Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - May 14, 2010

Editorial: Rich Gordon for Assembly

Neither Kishimoto nor Becker come close to matching Gordon's extensive experience and proven effectiveness at a statewide level

Considering the mess awaiting the successful state Assembly candidate in November, it is surprising to see such diversity and passion among the three seeking the Democratic nomination in the June 8 election.

Facing unprecedented budget deficits, extreme partisanship and two-thirds voting requirements that create impasses on any controversial issue, state government in California has become virtually dysfunctional.

While the Peninsula is well served by termed-out Assemblyman Ira Ruskin and state Senator Joe Simitian, the grip of party leaders and resulting partisanship makes for a rough-and-tumble Sacramento that is more often gridlocked than not.

In this atmosphere, it is tempting to recommend the candidate that is made from the most different mold, Josh Becker.

Becker, 40, has law and business degrees from Stanford and describes himself as a "green-energy entrepreneur." He has engaged in numerous policy issues relating to the environment and education and started the Full Circle Fund, whose members give money and donate time to help local nonprofits focused on these areas. He has an impressive list of donors and supporters that extend deeply into the entrepreneurial fabric of Silicon Valley.

Becker is so passionate about clean-technology and its ability to drive California's economy out of recession that it's difficult to glean specifics from him on the immediate challenges facing the state, such as how we deal with the $21 billion budget deficit. His only idea for further reducing state spending was to stop work on planning for new prisons.

It is hard to imagine how someone with his drive and idealism wouldn't get to Sacramento and quickly be drained of enthusiasm in the face of the frustrations of a slow-moving government in need of so many institutional reforms.

Former Palo Alto City Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, 54, believes she represents the future of California. Having emigrated from Japan as a child, learning English and later getting her MBA from Stanford and starting her own consulting business, Kishimoto is an example of the growing role immigrants are playing in shaping the future direction of California.

Her elected experience, however, is limited to her eight years on the City Council, during which she championed quality-of-life environmental issues such as protecting neighborhoods, encouraging sustainability practices and addressing climate change on a local level. While always prepared and armed with a long list of questions for staff on issues before the council, she never demonstrated an ability to lead her colleagues toward creative solutions on complex issues. She has done a good job of organizing Peninsula cities into a cohesive voice on high-speed rail concerns.

By contrast to both Becker and Kishimoto, Rich Gordon has a much broader command of the issues facing the state and what must happen to restore a functioning state government.

He has a 12-year track record of crafting legislative solutions to problems and building needed coalitions on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, as well as statewide through his involvement in the supervisors' association. And as executive director of the nonprofit Youth & Family Assistance he was actually responsible for delivering services in response to community needs.

Gordon shares Becker and Kishimoto's environmental concerns and goals, but he is more pragmatic and politically astute to how they can be accomplished. He puts a high priority on the need to reform the way state government works, including repealing the two-thirds requirement for approving the state budget, easing term limits, creating open primaries and tightening the initiative process.

Reflecting his consensus-building style, Gordon has support across the political spectrum from people who have been impressed by his ability to reach out to adversaries and craft solutions to difficult problems. Although he enjoys union support in the race, he supports reform of the public-employee pension system and supported the two-tier system currently in place in San Mateo County.

For those most concerned about the High Speed Rail project, Gordon is the most knowledgeable of the three candidates and advocates that the legislature implement a new oversight structure for the governing board with greater transparency and local representation.

Rich Gordon is the only candidate with the knowledge and experience to be immediately effective in Sacramento, and that is what will be needed to address successfully the serious problems in California.

We strongly recommend his election to the state Assembly.

Comments

Posted by Too Much Traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 9:29 am

I was very pleasantly surprised to read the Weekly's endorsement of Rich Gordon for Assembly. I was expecting the Weekly to endorse Yoriko Kishimoto, since the Weekly has long been a vocal cheerleader for the city council and it's members.
This time they got it right.
I especially enjoyed their analysis of her record on the council:
"Her elected experience, however, is limited to her eight years on the City Council...."
and "she never demonstrated an ability to lead her colleagues toward creative solutions on complex issues."


The Weekly does praise her:
"She has done a good job of organizing Peninsula cities into a cohesive voice on high-speed rail concerns. "
Instead they should have raised the question of why she changed her mind on HSR within a couple of months of the vote she championed. Lack of preparedness? Lack of understanding of the issue? Had her green glasses on?
The above alone should disqualify her from any further elected office.


Posted by George, a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 10:21 am

I'm uncomfortable with messages that over time repeatedly pick on one person or one political figure.
It makes me think there is a personal grudge being acted out, with a thin layer of "rational" reasons to disguise the real motive. I'm inclined to ignore vendettas.


Posted by Palo Alto Voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

Not sure what George's problem with Too Much Traffic's post is.
I agree with the Weekly editorial and also agree with the comments that the HSR issue has not been addressed by Ms Kishimoto.
It is also a fact that Ms Kishimoto is a public figure and a politician and therefore others should expect that she be subject to both criticism and praise from the public.
I am not sure why George considers Too Much Traffic's rather innocuous post to be a "grudge" or a "vendetta".


Posted by George, a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 11:07 am

Perhaps Voter doesn't read this forum very often.
Too Much Traffic posts this same view again and again. And yet again. That's what makes it a grudge or a vendetta.


Posted by Too Much Traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 11:17 am

George--the Weekly editorial just came out today, so my regarding that is new. Is repeatedly asking a politician to explain her sudden about face on an important issue like HSR considered to be a "grudge" or "vendetta". Kishimoto is a politician running for elective office--her record on the council should be available for scrutiny and comment as should questions about her decisions made during her council years. I think we have had too much of a lack of accountability by our council members over the years--that may be why we are in the fiscal situation that we are in now.


Posted by Think before voting, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2010 at 9:15 am

Rich Gordon may or may not be a good respresentative for the State Assembly but he has two marks against him. In the past he has supported the Cargill development on the salt ponds in Redwood City and he has also supported High Speed Rail. So far Josh Becker has only supported HSR.


Posted by Change, a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Just to clarify Think's comment, Becker has supported HSR in concept, but withholds support until a cogent business case can be made. I doubt the current implementation will ever meet that hurtle.

Becker has publicly rallied for everything the Weekly attributes to Gordon's pragmatism. Becker is especially vocal about repealing the two-thirds approval for the state budget. Full Circle has been in place for many years, as has Becker's active work in the public sector.

I can appreciate why it would be easy to confuse Gordon's 12 years in elected office with endurance. Can't see how you can associate those 12 years in elected office with a break from the past.


Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm

When I found out that Josh Becker was running for State Assembly, I breathed a sigh of relief that we finally have a chance to elect a competent person into California politics. Josh makes things happen...He started a successful non-profit called Full Circle Fund, he created a socially conscious investment fund named New Cycle Ventures, and he has created a powerful political network that is critical in today's political process. I highly respect Josh as a person, businessman, and politician.


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