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By Douglas Moran

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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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State Assembly Candidates: Links & Notes for the LWV Forum

Uploaded: May 13, 2016
A video of the Candidates Forum for State Assembly District 24 is online.(foot#1) The primary election is June 7. These notes are to make the video more accessible for those seeking more information on the candidates. I will make occasional references to individual candidates, but will make no attempt to compare-and-contrast. Aside: I support none of the candidates and came away from the forum without seeing a candidate who was good-enough for me to vote for.

Comment rules: Appropriate comments are to point out additional statements by the candidates that you find interesting. Please include a link to that portion of the video so that others can see it: You can get the link by opening the menu in the video and selecting "Copy video URL at current time" and then pasting it into your comment. The point is to help others make their own decisions--comments that go too far beyond the gray area into being advocacy for or against particular candidates are subject to being edited/deleted.


Remember that this is a "Top Two" primary: The two candidates receiving the most votes will face each other in the General Election (in November), unless one candidate achieves a majority. This is a non-partisan primary--the top-two candidates selected could be from the same party, and past elections strongly indicate that this is a contest between Democrats. However, you may want to listen to the candidates from the fringe parties--John Inks (Libertarian) and Peter Ohtaki (Republican)--because their perspectives can highlight both the differences between the other candidates and what they aren't addressing.

You probably want to ignore pseudo-candidate Jay Cabrera: Several of his responses were essentially commercials for Bernie Sanders, and the rest were bland.

----Opening Remarks ----

Speaker Order (with links to the beginning of their individual comments):
Berman, Inks, Ohtaki, Cabrera, Veenker, Kasperzak, Reddy, Chang

The candidate should be establishing the context for the remainder of the forum. This can include their experience and other qualifications, what they see as the major issues or problems, and what their priorities are. This statement also demonstrates one important qualification, or lack thereof: Can they make an effective opening statement at a meeting. Recognize that they had plenty of time to prepare and plenty of opportunities to practice ("Meet the Candidate" events). No matter how much you may agree with them, that is of little value if they don't know how to be effective in a meeting.

Observation: Two of the candidates spoke of the problem of affordability in underwhelming terms:
Berman: "wealth ... not reality for thousands" (why only "thousands")
Kasperzak: "...not everybody is participating in the opportunities that this expansion has created."

----Q1. State Housing Mandates : ----
"The State has multiple laws to make cities more dense, in the name of reducing the housing shortage. These are controversial for multiple reasons including (1) exceeding existing infrastructure, especially streets, (2) changing the character of towns, and (3) benefiting developers at the expense of residents. What is your position on the arguments and proper balance?"

Speaker order: Veenker, Kasperzak, Berman, Cabrera, Chang, Ohtaki, Reddy, Inks

This question included more aspects that a candidate would have time to respond to. Which aspects each candidate chooses to address can be as revealing as what they say.

Two candidates (Kasperzak, Berman) took the position that we needed to build enough housing for everyone who wants to live here. Several others seemed close to this. Two candidates (Chang, Kasperzak) seemed to believe that the area could become much denser without losing its character. Several candidates advocated building on transit corridors without addressing concerns that that transit couldn't handle the growth.(foot#2) One candidate (Veenker) appeared to advocate more State enforcement of its mandates for growth. Only one candidate (Reddy) opposed the mandates outright, although another (Ohtaki) objected to them as being unfunded mandates. The rest seemed to support the policy that amount of growth should be dictated from above (ABAG, Sacramento), with the cities deciding only the precise locations.

----Q2. How would you work to get early education more money and more attention? ----

Speaker order: Kasperzak, Berman, Cabrera, Chang, Ohtaki, Reddy, Inks, Veenker

The effectiveness of early childhood education is very controversial--do a web search on that term and the Tennessee/Vanderbilt University study. It seems that weight of the studies in the US and Europe are that universal early childhood education is ineffective, with the benefits disappearing in 1-3 years. However, there are small scale studies where such programs seemed to have lasting effects, leading to questions about whether there were certain categories of children who would benefit and what were effective programs for those categories. Given how very expensive the successful programs were, one question is whether it is more effective to use those funds to instead bolster elementary education.

I didn't get a sense that any of the candidates who supported this had an appreciation of the controversy or expense. Inks (Libertarian) expressed reservations, but it seemed centered on tax burden.

----Q3. Do you support changes to Proposition 13 and, if so, what? ----

Speaker order: Ohtaki, Reddy, Inks, Veenker, Kasperzak, Berman, Cabrera, Chang

There were three basic components of the answers. First, what the candidates defined the problem to be: variations on relative "fairness" to taxpayers and as a revenue source. Second, what needed to change. Third, how to transition there.

----Q4. How do you plan to allow access to healthcare for the 3 to 5 million California residents not covered by the ACA? ----

Note: ACA = Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare

Speaker order: Reddy, Inks, Veenker, Kasperzak, Berman, Cabrera, Chang, Ohtaki

----Q5. What is your position on the two large public works projects supported by Governor Brown: the Delta Tunnels and High Speed Rail ----

Speaker order: Chang, Ohtaki, Reddy, Inks, Veenker, Kasperzak, Berman, Cabrera

What the candidates focused on revealed something about how they approached issues.
Background on Delta Tunnels: The current system for sending Sacramento River water south involves pumping water from the Delta, which does significant damage to fisheries (such as salmon) and to the Delta itself. The tunnels would extract water from the river before it reaches the Delta, and is an updated version of the Peripheral Canal (defeated by voters in 1982). There are three major perspectives on the Delta Tunnels: (1) Critical to protect the environment, (2) A scheme to facilitate the transfer of even more water to Southern California, with the side-effect of damaging the environment, (3) An obscenely inefficient scheme to transform taxpayer dollars into campaign contributions (currently estimated to cost $25 billion, which means it is likely to wind up $100-200 billion).

Various candidates said that they opposed the tunnels, favoring measures such as "conservation" and "recycling". Since the issues of the Delta and water rights on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are largely foreign to this Assembly District, I don't expect any of these candidates to understand the complexities, but I would expect them to be aware of the existence of such complexities.

----- Q6. Will you ban fracking? ----

Speaker order: Inks, Veenker, Kasperzak, Berman, Cabrera, Chang, Ohtaki, Reddy

For me, the interesting aspect of the answers was how the various candidates approached the assessment of risks and tolerance of risk.

----Q7. What are your top two priorities? ----

Speaker order: Cabrera, Chang, Ohtaki, Reddy, Inks, Veenker, Kasperzak, Berman

Like the Opening Statement, this is a question that serious and competent candidates should be fully prepared for, with the only variability being whether they are asked for one, two or three priorities. The first thing to listen for is whether they are talking about their priorities or what they believe are the priorities of the district and state. Next, recognize that the purpose of this question is not to have them rank order the priorities, but rather to have them say more about priorities. There may be a priority that was not covered by the earlier questions, or they may want to expand upon what was said earlier, for example to address what another candidate said, or to provide additional details or perspective. Candidate should know enough about the issues to be able to not repeat themselves.

It can sometimes be hard to tell whether a candidate is parroting party orthodoxy or ideology or has just fallen into that pattern because it is easy. However, a well-prepared candidate is aware of this problem and tries to demonstrate actual interest and knowledge.

----Closing Statements ----

Speaker order: Chang, Reddy, Kasperzak, Veenker, Cabrera, Ohtaki, Inks, Berman

This should be another semi-prepared statement, and needs to be judged not only for the content but the effectiveness of the presentation. Most of the audience is fatigued, so this needs to be a sharp, punchy statement. It should be what the candidates want you to remember most about them and the most important reason you should vote for them. However, in drawing inferences recognize that some of the candidates may not be this disciplined.


Candidate profiles from the Palo Alto Weekly/Online:
- Part 1: Chang, Inks, Cabrera, Berman (2016-04-01) (Headline: "Assembly candidates are as diverse as the cities in District 24")
- Part 2: Kasperzak, Ohtaki, Reddy, Veenker (2016-04-08) (Headline: "Candidates vie for chance to represent District 24")
- Videos (2016-05-12).
- Editorial: Vicki Veenker for Assembly (2016-05-13).

Candidate web sites:
- Marc Berman
- Jay Blas Jacob Cabrera
- Barry Chang
- Mike Kasperzak
- John Inks
- Peter Ohtaki
- Seelam Reddy
- Vicki Veenker

1. Forum: Held Tuesday May 10 7pm at the Mountain View Library, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Video by Midpen Media Center as part of their election coverage.

2. Earlier blog entries addressed various aspects of this issue:
- "Stupid Growth: So-called 'Smart Growth'is a cancer on the community" (2014-06-07)
- "The Law of Supply and XXXXXX" (2014-06-10)
- "Shills and Charlatans of 'Smart Growth' " (2014-06-16)
- "Public Transit Follies" (2014-07-01)


An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on May 13, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Thanks for putting the effort in to post this Doug. You can't really get a clear picture of how effective any particular candidate would be in the legislature from these questions and comments. However, I still find that their answers are revealing, particularly if their priority as a local representative is not directly tied to issues both amenable to local control and of local concern (I don't think the 24th district can control sea level rise, but we might be able to prepare for it). My top 2 priorities (as a non-politician)

1) [[Deleted by blogger: off-topic: presidential race]]
2) Vote for candidates who see the world as it is and not how they wish it could be. We shouldn't support policies that go against human nature since they seldom can be successful. Instead of legislating that it can't rain on your wedding day, you need to plan for the rain.

Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 14, 2016 at 4:04 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

Hi Doug

This is Sea Reddy. You have done a great service to our 24th district voters by putting together this material. Thank You


Posted by nsperling, a resident of Midtown,
on May 20, 2016 at 5:55 pm

I'm trying to gather information for the State Assembly candidates that would help me make a decision. This is not a criticism of Marc Berman as a candidate but honestly 6 Berman large mailings received in less than 3 weeks? What an incredible waste of paper used for someone presumably concerned about resources and the environment. I can't help but wonder about the money behind all of this. I don't have good solutions for people running a campaign but I will admit I start to get annoyed when I get bombarded with these mailings.
For me, one mailing per candidate would be sufficient ,clearly stating your stand on issues and a personal statement making a case for your candidacy. For candidates not as well funded, they would have to rely on the media.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 20, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On candidate mailers, recognize that different people receive different sets of mailers:

1. Geography: There is often a focus on a candidate's "strongholds", thus a candidate from Palo Alto may choose to send few/no mailers to voters in other cities, and candidates from those other cities may choose not to send to Palo Alto.

2. Party registration: I am registered as "No Party Preference" (formerly "Decline to State", commonly known as "independent" or "non-partisan") and I receive far fewer mailers than my neighbors who are registered as Democrats -- in some elections, it is half or even less.

3. Voting record: Candidates often focus their mailers on "likely voters", with one common definition of "likely" being someone who voted in 80% of the past elections for such candidates.

Also recognize that many of the mailings come from "Independent Expenditure Committees" aka Political Action Committees (PAC) supporting candidates. It is not uncommon to receive more mailing from IECs/PACs than from the candidate's campaign. The IEC mailers I have received in this race are
- Real Estate (multiple)
- Dental Association (multiple)
- EdVoice (multiple)
- Californians Allied for Patient Protection (attack piece against Veenker)

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 21, 2016 at 6:20 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I keep receiving sleek mailers from Marc Berman. The latest one was all about how inexperinced Veenker was and how we can't afford inexperience in the state assembly. I find his mailers offensive, and a few neighbors and friends have told me they feel the same way.

[[Blogger: Officially that mailer is from "Californians Allied for Patient Protection Independent Expenditure Account" with the disclaimer "This advertisement was not authorized or paid for by a candidate for this office or a committee controlled by a candidate for this office."]]

Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of Midtown,
on May 21, 2016 at 11:17 am

Robert Neff is a registered user.

Thanks for the summary of the mailers.

The money source for EdVoice is not apparent. That organization has been used to funnel money from a few wealthy individuals in the past.

Californians Allied for Patient Protection is an organization of Hospitals, Doctors, and Insurance companies allied against malpractice lawyers. Over many years they have been successful at limiting liability for "pain and suffering" in medical malpractice, making simple cases unattractive to lawyers.

CAPP, though deceptively named (looks like doctor protection to me), is relatively transparent compared to EdVoice, based on the web sites.

Posted by caroline V., a resident of Portola Valley,
on Jul 20, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Thank you Doug for your informative blog.
I hope you will continue to inform us because our elected officials have an agenda that does not reflect the needs of our communities. As we have seen in the last few months they have found a system to bypass the taxpayers vote and put the burden on homeowners who pay more than their fair share.

I also thank community members who share their insight because there are so many organizations, so many lobbyist groups, so many policies and laws signed in a very short period of time, and so many media resources to consult to understand what is going on.

Back to your article and the problems with voting campaigns and lobbyists. These groups grow like weeds. Many hide behind philanthropic non-profit organizations and many are sponsored with the help of our billionaires in high tech, vc, let alone our growing government, their associations, and their networking. So please keep us informed.

My husband is a dentist and a member of the San Mateo Dental Society. Due to time constraints we are not active (perhaps should) in any lobby efforts.

However, I just discovered that the Senate opposed a bill that was lobbied by the Sears family and backed by the Academy of Pediatrics requiring 2 highly educated healthcare professionals when sedating children:" Web Link
Unfortunately the Senate did not pass the bill and also lowered that safety measure by allowing lower level technician to assists dentists sedating young children. Senator Hill's comment "I don't think it is our responsibility to respond to one particular family" does not reflect the opinion of the dental community. Many dentists have addressed this safety issue and demanded higher safety measures for many years. This is not the first family who has lost a child.
Once again this is an example how our elected officials lack good faith efforts to ensure the safety for their constituents and continue to lower the bar in the professional world. California used to be praised for its "excellence"

Assembly member Marc Berman held an open house last Friday in Portola Valley.
I have been a long time activist to stop the bullying, the mobbing, the sexual assaults, the misuse and embezzlement of public funding; to improve the quality of education, the quality of vocational training instead of manipulating the graduation rates, the accreditation and credentialing; and demand proper oversight and accountability in our education system, because this is the root of so many problems.
California has the laws and requirements in place, but these are not enforced and nobody is being held accountable. Those who disclose the truth and bring solutions to the table are silenced. Only those who promote the political ideology and help the political agenda of the supermajority get a voice.

It was great to have the support of a long time Bay Area teacher and another PV resident, who is also a parent, both confirming the problems with the Common Core, the highly paid administration, the expanding bureaucracy, and the lack of resources for teachers and students.
Constituents addressed other issues like the problems with the constant increasing costs of living, the increased traffic, the complexity and problems in healthcare, transparency, the Cap and Trade bill, housing, legislation that affects our environment, and the needs for the elderly in our community.
Assembly member Berman might have great intentions, but I am not convinced he understands what is really going on in Silicon Valley and what the needs of his constituents are. I hope he will spend more time to meet with constituents to understand the underlying causes of all our problems.
I was promised a meeting. I have requested a meeting, but I am still waiting for his office to respond.

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