Political Notebook

Steyer defends right to clean air and water, talks Trump impeachment during Fresno stop


Billionaire activist and rumored 2020 presidential hopeful Tom Steyer hosted several discussions in Fresno on Thursday focused on what he said was every American’s inherent right to clean air and safe drinking water.

The conversation, however, sometimes drifted to another favorite subject: Steyer’s call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“Issues of pollution disproportionately affect low-income areas and people of color,” Steyer said in an interview with The Bee. “Fresno is the perfect example of where bad political representation has allowed this to happen.”

During a roundtable discussion with local advocates and a subsequent town hall in northwest Fresno, Steyer honed in on the need for central San Joaquin Valley residents and Americans as a whole to not allow their leaders to put corporate greed ahead of their right to clean air and water.

The stop was part of a national tour in which Steyer is trying to discuss and create a “new Bill of Rights.”

That includes the right to a vote in a free election, the right to clean air and safe drinking water, the right to free public education from kindergarten through college, the right to earn a living wage and the right to health.

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Labor leader Dolores Huerta, Tom Steyer, and Karla Hudson are shown during Thursday’s event in Fresno. María G. Ortiz-Briones mortizbriones@vidaenelvalle.com

Steyer was in South Carolina in November to discuss election rights, and he will travel to Iowa in January to discuss the right to education.

A sympathetic crowd of around 100 people filled The Falls Event Center for the town hall, which began at about 6:30 p.m. Although this tour was separate from another in which Steyer hosted nearly 40 town halls centered on the impeachment of Trump, the crowd wasted no time in steering the conversation in that direction.

Steyer called Trump a career criminal. He stressed that America was built on its laws, and the president should be held accountable.

When asked by one audience member why Trump had not yet been charged with treason, Steyer agreed that he should be and cited various examples. He explained that voters needed to tell their Congress member and senators: “Either get him out, or we’ll get you out.”

On the environment, Steyer noted the Valley’s high asthma rates due to air pollution and the water issues plaguing communities like East Porterville. These problems are expensive, both in the cost of life and additional health charges, but local and national leaders have not acted due to an allegiance to corporations.

“The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a coal lobbyist,” Steyer said of the current federal stance on the environment.

Steyer said the U.S. Constitution included gross injustices such as slavery and the denial of voting rights, and only through changing and updating those rights has America grown.

He is looking to add clean air, safe drinking water, free college, universal healthcare and other progressive ideas to the list of rights Americans see as undeniable.

When asked if he was posturing for a 2020 presidential run, Steyer said he and his organization, NextGen America, have been doing this type of work for six years.

News spread Wednesday that Steyer was seeking staff for a campaign in several of the states that will be the first to hold nomination contests such as Nevada and South Carolina.

Steyer said in his Bee interview that he had no idea those jobs were even posted. He noted that NextGen employs 750 people and is constantly looking to hire.

He added that most of the country’s truly transformative political discussion happens in those first presidential nomination discussions, and NextGen is going to be a part of that.