The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Second Debate Last Night for 8th Assembly District

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada squared off last night in their second debate in Vacaville, ironically sponsored by the same folks who put on the first debate, the Northern Solano County Democratic Party. Around 60 people or so filed into the Senior Citizens center in a debate that was recorded to go up on the internet.

The event began late and ended later than schedule. It feature little in the way of substantive differences--for the most part it was style, emphasis, and details. County Supervisor Mariko Yamada performed considerably better than she did the first time around. If there was a difference in the performance, it was not a large difference, unlike the first debate. This time, Yamada more than held her own.

In what follows, we highlight some of the issues and the responses of both candidates.

Christopher Cabaldon in his opening statement talked about the vast transformation of West Sacramento and took full credit for such a transformation. He remarked about his Philipino heritage, the disadvantages he had growing up, and the unlikeliness that someone from his background would lead the transformation of West Sacramento. Substantively he focused on a brown to green revolution in Wet Sacramento, leading it to become a city known for its sustainable and green policies. He talked about his education background. Finally he talked about making the city of West Sacramento safer by reducing crime. He spoke of the need to fight urbanization and protect agricultural land in the 8th AD, his vast number of local and statewide endorsements. Finally he argued that this is a state in crisis and it needs a champion for change.

Mariko Yamada ventured that she was running to give the voters a choice. She will be a choice for those whose voices are not usually heard and that she will be representative not for those in the halls of power but rather in the community and the grassroots. She emphasized her endorsements from the California Nurses Association and California Teacher's Association and being emblematic of her speaking to the real problems of everyday people. She cited her background from Denver, Colorado and the fact that her family had been interned in camps during the second world war. She cited her modest background as helping to root her worldview and work on behalf of the disadvantaged. She wants to solve the problems of those least able to articulate their needs--the children, the disabled, the elderly, the veterans. Finally she mentioned how she has canvased the community and has knocked on over 3000 doors in Solano County.

The first questioned asked about young voters and how they can be inspired and kept involved in the process. For Mariko Yamada, she believes that the excitement among young voters transcends the current elections. She cites the advent of technology such as the internet and youtubes as a means by which to keep young voters excited and engaged. She said this is a different and an exciting time. For Christopher Cabaldon it was about the issues. The issues of health care reform, education, the war, and climate change lend themselves to excitement and involvement by young people. Talks about the need to avoid the politics of scoring of points, this leads to cynicism. We need to respect young voters and indeed, all of the electorate.

Next came the issue of health care which asked which system they favored. For Christopher Cabaldon he suggested that everyone is paying for the uninsured, even when we do not see it. He favors the Sheila Kuehl single payer health system as the ideal. However, he then argued that we must do something even it is not a single payer system. We cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the possible. Finally he argued that cuts in Medi-Cal are taking us in the wrong direction and it will make it impossible to find Medi-Cal providers who cover the disadvantaged. Mariko Yamada was also supportive of the Kuehl Bill and argued that if her supporter, Phil Angelides had been elected Governor, we would have it as law now. She is also willing to consider others but not as enthusiastically. Talked about the fact that social workers have supported single payer health system going back 50 years, back then, she quipped they were called Communists but now normal people also support such a system.

The budget was also a hot topic of discussion. Mariko Yamada argued that the state budget process is broken and that local governments are imperiled by the system. She said that she does not have a problem proposing or supporting new taxes, however she first would like to end tax loopholes for the wealthy. She also believes that categorical programs have caused a huge problem and that there are far too many, which limits discretion and flexibility in the budget. She clarified her position on two-thirds requirement for budget passage, arguing now for a 55-60 threshold for the state budget. She argued that she does not favor a 50 percent plus one approach, that that only works when Democrats are in power and cited 1994 as a recent example of a time when the Democrats were not in power.

Christopher Cabaldon cited his record of balancing the budget in West Sacramento to the point where they have been able to have a city program of preschool for disadvantage kids enacted during an economic downturn. He said that we must ensure long term prosperity and to do so, we must do business better as a state, cut wasteful programs and spending before we ask for more taxes. He also cited the need for tax equity. He wants to close the corporate tax loophole and then he talked about the fact that the tax system has not kept pace with our new economy which is not exclusively based on manufactured and consumer goods. We need to look at a service oriented economy and adjust the tax system accordingly.

For the economy Christopher Cabladon focused on competitiveness even in places like Winters and Dixon in the global economy. Specifically he looked toward infrastructure and the problems of foreclosure. He suggested that we re-use the foreclosed housing stock and look to provide more affordable housing.

Mariko Yamada's focus was on green technology and she believes that the green revolution is the next wave. She thinks that green technology provides us an opportunity to make fundamental changes in the face of global warming and climate change. She wants to use green technology to create new jobs, new training. She believes it will help the economy while at the same time helping us to stay alive on the planet.

Several of the questions focused specifically on Solano County. One asked the candidates to cite what they would do to help the Solano County's economy, what was the biggest need. Mariko Yamada cited the need for local control--we must respect what each jurisdiction would articulate as their greatest needs economically. Each has a flavor of their own, they have staked out their own identity and we need to respect that. Each has its own General Plan and has made its own decisions. We need to work with the local leadership to see what they need the state to provide.

