Evan Branning from Livermore and Shawn Kumagai from Dublin were recently elected District 16 delegates to the Democratic State Central Committee. They will advocate for local issues, as well as promote the California Democratic party agenda and candidates.
Branning serves as a member of the Alameda County Public Health Commission and the Livermore Human Services Commission. He states that his goal is to work with the community and help Livermore improve. He wanted to become a delegate to move the party into a more inclusive, compassionate direction. He believes that the most effective way to bring about change is not to stand alone as the one voice in the room, but to bring people together so that all are heard. In this way, coalitions can be built to influence local and state politics and decisions.
Kumagai was just elected for the first time to the Dublin City Council. He is the leader of Organizing for Action, which focuses on promoting legislation concerning healthcare and services surrounding immigration issues. He also believes in building coalitions that reflect unified constituent decisions. He noted that issues that affect the district and his community are not only about elections, but also about the need to connect collaboratively on a variety of issues. As an Assembly District delegate to the Democratic State Central Committee, he will help identify, select and get Democrats elected, and will support an agreed upon chosen platform.
Branning stated that for him to endorse a candidate, that person would need to be an individual who had compassion, understood the struggles of other people, was able to listen to the advice of others and had proven effectiveness at building coalitions. Compassion also means moving forward with good laws. Kumagai would endorse candidates who were doing good work. He would look to the candidate’s network, who they are supporting and why, as well as determine that the candidate had a presence and good reputation in the community.
Turning to housing, Branning remarked that people react very strongly to housing issues. It is easy to worry about the negative repercussions of housing, and hard to see the upsides and advantages if you are already secure in your housing. Local control is vital to making sure that our community stays strong and works together. However, projects are being delayed for years. Proposition 13 affects funding resources for cities, enabling them to build the infrastructure that goes along with increased building. An initiative on the ballot in 2020 is intended to change the Prop 13 rules for corporations, while maintaining it for homeowners. When you have corporations that can stay at low property values without ever changing ownership, since their ownership is dispersed, this results in an abuse of Prop 13 enabling corporations to get low property taxes. Corporate money will be moving strongly against this initiative. Hopefully, some corporations will view the initiative as a way to help their employees and communities. They can look at this as doing what is right, not just supporting their own profits.
Kumagai agreed. He also stated that there is a role for local control of development issues. Cities should absolutely have a seat at the table. Housing needs should not be an “us versus them” battle at the state level. We need to collaborate with our legislators to make sure they understand how state policies affect us now and in the future.
When discussing education funding, Kumagai supports equity, access and teachers. People falsely think it is property taxes which directly fund public education. State education by law is funded by state income tax which is subject to the ebbs and flows of economic factors. That form of funding was put in place to create access and equity across the board. Because of the last recession, schools became severely underfunded; that problem remains. Branning believes a balance needs to be struck. There are no innovative solutions working under the present constraints. He believes that It is an absolute disaster right now. Class sizes need to be reduced, which requires increased funding. Branning and Kumagai think that changing the Prop 13 rules for corporations must be looked at as a solution. A vote of the people is needed, since the original proposition was approved at the ballot box.
Both agree that climate change needs to be addressed. Branning noted that the I-580 corridor is one big parking lot. Making the costs of driving more obvious and public transit easier would be a major step toward improving the environment locally. Transportation projects this large require state and sometimes federal funding. As state delegates, Branning believes that they can make sure that funding is used locally, as well as in other areas of the state. California is leading on environmental reforms and addressing climate issues. It needs to keep pushing in that direction to become the model for the nation, and hopefully the world.
Kumagai also agreed that transportation is a big piece of the problem. In the Tri-Valley, the 580-680 project and Valley Link will cost a lot. People don’t realize how climate change is making an impact on their lives. We need to create jobs that move us to a greener way of living. We have to be thinking about water infrastructure and electric power generation for the future.