Bonnie Lowenthal wants to expand her sphere of influence

blowenthalpic.jpgBY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

Bonnie Lowenthal served on the Long Beach Unified District Board of Education before being elected to the Long Beach City Council (1st District) in a special 2001 election. She was reelected in 2002 and 2006 and that year her peers on the council voted to make her the city’s vice mayor. Now Lowenthal is vying with fellow councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga for the upcoming June 3 primary election. Lowenthal and Uranga are both Democrats and hope to replace Betty Karnette in the State Assembly (D–54th District). Karnette cannot run again because of term limits.
Lowenthal, who worked in the field of psychology for several years, said healthcare reform would be her top priority in Sacramento. “As a mental health provider, I have worked in the healthcare industry and I know how challenging it is to work in the existing system with insurance companies that take such a huge profit,” she said. “Almost 30 percent of every healthcare dollar goes to insurance.”
She added that finding a mechanism to insure all Californians is a must. We need universal health care coverage,” she said. “Everyone needs to access to the same quality healthcare. We don’t want a Rolls Royce model for some and a jalopy for others.”
Lowenthal insisted that in the long run, society will pay more for health care if it fails to provide adequate coverage for its members. “We’re going to pay for it in lost work days and costs for hospitalization in county hospitals,” she said. “We’re going to pay for it in poor health for large numbers of people and challenges to public safety and the educational system.”
She added that she would support a single-payer system. “I have read that people supporting the single payer system would cut out the middle man and save 30 billion dollars,” she explained. “I will be doing everything I can to make sure that all Californians have access to health care.”
Access to a quality education is another priority for Lowenthal. “I think it is important to protect education for all districts. People are very worried about the loss of funding,” she said. “There are some districts that can afford to pay into an education foundation that will help fund some of the needed activities of schools, but there are many districts that can’t. We need to make sure that all students have equal access to the same quality of education.”
Lowenthal said that, if elected, she would push for adequate funding for kindergarten through 12th grade schools as well as for all public colleges and universities. She warned that with recent budget cuts, many students from low-income families will not be able to afford higher education and all college and university classes will be larger, meaning that students will not be able to get the personal attention they need from faculty members.
Lowenthal noted that for years she has paid personal attention to another one of her priorities: the environment. “Every aspect of our lives has changed over the last five years based on the greening of America and the new understanding that we have about the challenges all of us are facing because of climate change,” she said. Noting that more people than ever before are getting involved in environmental issues, she pointed out that an increasing number of school districts are adding curriculum on the environment and more supermarkets are asking customers to bring reusable bags. “Every part our life has changed,” she said. “And the way governmental agencies conduct their business has changed too.”
She explained that the Port of Long Beach is within her council district and she is the chair of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority Board and a member of the Los Angeles MTA board. “In every area, the environmental concerns have made us change how we develop programs” she said, adding that soon after being elected to the city council, she recommended cold ironing–electrification of the terminals so the ships could plug in while docked instead of continuously operating their engines to keep the ships electrified. “I have been working on that since day one and it’s underway now,” she said. “Now the Port of Long Beach is arranging all their new leases to include cold ironing.” She added that the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports will be gradually switching to cold ironing in the next few years. “That’s a dramatic change,” she said. “Ship engines really dirty our air.”
Lowenthal noted that she also introduced the local “construction and demolition ordinance” requiring that 60 percent of the materials from a demolished building must be recycled. The city council passed the ordinance last year. She said as a state legislator, she would propose and/or support legislation that would require similar environmentally friendly construction practices.
Turning to a more controversial subject, Lowenthal said she was against a proposed amendment to the state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage. She added that she would vote in favor of legislation authorizing same-sex marriage in California. “I would support it,” she said. “I was glad to see that a resolution that I co-authored with several of my colleagues to support marriage equality was unanimously passed by the city council.”
Lowenthal acknowledged that she and Reyes Uranga often vote the same way on issues and ordinances, but she insisted she would be a better leader than Uranga in Sacramento.
“Having been in office for more than twice as long as Tonia and being part of the education community, and sitting on committees in Sacramento fighting for education dollars and having this long history as a teacher, an advocate of education, a school board member and a healthcare professional really sets me apart,” she said. “And one of the reasons I have gotten so many endorsements from the mayor of Long Beach to the state Democratic Party to the major environmental groups and school board members is because I am a very collaborative person,” she said. “I bring people together and try to achieve consensus.”

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