Editorial: Brownrigg for state Senate | News | Palo Alto Online |


Editorial: Brownrigg for state Senate

With an outstanding field of candidates, whoever wins will be able to capably fill Jerry Hill's shoes

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Democrat Michael Brownrigg answers a question about transportation at a Feb. 5 forum featuring seven candidates for California's 13th Senate district at Palo Alto Art Center. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

There couldn't be a better example of why legislative term limits are a good thing than the quality of the candidates competing to replace termed-out state Sen. Jerry Hill in the 13th Senate District. When an incumbent isn't in a race, good people step up to run.

Five of the seven candidates, all Democrats, have the experience, understanding of the issues and support to represent the Peninsula (from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale) and make an immediate impact in the legislature, each in his or her own unique way.

In California's open primary system, these five plus the lone Republican and Libertarian will appear on every ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will face off in the November general election. We hope the top two will be Democrats, just as occurred four years ago when Marc Berman and Vicki Veenker faced off in the fall for the open Assembly seat after running against each other in the primary. This will allow for a competitive campaign rather than an election destined to go to the Democrat given the overwhelming Democratic voter registration advantage.

Among the five Democrats, we think the three strongest candidates are Mike Brownrigg, Josh Becker and Shelly Masur. But they only slightly edge out Sally Lieber and Annie Oliva. Every voter will have to weigh what issues are important to them and the views, personal qualities and varying backgrounds each of these five bring. The "candidates on the issues" grid that can be found here should help.

We believe our district is best represented in the State Senate by an independent-minded person with bold ideas who will not be influenced by the donations of large contributors and special interests and who will resist the pressure to march in lock-step with Gov. Gavin Newsom and party leaders. The super-majority held by Democrats means the party, and organized labor in particular, can push through almost anything they want. That approach is not in our state's or district's best interest.

The big problems facing California, including housing supply and affordability, homelessness, climate change, income inequity, the costs of higher education and the education achievement gap require more innovation and bipartisanship and less political muscling and horse trading.

We think Mike Brownrigg, 58, comes the closest to meeting this criteria. On the Burlingame City Council for almost 10 years and eight years prior to that on the Planning Commission, Brownrigg has shown himself to be a strong, effective and collaborative leader. Unlike Becker and Masur, he has taken no large campaign contributions from organizations, labor groups or large donors (with the exception of his mother, who without his knowledge set up an independent campaign committee and funded it with about $460,000). He has largely self-funded his campaign and focused on meeting voters instead of fundraising.

Brownrigg was raised in Los Altos Hills and attended Gunn High School. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service after college and was posted to multiple embassies around the world. He later became a partner in ChinaVest, a venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage Chinese life science and information technology companies and was a founding partner in Total Impact Capital, a social impact fund that provides capital to projects seeking to "make the planet a better place." He has devoted his career to finding solutions to difficult problems.

Brownrigg doesn't hedge on controversial issues; he has been a clear-spoken promoter of creative solutions to problems facing the state. He strongly opposed SB 50, the local zoning pre-emption bill to force cities to develop high density housing around transportation hubs. Instead, he advocates financial incentives, including state subsidies and tax breaks, for the preservation and creation of affordable housing. For example, he has proposed the state subsidize the purchase, by nonprofits, of existing multi-family housing units to prevent their sale to companies that would increase rents, and to reward the seller with capital gains tax reductions as an incentive. He's also proposed state funding for infrastructure when a city approves high-density zoning for housing. He wants to see California become carbon-free in 10 years, supports a carbon tax, more aggressive conversion to all-electric appliances, and the state purchase of PG&E.

Becker, a Menlo Park resident, and Brownrigg share a venture capital background and a commitment to social impact investing. They have similar priorities and views on the big issues, but we are concerned that the endorsements of Becker by Newsom and Hill, as well as a $500,000 donation from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman to an independent committee supporting him, will lessen his independence.

Masur, a Redwood City councilwoman and former school board member, has made education a centerpiece of her campaign and drawn major financial support of the teachers' unions, as well as many other labor unions. She supported the latest iteration of SB 50, the only candidate in the race to do so.

In this impressive group of candidates, we give the nod to Brownrigg and look forward to a vigorous fall campaign between him and either Becker or Masur.

