tv Politico Hosts Discussion on Extreme Weather Disaster Relief CSPAN April 24, 2019 11:33pm-12:29am EDT
content from congress and beyond. in the age of power to the people, this was true people power. the 40 years since, the landscape has clearly changed. there is no monolithic media, broadcasting, youtube stars are a thing. c-span's big idea is more relevant today than ever. supportsment money c-span. its nonpartisan coverage of washington is a public service by cable and satellite providers. c-span is your unfiltered view of government so you can make up your own mind. >> politico hosted talks about how to prepare for extreme weather and natural disasters. they talked about what individuals can do to mitigate the damage from future hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. this is just under an hour. [applause]
good morning, everyone. thank you for coming. i'm a budget appropriation for politico. a big thanks to anheuser-busch for sponsoring the event. with me on stage is a food and agricultural reporter for politico pro. we both have a lot of experience andhe way that wildfires hurricanes are affecting farmers, from north carolina to california. we have a great panel today. trevortely to my left is reagan, who has been with the american red cross for more than a dozen years and is senior vice president for disaster cycle services. we have hillary, who is washington states publish land -- public land commissioner.
she is in charge of the states largest wildfire fighting force. daniel is the acting deputy administrator at fema and the deputy administrator for resilience, so that makes him fema's second highest-ranking official and he is the leader of all the agencies predisaster program. has focusedresearch on the increasing frequency of national disasters and their cost. thank you to our panelists for joining us today. we had a lot of ground to cover. disaster aid is becoming increasingly politicized on capitol hill. recovery is becoming more complex and is taking more resources because of the scale and intensity of disasters. state and local governments are under pressure to do more to prepare for these disasters to mitigate future cost.
i want to remind everyone we will be taking questions at the to so i encourage everyone think about what you would like to ask her in the panel and you can tweet #politicorelief. i will turn it over to caitlin to start the conversation. fayetted talk about the -- big funding fight going on on capitol hill. billions of dollars in disaster upief funding have been held in congress since september. many know puerto rico remains the biggest sticking point in this fight. on mores are insisting funding, president donald trump has said the island does not need more funding. whether we can break through this impasse remains to be seen and this is not the first time disaster relief has been politicized. in 2012, a relief package for hurricane sandy was held up for weeks due to republican opposition. hillary, i would love to start with you and ask you as estate
leader, what do these political fights in washington mean for states that are doing this work? that are preparing for disasters and have to do the work of recovering from them. >> my agency is on the front line from wildfires to floods to land sides. we are the largest wildfire fighting team in the state and our job is getting harder and harder when we don't have the resources upfront to prepare and present. the politicization of this costs time, resources, and unfortunately, when it comes to the work we do in natural disasters, it has the potential to cost lives, whether it is community members are firefighters. our firefighters are fighting fires 16 hours a day, months on end. they never ask your political belief come your values when they go to the fire out. they are just working to get the job done and we have to be able
can't be divided. we can't be distracted. we've got to get. -- job done and the costs time and resources. it makes it harder to prepare and do that work. >> what does this look like in impact on an organization like an organization like the red cross for nonprofits? trevor: there definitely is the risk of time. the conversation causing other things to slow down, whether it be a long-term recovery disaster case management or other programs that trickle out of some federal dollars or federal programs. time can be an issue for nonprofits working on those. for us, were we don't depend on appropriations for our work. our work is done by donations from the american public. confusion --or of layer of confusions. to make sure we are all facing the same goal because our volunteers are there because the
people are serving without opinions on political affiliation. anyway we can streamline that is better for the people who need it. compounding the heightened politics is that these events are happening more frequently. congressional research found that 2018 was a record year for disasters costing in the billions of dollars. daniel, i would love to hear from you about how your agency is evolving in terms of being able to respond to more frequent disasters that are costing this much money. something we realized after the 2017 hurricanes -- it wasn't just hurricanes. it was wildfires and flooding -- fema needs to focus on the catastrophic events. most of the disasters in this country can be handled at the state level, the local level, occasionally getting federal support.
