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June 2008 Election: State Legislature Roundup

This post will provide some information on the Democratic primary for the California legislature campaigns. The blurbs that follow are essentially endorsements, but I hesitate to use the word “endorsement” here, because to my mind, use of that word ought to be supported by a fuller discussion, drawing on a large range of issues. Because this blog has a relatively narrow topical focus, I wasn’t sure what the interest level would be outside of that focus; in any case, there did not turn out to be time to put together a more complete discussion.

It probably goes without saying that my that my opinions about these these candidates are based on more than just their records on transit and planning issues — in fact, that may have only been a small part of the equation. But I figured that if you are reading this blog, you are probably interested in the candidates’ perspectives on these topics — particularly because in campaigning, these issues often get lost in the shuffle, even though some of us find them to be extremely important. So that is the focus of these blurbs, as a starting point; readers are of course encouraged to research other issues they care about. This post does not pretend to be a thorough or equal discussion of all candidates campaigning for the same position — nor is this a complete list of all races. Candidates are after the jump.

Mark LenoSenate District 3 (Eastern San Francisco, Marin & Sonoma Counties): MARK LENO. Leno’s record demonstrates a commitment to environmental and transportation issues. Most notably, in 2007 he authored the Complete Streets bill (AB 1358), which would require the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to create guidelines for safely accommodating the movement of all users of the street, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and the disabled — and in turn, when cities and counties revise the circulation element of their general plans, they would do so in accordance with the updated OPR guidelines. He also co-authored the Safe Routes to School bill (AB 57). Leno has served as a member of the Assembly’s Smart Growth Caucus, and the SF Bicycle Coalition has noted Leno’s support of other transportation proposals, including SMART, congestion pricing, and the Bay Bridge bicycle path. As to Carole Midgen: she has done some fine work in the Senate, but her substantial noncompliance with campaign finance rules is more than a little worrisome — and seeing as how this three-candidate race has basically boiled down to a two-candidate Mark Leno v. Joe Nation race, the progressive vote should unite behind Leno. Leno is upbeat, smart, passionate about his work, blends idealism with pragmatism, and is simply a stand-up professional. I would be very happy to have him represent District 3 in the Senate.

Wilma ChanLoni HancockSenate District 9 (Northern/Eastern Alameda County, West Contra Costa County): WILMA CHAN & LONI HANCOCK. A race between Wilma Chan (former Assembly Majority Leader, 16th District) and Loni Hancock (Assembly, 14th District), for Don Perata’s seat. This race is not in my district, so I admit I have not been following it as closely, at least not since Chan made campaign finance violation allegations against Hancock — and this is actually one of Hancock’s pet issues, since she authored the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act. (And for whatever it’s worth, Chan has been sending out suspect mailers that misleadingly imply a Barack Obama endorsement.) Chan has been endorsed by Jerry Brown, and Hancock has been endorsed by Barbara Lee, each of whom I respect for different reasons. Both Chan and Hancock have served as members of the Assembly’s Smart Growth Caucus, and both have worked on the environment, e.g. by co-authoring AB 32, the greenhouse gas cap bill. Hancock chairs the Natural Resources Committee in the Assembly and has demonstrated a strong commitment to environmental issues, while Chan has concentrated time on other very worthy issues while she was in the Assembly, including health care and banning chemicals from toys and other goods. Given Hancock’s commitment to environmental causes, I might be inclined to vote for her if I lived in this district, but it really depends on how one prioritizes the issues. Chan has done some very good work, and I could also see her determination winning me over. Bottom line: either candidate would represent this district well in the Senate.

Fiona MaAssembly District 12 (Western San Francisco, Daly City, Colma): FIONA MA. So she isn’t perfect, but she is also an unopposed incumbent (and Majority Whip), so there is not much choice. But I do want to acknowledge Ma here for her commitment to improving transit — particularly in pushing for high speed rail in preparation for the bond vote this November. In spring of last year, she boarded the record-breaking 357 mph TGV run, and this year she joined other California legislators on a trip to Spain and Japan to study foreign high speed rail systems. She has become a valuable HSR ally in the Assembly, emphasizing HSR’s economic benefits, its role in reducing transportation emissions by providing a much-needed alternative mode of travel beyond automobile and plane, and the need to jumpstart this project sooner rather than later. Ma also authored AB 1221, which would allow for tax increment funding of transit villages, and AB 101, which is an amendment to the Vehicle Code that would allow footage from video cameras mounted on Muni vehicles to be used as evidence to enforce parking violations in transit-only lanes.

Tom AmmianoAssembly District 13 (Eastern San Francisco): TOM AMMIANO. Okay, so this one wasn’t so hard, since Ammiano is, after all, running unopposed for Leno’s 13th District seat, but he will be a good guy to have on our side in the Assembly. Although he is probably better known for San Francisco’s universal health care ordinance and his work on behalf of the LGBT community, Ammiano has also been a strong transit advocate throughout his time serving as Supervisor of SF’s 9th District. He is an MTC Commissioner and one of four SF Supervisors on the board of the Golden Gate District, not to mention a member of Rescue Muni. Although his district is especially sensitive on smart growth and displacement issues, Ammiano has generally taken SF’s transit-first policy to heart, discouraging road construction that would only increase car use, supporting use of tools like congestion pricing, working towards the procurement of cleaner Muni technology, and advocating for transit riders even in the face of budgetary constraint. He was also a co-sponsor of Proposition A (Muni Reform Initiative) which voters passed in the November 2007 election.

Jerry HillAssembly District 19 (Northern/Central San Mateo County): JERRY HILL. This is a three-way race involving County Supervisor Jerry Hill, Mayor of Millbrae Gina Papan, and Richard Holober, who is president of the San Mateo County Community College Board. From the transit and environmental perspective, Jerry Hill is a no-brainer to endorse as the successor to Gene Mullin’s seat, as he will provide a strong voice for these issues in the Assembly, and he has been the most vocal about making it a part of his campaign. Hill also has the most experience in elected office. From the transit perspective, Hill has served on the SamTrans Board of Directors, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers board, and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority board. He has also served as President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, as Chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and as a member of the California Air Resources Board. As 2nd District County Supervisor, he has worked to preserve open space in San Mateo County, and he co-sponsored a Sustainable Building Policy requiring that new County buildings be constructed to LEED standards.

Don’t forget to get out and vote on Tuesday June 3! If you do not already know your polling place, click here to find out where it is.

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