Read our profiles of each candidate, alongside videotaped interviews with six of the seven contenders, on our Atavist page.

Candidates debate

The seven candidates for state Senate District 13 faced off in a debate on Feb. 5. Read our debate recap here. A video from the event is available on our YouTube channel.

Related content:

Oil tax? Wealth tax? Prop. 13 reform? Senate candidates debate how to pay for new programs for state's youngest residents


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53 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 14, 2020 at 8:07 am

We are fortunate to have competitive candidates for one of the most important Senate seats in California. Brownrigg has earned this endorsement and I wish him every success between now and November.

59 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 14, 2020 at 8:10 am

Shelly Masur approves of SB50, proposing to build tall, multistory towers, w little parking, next to our single family homes here in 'jobs rich' Palo Alto. She is also endorsed and supported by the teachers' union, which just put $225k behind her in an independent expenditure. She already had contributions to her campaign from the teachers'union. The teachers'union wants to protect teacher tenure, though statewide, only 50% or less of student test as academically proficient (which may not be a high level to start with and can be diluted by politically controlled functionaries). We need elected officials who will demand performance and accountability. And no thanks to talk towers w no parking next to single family homes.

54 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 14, 2020 at 8:35 am

This is the same editorial that appears today in the sister-paper to the south: the Mountain View Voice. I attended a small group "coffee" with state senate candidate Mike Brownrigg last summer in Mountain View. He was the only candidate holding such meetings across the state senate district. He was forthcoming, smart and reasonable. Rightly against the developers' plan (SB 50) for mid-rise condos (and next high-rise condos) in every single-family neighborhood, he was for more and more affordable housing in appropriate places.

22 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 14, 2020 at 11:03 am

I’ve had a crush on his sister since 1976, which was Mrs Creightons class, 6th grade. Happy Valentine’s Day to all the voters.

17 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2020 at 11:12 am

Please note in the SFC 02/12/20 - "Sacramento Bee Publisher files for bankruptcy." The Bee, SJM, and other papers - the Miami Herald and Baltimore Sun are currently owned by the McClatchy news organization. It has been propped by Hedge funds. Since I have relatives in Baltimore I note how the east cost is doing vs the west coast. The east cost is surrounded by US history with noted battles in every location. They wallow in their historical locations and battles. Not so the west coast which has a different outlook on history. Our history is relevant to the point at which we became a state and the gold miner history. Translate forward to being the Pacific theatre in WW2, and later the technology center for the US - on paper. However note that the technology gurus are positioning themselves with satellite centers in other states which have a more advantageous tax base.

That directly affects the people we vote into office in this state which are pushing an agenda that is "progressive" but is not selling the general public. And we are grading candidates on identity politics as portrayed in the papers which are failing to sell. The SJM pointed to Josh Becker who is selling world wide climate control. Note that the British Commonwealth and the European Union control their own member states so we should not be an ATM card for their programs which we do not control. They have their own money and own political crises. Nice places to visit and swap stories but reality says they will operate their locations under their own most advantageous positions.

This article is pushing Brownrigg based on his opposition to SB50 - but EVERYONE is opposed to SB50 who are voters. Concern here is that he is a venture capital type specific to Chinese investment in the US. Please note that China is the problem child at this point in time relative to the other Asian countries that have large populations in the US. And a problem child to the US regarding technology transfers which undermine our own technology companies.

This state has specific problems that have to be addressed within the state budget relative to infrastructure, water distribution rights - farmers vs home builders, education, and the specific industries which this state is know for.

I am not interested in the east cost interpretation of housing - SB50, or the world domination of climate change which is a talking point only. And I am not interested in supporting the Chinese invasion of CA/US technology interest.

Please consider that candidates that are looking to manage this state based on it's historical profile and current technology issues.

25 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2020 at 11:28 am

Do the "lone" Republican and Libertarian candidates have names? If this isn't bias, I don't know what is. Shameful.

23 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 14, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Yet the award winning publication itself permits organized labor to continue corrupt conduct by turning a blind eye to its cover ups of misconduct and not reporting it.

21 people like this
Posted by Ha k
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 14, 2020 at 12:24 pm

So brownrigg bought more campaign ads in the weekly than the other candidates?