there was legislation that created the rubric we operate under in disaster response and emergency management envisioned. with more frequent and more intense disasters, fema's resources become stretched. catastrophicn this and the way we describe it is moving toward a federally supported state managed and locally executed program that for most disasters, that works. for most disasters when we talk about dollars, about 80% of the major disasters that fema cost 41 million dollars or less. to put that in context, in puerto rico, we currently are spending about 50 million in. -- a week. many catastrophic ones you see ,n the news, many other ones
our state and local of federal support. the financial support is really and localat the state governments need. they don't need fema to come in and take over response. seemed: obviously, 2017 to stretch some of fema's resources. , know in a recent review preparation and response, the agency did acknowledge some shortcomings, particularly with respect to puerto rico. can you describe how the agency maybe has changed its thinking after 2017, or did that historic year prompt any changes at the agency? daniel: absolutely. , whichan action report is review what we did right and what we did wrong, and we are very transparent about that. you can google that and see what we saw and what is going well and not well.
took worked to pursue a strategic plan. when i mentioned about responding to catastrophic events, the strategic plan is readying the nation for catastrophic disasters but where i focus most of my energy is on goal one. culture ofreating a preparedness. consider this a call to action for all of us here. what can we all do as a society to better prepare for future disasters? prepare ourselves, our families, our states? so that we can reduce those future consequences now. in other words, take action now to reduce future disaster impacts. i can get into more details as we have the conversation but i will just highlight that that involves actions that we take on preparedness, individually and as a community, mitigation, making investments into
infrastructure and communities now to reduce those losses. three, insurance. it is really all three. it is three legs of the school. all are necessary to build preparedness. catherine: we will talk a lot about preparedness and mitigation in the conversation. i want to ask christina to paint some context for some of the research you have been doing about increasing severity and cost and the transverse aiming hurricanes, wild fires, disasters. christina: 2017 was a record-breaking year, largely because of the atlantic hurricane season and the ,evastation from harvey, irma and hurricane maria in puerto rico. 2018 was one of the most expensive years on record in terms of disasters causing a billion dollars or more in damages. many of the worst disasters to the united gates have been since the year 2000 and this is the result of the warming of the
climate system. the increasing severity of storms, sea level rise, increasing storm surge, and of course, the really catastrophic wildfire seasons we have seen in the west, which unfortunately fall off the radar for those of us who live on the east coast. it has been devastating in terms of loss of property, loss of lives, and in terms of public health impact. we know that this is just going to keep getting worse, and we also know that for every dollar we spend in "predisaster mitigation," save six dollars down the line in terms of cost after the disaster hits. adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure really applies here. administrator who
served for all eight years of the obama administration likes suchy there aren't really things as natural disasters. there are storms, severe events, but the consequences are the result of human decisions in homesof where we locate and infrastructure, and the decisions we make in the lead up to the response of disasters. those are things within our control to change, particularly the extreme weather is going to get more extreme. catherine: as it gets more extreme come i want to ask a question to trevor about how this is changing the red cross's logistics and where you are prioritizing your resources. fema,: the difference in we have two big mission sets. we have to work you do everyday, responded to 60,000 disasters every year. 90% of those are single-family ands around the country
local fire service partners give us a call, volunteer show up and make sure the family has a place to stay, money for food and recovery. that is what we do everyday and we have big events. where it has changed, our mission set, is how we rally our resources to things that don't have seasons. we were talking in the hallway how fire season is happening all throughout the spring and what used to be a couple of times every three to four years is an annual event of catastrophic escort wildfires. how do we rally our resources to be ready to respond just in time for something like a hurricane? you can plan a few days out to preposition supplies and volunteers. that has created a need for more partnerships. our connections to community partners is more critical and ever. making sure the indian tribe in lake county can open up a shelter with resources that we get there because the fire may come before anyone knows it is coming. that is a big part of our strategy. the other big pushes recruitment
of volunteers. we need volunteers in every community across the country. not just responding to single-family fires but also the historic events we see on a regular basis year after year. i am curious how this is impacting your state's prioritization of resources? hilary: let me start with what we are seeing in the disaster increase. last year, we had the worst fire -- wildfire season on record, 850 wildfires in washington state. it wasn't just in the hotter, drier areas, but 40% on the western cascades -- side of the cascades. the last five years, $153 million annually in fighting fires. anis true, this context of ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure. and we have the resource and
capacity to fight those fires. equipment,, research and firefighters, we can get on top of those fires, keep them small, and get them contained quickly and put them out. it may be a surprised everybody but our firefighting team and i only have selling -- seven helicopters to cover the state and everyone one of them taught in the vietnam war. everyone of them. that shows you how we have not invested. of you arew how many driving a car from the vietnam war, but no one else is. we are putting firefighters in dangerous situations with outdated and too little equipment. catastrophicm more because we're forced health crisis. -- forest health crisis. disease and insect infestation. one spark and hundreds of thousands of acres will learn. model ofo shift the paying after-the-fact 153 million annually and paying up
front to make sure we have the resource and capacity to fight fires and keep them contained and small, and start treating forests so we can remove that kindling and actually get it to the mills and create jobs in local communities. when disaster strikes, local and state are cap for immediate tapped they can go to the president and fema can evaluate. triggers agencies and involves the forest service to help fight forfires, engineers affected infrastructure. it seems there could be better coronation between these entities and relief organizations. i want to open up the panel to -- where the improvements could be made in coordination?
