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Southland prepares for presidential visit

March 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Barack Obama will be in Southern California Wednesday, his first trip here as president. He will be holding a pair of town hall meetings, including one in Costa Mesa, where hundreds of people camped out overnight to get tickets.Thousands of people lined up overnight to try to get a chance to hear President Obama on his first trip to California.

The primary reason for the trip is to try to promote the president's stimulus economic plan and to put pressure on Congress. Obama comes to a heavily Republican county, Orange County. People camped out in line to get one of the tickets to hear President Obama. They brought sleeping bags and food for a long stay.

"Chance of a lifetime to get to see the president of the United States," said one person in line.

It was a slow process. People were let through the gate five at a time. Some of them will be able to ask questions at the town hall.

"My question would be on health care, and what he plans on doing to make it available for everyone," said Lake Elsinore resident Gale Thomas.

By noon only standby tickets were given out, and dozens of people who waited all night didn't get a chance at the tickets. The White House said the Orange County Fairgrounds management was in charge; the Fairgrounds passed the buck to the White House.

"There was no crowd control, there wasn't anything," said Melanie Adlawan, who waited in line. "And when morning came everyone just bum-rushed it. Then there was no police, no organization, no nothing."

A White House organizer couldn't say how many tickets were handed out, or how many seats would be filled by the public.

"There was no order and no one knew who was in charge," said Costa Mesa resident John Hopkins. "It's ridiculous. I was here since 11 o'clock last night. "So I got 13 hours in right now for nothing."

Guaranteed there will be order when the president comes to Pomona on Thursday morning to the Edison International Vehicle Electrics plant. That tour will be closed to the public.

Then President Obama will come to downtown Los Angeles to the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. It was a late add to the schedule. There are 1,750 students there, and 50 will receive tickets.

Contreras Principal Heather Daimes says there's a lot of excitement on campus.

"Well, we are looking at our top-notch students who are going to go in and ask him some good pointed questions, hopefully," said Principal Daimes. "We know that there is great interest in the political process on our campus."

"I think everybody's going to be excited and we're just looking forward for his being here," said high-school senior Bobby Fuentes.

President Obama is coming to a state were the unemployment rate is in double digits, at 10.1 percent. He's focusing on his recovery plan. However, he is coming to a city, Costa Mesa, where the unemployment rate is less than 7 percent.


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