40 people like this
Posted by Anita Enander
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 14, 2020 at 1:29 pm

The Weekly has it right: Brownrigg will be an effective and independent representative of our district. He digs down to find root causes and solutions that will work, not just pseudo-solutions that make headlines. He has a track record of doing so. When I talked with him, it was clear he saw through the "promises" of SB 50 and identified why it was bad public policy. I wish him the best. He will be a great state senator.

P.S. to "Ha k" – you might check your assumption with local elected officials. It doesn't work that way with our local papers.

18 people like this
Posted by @Old Palo Alto
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 14, 2020 at 1:30 pm

I can't speak for the Republican, Craig. But as for the Libertarian "candidate" -- the guy who wants to effectively decriminalize child pornography, and who said some rather *interesting* things to an undercover cop before being arrested in 1990 -- well, you can have him.

Wouldn't say much about you, though.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2020 at 1:34 pm

[Post removed; off-topic.]

20 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2020 at 5:00 pm

IMO, Mike Brownrigg, Josh Becker, and Sally Lieber are all credible candidates. I have not made up my mind, but, I am concerned that three similar, strong candidates may split the vote and leave two of the other, much less capable candidates standing. I'm surprised that the Weekly rated Masur as one of the three "finalists" rather than Lieber. Masur's support of SB50 shows a huge lapse of judgement.

21 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 15, 2020 at 1:18 pm

How stupid can the weekly be? Someone getting $460,000 from their mommy is coordinating with their son. How can they state that he didn’t know about it - no one believes that

12 people like this
Posted by Reform SB50
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2020 at 1:29 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names.]

35 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 15, 2020 at 2:49 pm

Better he gets the money from mommy than from highly paid lobbyists like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Chamber of Commerce since we know their role in life is to shift the tax burden of the explosive office growth from their clients to the residents.

22 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 17, 2020 at 8:54 am

Check out Alexander Glew - his engineering educational background and work experience is specific to the hard sciences specific to the technology business of SCV. He is not into fuzzy math or fuzzy science. We need people in the local politics and SAC that can understand the complexities of the technology changes we need to have and the math background to help manage budgets. We need people who can help channel growth to achievable end results.

14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 17, 2020 at 9:47 am

As the under qualified and only Republican against five Democrats, Glew could make it to the Nov election, but he stands no chance in an overwhelmingly Democratic district in the general election.
Masur is a front runner to make it through the primary and she would win easily against the Republican in November, so a vote for Glew in March is essentially a vote for Masur to win the Senate seat for and SB50.

23 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

Facts and opinions are getting mixed up. Here are the latest voter registration data. More from Calif Secretary of State Web Link

California registration: Dems 45% Rep 24% No Party Preference 26% Other 5%
Palo Alto registration: Dems 54% Rep 11% No Party Preference 32% Other 3%

I will send Gennady tabulations and trends for nearby cities. Trends are interesting stuff over the last few years. Different towns have different profiles but GOP remains in solid minority status almost always.

It is much more difficult to predict how the SD13 Dem candidates will split their votes in the primary election. It could be possible that GOP candidate might slide into the general election. Improbable IMO but possible.

13 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 17, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Looking at the candidates that have been noted in the papers one wonders if their day jobs are fizzling out or are a conflict of interest. Venture Capital regarding Chinese integration in the US economy? Sorry - that does not look promising. That is a no-go and would require State Department approval at this time. Venture capital usually works when the stock market is down - not up.

And Mr. Becker has great qualifications but is touting us being the environmental leader "in the world". That sounds good but is unrealistic as at this time. Other countries and other parts of the US are heavily damaged by fire, flood, drought, volcano, and internal conflicts. You cannot effect that at the state level - only at the federal level. And we are not going to throw money at other countries at this time as we need to resolve our own problems regarding those issues.

So why did some one say that Alexander Glew is underqualified? He has a great educational background through a SU PHD in Material Science and Engineering. And he is on the Los Altos Design Review Commission. He has a consulting business which means that he fully understands money management and project management. Since our current issues revolve around infrastructure issues we are now into the "hard science" area of public management. That requires a technical opinion on what will work and what is only a waste of time.

Unfortunately we have spent way to much time on chasing projects down the rabbit hole of late. Not good. And our current transportation issues are hard science.

And why is Masur the front runner? She is in the SB50 Weiner camp. Is she a front runner because she is a woman? Woman to woman I want hard science and good project management to control how this area launches into major projects.