>> i'll jump in on one space we have seen. in the past, we have all focused on response, that emergency wave. what we have seen in the last two years his recovery, the long road ahead. you see that importer of -- in puerto rico and other areas. a large part of our work is on recovery. million dollars in recovery operations in 27 places around the country, some of those from three years ago and the need is so great. the families -- paradise, california. hurricane michael, communities t here. we issued another $700 million in assistance. whether it is the case management, state, local agencies, that is one where the table is getting bigger. there used to be a handful of agencies involved and now everyone is involved in recovery.
how we bring those together are critical and something we are working to do more of as we get more practice on all these big events. >> i'll respond on this too. we are a big believer that we all got into this problem together and it is going to take all of us to get out of this problem. on two fronts come we are building a team that is not just about my state agency but local firefighters all the way up to the federal agencies. the first is with our fire -- wildfire strategic clan that will actually build a 21st century wildfire fighting force. we built the plan across local, state, and federal government as one team, all lands, all hands working together to be able to get on top of those fires and keep them small. the second thing we did in the context, because our forest health crisis is leading to more catastrophic fires, we recognize fire knows no boundaries. disease knows no boundaries.
we built a 20 year forest health plan to treat one point 25 million acres over the next 20 years that have been agnostic to properly owns -- property lines. the u.s. forest service has us doing projects on federal land and we are doing it on state, private, and tribal lands to holistic retreat the problem and get on top of it. catherine: interagency butdination is important, congress bears a lot of responsibility too for making that coordination possible. we started out by talking about in theitical delays disaster supplemental which are problematic but for many years in the usta, the first service had to borrow money from the prevention budget in order to help theere fires and state of washington fight severe
fires so we weren't making the rynds of investments hila needed to act to stop that borrowing against the future. earlier this year in the government shutdown, one of the consequences of the shutdown was that the forest service couldn't start the wildfire training that they do every year in the winter. to trevor's point, the fire season isn't really a season anymore. it is a constant state of being, especially in the west. on the kinds of a conversation in washington when congress is having these funding fights but they have severe consequences for communities and the american people. majorusually do a training that started in may but we are moving all of our training up to april and march. because the government shutdown, i had to cancel a number of training.
