All posts by Emily Reilly for 27AD

A Different Kind of Town Hall

When I ran for election to the Santa Cruz City Council for the first time in 2000, and again in 2004, I must have knocked on every door in an attempt to speak to every voter.  I was privileged to receive the most votes ever in each election, and I credit it to this hands-on campaigning.  Running for the State Assembly, I have tried to connect with voters in the same way, but campaigning in a much larger district requires innovative thinking.  That’s one reason I am proud to be a part of the Calitics community – it gives me the chance to speak with people without a media filter and without resorting to sloganeering.

I want to share with you another innovative approach to voter communication I had the good fortune to experience.  Yesterday evening, I hosted a telephone town hall for voters across the 27th district, reaching out to nearly 28,000 voters in all.  We discussed issues ranging from global warming to universal healthcare.  I used telephone town hall technology to speak with voters from Boulder Creek, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Santa Cruz and other parts of the district. Over 4,000 people joined me for some or all of the one hour town hall, from the comfort of their own homes.  

The event was like an amalgam of a virtual house party and a radio call-in show.  I began by telling the folks on the call a little bit about my background as a progressive small business person and two-time Mayor of Santa Cruz and then outlined some of the themes of my campaign, including environmental protection which was the theme of the town hall.  But most of the time was dedicated to answering questions from those who called in.  Callers were able to hear each other’s questions as well as my answers, as we discussed how to increase public transit and rail service in the district, preventing cuts to the education budget and creating alternative sources of energy instead of relying on fossil fuels.

This town hall – with the large number of participants – would be difficult, if not impossible, to put together in a usual venue.  I look forward to participating in more once I am in the Assembly, in addition to in-person town halls, as a tool to bring the voices of voters to government.  If commenters know of other innovative voter and constituent communication tools that you have used or participated in, I would love to hear from you.  Thanks to Calitics for providing a similarly innovative forum and for your support of my campaign.

Thank You

(An editorial note: It is Calitics policy to promote any diary by an elected official or a Democratic candidate to the front page – but their words remain their own. – promoted by Robert in Monterey)

I want to thank Calitics for endorsing my candidacy for the Assembly in the 27th District.  I am truly humbled by your support.

 When I first started posting on Calitics, it was hard to imagine that we would have the opportunity to participate in a back and forth on so many topics – from the Governor’s misguided budget to coastal protection to solving our transportation challenges – but we have, and my candidacy is better for it.

I am running for the Assembly because as a small business owner and city councilmember, I understand first-hand that California’s future depends on our ability today to address critical issues and create new opportunities.  Through my experience serving two terms as Mayor and as a member of Monterey Bay area regional boards, I’ve developed a record of accomplishment – and I’ve done it by bringing people together to get things done.

I’m proud to have received the Ruth Vreeland Award for my efforts to safeguard the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, such as banning marine debris and protecting the Monterey Bay from urban runoff.  I’ve also spearheaded the local fight against global warming. During my nearly eight years on the city council, we reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.

That’s why I’ve been endorsed by Vote the Coast and the California League of Conservation Voters.  Those who have occupied 27th Assembly seat in the past, Fred Keeley and John Laird, have been on the forefront of environmental protection in the past.  I am committed to pursuing creative solutions to environmental challenges when I am elected.

I thank you again for your support and respectfully ask for your vote one June 3rd.

Save the Coastal Commission – Sign the petition!

( – promoted by Robert in Monterey)

This week, the California State Senate will be holding a hearing on SB 1295, a dangerous bill intended to weaken the power of the California Coastal Commission. I urge you to sign my petition below and join me in voicing opposition to this bill.

Click here to sign the petition!

For over 30 years, the California Coastal Commission has worked to safeguard 1.5 million acres of our coastline, fighting the good fight for our beloved California coast.

As the toughest defender of our coast, the Coastal Commission has faced various attempts to weaken its ability to advocate on behalf of our coastal environment. The most recent such attempt is SB 1295. This bill would eliminate the ability of Commissioners to appeal local government project approvals. I strongly oppose this bill, and any legislation that seeks to undermine the Commission's ability to provide effective oversight of projects along the coast.

On Tuesday, March 25th, at my request, the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously voted to officially oppose SB 1295 and communicate our opposition to our legislators and the Chair of Natural Resources Committee.

I urge you to join me in opposing the bill by making your voices heard prior to the State Senate hearing on April 8th, when this bill will come in front of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Click here to sign the petition!

