State Sen. Fran Pavley In Competitive Run for Last Term

by Annemarie Donkin, Topanga Messenger

California State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) will run for her second and final term in November in what could be a tough fight in the reconfigured 27th State Senate district that encompasses portions of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

Prior to her election to the Senate, Pavley served three terms in the State Assembly.

Recently, Sen. Pavley was invited to attend a White House Rose Garden ceremony, where the President announced that the new national automobile emissions standards would be modeled after the ‘Pavley’ law in California.

Sen. Pavley also serves on the Energy, Appropriations, Transportation and Housing and Environmental Quality Policy Committees and took the lead as the Chair of the Natural Resource and Water Committee at a challenging time. She was also asked to serve on the Select Committee on Autism.

Pavley joined other lawmakers in passing legislation that will help develop a more reliable water supply, restore the Delta ecosystem, and create more regional and conservation programs to meet the needs of both agricultural and urban water users.

Pavley feels that a clean, secure energy future will reduce our state’s dependence on foreign oil and encourage investment in renewable energy, alternative fuels, clean tech companies and new jobs, while also reducing our air pollution.

The Consumer Federation of California named Senator Pavley as its ‘Senator of the Year’ for her tireless work to ban toxins such as lead, cadmium and BPA from children’s products; passing legislation to protect consumers from mortgage fraud; and efforts to crack down on elder abuse.

Sen. Pavley and her husband, Andy, were both public middle school teachers and they believe that improving California’s schools, colleges and universities is an investment in our state’s economy. Andy and Fran have lived in Agoura Hills for 35 years where they raised their two children and four guide dogs.

In a recent interview, Sen. Pavley shares her experience and hopes for the future.

Q. What is it like to be California Senator of the Year?

A. It’s been an amazing time; there are 931,000 people in my district and it is bigger than seven states. We have 2,000 more people than a member of U.S. Congress would have in their district ‘ it’s quite a responsibility and a challenge. I am honored and pleased to have been part of California policy making for past 10 years. Despite the budget, Gov. Brown is a good governor and he works very, very hard ‘ he is an amazing person once he’s focused on a subject and the details. He thinks creatively, going over details on the budget or some other topic; he gets it. As a former eighth-grade history teacher, we learned about the simple majority in class. Now, so many things require a 2/3 vote and the party out of power becomes obstructionist. I think people are really paying attention to the problems in moving our country forward, but it seems like a game to the California legislature; that’s the tragedy. It’s about where our country is going and we are having the same conversation on the state level.

Q. Tell us about meeting President Obama?

A. That was quite entertaining. As a former eighth-grade history teacher, we learned about the Constitution and about how a bill becomes law. So then I found myself in the Rose Garden with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and an entire ‘Who’s Who’ of U.S. Senators and governors. I always think of myself as a teacher, and President Obama looked at me and must have wondered why he didn’t know me; fortunately, Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, filled him in. He is a very personable man and he was about 20 feet away from me surrounded by car executives when he announced that the CA emission’s standards would become the national standard and I was very fortunate to be there.

Q. What is your senate election strategy?

A. The new senate district is a dramatic change and Topanga will be in the new district that stretches from the Santa Monica Mountains to Santa Clarita. We only have about 15 percent of Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks and all of Oak Park and Moorpark. Just think about the geography and politics of switching from Santa Monica and West Hollywood to Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks that will be in this new district. I represent close to 40 percent of the new district and interestingly enough, I taught in Moorpark for 25 years, so I know many former families of my students and school board members. I have lived in Agoura Hills for 35 years and was its first mayor. It’s just an amazing area to represent, but we are doing too good a job and set aside so much open space. Now, if only deer and bobcats could vote. But this will probably be the most competitive senate race in 2012. When redistricting maps were created, this was a toss-up district, only a six percent registration district. It will be between myself against a yet-to-be named Republican opponent in the June open primary. You have to win in the top two spots irrespective of the party and the top two go on to November and it doesn’t matter which party.

Q. What do you feel is the most pressing issue for Topanga?

A. One thing about this district, it is so different and geographically diverse; yet people tend to care about a lot of the same issues, about the quality of life. Topangans are very invested in their school and worrying that the state and country may be going in the wrong direction. Yet, education is just as important in Calabasas, Thousand Oaks or in the Hart High School district of Santa Clarita and education is probably the number one issue the state faces.

Q. How does Topanga fit into your district?

A. Topanga is a special place and it’s a natural for me to represent the area. It backs up to the State Park and I have been involved with the Santa Monica Mountains issues for over 30 years, including Ahmanson Ranch. I was in the background for the fight on Edelman Park for Topangans, in addition to the Santa Monica Mountains to acquire and obtain more open space and parkland. We worked on King Gillette Ranch; it took $35 million to buy that parcel. That was a great acquisition especially with the new visitors center opening up on June 9, where there will be a shared visitor’s center at the gateway of the Santa Monica National Recreation Center. Topanga has always been a wonderful supporter from the first time in 1999 when I announced running for the Assembly in Topanga State Park, appropriately enough. Also, the Mermaid has also been my good luck charm ever since the first time I ran, so I want to put in a plug for my fundraiser on Feb. 26. Topanga is always a fun place; highlights of my campaign always include Ellen Geer leading us in ‘This Land is Your Land.’

Q. What are your priorities for your next term?

A. My most important issues are what I call the four ‘E’s ‘ education, environment, energy and economy but for the last several years and especially this year, the fiscal health of the state, the budget, will dominate all other issues. Yet, we also know that an educated work force is critical to making sure that California has a strong economy in the future; we need more home grown energy, cleaner and fuel-efficient cars. We are starting to see job creation due to energy efficiency, and currently, three alternative-fuel car companies are now based in California where we will remain competitive in the 21st century.