Christopher Cabaldon talked about the consequences of the housing market once again and the need to recycle housing stock. He talked about helping Suisun get block grants to do just that because currently small cities are not eligible for such grants. Then he talked about the tax policy and the state's policy that companies pay higher taxes if they both employ and sell in California. He cited the health care system and the need to provide that with assistance. Finally, he wants to help Travis Air Force Base.

Next the topic turned to traffic and congestion. Christopher Cabaldon cited the real human costs of congestion rather than simply an inconvenience. He pointed toward possible solutions--the capital corridor rail system, the Port of Sacramento as a means by which to transport without using our highways, and the transportation infrastructure bond. Mariko Yamada expressed optimism because ironically of global warming forcing us to deal with transportation, making it a priority. The cost of fuel is also driving that. Interestingly she said the fact that many people are living beyond their driving age as a means by which to relieve pressure on roadways. She suggests an investment in alternative transportation and talking about fixing land use planning by ceasing the promotion of sprawl which forces people to drive more and longer distances.

Highway 12 is another big issue for Solano County. The question asked about expansion to four lanes and whether they favored a bridge or a tunnel at Rio Vista.

Mariko Yamada argued that this is a very dangerous road and thanked Assemblywoman Lois Wolk for her work in helping to alleviate some of the danger. She said that this road was never intended to support the kind of traffic it currently does. She suggested that the Trilogy development will simply add to this. Making it four lanes will simply increase traffic. And while she is not definitive on it, she favors a bridge over a tunnel.

Christopher Cabaldon argued that too many have died on Highway 12 due to the inaction of the state and local leaders. He praised Lois Wolk as well. He differed with Yamada arguing that Trilogy is not the problem, the problem is not residential traffic or even commuter traffic. The problem is that commercial traffic--i.e. large trucks have used Highway 12 and avoided the freeways such as I-80 which were designed for them to use. He suggested that this is not sustainable and cited problems with the Delta as a result of the level of traffic.

Gas prices were also an issue and the question asked what they would do as Assemblymembers to reduce the dependence on oil. Chrisopher Cabaldon quipped that he was glad the question was not about gas prices, since he had no control over them as an Assemblymember. He cited both the monetary and environmental costs. His solution focused on smarter development to avoid commutes and alternative energy such as the hydrogen fuel cell and the pul-in hybrid. Mariko Yamada said that we must look at ourselves and change our driving behavior. She talked about the creation of an e-way in Yolo County--a dedicated path for electric vehicles. The finite supply of money necessarily means higher prices and the only way to combat them is to change our consumption power and develop green technologies.

Perhaps the most unusual question focused on whether it was possible to be an honest politician. Mariko Yamada turned this basically into an attack on her opponent, arguing that she believes it is possible to find an ethical balance and that this balance has been lost. She then suggested without direct citation, questionable behavior on behalf of her opponent, focusing perhaps on the West Sacramento Democratic club and perhaps even his problems with parking tickets. For her the answer is yes, that you can be an honest politician, although she identifies herself as a public servant. She suggested that she has not engaged in political shenanigans and neither have those around her. This speech drew the loudest response of the night from a partisan but split crowd.

Christopher Cabaldon did not immediately take the bait. He argued that in his experience he has never been letdown by the belief that the electorate both expects and deserves complete honesty. He then talks about looking toward our innter angels and makes comparisons with Bush--arguing that Bush has engagement in the politics and fear and cynicism, and of all his acts and policies, this is perhaps the most "evil."

However, Cabaldon would eventually respond to Mariko Yamada's attack in his closing statement. He juxtapose the seemingly trivial issues of parking tickets against the manifold problems and crises facing the voters of the 8th AD and the state of California--everything from schools, to the budget, the economy, healthcare, and the environment. He criticized her for focusing on such petty non-issues as opposed to these very serious issues facing people everyday.

Two final questions about education finished out the specific question section. The first of these explored the concept that education mandates come without funding. Christopher Cabaldon argued that "everyone in the California legislature thinks they are the superintendent of schools." He said that the state micromanages schools and that they put in specific requirements every single year that add up taking away local control. He argued that the local schools need to be allowed to figure it out on their own.

For Mariko Yamada we need to stop the concept of one-size-fits-all education. We need to reduce the number of categorical programs, eliminate No Child Left Behind. She argues that these types of mandates handcuff local schools and officials. Finally she pointed out that she was CTA endorsed and her opponent is supported by a different kind of educational organization, EdVoice.

The final of these questions asked about the mandated high school exit exam. Mariko Yamada argues that while she supports basic standards for graduation she does not support this exam for all children in order to graduation. Christopher Cabaldon on the other hand, supports the exit exam as a means by which to provide students and schools with evidence that they have some knowledge and some learning. He argues that it makes the graduation diploma actually mean something.

As I said at the onset, for the most part, these are two individuals who have a similar value system. There are some substantive differences between the two, but the biggest difference is in the emphasis and the details of their views and police prescriptions.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting