By Douglas Moran
State Assembly Candidates: Links & Notes for the LWV ForumUploaded: 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.
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