Thank You, 72
My representation of the 72nd District in the California State Assembly will soon end. After this Friday, further communication to me should be by telephone: 714-990-2064, or personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My old 72nd District included all of Fullerton, Brea and Placentia, along with parts of Anaheim, La Habra, Orange and Yorba Linda, to which I was first elected in a special election in 2009 and re-elected in 2010.
Redistricting made my re-election more difficult, and I was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of money and negative mail that narrowly ended my bid to continue to serve. What I missed most in the recent campaign was the exchange of ideas, the give-and-take of public forums, rather than just the hit mail from special interest PACs. So be it. Life goes on. Some doors close-others open.
My three-year stint in Sacramento followed 18 years on the Fullerton City Council and 7 years as Orange County Supervisor. I thank you all for the opportunity to serve and represent you, whether at the municipal, county or state level.
Throughout my political career, fortune and circumstance have blessed me-until this year. It was especially fortuitous to have been in the Assembly when California’s redevelopment agencies were shut down. Following my initial 1995 publication of “Redevelopment: The Unknown Government” (now in its ninth and final edition), I’ve been part of a statewide coalition opposed to the eminent domain abuses, corporate welfare, crony capitalism, land use distortions and public waste that the agencies had become.
As a Fullerton City Councilmember, I warned my regional colleagues that the sales tax shell game of outbidding each other for big-box retail and auto malls was not sustainable. As an Orange County Supervisor, I met with Gov. Schwarzenegger and told him personally to look to the agencies to meet the state’s obligation to education-which he did. When Gov. Brown convinced his reluctant fellow Democrats that redevelopment’s annual $7 billion property tax diversion was unsustainable, I enthusiastically joined them, and provided enough other Republicans to get the two-thirds vote needed. With over $100 billion in debt still to pay off, it will be years before all the revenue can be restored to our schools, counties, special districts and municipal general funds. But being part of this decisive phase of the process has been the capstone of my political career.
That’s what made the mountain of campaign money spent against me by the public employee unions disheartening, as I’d spent my political career trying to restore redevelopment funds to public services, schools and public safety.
Other issues in which I felt I made a difference included ELL education programs and marijuana policy.
Among my own children, I could see that the whole $1.5 billion annual English Language Learner program (previously known as English as a Second Language) has become a giant trap for students and parents, costly in public dollars and wasted student time. Designated as “limited English” while entering kindergarten, these kids (70% of whom are US-born) lose valuable class time with costly testing and tedious remedial help most do not need. Many students never escape the program, a fact my colleague Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) and I heard confirmed during our recent ELL Hearing in Santa Ana. Our office research, hearings and reform legislation has helped place this arcane program into the limelight of future legislative scrutiny.
As for marijuana, I was happy to provide bipartisan support to legalize the growing of industrial hemp, and for more rational laws in dealing with its recreational use. The War on Drugs has become a war on people-especially poor people. It costs billions in incarceration and in broken lives of those whose only crime was ingesting a substance into their own bodies. Is this a criminal issue or health issue? Consensual, non-violent adult activity should not be subject to our costly criminal justice system or militarize our relations with other countries.
Republican leaders love to blast the over-intrusive “nanny state,” yet for cultural reasons most shy away from advocating common sense drug laws. Some have not shied away: influential columnists William F. Buckley and George Will, Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Rep. and Sen.-elect Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and former Secretary of State George Shultz. Where are the Democrats? The current presidential administration has raided more medical marijuana dispensaries than its Republican predecessor.
Immigration is not a state issue and the state legislature has no power to change federal policies. However, the emotional issue of immigration lies just beneath the surface of many legislative debates. My attitude has always been an inclusive one. Our state is far better off when people-whatever their status-are studying, driving and working legally rather than living in the shadows. I’m hopeful a new consensus will emerge from Congress to provide the changes we need.
I have tried to judge every law, every program, every expenditure not through their intentions, but their unexpected consequences. We need fewer laws-not more. Government must do a few things-public safety and services-and do them well.
So, thank you, 72, for the opportunity to serve you; a rare opportunity when the state’s ongoing financial crisis has forced the discussion of long-overdue changes.
The dual-life of spending half my time in Sacramento took away from my time with my wife and the four kids still at home-especially my little Johnny, now 18 months old. Now I have returned, a full-time dad.
Old doors close. New ones open, if we have only the wisdom and patience to see them. I am open to new doors, and welcome old friends who may know of any.
I thank, too, my loyal staff: District Director Bruce Whitaker, just re-elected as the top vote getter among twelve Fullerton City Council candidates; Jackie Filbeck, Chris Nguyen and Connor Duckworth for their outstanding work in the district office and community outreach; and I thank my Capitol staff, including Chief of Staff Bryan Lanza and Nikos Leverenz. They will all be valuable assets wherever they land.
We all gave it our best.