Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and other advocates for a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide are taking a new tack this year, seeking both a genocide recognition vote and approval of a measure condemning religious discrimination against Armenian Christians in Turkey.
A strategic ally that allows the U.S. to operate a key military base on its soil, Turkey has been an implacable foe of official U.S. recognition of the death of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks from 1915-23. Schiff has tried for several years to get such a measure passed.
On Tuesday, Schiff and Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) reintroduced the genocide resolution. Separately, Schiff co-sponsored a resolution by Reps. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) demanding that Turkey return property that once belonged to the Armenian Church and to end religious discrimination against Christians.
Armenian Christians represent about 1% of the population in Turkey.
“We’re taking a little different approach this year,” Schiff said. “I think this improves our chances of making progress.”
The second resolution may draw support from more lawmakers than the genocide measure has, he added.
Last year, Congress approved a resolution by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) calling for greater religious freedom in Cyprus. The Turkish military, which occupies about one-third of Cyprus, has been accused of desecrating churches and restricting access to religious sites.
“We think having more than one iron in the fire will be a productive strategy,” Schiff said.
Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish of Coalition of America, said the new resolution is “totally distorted” and that the genocide recognition measure has a smaller chance of passing than it did in the last Congress.
“This is a completely new Congress, more domestically focused,” McCurdy said. “I think our efforts in trying to have balanced dialogue are paying off, and the leadership is not as passionate about it as [former Speaker Nancy] Pelosi was.”
McCurdy said the Turkish resolution fails to recognize historic persecution or disenfranchisement of Muslims in the region, including Armenia and Greece.
“Our position is, we wish there was more effort to bring the Turkish and Armenian people together,” he said.
Schiff said passing the genocide recognition resolution remains a high priority, not only for his Armenian American constituents, but for the United States’ human rights record.
“This is too important a cause to give up,” Schiff said. “We’ll keep fighting for recognition until we’re successful, and we will be.”
Congressman honors Armenian church leader
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on Thursday honored Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, former Primate of the Armenian Church of North America, by reading into the Congressional Record comments on Hovsepian’s 60th year in the priesthood.
A native of Lebanon, Hovsepian came to the United States in 1956, and later led the Armenian church in Canada . He became Archbishop of the church, which now has its Western Diocese headquarters in Burbank, in 1971, and launched several Armenian schools in Southern California.
Schiff commended Hovsepian “for his selfless dedication and commitment to the Armenian community.”
Assemblyman takes heat for ‘Soprano’ remark
Two local members of the Assembly with Italian heritage took umbrage at comments made Wednesday by Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine).
In skewering the proposal to eliminate the state’s 400-plus redevelopment agencies, Wagner likened the plan to a “Tony Soprano” scheme, referring to the fictional mob boss from the popular HBO series.
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) immediately called for an apology. Wagner obliged, but missed the mark.
“I will apologize to any Italian Americans who are not in the Mafia and engaged in insurance scams,” he said.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) said he believes Wagner meant no harm with the Soprano comment, but the apology required a response.
“He made a really odd choice of words for his so-called apology, and it came out really badly,” Gatto said.
The decision to gut redevelopment agencies is supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and opposed by many legislative Republicans. Brown vetoed the budget Thursday on other grounds.
Lawmakers honor local businesswomen
Three state lawmakers will honor 21 local businesswomen, including several from Burbank, Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge, July 15 at the Women in Business awards at Castaways in Burbank.
Among the women to be honored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) are: Dale Gorman, Kids Community Dental Clinic, Burbank; Liza Boubari, Heal Within, Glendale; Robin Goldsworthy, Crescenta Valley Weekly, Glendale; Celeste Licea, Platinum Home Financing, Glendale; Dr. Katrina Demaris Miller, Family Practice of Glendale Adventist Medical Center; Kim Milstien, Glendale Adventist Medical Center; Roubina Der Sarkissian, Glenoaks Escrow, Glendale; and Diana Schultz, Cyber-Rain, La Cañada Flintridge.
For more information, contact Portantino’s Pasadena office at (626) 577-9944.
Sherman expects district map to change again
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) last week expressed skepticism about the new legislative maps drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The preliminary map knocked Sherman out of Burbank, half of which he currently represents, and placed him in the same district as longtime ally Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village).
Both plan to run for the seat in 2012, though Sherman said he believes the shape of the district will change again when final maps are issued in August.
“They might just put a pin in my home and measure nine miles out in every direction,” Sherman said. “And I can’t think of a better way to draw a district.”