The Glendale Environmental Coalition issued a set of questions to candidates for Assembly Districts 44 and 52, State Senate District 25, and L.A. County Board of Supervisors District 5. In solidarity with other grassroots groups in the region, we want our local elected representatives to champion the causes we believe are essential for a healthy and sustainable environment. We are posting the answers we received (not all candidates responded) in order to inform our members and the community of the candidates’ stances.
Assembly District 44 Candidate
- What energy policies would you sponsor/support that are consumer friendly to transition to sustainable/renewable energy for energy, building/home, transportation use, etc.? What specific policies or programs would you sponsor or support to engage residents in multi-family housing or the commercial sector?
The State of California must fully commit itself to the full and complete transition away from fossil fuels to new clean and renewable energy sources.
I fully support the state’s ambitious goals to achieve a carbon neutral future and, as such, I have worked to help Burbank Water & Power achieve the RPS interim goals as a member of the American Public Power Association. I applaud the Governor and the State Legislature for having the vision and fortitude to establish these goals that are critical to a climate resilient future. However, many local jurisdictions are struggling to achieve these goals as they compete for the same renewable energy sources (often out of state) over the same infrastructure.
It’s imperative that we streamline permitting processes to ensure that we are able to efficiently and cost-effectively upgrade and electrify our grid. We must also work to allow more local production and storage of renewable energy, thereby reducing the loss of energy via long-range transmission. Moreover, we must pour more research and development dollars into the development of long-term battery storage and promising new energy sources (e.g., green hydrogen).
I believe that the California State Legislature and our state agencies must develop a “playbook” or “roadmap” for publicly owned utilities and local jurisdictions to achieve these laudable goals by offering program assistance and financial support.
As a state legislator, I would also work to establish standards to ensure that new buildings are designed and constructed to be highly energy efficient and that existing buildings realize deep efficiency benefits. I would also work to electrify fossil fuel-based end uses (e.g., space and water heating) where possible. I also think that there is more work to be done in terms of enabling grid-interactivity with appliances and energy management systems that can receive and respond to grid signals. Grid-interactive buildings can also serve as a distributed energy resource to minimize grid impacts, support variable renewable generation, and maximize consumer value. Lastly, I would push for requirements that developers use low-carbon materials in new construction and major retrofits, and reuse carbon-intensive materials and structures where possible.
- What specific “upstream” policies would you sponsor/support to address the plastics problem, NOT involving recycling, which has been a failure?
In my view, one of the state legislature’s greatest “missed opportunities” to meaningfully reduce plastics waste in the past decade was its failure to pass Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s Assembly Bill 2026 (2022), which aimed to reduce single-use plastic packaging used in the e-commerce marketplace. The bill would have phased out certain single-use plastic packaging that is often added to goods for shipment of e-commerce purchases. Unfortunately, the bill was placed in the “suspense file.” If elected, I would resurrect the efforts to pass a similar bill during my very first term.
While SB 54 was a great step forward towards a true statewide phase-out of single use plastics, l share many of the same concerns brought up by statewide environmental leaders that the policy gives industry too much control and doesn’t go far enough. In the Legislature, I would work to build off of this measure by decreasing exemptions to the wide-range of currently allowed plastics, especially polystyrene. I’d also like to see efforts to revise the policy to give producers greater responsibility vs consumers, which many of our policies overwhelmingly target due to industry lobbying.
- More than half of California’s population lives in jurisdictions that have banned or restricted expanded polystyrene, sometimes referred to as EPS or Styrofoam. Glendale City council took nearly a year to adopt its own ban because of concerns about possible cost & supply impacts to small restaurants. What solutions will you propose or back to help small businesses and restaurants transition away from EPS?
This is a timely and relevant issue as the City of Burbank is currently working to implement its own plastics reduction program. I am actively engaged with Surfrider and our Sustainable Burbank Commission to achieve this substantial policy change in 2024. Importantly, I am supportive of banning the use of EPS.