22 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>>. And Mr. Becker has great qualifications

I'm only considering candidates from parties whose leadership supports the US Constitution, not the party that attacks the Constitution every single day.

Within the other parties, Mike Brownrigg, Josh Becker, and Sally Lieber are all possibilities. At this point, I'm favoring Becker, but, Brownrigg is credible, too.

Even though she is nominally opposed to SB50, I think Lieber is slightly soft on the "SB50 == "housing" " nonsense. Nobody is against "housing", but, some candidates think it is OK to punch big buildings into the middle of small-building neighborhoods. I think that is dumb. I think it usually makes sense to keep buildings in the same locale at the same scale as surrounding buildings. I also think we need -zero- new office buildings around here.

I also think that realistic parking has to be included. Most units with two adults are going to need 2-3 parking spaces, even if they are right next to a Caltrain station. I look all over the city and most neighborhoods are flooded with parked cars on the street. "Car-lite" is something off in the future; we are seeing lots of electric cars now, but, they are still cars. I'm looking for candidates who are realistic about the details of how to move forward, not fantasies like "car-lite".

Ultimately, whichever of Brownrigg or Becker that I choose, I plan to write in the other for the assembly seat in opposition to Marc Berman, who is far too developer-friendly for me.

18 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 17, 2020 at 6:30 pm

Every one has an opinion. I do not see anyone in the CA government services who are supporting the constitution. The state AG is busy with law suits against other states. He has over 50 law suits. Who made him boss? The Governor is busy with unrealistic pronouncements that will require a huge amount of money - your money. They are making up the constitution as they go along. Does the Gov allow the AG to just issue law suits against other states - not such a good idea if he thinks he is going to run for higher office.

I do not see this state going any where good under the current management. And anyone who supports Mr. Weiner is heading way off what ever the constitution guarantees to us as citizens. As to Mr Berman - he is in the Weiner camp. That is going the wrong way.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 18, 2020 at 9:32 am

Just like to note here that the candidates are making the choices as to how they depict their going-in positions. The reader is just responding to what choices they have made. Masur in her newspaper identity has teamed with Mr. Weiner and SB50. If she has been paying attention then she should have noted that Weiner's own SF region is not for SB 50. And at the state level it is not moving forward. So we could deduce that she is riding his coattails and benefiting from the same sources that are funding him. From where I am sitting that has not been a good choice but maybe the only one available to her. Follow the money.

Mr. Hill has thrown in his approval to Josh Becker. He has good credentials. Until he says that he wants to fix climate change at the world level. This is a state senator job. Projecting on to the "world' sounds like a big slice of state money - your money. I want my taxpayer money to solve specific problems in this state. And we have a lot of problems.

Mike Brownrigg - "venture capital" - many articles of late as to why that is not the place to be right now. Like hedge funds the market needs to be down for that all to work. So the market is up - much to the consternation to the venture capital and hedge funds types. Yes - they lost big when DT won - they thought the market would go down - but it went up. they lost that gamble. And the paper is following the money on him - thank you Mom.
So much for the "leaders". Lieber calls herself the most progressive. For those who like the Constitution the progressive wing is desperately trying to change the constitution. Not good.
So that is their choices as to how they depict themselves. Their choice determines our choice. I have no intention in projecting on to them more than they project onto themselves.

9 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2020 at 12:53 pm

I have read Josh Becker's bio on the web. A listing of all of the accomplishments he has been involved in. It mentions CEO of a biotech company performing cancer research. My son is currently working for a company that is developing a medical approach which requires FDA approval. Getting FDA approval is a very lengthy, laborious process. It is exhausting to work through that whole process.
So what is the success rate of all of the very wide ranging activities that Josh is involved in. A lot of wide ranging activities in a short period of time. It all sounds good on paper. Like writing up a list of what everyone would like to see then making sure that you have covered the bases on each of the topics.

8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2020 at 3:17 pm

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> I have read Josh Becker's bio on the web. A listing of all of the accomplishments [...] So what is the success rate of all of the very wide ranging activities that Josh is involved in.

Honestly, being a legislator is a policy job, requiring patience and persistence through lots and lots of meetings. Brownrigg has a real track record in that department. I'm having trouble making up my mind between Becker and Brownrigg.

