At the Livermore Indivisible monthly meeting on January 13, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, newly elected Assembly member for the 16th district, discussed her stances. She stated that she was motivated to seek the Assembly seat in large part because of her interest in protecting the environment and offering her expertise in the area of climate change. She also wanted to have a voice crafting legislation to represent the needs of all the citizens in California, as well as those specifically in District 16. She noted that her background as an environmental attorney and teacher of appellate law would serve her well in dealing with her new position.
Bauer-Kahan has just been named Assistant Speaker Pro-Tem in the Assembly. She was assigned to four Assembly committees. They include privacy, public safety encompassing the whole penal code, banking and finance, as well as environmental safety and toxics -- the protection of our water, soil and natural resources. In addition, she said that she will work to ensure that this district will get its fair share of what is needed to help local small businesses, schools, and especially transportation in the Tri-Valley.
Bauer-Kahan answered a broad spectrum of questions.
She stated that health issues involve the reduction of the cost of health care and drugs. She is a huge believer in health care for all, but said that it must be done in a responsible fashion, and in a way that will succeed.
She noted that education locally needs more resources. She was definitely aware of school funding difficulties, mentioning that because of her involvement in her children’s experiences, she has a personal viewpoint. She said that It’s good to be a mom in local schools to observe the problems.
Transportation is another priority. One that works for everybody to connect the Tri-Valley to other systems will ultimately mean less traffic. Making sure the transportation corridors moving forward are “green” will help get California closer to a 100% clean energy future.
What we are doing in the criminal justice system is unjust and fiscally irresponsible. “We shouldn’t be spending more on prisons than we are on schools.” Reforming the justice system is vital. We should move the money saved to places where it is better spent.
Bauer-Kahan talked about immigration and what is happening on the border to families. The federal government is not helping them at all, she believes. The state needs to work on solutions for those legitimately seeking asylum. One of her pledges is to get colleagues to agree that where the federal government falls down, the State of California will step in. In regard to the current government shutdown, she pledges she will work to do everything that we can as a state to stand up for the values and the right thing. What is coming down from Washington is shocking. Spending $5.4 billion on a wall is not the answer. “Nobody wants to be illegal.”
There is a lot of work to be done with campaign finance reform. Bauer-Kahan’s advice is to show up and vote for the person who is going to be the best for our community. She stated that this district did that. The transparency information required in advertising was really beneficial in this election. Consumer privacy needs to be improved, given what has been happening on the internet.
The public safety committee is where gun violence prevention bills go. She will advocate to get gun safety bills moved to the assembly floor for a vote.
Environment and climate change need to be addressed locally. Climate change is causing the fires; then the fires are causing worsening climate conditions. Legislation needs to be passed to protect our communities, as well as climate change. Her office will be working with local communities on this problem. Protecting the coasts are important to California, although not to this administration in Washington, she noted.
Governor Newsom is interested in health care for all. Bauer-Kahan will be advancing it in a responsible way, as well as lowering pharmaceutical costs. Increasing funding for education is of prime importance. In addition, vaping has become a huge issue in the school system. She will be talking about this in the legislature.
Van Rainey, Chairman of Livermore Indivisible, asked about her perspective on full and fair funding for K through 12 schools. She remarked that schools get to decide how they spend the money they receive; she supports that. By cutting costs elsewhere, more money can be directed to funding schools for teachers and other needs, such as English language learners, school lunches and foster care children. Continue to provide free education for all children. Children with individual education plans also require more resources.
Mary Perner, board president of Tri-Valley Cares, a group that monitors activities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), commented that the State of California has some jurisdiction over LLNL, including its hazardous waste permit. “You stressed that you sit on committees that involve environmental safety and toxic materials”. She asked Bauer-Kahan if she could commit to meet with Tri-Valley Cares to keep apprised of environmental programs at the lab and to meet when major issues of community and environmental protection arise. Bauer-Kahan said that she will meet with anyone.
Ellis Goldberg stated that car manufactures build unsafe products, bankers defraud us, PG&E executives make decisions that kill people and they all get slaps on the hand. “There aren’t teeth in the laws that govern corporate crime.” Bauer-Kahan replied, “Every vote will be with you, my constituents, in mind and not corporations or special interests.”
Clare Moran asked about criminal justice reform and eliminating bail. Bauer-Kahan remarked that it was important to keep the most dangerous offenders in jail and not the ones who just could not afford bail. Billions of dollars are spent every year on 70% of people just awaiting trial at a system cost of over $100/day. Bail reform needs to be looked at after data collected by the new risk assessment decision pathway bill that was passed has been reviewed.
Positions on white nationalism and the trends across the country were cited. Bauer-Kahan stated that the way the President spoke about immigrants and spreading hatred was abhorrent to her. It’s not what this country or the State of California stands for. She mentioned that her relatives were Holocaust survivors. She discussed having the public schools be able to offer an anti-bias education program beginning in kindergarten. She wants to help children from an early age “not to hate”.
Bauer-Kahan felt that something has to be done about fundraising for candidates. The disclosure laws are excellent in that they require naming the specific individuals who are contributing funds. However, there was all this behind the scenes trail of money from big business to get certain people elected. She said that she should spend her time governing and helping all of us, not fund raising.
Joanne Morrison, a member of the Indivisible Education Subcommittee, wanted to discuss vaping, a critical issue in the schools. One bill currently in the Senate will be opposed by a lot of big money. Also, Assembly Bill 131 could be vulnerable. It prohibits the cigarette manufacturers from advertising with cartoons and other approaches that appeal to children. Bauer-Kahan suggested that especially when bills come up that benefit the big interests, opponents should create coalitions in this district and others, and include PTAs across the State, to call your assembly and senate representatives with your concerns. Build a power base around an issue, in this case around nicotine. She advised, “You get to vote and the special interests don’t. Your voices matter more.”
An audience member mentioned LBGTQ issues. Bauer-Kahan stated that it was crucial that these individuals be accorded all the rights, protection and respect given every other person.
Another attendee stated that in the election, your opponents villainized workers and unions. “What are you going to do about this?” Bauer-Kahan noted that workforces need to earn a living wage, have healthcare and retain the ability to work. When these are not available, many other things happen. Taxpayers end up paying anyway with higher E.R. visits and homeless problems.
Anne White, a member of the Livermore school board, asked Bauer-Kahan to visit the Livermore schools. Bauer-Kahan said that she would. She added that although we have excellent schools here, we need to continue providing our children with all the resources to address our well-rounded education needs.
Livermore City Council member Trish Munro noted that problems with homelessness and housing had not been addressed, nor had the articulation between local and state government. Bauer-Kahan replied that those issues were easier to solve on local levels and state levels than in Washington.
Bauer-Kahan said she was a “huge believer” that local entities know best how to create smart growth. She noted that the legislature will be discussing SB 50. It will affect the entire state concerning requirements for more growth, without considering the need to catch up with the infrastructure involved to handle the increase in population that the number of housing units would cause. This “one size fits all” thinking is not good. Cities should be given at least a few years to prepare for the changes, especially in the areas designated as transit hubs. Local planning commissions and city councils cannot be taken out of planning. It does not lead to smart growth.
An audience member brought up the importance of civic education starting young, so that youth can understand how public policy works. Bauer-Kahan praised the work that Congressman Eric Swalwell has carried out in local schools to educate students on ballot measures. He has set up mock elections and shown why it is important for citizens to vote.
Bauer-Kahan closed stating that no matter what the party affiliation of a constituent, or whether or not someone voted for her, it was her job to represent everyone in Assembly District 16. “I want your voices to be heard. I want to govern with you as all of my partners.”