Thank you for visiting my Issues page. I believe in a robust debate on the important issues facing the residents of this Senate District. This exchange should occur in the public domain not in the backroom with special interest groups.
I have pledged to post any written promises or commitments made in candidate’s questionnaires on this web page for all to see. I challenge my opponents to do the same. Our democracy is best served by an open and transparent debate on the issues.
Jump to an issue:
- Opposing Special Interest Power
- Fiscal Responsibility
- Curbing Public Pension and Public Benefit Abuse
- Banning Transit Strikes
- Health Care Issues
- Reproductive Rights
- Asian Pacific Issues
- High Speed Rail
- Preventing Gun Violence
- Open Primary and Independent Voters
I’m a fiscal conservative with socially progressive values. I have the record of proven independence to stand up to the powerful special interests that dominate the State Legislature. I believe that state government needs to live within its means, curb pension abuse and make tax dollars work harder and hold the line on new taxes.
I am a small business leader who believes the best way to ensure budget stability is to create jobs and grow our economy. I support a ban on transit strikes. I want to break the link between legislating and campaign donations, demanding an end to secret promises made through candidate questionnaires.
As a lifelong environmental advocate, I am proud to have been recognized by the Trust for Public Land and Save the Bay for my environmental leadership. I believe we must protect open space and our environmental resources for future generations.
I have organized campaigns to fund homeless shelters, affordable housing and residences for abused women and foster children.
I am strongly pro-choice, support marriage equality and equal pay for equal work.
In my eleven year record of public service I have worked with the community to improve schools and libraries, protect open space, repair crumbling infrastructures to increase public safety, all while maintaining fiscal accountability.
Powerful interests spent nearly $300 million in 2013 to influence the state Legislature. Combined with hyper-partisan politics, this spending spree has fueled the current atmosphere in Sacramento where money and power carry far more weight than the best interests of the public. In fact, a recent study ranked California’s legislature as the most polarized in America – worse even than Congress.
The solution is to elect candidates who have proved their independence from these narrow special interests. I believe that, if you aspire to public service, you should focus on problem solving, rather than pandering to special interest power.
I have demonstrated my independence by:
- Supporting candidates who were not endorsed by my party leaders, but rather brought fresh thinking and broad perspective to the Legislature.
- Standing virtually alone, in the face of heavy-handed union threats, to support a ban on public transit strikes, such as the BART strike, that harm our economy and disrupt our lives.
- Supporting pension reforms that ensure the public system is solvent without taxpayer bailouts.
I am also a pro-business leader who believes that growing our economy and creating jobs is a top priority. That has not stopped me from taking strong stands in the public interest. For example, I support standards to reduce carbon pollution that contributes to global warming, and to require full disclosure and extensive testing for health risks from oil fracking.
As your State Senator, I will continue to stand up to special interests, even if they are supportive of me, whenever I believe their narrow interests conflict with the public interest. My agenda includes:
- Breaking the link between legislating and campaign donations. I support banning all fundraising by legislators during the last 60 days of the legislative year – when much of the deal-making and shenanigans take place -- from any entity that has bills pending before the legislature.
- Supporting and strengthening our open primary. The open primary system allows more moderate and independent leaders from both parties to advance to the general election and helps break the stranglehold of narrow interests.
- Creating more transparency in the campaign process. My Transparency Pledge demands that all candidates fully disclose every secret promise they make to special interests through the ubiquitous “campaign questionnaire.” This is a vital reform if we are to change the culture of Sacramento and elect a more independent legislature.
I consider it a healthy part of our democracy to have an arm’s length relationship even with groups that I generally support. It is vital to maintain this perspective so you can serve all the people. Interest groups have a place as forceful advocates, but balance and longevity in public policy comes from legislators who pledge allegiance to all our citizens.
Californians cannot afford a government that won't balance its books and live within its means. And Sacramento cannot continue to look to taxpayers to bail it out from bad decision-making.
As an eleven-year Councilmember and three-term Mayor of Orinda, I have worked with all parties in my community to produce balanced budgets and prudent reserves. As a California State University Trustee, I voted repeatedly against excessive executive pay. And, I am proud to have been a key advisor to Governor Jerry Brown as he has brought California back to fiscal sanity. In just three years, we went from a $28 billion state budget deficit with massive unpaid state operating debt to a balanced budget with future projected surpluses.