16 people like this
Posted by Brownrigg
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 19, 2020 at 10:32 pm

I'd recommend Brownrigg. He has deeper local ties and wants to do what's best for the region. He is not in this for his career or to make a splash. He is in this because he cares and thinks he can do a good job. He is also very capable and very honest.

8 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:30 am

He wants to do away with Prop. 13....No Way

12 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2020 at 1:27 pm

@senior blogger. You could be right, but the change to Prop. 13 that I believe has qualified for the ballot is to tax commercial property higher and not recommending a change to residential prop 13 protections.

12 people like this
Posted by mjc
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 21, 2020 at 6:20 pm

When Prop 13 passed Palo Alto property taxes were split between residential and commercial about 50/50. However, with the ability for commercial property to change hands without triggering a new property tax assessment, the split between residential and commercial is now down to 75/25.

This is because when Prop 13 passed there were loopholes included for commercial property so that it is possible for commercial property to change hands in a way that it is not considered a sale and therefore does not trigger a new property tax assessment. Thus year over year the 25% share paid by commercial property owners will continue this downward trajectory.

6 people like this
Posted by Eileen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2020 at 1:30 pm

I was astonished and delighted to answer my door yesterday afternoon to find Mike Brownrigg with his hand outstretched to introduce himself and share what he and his campaign are all about. Clearly, he is walking his talk and gets high marks for a hands-on, high touch style of communicating with potential constituents as opposed to only relying on endorsements from others.

2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2020 at 3:05 pm

Posted by senor blogger, a resident of Palo Verde

>> He wants to do away with Prop. 13....No Way

What aspects of Prop 13 do you like the most? Is there anything that you don't like about Prop 13?

For example, if you are a senior, perhaps you like the fact that seniors can stay in their houses, insulated from inflation-driven valuation increases, because, e.g., most pensions, and, Social Security, don't keep up with asset inflation.

What if the replacement tax system had adequate senior protection? Would you be OK with it then?

I'll tell you what I don't like, and, that is the increasing amount of property owned by the very-wealthy that is shielded, as well as all the commercial property that is shielded via acquisition/merger/divestment shell games.

For the current revenue, you can figure average assessed value could double and the tax rate would be about half. So, if you are currently at half the market value, a Prop 13 replacement could be revenue-neutral. I think some kind of senior exclusion would be fair, but, I'd like to set some kind of cap on it. e.g., If the first $2M of your $2M Palo Alto single-family-home was taxed at half-rate, OK, but, beyond that, I think you should pay full rate. How does that sound?

What would you propose that would be affordable for most seniors but generally a much more level playing field?

(BTW, I have no idea what Brownrigg has proposed on this, and, I don't see that online. Maybe someone has a link?)

2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 25, 2020 at 3:22 pm

Brownrigg is San Mateo County - Burlingame. San Mateo county has done a better job of managing growth than Santa Clara County. They need a bridge - they put one up. They need a tunnel under the tracks - they build one. Have to say though that the tracks in that county are in the middle of industrial type city scape. Our portion of the tracks are in residential areas - harder to manage. Palo Alto is unique in that we have residential housing next to the tracks - houses - not apartments for the most part. Now building apartments.
Burlingame has a lot of complications - the airport.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2020 at 6:17 pm

I'm considering Lieber again. Four different groups sent the household anti-Lieber hit pieces. In my experience, when this happens, it usually means something good about a candidate. Does anyone know why these groups hate Lieber so much?

2 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2020 at 8:49 pm


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 3, 2020 at 3:35 am

@Anon, I agree about the hit pieces. Consider this a preview for November.
I hope our beleaguered mail carriers get a cut of that postage.
USPS.com blizzard invitation -- Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2020 at 10:08 am

What is the candidate saying about her intentions on winning? Every candidate out there is at a starting point with their best foot forward and has established story lines of what they are going to do. Hopefully you ALL are voting on what the candidate is saying - not how many mailers you get. Any ties to SB50 is a clue. Lots of money being invested in candidates that are for SB50 - that is their funding source. And we all know who that is - the developers that are going to usurp city/regional control over housing. That is BIG BROTHER. Also - woman to woman - I do not vote by gender - any time I have done that I have seen the person change like a chameleon once they win.

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