700-person firefighter training. up.'s ok, we'll catch the reality is in the second week in march, we had 54 fires in washington state alone in one week. have never in history of washington state have that problem. people on the ground pulling them in because we didn't have our trained capacity. it is a real impact. >> we've talked a lot about the government shutdown. as a budget appropriations reporter, a lot of what i have covered is centered on that and that the funding the president wants to free up for construction on the southern border and a few months ago, we did an interview with puerto rico's governor about this and at the time, it was a question as to whether or not the trump administration was going to be tapping into disaster relief funding for puerto rico to build border barrier at the southern border, so i would love to ask
you about this. what is going through your head and would love to get your thoughts on it and whether or not you think we should be safeguarding against a move like that? >> let me first say there is $29 billion available at the ready that fema is responsible for for whether it be puerto rico or any of the others. 50 some open disasters in this country. $29 billion. any political issues that are happening outside of fema are not impacting us right now and they won't impact us for the next $29 billion. we will be in puerto rico and all these disaster sites around thecountry through conclusion of that disaster. all the way through the recovery phase, which is complicated, long, but necessary. it is necessary for the federal
government to be there with state and local partners to make sure they can recover and effectively rebuild and repair all of this infrastructure that is damaged. to put things in perspective of how long we are talking about, i started in september 2017. as luck would have it, that was around the time hurricane maria made landfall. that, i far after learned that we were finally closing one of our open disasters from 1994. the northridge earthquake. 20 some years later. one, that shows us we need to streamline our recovery process with state and local partners but two, it shows fema will be there. throughout the entire recovery and until all parties are satisfied the recovery has fully taken place. he said the politics right
now aren't affecting the $29 billion, is fema doing internal advocating against the president floating the proposal to move disaster funding to other priorities? daniel: again, it doesn't directly affect our support for current or future disasters as long as we have $29 billion in the bank account. i think we can shift the conversation to preparedness and mitigation since the site -- i think this has been a major theme of the conversation. ristina, you mentioned for every dollar spent on preparedness, there is a six-dollar savings in future cost. you how fema is doing more to help communities and localities prepare for these disasters. daniel: sure. this falls under gold 1 -- goal one, preparedness, negation,
insurance. mitigation, and insurance. taking actionhat now is the right thing to do and specifically on mitigation. completely agree that national institute for building scientists study showed that one dollar invested in federal mitigation grant saves six dollars in future cost when a disaster strikes. we've known that in the emergency management committee for quite some time. a big advocate for this, but something none of us ise been able to accomplish to make an adequate -- or i should even say a game changing investment in mitigation. our time has now come. last fall, congress authorized through the disaster recovery reform act a new predisaster program. k predisaster mitigation program that moves mitigation forward -- and i need to set the context.
most mitigation dollars we provide -- it is in the billions of dollars -- is following a disaster. andsaster strikes an area the public assistance money is provided to rebuild, and mitigation money is provided on top of that to build back better. makes sense, but it doesn't make sense when you take a step back at all these potential areas of risk that we have around the country and the vast majority of our mitigation money is only going to those areas that have argued been hit. luckily, congress agreed with us. they authorized today. the new program is building resilient infrastructure and communities. bric.en't acronym, -- so we have an acronym. bric, it's bric-r-i-c. they authorize them 6% of all of the disaster costs in the previous year in a competitive nationwide grant program next year.
in other words, it's truly pre-disaster. in other words, it's truly pre-disaster. it's truly risk-based and truly available to all of those communities at risk now that may or may not have been hit by disaster. we'll be working through that. we are working through that with our stakeholders on the rollout. we are very about this. mean dollar wise, estimates a very. if you look at 18 year average -- a 10 year average -- if you look at a more recent period of , if thisecially 2017 program existed in 2017, in 2018 , there would have been $2.4 billion available in mitigation for state and local governments. is this just happening
now? >> it takes a big disaster to create change. the one i care most deeply about is the new brick program. there are a number of other provisions that we sought over the years. it's not provisions to make sure that we could take actions before, after and during disasters. you mentioned your plan a little bit, but i would love to hear more about how you were able -- the legislature is considering it. what does the effort look like to get into that legislature. you had to come up with creative ways to fund it. knows the natural disasters we are likely to see. people have been in denial.
the reality is every year becomes worse and worse. there is number question about whether we will have a good year. it will just keep getting worse. we made the case that says that we will pay regardless. the question is, multipage react -- thee -- and lose question is, will you react and move or will be paid to be protect our communities and protect our firefighters? we needed to start with a plan. we have been fighting for pennies and dollars, for funding for fire prevention, preparation and forest health. we built a strategic plan that says here much -- here is how much we will treat for the next 20 years.