But there is more – much more – to be done to safeguard California’s long-term fiscal health. Here’s what I believe:
- California must live within its means. When voters approved a temporary income and sales taxes in 2012, they wanted Sacramento to protect our schools and make the tough decisions to balance its books. There are still more hard choices to be made. Those taxes were meant to be temporary and I will work to see we live within our means and avoid new state tax burdens.
- Strong action is needed to reduce the long-term liability of public pension costs. Our state pension obligation for public employees is billions of dollars out of balance. We need to own up to the extent of this problem and take steps now to eliminate this unfunded liability.
- Fiscal security requires greater focus on creating jobs and growing the economy. The best way for California to pay its bills and keep its promise to future generations is to build a strong economy. I support minimizing regulatory burdens that don't diminish health and safety but would stifle our prosperity and send jobs to other states.
A 2014 report from the Controller’s office estimated that California has at least $198.2 billion in unfunded liabilities for public-employee retirement benefits. That is in addition to the burden carried directly by many of California’s cities and counties, some of which have gone through or face bankruptcy.
One of my most important priorities in the State Senate is to force the state to take accountability for this problem and take immediate steps to eliminate it:
- Independent Leadership on pension boards. I support legislation to add independent directors on the boards of CALPERS and CALSTERS, to ensure that the public interest is protected.
- Capping pensions at no more than 70% of pay, based on a three-year average and with safeguards to prevent pension spiking and other abuses.
- A hybrid system that includes 401-k style benefits for new state employees. Public employees should not expect to retire with greater benefits than those of the taxpayers who are funding them
I believe that when you work hard for a lifetime, it is important to have a retirement nest egg to carry you through your golden years. But our massive, unfunded pension liabilities are not just threatening taxpayers – they threaten to steal retirement security from the pockets of the newly hired school teacher or public safety officer. Finally, vital public services are impacted when operating funds are redirected to pay pension debt.
Legislators receive a salary that is set by an independent salary commission. However, lawmakers set their own per diem payments for tax-free living expenses while working in the State Capitol. This is ripe for abuse.
For too long, our politicians have been using a loophole in their own regulation to be paid per diem for working on weekends and holidays even when they are not in Sacramento. This is wrong. If elected, I will refuse these per diem payments.
How can lawmakers preach an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay when they abuse that standard in their own conduct? My opponents have conducted themselves in this manner and it another reason to vote a change in our legislative delegation.
There have been seven BART strikes since the system's creation. I am committed to ensuring that there can be no more. I know this will not be easy. We will work at this -- laying down one track at a time.
BART carries nearly 400,000 passengers on an average week day. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute estimates that one day of a BART strike costs the Bay Area economy $73 million. It also hurts our environment, wasting 800,000 gallons of gas each day of a strike and putting 16 million pounds of carbon into the air.
The impact of a BART strike is felt everywhere. When I visited all 44 BART stations in a single day, I met a student who needed public transit to get to college 30 miles from her house. She was sympathetic to workers, as am I, but she was missing mid-terms and the strike was costing her the education that was her future.
I also spoke to a retired San Francisco transit cop on the BART train and he told me that San Francisco transit workers can’t strike and he felt that should be the case with BART employees as well.
In fact, New York, Chicago, Massachusetts, Washington, and San Francisco all restrict transit strikes. Due to the crippling impact a BART strike would have on the Bay Area and California economy, it is imperative that the State Legislature provide a backstop to the regional BART Board through a ban on BART strikes.
While some have tried to intimidate me because of my position, I have also received campaign contributions from BART workers and spoken to many who want fair pay for work, but saw the harm caused to everyone by the strike.
In the Bay Area, we sometimes take our beautiful environment for granted. This is risky, because environmental stewardship requires ongoing vigilance. Our clean air and water, bays, forests, grasslands and creeks won't stay protected unless they are a part of every discussion.
I strongly believe in an ethos of conservation. It has driven a big part of my three decades of public service. Here are some highlights:
- In Northern California, I led campaigns to protect old growth redwood forests, San Francisco Bay, parks and open spaces.
- I worked with the Trust for Public Land on measures in more than 25 states to protect clean water and thousands of acres of open space.
- I helped pass the Propositions 12 and 13 Water and Park Bonds in 2000 which protects clean water, clean air, parks and coastline throughout California
- On the Board of Contra Costa County Solid Waste Authority for almost five years, I significantly increased recycling and reuse practices.
My environmental priorities for the State Senate include:
- Conserve water. Protect California’s long-term water availability through recycling, reuse and better groundwater practices.
- Oppose Delta tunnels. The current plan to build massive tunnels to take Delta water to Southern California does not make environmental sense and I will firmly oppose it.
