By Steven Tavares

Civility came easy Saturday morning for Rep. Pete Stark. The sun was shining on the beginning of a beautiful January weekend, but that wasn’t why the tone of his town hall meeting in San Leandro was far more cordial than recent gatherings. The more likely reason: the absence of Tea Party members known to target Stark after the congressman made a slew of provocative statements in the past year, which were also captured on video.

But, in a slight change of direction, Stark, on numerous occasions, conceded the main point of Tea Party members that health care reform amounts to government intrusion in their lives. “Yes, it’s government interference in your life if you care to phrase it that way. But I tend to think it’s a kind of interference that helps us,” said Stark.

“Sure, government is involved in your life. It always has been, always will be. In my opinion it should be,” he added later in the 90 minute meeting. “There is nobody else in many cases that can do the job that government can do.” He also characterized the Republican’s alternative plan to health care as “You’re on your own, baby.”

In response to a gentleman’s question regarding the Republican plan to cut the deficit, Stark said he does not believe they have one, but again pivoted to the issue of government in the lives of Americans. “I don’t have any particular urgency that government has to do everything in your lives. If you want to get us out of your lives in one form or another, I would be happy to accommodate you. The problem is,” he said, “if we get out of your life in San Leandro, maybe we’re not going to help the person in Fremont. So you’re always are going to have that trade-off as one person’s assistance is another person’s problem.”

Stark said Republicans have been successful in running on a platform of cutting taxes, but does not believe the middle class, which he attributes as 80 percent of this district, are being helped. “I see a lot of lowering of taxes for multi-millionaires and if I had to choose, and I will,” he said. “I would rather see the taxes reduced for what I call is the middle class.”

He also faulted Republicans aiming to cut away portions of the government’s welfare safety net. “When my colleagues talk about cutting government services, they don’t talk about cutting back on defense,” he said. “They talk about perhaps cutting back on Medicare and Social Security and education. I say, whoa, that’s what we should be spending it on so we have young people who are able to lead us in the next decade or two.”

Education is also becoming a problem for the future productivity of the country, he said. Stark said college students need to be able to find decent employment after they graduate or risk discouraging others on the same track. “At the end of their training, there has to be a job,” said Stark, who also noted the level of competition in the East Bay means a high school diploma, in most cases, is not enough to succeed. Fortunately, the Bay Area has no lack of good colleges and universities at its disposable, he said.