Republican Assembly member Catharine Baker of Dublin is running for her third term for the State Assembly’s 16th District. She is being challenged by Democrat Rebecca Bauer-Kahan of Orinda.
The Independent asked the candidates to tell about themselves, their qualifications for office and their top priorities for legislation.
They were provided with questions concerning a variety of state issues. One referred to the conflict between local planning control and state housing mandates, including BART’s new land-use planning powers that the legislature approved this year.
Candidates were asked whether they support the state’s designation of a Tesla area site for future off-road vehicle use, or prefer protected open space.
Regional transportation issues were addressed. Do the candidates support Valley Link providing ACE transit from the San Joaquin Valley to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station via Livermore? What do they think about the Bullet Train approved by voters, which recently has been criticized for cost overruns and delays?
The California Water Fix, which proponents say would make more efficient use of water available in the State Water Project, was also discussed. Part of that issue involves the Twin Tunnels, which Governor Jerry Brown has proposed as a way to bypass Delta pollution. Critics say it will deprive the Delta plants and fish of needed fresh water levels.
Candidates also were quizzed about gun control laws, and whether schools are being treated fairly in state budgets.
BART safety, especially crime, has become a bigger issue. Can legislators play a role in controlling criminal behavior?
Finally, candidates were asked whether California can play a role in controlling global warming.
Candidates appear in alphabetical order.
Catharine Baker was elected to the Assembly in 2014, and won re-election in 2016. She, her husband and their twins have lived in the Tri-Valley for more than 17 years. Her law practice represents small local businesses and non-profits.
Baker said, “I will continue to focus on the issues that most affect our quality of life – education, transportation, financial discipline and government accountability, with a continued emphasis on bipartisan collaboration.” On local planning control versus state mandates, Baker said that the state already imposes plenty of rules on local governments, and should reform its own laws that make housing “needlessly more expensive and slower to build, like the CEQA statute.
“The state can also support local workforce and affordable housing through tax credits and matching grants to local governments and housing non-profits, and help first-time homebuyers save for a down payment. I have supported bipartisan bills doing just that, and will continue to vigorously oppose state efforts like AB 2923 and SB 35 that bypass local input.”
On plans for the Tesla area near the Carnegie Motorcycle Park to turn into a site for off-road vehicles, Baker co-authored SB 1316 with Senator Glazer, supported by local conservation groups, to authorize the State Parks Department to sell the land to conservation interests, with input from the off-road vehicle community, so the land can be preserved and off-road enthusiasts can purchase other land for off-road recreation. Baker supports Valley Link, and co-authored the bill that created the mechanism that established the Valley Link authority. Its sole job is to connect BART and ACE. It will take more than 30,000 cars off I-580/680 daily.
Baker has authored bills to end the Bullet Train, and “to redirect funds into smarter transportation investments, school infrastructure, or water storage.” Baker opposes the California Water Fix and the governor’s Twin Tunnels proposal. “We must instead invest in more effective water projects. I was proud to help secure funds to expand Los Vaqueros Reservoir by 70%, and funds to replace aging water treatment infrastructure at Del Valle Regional Park, which provides water storage and flood control to our region.” On gun control, Baker said that she has supported more than 40 “common-sense gun control bills,” all listed on her website. Her support includes strengthening the assault weapons ban, expanding background checks, expanding the ban on guns in schools, and ending gun manufacturers’ ability to bypass California’s ban on high capacity magazines.
“I authored legislation sponsored by the Brady Campaign, and measures to get guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to others or who are already prohibited from having guns. I co-authored legislation that created the Gun Violence Research Center (which Congress refused to do under partisan politics), to provide research on how best to prevent gun violence. We must have less partisan bickering and more of this bipartisan work to prevent gun violence.”
California schools are not being treated fairly in the state budget. “I have supported every education budget while in the Assembly, providing a 17% increase to schools since 2015, and authored the repeal of the harmful cap on school reserves. The California School Boards Association named me Legislator of the Year for this successful work to protect local school budgets.
“The State’s long-term funding formula does not adequately fund our schools, however. I have co-authored bipartisan legislation (AB 2808) that restructures the formula so our local schools and kids get the support they should.”