From an environmental standpoint, the most sustainable alternative to single-use plastic foodware is to replace it with reusable foodware. Certainly, there will be added expense as we transition to this new program, but it’s absolutely the necessary and responsible course of action for our community. It’s important that we remember we, local governments and consumers, share the lionshare of costs associated with disposal and environmental/health impacts. In essence, we, including our businesses, subsidize the plastics industry by paying for disposal and environmental offsets.I am interested in exploring the creation of a financial assistance program to help small businesses and restaurants make these capital investments and ease the transition, coupled with a robust public education program.
- Artificial turf is plastic, contains carcinogens, gets dangerously hot, harms biodiversity, contributes to the urban heat island effect, can cause and exacerbate sports injuries, and has many other negative impacts. Governor Newsom just signed SB-676 (Local ordinances and regulations: drought-tolerant landscaping), which allows cities to define drought tolerant landscaping as NOT including artificial turf. Other bills limiting or banning artificial turf have encountered serious industry pushback. Would you support instituting a policy prohibiting artificial plastic turf installations in CA? Why or why not? If not, would you support a bill incentivizing real grass (for active uses such as sports fields and picnicking) and discouraging the use of plastic grass?
I would be supportive of legislation to reduce and ultimately eliminate the prevalence of artificial turf in California. As referenced in the question above, we are learning more each day about the hazards of artificial turf. Synthetic turf has been documented to reach temperatures over 200°F on a 98°F day, which is significantly hotter than natural grass, concrete and asphalt. These higher temperatures put users of turf at risk for skin burns and heat-related illness. A myriad of toxic chemicals are known to be used in the manufacture and production of artificial turf. Additionally, the infill for synthetic turf playing fields has historically consisted of primarily crumbed used tires. Due to friction during use, UV radiation from the sun, and general environmental exposure, the plastic blades in synthetic turf breakdown into tiny pieces of plastic called microplastic.Artificial turf yields 200 to 3200 pounds of microplastic waste to our environment per year, which ends up in our air, soil, waterways, and oceans.
It’s also extremely wasteful. An average 80,000 sq ft. field contains roughly 40,000 lbs of plastic carpeting and 400,000 lbs of infill. These artificial fields average a 10 year lifespan and then need to be disposed of, which is either done via landfill or incineration, putting the surrounding community at risk for chemical exposure. For these reasons (and more) I would fully support legislation limiting or banning artificial turf. I would also support legislation incentivizing the use of real grass.
- Do you think the existing state funding allocations for active transportation and transit are sufficient? If not, what % increase do you support, and how would you propose that the additional funding be used?
It’s my understanding that walking and biking account for approximately 18% of trips taken by Californians. Only one fund — the Active Transportation Program — is a competitive grant program dedicated solely to support those trips with safety and access improvements and every cycle is oversubscribed multifold. However, it receives merely 1.6% of the state’s transportation total budget.
In my view, the state’s transportation budget does not accurately reflect the transportation usage trends in its funding allocations. While 18% of trips taken in California are by walking or biking, we only see 1.6% of the state’s total transportation budget allocated to funding for safe, dedicated walking and bicycle infrastructure. That’s a shame and wholly inconsistent with the state’s ambitious climate goals, which will only be achieved if we can get people out of cars and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector (which account for nearly 60% of total greenhouse gas emissions).
We should be funding the Active Transportation Program much closer to 18%, if not at that amount. As an Assemblymember, I will push for further investments in mass transit options, protected bike lanes, and improved walkability to reduce traffic congestion and use of cars. My friend and mentor Assemblymember Laura Friedman, who has endorsed my campaign, has been a leader on this issue and I aspire to carry on her legacy of visionary transportation planning and policy making.
With regards to the financing options, I have long believed that a budget is a reflection of our society’s values and priorities. As an Assemblymember, I will push for further investments in mass transit options, sustainable water infrastructure, clean energy production, protected bike lanes, and improved walkability to reduce traffic congestion and use of cars. I will also push for new subsidies to research and develop emerging clean energy technologies, as well as EV charging infrastructure.
The next few years may prove to be difficult financially for the State of California. But if we are serious about achieving our ambitious climate goals we must commit to sustained funding for these and many other programs/projects.
- Would you support state-subsidized free mass transit throughout the state to increase transit use and decrease vehicle miles traveled?
