Longtime former state Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, who represented Palo Alto for six years, died on July 3, according to his family. He was 70 years old.
The Democrat from Redwood City told his supporters in a May 2011 email that he had undergone emergency surgery for a malignant brain tumor earlier that month and that he was preparing to undergo "aggressive treatment," including radiation and chemotherapy, the Weekly reported at the time.
He said at the time that his doctors told him the tumor, while not curable, was containable. The illness halted his bid for a state Senate seat.
Ruskin was a member of the Committee for Green Foothills. He served nine years as a city councilman in Redwood City starting in 1995 and was mayor from 1999 through 2001. He was elected to the State Assembly in 2004, when he defeated Republican Steve Poizner to succeed former Palo Alto Mayor Joe Simitian. The 21st District straddles Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and includes Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, Stanford, Redwood City, San Carlos and a small part of San Jose.
Ruskin was re-elected twice before being termed out in 2010. He was succeeded by fellow Democrat Rich Gordon.
As a Redwood City councilman, he worked with Palo Alto officials to advocate for the creation of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, an organization of cities that use Hetch Hetchy water, which was controlled by San Francisco. Ruskin was its founding chairman. It took three bills to get it passed in the Legislature, according to the Weekly's past coverage.
Ruskin championed an environmental bill to safeguard the state through toxic-substances reporting. He introduced a bill that funded the successful Parolee Reentry Program in East Palo Alto, which helped more than 100 persons change their lives and exit the revolving door of crime, according to his Assembly record.
In 2009, he attempted to get a bill passed that would have give new authority to the California Coastal Commission to impose penalties for violations of the Coastal Act.
He served on the Budget, Business and Professions, Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials and Higher Education committees of the California General Assembly, among others. His work on the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials committee included legislation to improve water and air quality, including greenhouse-gas-emission reduction and alternative-fuels vehicles, according to his Assembly biography.
Ruskin had planned to run for Simitian's seat in the state Senate in 2012.
"Given the treatment ahead, I am withdrawing from all political activity at this time in order to focus on my recovery and to be with my wife, Cheryl, friends, and family. I will be looking inside myself to understand how I want to spend my time and how I otherwise want to contribute to the community," he said in a statement after announcing his illness.
Gordon praised Ruskin's service in the Assembly after the 2011 announcement of his illness. He said he has been "impressed by the deep respect that so many in Sacramento have for Ira."
Ruskin "obviously did an outstanding job in the State Assembly," he said.
Ruskin is survived by his wife, Cheryl Perman. He received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley in 1968 and an master's in communications from Stanford University in 1983, according to his Assembly biography.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday, July 9, at 10 a.m. at Temple Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City. Graveside services will follow at Alta Mesas Cemetery, 695 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto. Updates and announcements can be found at sites.google.com/site/iraruskinrwc.