- Protect urban growth boundaries. Voter-approved growth boundaries prevent sprawl and protect the quality of life in our communities.
- Reduce carbon emissions. One of my key priorities will be to keep California on track to meet our carbon reduction goal 1990 emission levels by 2020.
Education is an area where I believe my experience can make a difference for our state. California should be the national leader in education, and our students should be performing among the best in the world. Our schools need more resources, and our students need more options for quality instruction.
As a public official, I have a proven track record of support for local schools. My record on education includes:
- Serving as a California State University Trustee, helping guide 23 campuses, 447,000 students and 45,000 faculty and staff — the largest, most diverse and one of the most affordable university systems in the country. As Trustee, I voted repeatedly against excessive executive pay.
- Playing a leading role in the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012 which prevented billions of dollars in additional cuts to our public schools and universities.
- Working directly to enhance education at the local level, helping to pass funding measures aimed at improving the quality of libraries and public schools.
The State Senate plays a critical role in education. It goes beyond funding – which is vital – to creating educational reforms to ensure that each student who attends a public school has an equal opportunity to succeed. My priorities include:
- Local empowerment. We need to empower local school boards to lead on educational issues. The centralization of educational decision-making in Sacramento is not healthy and should be reversed.
- Restore School Reserve Protection. I believe we should restore school reserve protections that were stripped away by the Legislature in 2014.
- Teacher Accountability. I believe in accountability at all levels of government, including the public schools. There are few jobs more important or difficult than being a public school teacher. We need to support our teachers in every way possible. But they should also be accountable for performance.
- Allow families to select the best schools for their children. I support the ability of families to select the best school environment for their children, be that a public charter school or a nearby public school. I don't support private school vouchers as they siphon vital tax dollars from public schools. Charter schools are an important part of the solution. They provide a healthy alternative for California families who are looking for the best possible education for their children. I am familiar with their many accomplishments and support their goals. The charter schools in our state deliver high-quality, community-based learning that meets tough state standards without excessive bureaucracy and regulations. The state Board of Education should not limit charter schools’ programmatic and fiscal flexibility. They have a strong track record of building student success. I have seen for myself the benefits of a charter-school education, and the pride these students have for their school and their accomplishments.
- Classroom effectiveness. State law should set a framework for helping schools hire and retain high-performing teachers in the classroom. Local communities are in the best position to make these decisions that promote classroom effectiveness. A good example: school districts that follow existing law in using test results as a part of a comprehensive teacher evaluation.
- Greater educational resources. As a Member of the Senate, I will work to strengthen California’s economy and bring greater resources to our education system. There can be no higher priority for improving K-12 education. Through economic vitality we can achieve funding equity for charter schools and traditional public schools without pitting them against each other.
- Encourage public charter schools. The important role of our high-performing charter schools cannot be undermined by their inability to achieve the same levels of support as do our public schools. Their legal access to public facilities must be respected, as should their ability to seek voter support for construction bonds. Local school boards should include needed charter facilities in any proposed school construction bond. Classroom achievement, and not classroom funding, should be the focus of competition between traditional public schools and charter schools.
Higher education is a gateway to lifelong learning and employment opportunity. We need to ensure our state universities and colleges remain catalysts for societal progress and individual opportunity, and that they remain accessible and affordable to all Californians.
I am very proud of the fact that the Cal State System issued degrees to more than 100,000 Californians last year. About 60% of these graduates were the first in their family to graduate from college. I support a merit-based admission policy for our public higher education institutions. We need to make it a priority to support our public universities, as they are making a difference for so many.
Tobacco is addictive and deadly. Every citizen has the right to live, work and recreate in a smoke-free environment. As a state, we should do everything we can to prevent minors from having access to tobacco products.
As a Mayor, I am currently working to enact local smoking bans in outdoor areas, at public events and establish smoke-free housing in apartments and condominiums. These new smoking bans are tougher and more protective than existing state laws.
I have not accepted and will not accept campaign contributions from tobacco companies.
Mental health is an oft-neglected branch of the health care system. "Laura's Law" allows families to get mental health treatment help for their loved ones, with a court order, if necessary. I support implementation of Laura's Law in Contra Costa County and statewide in other jurisdictions that choose to adopt it.
I support end-of-life options for mentally competent, terminally ill adults. Safeguards must be in place to ensure that exercise of the patient’s right to self-determination is voluntary, informed and not misused by family members or health care providers. Patients should be allowed to request medication from a physician to bring about a peaceful end-of-life in the most comfortable manner possible.