wood and we send it to the mill, creating local jobs. a 21st-century wildfire strategic plan. we need these kinds of resources upfront. obviously, the legislature says that is a great thing, help me find some revenue to do that. no surprise. we have been working hard to find a deck -- a dedicated revenue stream. you are basically hoping that it will come. we have identified a funding source that every state has. it is a 2% tax on insurance premiums. nesn's -- nexus
and it would be a .52% increase generate $62.5 million a year. as we invest year after year, we will see an increase in the resiliency. funding will get less. that is the goal. right now, we are fighting for a in the last week of the legislative session. across the state, people see this fairly distributes the impact of fire. we have the worst air quality in the world. impactedgle person was and i think everybody believes that we need to take action now if we are going to change the directory. you want a new normal. that is not what we have seen the last five to 10 years. we were talking backstage and
i was a little surprised to find that washington state did not have a dedicated revenue stream for something like that. christina, i would love to hear more in your research. are there other states or communities that have taken on efforts like this? incentivizing more projects? what have you seen? do you think this should be more common? incentivizinge much more. to cut down on the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters. the challenging thing is that a lot of our traditional ways that we build our environment is really not incentivized at all to mitigate risks. if you look at a place like
houston, hurricane harvey was the third straight year and a row that houston experienced a 500 year flood. in terms of how severe and how widespread the flooding was. the previous two years were not from hurricanes. one of the reasons is because years, theer the and they have spread out from the city center. you have houses, roads and shopping malls going in over what used to be prairie. now, instead of absorbing into that outer parts of houston, is flooding into the historic neighborhoods and you see on the risk ofp, the zone at
flooding has been growing and growing. states and localities are not incentivized when they are approving development projects to take the risks into every localtty much planning commission will air on the side of increasing local tax revenue, increasing jobs and housing. if you are not doing that planning and a resilient way, disasters will keep getting worse and worse. this is an active debate in california and other states, but right now, as things stand, there is not a lot the federal government can do. that is a great segue into my next question. we talked a lot about washington and the politicization.
we are just now introducing a grant program to help with preparedness. i would love to hear from hilary or trevor. what are they currently not receiving from washington that would be tremendously helpful from these efforts? i will just gives -- give perspective. , a numberast 10 years of fires in our state has doubled. the area has encompassed the entire state versus just certain pockets of the state. the season has moved from april and march, all the way into october and november. if i look over 10 years of funding for justifier propagate
, over thosearation 10 years, our state budget, the funding that we receive has only increased $2.5 million over the entire 10 years. that is it. me $65e alone cost million to fight. what we have is a systemic problem at the state and federal level of not adequately funding the resources for the problem that is in front of us. not only on the context of response, but truly in the context of preparation. that is why we built a plan that is not just about our state. we need to all of the problem. to be able to say that we are all invested in the future of washington state, we are all invested in the future of our
nation and it will not happen unless we put the investment up front. there are no more excuses. we know that natural disasters that will hit every single corner of our country and we know how much it is costing us. we know the actions that need to happen upfront to reduce the cost. time forno more excuses. >> since july 1 we have seen 62,000 homes destroyed in large-scale disasters in the u.s. it is an average year in this new paradigm that we are in. think about how extreme that is. we have tried to take that to the family level. the 63,000 number can be so overwhelming. we hope for the best. we really tried to take it to a family level.
alarms door toe door. we have documented over 500 lives saved through that program. surroundeed is more of we need more air cover. that is what i love about this program. that parents share it in their workplace. we have to keep telling the story. it is not about waiting for a nonprofit or an agency to provide some mitigation effort. what are the steps that you can take to be better prepared? you are lucky to have corporate partners to keep stepping up. they have helped us create that
surroundsound in the nonprofit world and private sector as well. >> one message that would be really valuable, aside from saying that we can help save money by doing preparation and prevention, there is another context from an economic opportunity. withare poor communities limited resources. that wemade the case can save money and lives and we and atually create jobs better economic future in these communities. that itn make the case is not about preparation and preventing the worst, it is about preventing the worst and creating economic opportunity. it will make a difference. >> we promised we would take
questions. does anybody have any questions? there is a microphone coming around for you. >> morning. i wanted to explore especially with the red cross. my name is max. as technology becomes more -- i want toant bring up that the faa just approved drones to be used for commercial. an exhibition like puerto rico, there was a complete collapse of the communication system for the government. a lot of people decided to do their own emergency relief.
