthy and to avoid going anywhere except home and work. My phobias soon began to pass as I discovered how friendly my new neighborhood in Maryland is and how nice and convenient the Metro is. To be honest, I did not travel off the Hill until June 6th. I had received my SmartTrip card which allows me to just wave this card over the reader and get on buses and trains. Then I ventured off and expanded my experience. Even though, it was mostly in the Mall region. I walked by the White House, the Reflection Pool, the Washington Monument, and many, many Smithsonian Institute Museums. The Susan J. Komen for the Cure walk/run was this past weekend.
My first week, the Members [of Congress] were in their districts so the Hill was pretty quiet and a couple other people were out of the office as well. I was able to begin my adjustment, and this was a good week to start. Being honest, this is the first full-time position that I have held. While at Antioch I worked upwards of 30-40 hours a week at two different jobs and attended school full-time and depending on the semester also had to complete hours for my practicum. I was very busy but the consistency was different. Here, I had the same place and time to report 5 days a week. Finding tasks to complete was not a difficult as I had feared. I was able to stay busy.
The first task I wanted to accomplish was to master the Metro without looking like a tourist. I picked things up pretty quickly because the system is laid out in a very understandable and efficient system. The Capitol South Metro station is very conveniently located right next to the House Office Buildings. I ride the long escalator to the surface and emerge next to the Cannon House Office Building and the next building is Longworth, my new home.
I really feel that I got really lucky because everyone in the office is nice and wonderful. The interns are great and all are willing to help if I need some assistance or have questions about who to ask. I feel as though I am in an office of family and not just staff members. Since there are no specific instructions on how an office is run, it is completely up to the Member and who they hire as staffers causing a great deal of variance throughout the Hill.
The Capitol is working to be as green as possible. This is represented in the amount of compostable and sustainably made products. In the cafeteria there are the different food selections: vegetarian, vegan, organic, local… The take-out containers are also made out of a material that is compostable (no more Styrofoam), and there are actually bins that are there to collect the compostable products. There are even bio-degradable plastics everywhere, the plastic bags from the gift shop that seems to only sell products made in the U.S.A. and the water bottles. The coffee is even advertised as Fair Trade. With the exception of Keene, I have not seen this type of dedication to the environment. I was very impressed and overjoyed.
The second week is when the Members returned from their districts. I was nervous because I knew that everything would pick-up in pace, and I was hoping I could keep up. I was also nervous to meet Representative Grijalva. I was uncertain of what he was like, and what he would expect, and how he would treat me.
The first time I was able to see Rep. Grijalva in person was at the America’s Future Now! Conference. He and two other Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) members were there discussing their stance on health care and many other issues and were asked questions by audience members. Later that day, I met him when he came into the second office. He is very nice, but is definitely the boss.
July 13, 2009
I have been attending hearings and briefings along with participating in meetings both for the office and CPC. I have mostly been working on an environmental justice bill that was introduced last congress by Rep. Hilda Solis (now Secretary of Labor) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (now Secretary of State). I am working on changing it and making sure it is strong. Soon I will hopefully be able to submit it to Legislative Counsel. I have also been trying to stay up to date on environmental, public lands, and tribal issues. Most of those are because I am interested, but I am also working to learn as much about the process and even just the information being provided. That is one thing I will definitely take away: there is so much information it is almost an information overload. The trick comes in synthesizing the information into bullet points to get the message out.
This is definitely an intense time to be on the Hill. There is the American Clean Energy & Security Act of 2009 (ACES bill, HR 2454) introduced by Rep. Waxman and the Health Care Reform Act (HR 3200) that is currently trying to get out of committee. The office received many calls and because of the overflow I was asked to help for a little while. I have to say I am more and more surprised how little people seem to know how the government functions and the appropriate person to contact. We were getting calls from people who are not in the 7th District. They do have an opinion just like everyone else, but they are not in our district. Even my friends and family who are well educated do not always seem to know the process either.
I have also been attending the CPC meetings with the Members and a few meetings off the Hill for the CPC.
This fellowship is a wonderful opportunity. Even though I am often tired because of everything I am doing for the fellowship and for my future I look forward to coming to work every day. No day is the same and there is more and more for me to read and learn. This environment seems to fit my personality and I am finally in a position where I feed off of going to work.