Yes, absolutely. The transportation sector is the largest contributor to our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California. This is largely due to the fact that people cannot afford to live near where they work and, consequently, they often commute long distances. By encouraging and promoting land use policies and zoning reform to create more possibilities to develop infill building, along with eliminating some of the traditional obstacles and costs to housing production, we can add much needed housing to our markets. In the meantime, it’s imperative that the state subsidize the cost of mass transit to promote its use and reduce vehicle miles traveled across the state.
With regards to our transportation infrastructure, we need to shift our resources towards building an EV charging infrastructure and developing affordable and reliable modes of travel that do not require a car. I will continue to support the California High Speed Rail project and will push for more resources to incentivize cities and counties to invest in protected walking paths and bike lanes. My vision for the 44th Assembly District is a walkable and bikeable community with housing in close proximity to employment centers.
- SB 1383, which mandated diversion of organic waste, has not been effectively implemented in most localities. Glendale is shipping organic waste long distances to waste-burning and other undesirable hubs on diesel-burning trucks. How do you plan to address this? What types of programs, local composting initiatives and/or facilities, and funding streams will you support to increase beneficial composting in localities including Glendale?
I was extremely proud to see California lead nationally in passing Senate Bill 1383 to reduce wasted food and ban unsold products from entering landfills. We can all agree that diverting organic material from landfills is one of the fastest ways to address climate change. Admittedly, however, Senate Bill 1383 does have some gaps that make it challenging for businesses and governments to comply.
I believe that there are several potential amendments that would effectively modernize Senate Bill 1383 and create an equitable, sustainable solution. Currently, businesses are often limited to utilizing landfill diversion resources prescribed by their jurisdictions. Even if businesses want to choose a more environmentally preferable option, the law generally prevents them from accessing new pathways that emerged in California since the law was enacted.
In my view, the state legislature should affirm the right of all businesses to choose services that suit their own cost structure, waste prevention and carbon-reduction strategy. Senate Bill 1383 is also over-reliant on composting, which is an acceptable organic waste solution in residential areas. But composting is not always well-suited for greater quantities of commercial food waste. I think that large commercial waste generators should be able to choose from a suite of landfill diversion, waste prevention, resource recovery, and renewable energy creation tools.
- South Glendale is park deficient and in need of greater access to open space and parks. Compared to 2.2 acres of park space per 1,000 residents north of the 134, south Glendale only has 0.3 acres per 1,000 residents. What specific strategies and funding streams will you pursue to ensure that neighborhoods in South Glendale gain in park space, and that they see a proportional investment in parks and open space when they absorb population growth?
I agree that South Glendale is park deficient. I also believe that every community should be required to plan to achieve the status of being a 15-minute city, which is an urban planning concept in which most daily necessities and services, such as work, shopping, education, healthcare, and leisure can be easily reached by a 15-minute walk, bike ride, or public transit ride from any point in the city. I believe that this should be a requirement codified by state law.
As your Assemblymember, I will fight tirelessly to bring funding back to the 44th Assembly District to ensure that local governments have the resources needed to acquire, maintain, and improve our parks and open spaces. Bringing such resources to South Glendale would be a shared priority with your next representative of the 52nd Assembly District.
On a related note, I fully support Governor Newsom’s 30×30 Executive Order, which aims to protect biodiversity and advance equitable access to nature and combat climate change by conserving 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030.
Acquiring appropriate lands for conservation is a critical method to achieve the 30×30 goal. State agencies must work together and with regional partners to acquire lands for conservation, including California’s Wildlife Conservation Board, Department of Parks and Recreation, Natural Resources Agency, and California’s ten regional conservancies. There are also many non-governmental groups, including land trusts and environmental conservation organizations, who can acquire lands for conservation to help advance 30×30. As a legislator, I will work with the Governor’s Office and these state agencies to ensure that they have the financial resources to effectuate these strategic land acquisitions.
Divestment, Subsidies, and Clean Energy Incentives
- We must end the fossil fuel era and transition to clean, zero-carbon energy as fast as possible. What divestment, subsidy-ending, and incentive proposals will you support to end fossil fuel extraction and use and to incentivize green technologies, industries and products? Please indicate whether or not you have taken the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (https://nofossilfuelmoney.org/).