Experience Counts: Solving California’s Budget Crisis

(Great to see an assembly candidate tackling the budget issue head-on. If anyone is interested, here’s Emily’s ActBlue page. – promoted by Robert in Monterey)

As many of you know, I am a candidate in the 27th Assembly District. I am the only currently elected local official in the race, and the only candidate who has balanced a municipal budget while also balancing competing priorities. As a two-term mayor and councilwoman in the City of Santa Cruz, I have spent countless hours deliberating over how we should best allocate our taxpayers dollars. Whether negotiating large scale construction contracts or approving new road signs, all projects, no matter how big or small, received the same level of attention.

Today, California faces a terrible reality. More money is being spent than is coming in.  Our structural budget deficit is the single largest problem facing the state, because it affects every goal we are trying to accomplish.  

As a state, we cannot continue to embrace the Governor’s policy of slashing the budget year after year without any attempt to enhance revenues.  It is irresponsible to jeopardize the future of Californians by eating away at our infrastructure and essential programs.  How we invest our money is a reflection of the things we value and our budget is the statement of these values.

During my first few years on the Santa Cruz city council we had some difficult financial challenges. I supported and advocated for tactics that, although sometimes reducing services, did not eliminate any. And because, unlike the state, we had to balance the budget, and because we had a city council that agreed to put differences aside and work together, we were able to cut 7 million dollars from a 42 million dollar general fund, keep people employed and provide essential city services.

It was very difficult, and I believe our willingness to make those hard decisions was why our city residents passed a permanent sales tax increase to augment our general fund a few years later. We used that money, as we had promised, to increase services and to repair our infrastructure. That sales tax was critical to addressing our budget needs in Santa Cruz.

For too long the state budgetary process has been caught at a standstill due to archaic rules and a lack of leadership from across the aisle. Every budgetary action must be approved by a 2/3rds majority. This was originally implemented with the hope of increasing bipartisanship within the legislature. What is happening, however, is the exact opposite. Even when faced with a crisis of the highest importance, the Republicans will not do what is necessary to get us out of it.  The balanced approach I took with our city budget, judiciously cutting spending when necessary and raising critical revenues, is the kind of approach I intend to bring to my work in Sacramento.  

Design/Build: A Recipe for Waste

(I really, really like Ms. Reilly, the current Mayor of Santa Cruz. While I would really, really like John Laird to stay in office, we need to consider all possible outcomes.   – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Recently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated he wants to institutionalize private-sector deals for infrastructure upgrades in a plan he will outline in his State of the State address in January. Though details have yet to be disclosed, design/build projects will no doubt be included. This is a mistake.

The idea of public-private partnerships appeals to a lot of people, and it is easy to understand why. There is a perception that public projects are inefficient, and sexy terms like “design/build” make other options sound appealing. As Mayor of Santa Cruz I often hear arguments that projects like these simultaneously cut costs and improve efficiency. Unfortunately, in the real world, it hasn't worked. We have seen that design/build projects routinely outspend their budgets and outlast their deadlines, costing taxpayers more in the end.

In addition to the problems on the infamous 91 Express Lanes, we have seen other design/build projects overrun their budgets and deadlines. The carpool lanes being built on the Garden Grove Freeway have doubled in cost to $550 million dollars and have yet to open. The San Joaquin Hills Tollway, another design/build project, required more than $1 billion in bailouts from officials in Orange County. And a toll road in San Diego, slated to be completed in 2006, is still not complete and has a budget that has grown to $800 million, more than twice the projected cost.

The system we have successfully used for public works in the state of California for decades is based on qualified engineers designing a project first, and then allowing several qualified contractors to bid on the chance to build that project. My tenure on the transportation commission has shown me that the incentive for these contractors is to come up with a complete, reliable set of plans that can be built at a low cost with high quality – that is how a contractor wins the contract. To ensure quality, engineers who work for the public inspect the work.

This process is backward in the case of design/build projects, which negatively affects the cost, timeliness and quality of a project. Under the design/build process a contractor is awarded a contract without having to bid, picks a designer and estimates the cost without the benefit of detailed plans, and later hires the inspector that will inspect the work. The checks put in place to protect taxpayers and citizens who will use the project are gone. This is not the solution to California’s infrastructure needs.

Instead, we should be using the money generated through the $20 billion transportation bond to build quality projects that are forward looking and contribute to a sustainable future, with the reduction of carbon emissions being a key benchmark of sustainability. In the Assembly, I will work to ensure that California follows the right path in improving our infrastructure.