It was sad news to hear that California Congressman Tony Beilenson died on Sunday. As a Democrat who thought excessive immigration was harmful to the environment, he was an independent thinker during his 20-year service in the House. He believed in preserving open space and is fondly remembered in overpopulated southern California for helping to save some beautiful places from developers building houses for the additional residents.
Below, Congressman Beilenson appeared at the June 9, 2012 dedication of the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center in the Santa Monica Mountains.
NumbersUSA gave Representative Beilenson a lifetime grade of B+ for his lifetime immigration voting record. He received an A+ in several categories: voting to reduce chain migration, the visa lottery, unnecessary worker visas, refugee and asylum fraud and amnesty enticements. Those votes show his immigration interest extended beyond just environmental protection.
The congressman gave his name to support the SUSPS initiative within the Sierra Club, despite fierce opposition from the powerful open borders establishment. The 1998 referendum sought to return the organization to its tradition position of limiting immigration to America for environmental reasons, but failed after a barrage of lies against the proponents.
Congressman Beilenson changed my life in 1996 when I was happened to be watching C-SPAN:
Like many of my environmentally minded friends in Northern California, I read The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich sometime in the 1970s and was appropriately horrified. Human overpopulation became planted deep in my mind as a destructive force, dangerous for the health of the earth. Our little planet is not getting any bigger, while the human race has been expanding like bacteria on steroids. Anyone who was born after 1960 has lived through a planetary population doubling, from 3 to 6 billion. Today’s population is unprecedented in human history. We are in unknown territory and very few discuss the implications of the 6-billion-person planet.
But the immigration awakening came on March 19, 1996, and was a true road-to-Damascus experience. The scales fell from my eyes as I watched C-SPAN and heard Rep. Tony Beilensen speak the following words on the floor of Congress:
“Middle range Census Bureau projections show our population rising to nearly 400 million by the year 2050, an increase the equivalent of adding 40 cities the size of Los Angeles. But many demographers believe it will actually be much worse, and alternative Census Bureau projections agree: if current immigration trends continue, the population will exceed half a billion by the middle of the next century.”
My jaw literally dropped in shock and horror — I had no idea the situation was that extreme. I felt something akin to a religious calling to become an activist in restricting immigration in order to preserve a recognizable America. I knew that our uniquely influential nation — and therefore the planet — was in serious danger and I had to do something…
I’ve never regretted following my Beilenson-inspired calling to do my part to save America, and the last few months have been like Christmas every morning.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which Anthony Beilenson helped protect, includes many individual parks and open space preserves.
He will be missed. It’s doubly sad that there are no more Democrats like him in Washington any more.
Anthony Beilenson, 10-term congressman who championed Santa Monica Mountains, dies at 84, Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2017
Anthony C. Beilenson, a veteran Democratic politician from Southern California who advocated for abortion rights, environmental protection and gun control as a state legislator and 10-term congressman, has died. He was 84.
Beilenson had been recovering from a heart attack last month and died Sunday at his home in Westwood, according to his son, Adam Beilenson.
Over his 20 years representing congressional districts that included the San Fernando Valley, Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills, Beilenson championed affordable healthcare, environmental safeguards such as the Clean Air Act, and cuts to defense spending.
Among his proudest achievements was sponsoring the 1978 legislation that created the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, protecting a wilderness that extends from the Hollywood Hills to Point Mugu. He later helped secure federal funding that created Lake Balboa Park, which now bears his name, and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge.
As a state senator, he wrote what became one of the most liberal abortion laws in the nation at the time. The Therapeutic Abortion Act legalized the procedure in cases where a woman’s mental or physical health was at risk or if pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. In 1967, then just six months in office, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law, although he later expressed regret over the decision.
In Sacramento and in Washington, the Harvard-trained attorney was known for being scholarly, thoughtful and unafraid to take positions that crossed party lines or aroused hostility in voters. Some even called his votes quirky.
He voted against creating a federal Department of Education, calling it a matter for states. He also opposed making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, saying federal employees did not need more holidays. He sought higher taxes, lobbied for deficit reductions and proposed measures to curb illegal immigration.
Beilenson long opposed special-interest political action committees and strongly championed civility. U.S. News and World Report once singled him out for his integrity, calling him a “straight arrow.”
Former county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who also served on the L.A. City Council, praised Beilenson for staying focused on progressive priorities after redistricting altered the legislative map and removed a chunk of reliably liberal Westside constituents. Beilenson’s new district was more evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and had more conservative enclaves such as Thousand Oaks.
“It took a lot of courage,” Yaroslavsky said. “It’s easy to have courage when you represent the Westside as a progressive. It’s another thing when part of your district is in eastern Ventura County.”
State Sen. Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) said Beilenson was “a creature of a different age in American politics — where comity across party lines was not inconsistent with fervent democratic debate.”
In 1995, as partisan rancor intensified under then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Beilenson announced his retirement. He told The Times that the surge in right-wing ideologues blocked compromise and made him averse to coming to work each day.
“What has really bothered me about the congressional environment now is all this ideological and mindless politics,” Beilenson said. “Moderate, sensible, middle-of-the-road resolutions of issues seem no longer possible.”
Anthony Charles Beilenson was born Oct. 26, 1932, in New Rochelle, N.Y. His parents owned a small book publishing company, and he grew up in an affluent suburb outside New York City.
After graduating from Phillips Academy, he attended Harvard University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in American government.
He moved to California after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1957, and after a stint in his cousin’s entertainment law firm, he entered local politics.
“I wanted to be useful in the world,” he told The Times in 1981 of his decision to seek public office. “Politics was the way you could acquire the most power to do good things.”
He was first elected to the state Assembly in 1962, representing a district that included Beverly Hills and West L.A. Four years later, he was elected to the state Senate.
In 1976, after Rep. Thomas Rees announced his retirement and said “the Watergate mess” had cast a pall over public service, Beilenson joined the race to succeed him.
Among his top priorities were improving the economy and protecting natural resources, and Beilenson soundly defeated his Republican challenger.
In addition to his son, Beilenson is survived by his wife, Dolores; another son, Peter; a daughter, Dayna; and nine grandchildren.