Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 18, 2014

Take Five: Rep. Tony Cardenas

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work.

This week, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., talks about saving an elephant, growing up in the Valley and getting lost underground.

Q. While on the Los Angeles City Council, you were a major animal rights activist. What motivated you to get involved with that cause?
A. My staff was given some info about Billy the Elephant suffering in our zoo. To be honest, I told my staff I don’t want to look at it, it’s not what I came here for, but it was so horrific, when I sat down and read it, I had to do something about it. I got involved in that issue and immediately got involved in domestic animal issues.

Q. You launched district and city-wide efforts to improve the environment, collecting more than 56,000 tons of trash. How did you go about that project?
A. This is the district I grew up in. Half is residential, [the] other half is chrome-plating plants, dump sites, things of that nature. I decided I wanted to do something about it. I created an environmental justice improvement zone. It was important for us to have the fire department and San Fernando city attorney’s office [involved] before we allowed someone to … expand.

Q. You are one of 11 children. What’s one stereotype that people may have about large families that isn’t true?
A. One of the stereotypes is that the family has too many kids. We actually heard that one. They would say “they live in the Valley” and assumed some of us would end up being a gang member. I’m the youngest, I’m 50. None of us have ever been in the backseat of a police car or involved with drugs or alcohol.

Q. Have you ever gotten lost in Washington?
A. Just last week! When I get in those tunnels, in the basement, I end up taking the wrong turn and getting frustrated. It’s kind of embarrassing for staff when they see that lost look on your face and the pin.

Q. What sporting team do you have to see when they travel through D.C. or when you’re back home in California?
A. My favorite sporting team is the Lakers. I used to love football when I was a kid and my favorite team was the Rams. If I go to one game a year, that’s a big year for me.

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