As Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, is seeking his final term representing the 24th District in the June 3 primary election, he’ll vie against a Democrat and a Republican who are running for the first time.
Democrat Greg Coladonato, a Mountain View resident who holds a master’s in business administration, said he’s active in local politics and wants more government transparency.
“I can’t help but notice the number of California legislators that are corrupt and getting suspended,” Coladonato said. “And I think the problem is worse than just there’s a few bad apples. I think there’s something wrong with how we do politics in this state.”
Republican Diane Gabl, a Palo Alto resident and intellectual property rights attorney, said she was asked to run by the Republican Party and thinks the government can’t spend its way out of a deficit.
“The greatest challenge in California is just waste, financial waste. It’s one thing to charge high taxes, it’s another thing to take that money and flush it down the drain,” Gabl said.
Gordon is on several committees that collectively oversee the budget, revenue, taxation, business and consumer protection, local government and transportation. Gordon is also the chair of the Committee on Rules, which oversees how the Legislature is run, and said he’s chairing the Assembly’s select committee on sea level rise.
“I think given my success, essentially to finish the task and carry some things forward that I’ve been working on, I’ve gotten to a point where I have a leadership position in the Legislature. I’m respected and I can get some stuff done over the next two years … and provide the full level of service to my constituents,” Gordon said.
With California’s top-two primary, the top two candidates, regardless of party, will face off in the November general election.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law Gordon’s Assembly Bill 800, which helps give the California Fair Political Practices Committee the ability to identify campaign funding sources. Gordon said he was spurred to action after a nonprofit in Arizona, which was later tied to at least two conservative groups, tried to anonymously donate $11 million advocating for and against two ballot propositions in 2012.
Gabl said the Legislature should pass whatever laws are necessary to keep people honest but that “unfortunately it seems almost by definition politics is going to be plagued with corruption … but ultimately the voters have the power [to] vote for the candidates who are truly in it for the right reasons,” Gabl said.
Coladonato said most constituents know little about why their representatives vote certain ways and he vows to post his rationale for every vote he would make online.
“It’s not healthy for any group to try and buy the legislators one by one. And I think most people want legislators … that are going to be an independent representative for them,” Coladonato said.
Budget and taxes
Coladonato said raising taxes isn’t on his list of priorities and he’d rather focus on spending money more wisely.
“And I have to give kudos where they’re due to [Brown] for coming up with some rainy-day funds,” Coladonato said. “This is a very responsible response to a totally unstable situation.”
Gabl said taxes are already high and she sympathizes with those who were promised pensions, but no one is going to walk away happy.
“Some of those liabilities are liabilities we never should have taken on. Everybody wants something for nothing … it’s unfair to saddle the rest of the state and saddle our children and our grandchildren with those liabilities,” Gabl said.
Gordon said the state isn’t in a position to cut taxes and it’s important to start paying down California’s debt while still establishing a rainy-day fund. Gordon said he’s a fan of performance-based measuring and being accountable to proving the public tax dollar is used wisely.
“As a serious discussion about tax reform, our income at the state is primarily based on income tax and sales tax. Those are two very volatile forms of revenue, so looking at our options that would level that out so we don’t have huge peaks in income would be helpful,” Gordon said.
Gordon said investing in K-12 education is critical and the Local Control Funding Formula, which shifted some spending control to local districts, is an important step because “the closer to the classroom you make decisions about education, the better you are. I’ve never been a fan of Sacramento designating what education should look like,” Gordon said.
Gordon added with increased understanding on how the brain develops, he wants to promote early childhood education too.
Gabl said quality is what’s important and unions are a disservice to students because they keep apathetic or ineffective teachers in the classroom.
“One thing that the Democrats in particular seem to keep pushing is more funding for education and if these funds are not used wisely, it’s not going to matter how much money we throw at the problem,” Gabl said.
Coladonato agrees education is best addressed locally and is cautiously optimistic about the Local Control Funding Formula. The state needs to do more to encourage top-performing college graduates to become teachers and said providing tenure after 18 months doesn’t retain the best and brightest, Coladonato said.
“I think we can do much better to allocating our resources to get better teachers in the pipeline,” Coladonato said. “Our Legislature can do much better to incentivize them to become teachers.”
District 24 issues
Gordon said he wants to promote affordable housing in the Bay Area and helped to support San Mateo County’s Housing Endowment and Regional Trust, which help provide low-income homebuyer and developer loans. With the dissolution of redevelopment agencies and land in the region being so expensive, tax credits or government subsidies may be necessary, Gordon said.
Coladonato and Gabl said public transit in the Bay Area doesn’t support the growing population. Coladonato said instead of spending billions on high-speed rail, he’d like to see Bay Area Rapid Transit run throughout the region and Caltrain running faster.
Gabl said BART and Caltrain should make more stops in dense areas where people work.
Coladonato said he would use the pulpit to stress sustainability and reducing waste by consumers buying things that can be repaired instead of tossed it in a landfill.
Coladonato said California is paying off its last water bond and helping “everyone understand that we live in a state with limited water resources and adapting their lifestyle to it will certainly create a much more sustainable future than trying to kick the can down the road.”
Gabl said she’s not in favor of spending excessive money on a new water bond and raising awareness about conservation would be more effective.
Gordon and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, represent the Bay Area on the water bond working group. Gordon said California’s current system is based on a pre-climate change model and depends on snow packs, which are now minimal.
Currently, November’s proposed water bond is for $8 billion and Gordon said he would like to see that reduced to between $6 billion and $7 billion. He wants to focus on improving the state’s groundwater storage infrastructure, promoting conservation and possibly desalinization. Projects that seek funding will need to be competitive so as to pick the most effective activities, Gordon said.
“The water bond isn’t going to help us with the drought next year, the water bond is going to help us in the long term,” Gordon said. “And with climate change, we need to be thinking longer term.”
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