On BART crime, Baker said the state can and should help by supporting our law enforcement and removing barriers to their ability to arrest and hold criminals on BART accountable. She opposed measures in the legislature that decriminalized fare evasion on BART.
“California should continue to lead in addressing climate change. I have supported all of the landmark legislation signed by Governor Brown to fight climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase our use of renewable energy to 100% by 2045.”
“I have also authored successful legislation to protect our vehicle emission standards from the federal attempted roll-back, and to protect our coastline from new offshore oil drilling,” concluded Baker.
Rebecca Bauer-Kahan is an environmental attorney, law professor and mother of three children. As an attorney, she specialized in ensuring that companies complied with environmental laws, while maintaining profitability.
“I am the granddaughter of refugees that fled Nazi-occupied Austria to experience the American Dream, and I am dedicated to returning that opportunity to my country and community.
“In 2017, I coordinated the legal services effort at SFO (San Francisco airport) to assist those impacted by Trump’s travel ban, and now I am running for the Assembly to ensure that our district’s values are represented in Sacramento.
“My priorities in the Assembly will focus on the issues important to this district and delivering for our local communities. I will focus on getting our public schools full funding, so our children get the education they deserve, preparing them for 21st-century jobs.
“I will work to find real transportation solutions to fix our roads, improve BART, and get people out of traffic. And I will use my background in environmental law to protect California’s environment, particularly as the Trump administration tries to roll back many of our key protections.”
Bauer-Kahn said that she strongly supports local control and publicly opposed AB2923, which allows BART to build housing on property that it owns. “There is no ignoring the housing crisis, but I believe our cities best understand how to implement smart growth, so that not only do new developments provide living options, but also infrastructure and other funding needs are accounted for.
“I would use my seat at the table to ensure that the interests of our communities are well represented on vital issues, such as this. That would include revisiting this law with the new governor and Legislature.”
Bauer-Kahan expressed support for protecting the Tesla area from becoming an off-road vehicle area. “We have an obligation to protect the land’s wildlife and environment.”
On Valley Link, she noted, “It is imperative that we support infrastructure like this that will help solve the Bay Area’s growing transportation problems. This will be a long-awaited, important link between housing in the east and jobs in the west. It also protects the environment by getting commuters out of their cars, and into public transit.” Addressing the Bullet Train issue, Bauer-Kahan said that given her background as an attorney protecting the environment, she tends to support public transit projects. However, the Bullet Train is 11 years behind schedule, and recent projections estimate the cost climbing to nearly $100 billion dollars. “This is not what voters approved, and I believe the future of this project should be reevaluated and put back to the voters.”
Bauer-Kahan opposes the Water Fix, including the Twin Tunnels. “It critically threatens the Bay and Delta environments, and could harm our regional water resources. Additionally, the staggering, ever-increasing costs of this project are not a fiscally responsible use of state funds.”
Bauer-Kahan supports gun violence prevention, and has been endorsed by Moms Demand Action. “While California has strong gun control laws, we can do more, and we need to continue to work to enforce our already strong laws.” She said that she has worked to ensure safe storage of guns in her own community and wants to bring stronger laws like this to the state level.
“Public schools in California are woefully underfunded — we are 46th in the nation in per-pupil funding. We see the impacts of this firsthand in Assembly District 16, where our school districts are some of the lowest funded in the state. It would be a priority for me to make sure we are exploring options to increase funding for all our schools so that our kids are getting the education they need to be prepared for the 21st-century economy.”
On violent incidents at BART, Bauer-Kahan said, “We need to be working to have better coordination between our local police forces and the BART police. We need to make sure that all law enforcement personnel are bringing their skills to bear to help reduce crime in the BART system.”
Climate change needs to be met by all possible efforts. “California is leading the way with cap and trade, and legislating a transition to 100% clean energy, but more needs to be done. We need to make sure that the special interests are not winning in Sacramento, and clean water and air are given priority in legislation and implementation.”
“We need to make sure that we are implementing programs that keep us on a path to a clean California,” stated Bauer-Kahan.