a lot of things date at the airports and runways. how do you receive coordination of drone technology to use for disaster relief? especially when betty could provide their own disaster relief. there is no coordination. what happens is that fema assumes that there is a partner. dorto rico shows that you not have a partner. you are the first responder. how do you coordinate all this? >> quick question. one of our principles is around stewardship. we have to be careful. we want the money we've raised to go to the family served. we want as much to go to them as possible. lead to depend on a lot of other partners.
you will likely not see the red cross maintaining a fleet of drones. we will be relying on partners who have those resources. the challenge is to stay in our lanes. we are not trying to invent the same thing. we have invested in a common operating picture to track all of our resources. that with our nonprofit partners. investot want to have to . we want to share as much as we can. if you have something that works, let's leverage it for the entire sector and invest in other pieces that they have expertise in. >> any other questions? >> yes.
my name is john bird. i wanted to really target hilary and daniel. there is a great partnership that fema contributes a sizable chunk of its budget. the question for hillary, given that the landside issue is ongoing, talk about how washington state has leveraged your perspective. for the brick initiative, how does -- that i evere things i reminded myself that we
have five live volcanoes. we are not ready. that is our challenge. the earthquake could happen anytime. we have landslides consistently and constantly. we have been working tirelessly to get funding. to map all of our state based on landslide risk, obviously us doing that and providing information is only the first step. they will actually use that. where residences are being built. about threeing this years ago. we had the most tragic landslide in the entire nation within our state.
we do not take this issue lightly. beis something we have to investing more in. we have the risk of tsunamis and we are doing the same. it is a constant battle to do this work. it available for community members. whether to fema where we have invested heavily into the data, where the rubber meets the road is at the local level. that homeowner, that community is after disaster. think about it as zoning where you build.
building codes. again, a local issue. if we had more disaster resilient building codes, we would not be experiencing losses we are today. >> we have time for one more question. >> zach coleman with politico. cipher taking the last question. i wanted to ask very quickly. you talked about a culture of preparedness. the trump administration has not talked about what is making events extreme and intense, which is client change. i want to know what responsibility the trump administration has to talk about that issue and in what ways do they take cues from the local government? are you preparing them enough by not addressing that issue? say that i started --
you do not have to convince me that we have had more extreme weather over the past two years. there was a hurricane drought for the 12 years prior. is that fromy fema's perspective, we have to take action. there and assume that whether it is fema, the state government or local governments will be there to respond and recover from a disaster. thatnk you need to know fema will not make you whole. we talked about hurricane harvey. in a hidden area that was prone to flooding but it was well outside the flood zone in many cases.
80% of the flood losses were outside of that hundred year flood zone. whenuse to use that term it was mentioned. any home and fled. it does not matter if you are inside or outside the flood zone. it.ybody should have insurance does not cover flood losses. if you're relying on the federal government, you will get much less you would from your insurance company. provided $4000 to the disaster survivor, on average. i am proud to put $4000 into disaster survivor's and. it is aost everything,
drop in the bucket. if you would have known that your homeowners insurance policy , one ininclude flood 10,000 year flood in some areas, you would have bought flood insurance relatively cheaply. you would have received on average, $110,000. because he took that proactive action. am i being clear? take action now, whether it be the mitigation programs available to you, whether it be preparedness actions that you take as an individual. it is financial capability month. you should call your insurance agents after this. from a government standpoint, we need to realize that we have a huge problem on our hands spiraling out of control that we
can mitigate and prepare, but we need to transfer cost somewhere else. we are practicing what we preach at fema. we are transferring our flood risks into the insurance markets. governments need to do that as well. we expect about $55 billion a year in natural disasters. uninsured.is than half disaster losses are uninsured. if i am not being clear, please let me know. we need to take action. we are very passionate at fema. >> this has been a great panel.
we are in this new reality. we had to be -- rally resources. obviously about getting these mitigation funds. it is at the state and vocal level. that is what i am hearing. it is all hands, all the hand, coming together to get it done. let's give a round of applause. [applause] >> thank you so much and i hope everybody has an awesome day.
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