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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cabaldon and Yamada Square Off in First Debate

The Northern Solano Democratic Club hosted a debate for the Democratic Nomination for the 8th Assembly District between Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. It was very well-attended, with the conference room at the Courtyard Marriot in Fairfield near capacity.

The two candidates agreed in principle on far more issues than they disagreed. In fact, Cabaldon in his closing remarks said as much.
"As you can tell, Supervisor Yamada and I agree on 98, 99 percent of the policy issues that are challenging California. And that is because we are both good Democrats... We understand the priorities of our party, and I would expect, that we would see very similar voting patterns in the capital for both of us."
Where they differed was in terms of emphasis and priorities. Cabaldon spoke at length on issues such as the environment, transportation, and education. Some of the key issues included developing the capital corridor transit system, protecting the delta and talking about delta smelt. He used West Sacramento as a model for the Democratic Party.
"We have proven you can be a strong advocate for the environment and still get good economic development in your community, that produces good clean green manufacturing jobs at a rate that is unmatched anywhere in our region."
He also mentioned his sexual orientation:
"We have proven you can have a gay mayor and still have a socially cohesive powerful place that we believe in community in a place like West Sacramento."
In contrast, Mariko Yamada stressed social issues and social services such as health care among other services. She spoke of her background as a social worker and creating a different approach to solving our problems.
"I come from a set of core values that are essential to our profession, those are service, social justice, the dignity and the worth of all people, the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence and the desire to change life for the better. These values are, or I think should be, the core values of the Democratic Party."
She added:
"I believe that, and we all share this, that something is wrong with the direction that our society has gone, our values have been subverted, both at the federal level and sometimes the state level, as a social worker and a Democrat, I expect to be an advocate for the poorest of the poor, but what we're seeing now is an erosion of the effects of misplaced priorities of our nation and state, and I believe it is time for really all of us to stand up and question the values that are being carried forward at the highest levels of government and sometimes at the state level."
Cabaldon spoke in favor of extending term limits, through the ballot initiative. Yamada, spoke out against term limits in principle, and in favor of granting the electorate the right to decide.

Both candidates were in strong support of single-payer, universal health care.

Yamada spoke first, passionately, in favor of health care reform.
"The social work profession has been on national record in favor of the single payer, universal health care system for some fifty years. I think we were called 'communists' then, but now we're just regular people."
Cabaldon also strongly favored single-payer universal health care, citing the support of Sheila Kuehl for his candidacy and her pressing the health care issue in legislation. Cabaldon is "hopeful" that health care will not be an issue for when he or Yamada are seated in the legislature.

Where they differ on this issue, is in their perception about the prospects for single-payer health care to pass in the near future. Yamada was somewhat less optimistic about the prospects of the Keuhl bill. "I am not very encouraged by what's happening at that committee. I think there's still way too many politics that have been infused into the dialogue. I am in absolute support of Kuehl's bill..."

They differed on the question of reducing the majority required to pass a budget. Yamada supported keeping the current two-thirds requirement as a means to protect the minority and out of concern for being the minority in the future. Cabaldon supported reducing it to a simple-majority, out of the need to pass legislation now. "With a majority vote, you can hold us, the Democrats, accountable for the budgets that we propose as an expression of our values for California."

The subject to turned to protecting and maintaining agricultural lands. Yamada talked about the Yolo County Supervisors and the general plan process. She also talked about balancing protection of agricultural land with providing enough housing to keep prices down.
"I think that it is always a balance approach, if we don't have, no farms, no food. So we need to make sure that we are protecting agricultural land. I have taken firm positions on my board on development projects that I did not think were in alignment with our core values of preserving and protecting agriculture and open space. I think we have to base our land use decisions on smart growth principles."
Cabaldon responded with a sharp criticism of current discussions for county development on city edges.
"Solano County and Yolo County are the state's two premier counties in terms of growth management by doing one thing, saying growth is going to occur in existing cities." He then pointedly added, "They are under assault today. The scenario where I've got some real concerns about what's going on at Yolo County and the approval of thousands of housing units outside of the incorporated cities on farmland in our county. We can't afford that, what might seem like a good, expedient, financial decision for government is a bad decision for the environment, for the health of our rural economy, and for public health. This is the number issue facing our whole region, is the assault in both counties on longstanding policy of city-centered growth that vitalizes our cities and protects our agricultural and rural places."
Overall, there was far more difference in terms of emphasis and priorities than in terms of policy disagreement. Yamada in her closing comments again called for running a good, clean campaign. For the most part, both of the candidates adhered to that, there were few attacks. The most pointed criticism was probably offered by Cabaldon in his veiled yet pointed criticism of Board of Supervisor policy on land use. While Cabaldon effectively and subtlely was able to criticize the county on that issue, an issue of vulnerability to Yamada especially with her base in Davis, Yamada missed several opportunities to counter by criticizing Cabaldon's development record in West Sacramento. More importantly, she failed to point out that several of Cabaldon's key supporters have also supported development on city edges. This is an issue that has already drawn a lot of attention in Yolo County and it appears that it will continue in the Assembly District race.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting