By Nick Diamantides
Five of the six candidates for the vacant 55th State Assembly District seat showed up for the forum sponsored by the Long Beach branch of the NAACP last Wednesday evening. The gathering, which drew about 30 audience members, took place in Long Beach’s Ernest McBride Park community building.
Present were Democrats Mervin Leon Williams, Mike Gipson and Warren Furutani; American Independent Charlotte Sadiyah Gibson; and Libertarian Herb Peters. Republican candidate Evelyn D. Robertson did not attend.
The candidates’ opening and closing speeches, as well as their answers to questions posed by audience members, revealed differences in philosophies and attitudes but offered little in terms of what each of them would actually do if elected or how they would go about achieving their philosophical goals.
Evans, the first speaker, said the current crime rate was unacceptable, that California was not spending enough of its education budget to actually educate its students and that he would fight any efforts to increase property taxes paid by seniors.
Furutani noted that he has been a political activist for most of his adult life, strongly identifying with the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Gibson said she believed in four fundamental things: affordable housing, jobs, education and health care.
Gipson said the election was primarily about public safety, whether children in the public school system have a fair opportunity to get a good education and whether California residents have adequate health care. He added that one of the biggest problems in the 55th District was a lack of jobs.
Peters bluntly announced, “I’m a Christian, I’m pro-life and I believe that God created the heavens and the earth.” He went on to say that most of the problems in our society today are the direct result of government that has grown too big.
All the candidates agreed that something needed to be done about the region’s air pollution problems, the state’s ailing educational system and the severe shortage of housing affordable to the average working family.
Evans said if elected he would do everything in his power to secure funding for the development of a maglev system to transport cargo from the ports to inland distribution centers, thus eliminating the need for pollution causing diesel powered trucks and locomotives. (A maglev is a magnetically levitated high-speed train.)
Furutani said he supports State Senate Bill 974, which would impose a fee on container cargo moving in and out of the port to raise funds for improvements to the environment and infrastructure.
Peters said he would encourage the trucking industry to regulate itself by forbidding the older, more polluting trucks to enter the ports.
Gipson, who has been a Carson City Councilman for about three years, said he has a proven track record of building consensus between the public and private sectors to improve the environment while creating more jobs. He said he would use his consensus building skills to find solutions to environmental problems.
The candidates had widely differing viewpoints on improving the state’s educational system. Furutani and Gipson agreed that more money needed to be spent to build new schools and supply them with the necessary educational materials. Gibson said the state needed to sharply reduce college tuition costs. Evans insisted that the problem was that too much of the state’s educational money was going to administrative costs. Peters said he would push for an amendment to the state’s constitution that would authorize providing state funds for private school tuition costs.
The forum lasted for about 90 minutes. The special primary election to replace Laura Richardson, who was elected to Congress last June, is slated for December 11.