I support every woman’s right to safe and legal abortion under the terms set out in the Roe vs. Wade decision. I support public funding for abortion services for low-income women. I oppose targeted restrictions on abortion access, including to teenagers.
I support funding for the Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment program. I support Medi-Cal reimbursement rates at a sustainable level. I also support the ability of health Centers to provide services under the Affordable Care Act as well as public agency partnerships with health centers.
I support the teaching of comprehensive sexual health education, including information about both abstinence and contraception in public schools as well as confidential access to reproductive health services for minors.
I am 100% pro-choice.
Asian and Pacific Islander Americans make up about 16% of the 7th Senate District and include ethnic Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Filipinos, just to name a few.
Important issues to this community include the desire for a high-quality K-12 education, access and affordability in higher education, a robust economy that supports small businesses and good paying jobs and transportation infrastructure, including an efficient and affordable BART system.
Young people in the API community as well as the broader community are at risk from drugs, bullying and truancy. We all need to work together to guide our young people in safe and positive ways.
Health care is a universal concern, but certain Pacific Islander communities have a greater percentage of health problems, such as diabetes and Hepatitis B.
We all need to encourage greater community involvement in civic and cultural affairs. This would be my observation with the API communities, although the API community seems to be actively engaged in educational matters.
Increased communications is essential to expanding understanding and engagement with the API community. This should include translation services.
There are many leadership opportunities in local and state government and we should look for ways to ensure that the great diversity of California is represented in these important positions.
I look forward to working closely with the API community during my service in the State Senate.
I have long been interested in the needs of California veterans, especially affordable housing. In 2002, I managed the successful statewide campaign for Proposition 46, which created a trust fund for military veteran homeownership assistance, among other purposes. The Vietnam Veterans of California organization gave its endorsement: "Our veterans have protected American interests at home and around the world. This measure makes available low-interest loans so they can purchase their first home.” Four years later, I served as campaign manager for Proposition 1C, which extended homeownership assistance to more California military veterans and their families. As homeownership is beyond the financial reach of many Californians, I am pleased to have helped veterans to settle down and achieve their dreams.
California needs to invest in infrastructure to accommodate future growth and industry. Improved rail service in and between our cities is one of those important investments. Although Californians have approved $10 billion in bonds to support high speed rail, there is not a viable financial plan to complete the project. Accordingly, I am opposed to future state spending on this proposal.
Eleven years ago, in October 2003, I was shot in the neck by a high-powered pellet rifle while driving with my family. The .17-caliber projectile just missed my carotid artery and lodged next to my spine. The perpetrator was caught but never charged with a crime because pellet guns were classified as toys in the criminal code.
After recovering from this injury, I worked with then-Senator Tom Torlakson to author legislation establishing penalties for pellet-gun attacks (SB 532, Chapter 180, Statutes of 2006).
I strongly support California’s laws to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals, including: background checks and a 10-day waiting period for gun sales, regulations on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, gun safety standards, firearm record keeping, and bans on the open carry of unloaded firearms in public.
Following the 1989 schoolyard shooting in Stockton, California, I worked closely with Senate President pro Tempore David Roberti in enacting the nation’s first assault weapon ban. In my first term as Mayor of Orinda, I was a charter member of Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign.
There is much more that we can do to keep our communities safe from gun violence. It should be a requirement that lost or stolen guns be reported to law enforcement. I support the regulation of ammunition sales. With the improvement of technology, I support efforts to include owner-recognition features on new handguns. I support maintaining discretion with law enforcement in the authorization of permits to carry concealed weapons. I also believe we should continue to look for ways to update and strengthen California’s assault weapons law.
Our Second Amendment right to own guns must be tempered with reasonable standards to keep our communities and our people safe from gun violence.
I strongly support the voter approved open primary and the right of independent voters to fully participate in primary elections.
My campaign has actively reached out to independent and decline to state voters in numerous voter communication and public remarks. My campaign theme: “Stands for Us” underscores my efforts to speak the truth to power on all sides of the political spectrum.
I was the first elected official in the Bay Area to oppose the 2013 BART strikes and call for a ban on transit strikes. The eight days of strikes crippled our economy, gridlocked our freeways, and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers, students and caregivers. Management was equally incompetent and insensitive in their handling of this labor/management negotiation.
Unfortunately, leaders of my Party were intimidated by the powers of these special interests and refused to speak up. I believe I have the insight, experience, courage and independence to stand up for all of our citizens in the state legislature.