I have proudly been a signer of the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge since my successful Burbank City Council campaign in 2020. I have continued to abide by the prohibition against taking any contributions from oil, gas, & coal industry executives, lobbyists, and PACs to this date as part of my incumbency on the Burbank City Council and as a candidate for the California State Assembly. This question points to the dangerous influence of outside monied interests in our political system, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.
The transformation change that I believe is necessary to make the state government better reflective of and more responsive to our constituents is not limited to Sacramento. I believe that there are institution and financial obstacles to first-time candidates, especially candidates from disadvantaged communities, who may not have the connections or resources to compete in local and state races. That’s why I am a proponent of ranked choice voting and publicly financed elections.
Ranked choice voting would allow voters to cast a ballot for multiple candidates, in order of preference, thereby leading to a better result that better reflects the true desires of each community. A publicly financed campaign system would also allow first-time candidates to compete with incumbents, at least financially, and would lessen the impact that outside financial interests have on the outcome of elections.
I believe that our state legislators, especially the progressive caucus which has endorsed my campaign, are working diligently to deliver results to Californians on a number of key issues, including exploring excise taxes to fund green initiatives and programs. Where I think that we can improve is in ensuring that the state legislature reflects the diversity (e.g., race, ethnicity, age, socio-economic status) of California. I believe that both ranked choice voting and publicly financed elections would help accomplish this goal and that we will then see a definite change in our policies out of Sacramento.
- Tell us about your knowledge of the Glendale community and its environmental concerns. How do you plan to work with Glendale to accomplish its climate and environmental goals?
Across California, we are seeing the real effects of climate change impacting our health and public safety. The 44th Assembly District has witnessed the spread of wildfires, rising temperatures that intensify smog formation in the San Fernando Valley, and threats to our clean water supply. We also border, and thus share infrastructure and resources, with historically disadvantaged communities that are even more dramatically impacted. I would rank the most urgent environmental issues affecting AD 44 as extreme heat, continued drought, and greenhouse gas emissions attributable to our transportation infrastructure.
I am uncompromising in my commitment to halting climate change through mandating increased utilization and development of clean energy, and sustainable methods of transportation of people and goods. We must preserve open space as well as add to our urban forest, as plants clean and cool the air. We must invest in water conservation, capture and storage, groundwater basin protection and recharge, and a robust recycled water infrastructure. Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, as well as public transportation, must be a priority. Enacting stronger vehicle emissions standards is one of the keys to reducing greenhouse gasses.
I have a strong track record of introducing ordinances and programs which further the goals stated above. As Mayor and as a member of the Burbank City Council, I have worked to commit the City of Burbank to significantly reduce our current greenhouse gas emissions by updating our Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan (GGRP) so that we are in compliance with the State of California’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below the 1990 levels by December 31, 2030.
We also hired a full-time Sustainability Coordinator that is responsible for creating annual reports on our city’s progress on GGRP action items and identifying new statewide legislation and/or regulations to include in future GGRP updates.
I have pushed Burbank Water and Power (BWP) to develop a roadmap to get to 100% clean energy by 2030 by investing in an electric grid that affordably and aggressively reduces greenhouse gasses with renewable energy (e.g., solar and wind).
Meanwhile, I am currently leading the fight to ban polystyrene and single use plastics in the City of Burbank by requiring that all takeout food in the City of Burbank be placed in packaging that is either recyclable or biodegradable. Our City Council is also poised to consider an electrification ordinance for all new construction later this year.
As a neighboring city to Glendale, we in Burbank are in frequent communication and collaboration with officials and community members from Glendale. Many of the policies we implement and issues we advocate for directly apply to both Burbank and Glendale, thus I have come to know the community through this work. Because of this, I’m proud to be endorsed by current and former Glendale elected officials including Trustee Desiree Portillo Rabinov and Paula Devine, as well as many community leaders throughout the city.
As an Assemblymember, I will continue the work already started by my predecessor and mentor, Laura Friedman, to guide and offer resources to local jurisdictions so that we can achieve our ambitious goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040, if not much earlier. I will also support legislation that ensures new commercial and residential construction is as energy efficient and green as possible. I am committed to continuing my work in Burbank to bring a Green New Deal to my district at the state level.