Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald Dies
(April 22, 2007) -- Congreswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB), who represented roughly 80% of LB in the U.S. House of Representatives, has died.
LBReport.com received confirmation from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Our office was told by the Congresswoman's office this afternoon that she passed away early this morning," said Drew Hammill, spokesman for the House Speaker.
A few days before her passing, her Congressional office told LBReport.com and other media outlets that Congresswoman Millender-McDonald planned to take a six week leave of absence to battle cancer.
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Cong. Millender-McDonald worked closely with the Port of LB and former LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill in seeking federal legislation for Port-desired infrastructure and "goods movement" projects. She introduced legislation, promoted by Mayor O'Neill in her capacity with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, that was ultimately folded into a major federal transportation funding bill to designate Port-related goods movement projects a high priority "projects of national and regional significance." She also supported the proposed rebuilding of the Gerald Desmond bridge, a linchpin to Port of LB expansion that would let mega-size container ships enter LB's inner harbor.
She also managed to secure federal funding for local street and transit projects...including federal taxpayer dollars to cover a drainage ditch on Atherton St. near Palo Verde Ave...and $1.672 million in federal transportation money for an "intermodal park and ride facility" at LB's Museum of Latin American Art.
In September 2005, Port and City Hall officials (PoLB Exec. Dir. Steinke officiated) held a luncheon at the City-owned LB Art Museum to thank Cong. Millender-McDonald for her Port-related efforts.
Mayor O'Neill: We are gathered today really to show our profound thanks for for the work that she has done, especially in this recently passed legislation, SAFETEA-LU legislation...We would not have received this funding if it hadn't been for her participation in the House of Represnetatives Transportation Infrastructure Committee, and as co-chair of the Goods Movement Caucus. We also got projects of National and Regional Significance Section, which is solving the goods movement that plagued the city and also for our high-priority projects.
Cong. Millender-McDonald: ...Some have asked why it is that we've passed such a Pork bill in Transportation. Pork bill?...And those who say it's a Pork bill, tell 'em to come see me, because I'll show them why it is not a Pork bill but a bill that is critically needed for things such as the Gerald Desmond bridge, the 710, the Alameda Corridor East...
Congresswoman Millender-McDonald went from Carson Councilwoman to State Assemblywoman, elected from the Carson area, then ran for Congress for the Carson area seat when Cong. Walter Tucker III (D., Compton) resigned shortly before his conviction on federal charges.
After the 2000 census, Sacramento Democrats redrew district lines, erasing Congressman Steve Horn's LB-area district [moving it to Fresno] and putting 80% of LB into Congresswoman Millender-McDonald's district.
Her unflinching support for Port-related projects didn't sit well with some of her new LB constituents. After opening a January 10, 2004 LB City Hall "Town Hall" style meeting by touting her infrastructure projects as ways to ease traffic congestion, she was visibly stunned to hear jeers and boos.
In a dramatic -- and now perhaps tragically fateful -- confrontation, Dr. Gordon LaBedz representing the Sierra Club, displayed AQMD's MATES-II cancer-risk map that modeled increased cancer deaths attributable to diesel pollution from "goods movement" that she had championed. "The Port is the single biggest environmental issue in your district. Thousands of people die every year from Port pollution...and I would like to talk to your staff about your unquestioning support of this vicious polluter that is killing your constituents. [applause]"
"My bill does not in any way enhance pollution," Congresswoman Millender-McDonald replied. "What it does is to move goods that are already coming from these ports throughout this," later adding "[T]he bill [HR 3398] is going through without a doubt, but I also will look at the pollution and also the very dismal air quality down here. Now I'm telling you that I will look at that...I will look at what many of you have talked about and that's this Port and the very bad quality of air that you're breathing."
Following the event, Congresswomam Millender-McDonald flew to Iowa to assist Presidential-hopeful Senator John Kerry (D., MA) in the Iowa caucses. At the time, a number of media outlets had nearly coronated Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as the Democrats' nominee...and Sen. Kerry rewarded Cong. Millender-McDonald's early support by naming her to high visibility positions in his campaign.
Cong. Millender-McDonald was named a Vice-Chair of the 2004 Democrats' National Convention and addressed the final night of the event preceding Sen. Kerry's acceptance speech. She said in pertinent part:
|Congresswoman Millender-McDonald: ...The families in my district, like families across America, want leaders who undestand their struggles, who not only speak about their values but who actually share their values...
[E]very child deserves the chance to live the American dream, that every child deserves quality health care, that every child deserves clean water to drink and clean air to breathe, and that no child -- no child -- should ever go to bed hungry in America...John Kerry and John Edwards have the plan to strengthen and enforce the environmental laws that protect our children from pollutants and disease. And John Kerry and John Edwards know that children are healthier when their parents have jobs. So they have the plan to help small businesses, that create most of the jobs in America, by cutting their taxes and reforming health care so small businesses can prosper. [applause]
Photo credit: Democratic National Convention Committee
In June 2002, LB activists and VIPs filled Mum's Cohiba Lounge to hold a welcoming reception for what was widely (and accurately) assumed to be LB's next Congresswoman in the Democrat drawn district.
Among those attending: LB Planning Commissioner (and WLB constituent) Nick Sramek, along with NLB community activist Dan Pressburg.
Congresswoman Millender-McDonald told her soon-to-be constituents:
...My role in Congress is to make sure that I bring money to the states, of course in CA...so that the state can send money to your cities and your counties to do the work that they must do for you...
Do know that I am concerned [when constituents raise issues that local officials are supposed to handle] and I am not going to stop and not do anything about it. What I do is pick up the phone and call them...and they get right on it, because you know what? They will be coming back to me in Washington for more money. And I tell them when they come to me for money and haven't done what they were supposed to do, I say, you know I'm not going to send it to you just yet. You've got to make sure that you've done what you need to do for the people of the 37th Congressional district of which Long Beach is one of my cities...
In 2005, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald's son, R. Keith McDonald, a Carson-area Water Board representative convicted on federal corruption charges, sought and received temporary release from prison after citing his mother's health...although the Congresswoman herself remained publicly tight-lipped about her illness.
At the September 2005 Port/City luncheon thanking her for her DC work, the Port of LB presented Cong. Millender-McDonald with a resolution stating in part:
Whereas Congresswoman Juanita Millender-MacDonald, Representative of the 37th District of the United States House of Representatives, invested considerable effort to secure funding for the Port of Long Beach in the Safe, Accunatable,:Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, known as A Legacy for Users, SAFETEALU, Transportation Act.
Whereas without the Congresswoman's leadershhip the Port of Long Beach would certainly not have been granted the impressive $100-million for the Gerald Desmond Bridge-I-710 Freeway project that was included in the bill
And whereas the Congresswoman's vision, leadership and relentless advocacy on our behalf made possible the substantial funding that we now have to move the Gerald Desmond Bridge reconstruction project forward
And whereas the Congresswoman's focus on the issues of goods movement, her creation of the Goods Movement Caucus and her authorship of the Projects of National and Regional Significance category within the SAFETEALU bill are individually signifficant and combine to demonstrate her profound understanding of the importance of international trade
Whereas the Congresswoman continues to seek innovative solutions to issues related to world comerce that bemefit the national economy and which are facilitated by the Port of Long Beach
Whereas the Congresswoman has further demonstrated her commitment to all aspects of international trade in the Port of Long Beach
The Port of LB also presented the Congresswoman with a framed painting of Port facilities with the inscription "In appreciation for her dedication and service to the Port of Long Beach."
The Congresswoman responded, "It goes to my front office in Washington."
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