Questions ranged from vaccinations, to PG&E accountability to education

On July 15, District 2 State Sen. Mike McGuire stopped in at Mattie Washburn Elementary School in Windsor to discuss his achievements and plans, and answer questions from constituents.

The evening started off with Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli answering a few questions, primarily regarding the planned installation of a roundabout at the intersection at Windsor Road and Windsor River Road, in preparation for the arrival of the SMART train. Foppoli pointed out that since he owned a business near the intersection, he had actually been recused from any discussion or action on the roundabout, but several incorrect statements or misconceptions were corrected by Town Manager Ken MacNab.

McGuire then shifted into the spotlight, discussing both the various initiatives which had already been passed, and those he wished to attack in the coming session.

“District 2 contains some of the bluest and some of the reddest counties in the state,” McGuire said. “So I’ve had to learn to work with all sides. And, I’ve one of the few Democratic but also rural districts in the state.”

He went on to tout the state’s strong economy, which represents 25% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. It has the fifth largest economy in the world, and the Bay Area alone would rank 19th in the world economy, according to McGuire.

However, he did point out some liabilities to the state’s economic foundations, including the changes to the Affordable Care Act, which he said is costing the state approximately $450 million a year. He also cited unfunded pension liabilities and a lack of affordable housing.

“Housing is our biggest liability, and since the fires it’s worse,” he said. “Between 2015 and 2025 there’s a need for 1.5 million affordable rental units, and we have the lowest homeownership rate in decades.”

He announced the state’s budget includes $10 billion in additional funding statewide to deal with the need for additional affordable housing.

McGuire’s was keen to announce some new educational initiatives, including an enrollment increase of 10,000 slots at California State colleges and 5,000 at University of California campuses. In addition, two years of full-time enrollment at community colleges will now be free.

According to McGuire, 19% of the nation’s homeless live in California, and he is eager to implement a program modeled on a Utah program which will provide 14,000 tiny homes “wrapped in services” to help end chronic homelessness. 

He’s also interested in a bit of a pet project, creating the Great Redwood Trail from Humboldt to the Bay Area, on the crumbling bones of a former railway line.

“It’s abandoned and falling apart and we are going to turn it into the longest trail in the country,” he said.

Then it was time for the audience to have their say, and questions covered a wide range of topics.

Concerns expressed included monitoring and regulation of ground water and private wells, fears about both earthquake insurance and renewal (or in some cases non-renewal) of homeowner’s insurance due to fires and PG&E’s liability and McGuire’s support for AB 1054, which some in the audience were against.

AB 1054 is an adjustment to the California Public Utilities Act and it would establish, among other things, a seven member Wildfire Safety Advisory Board, which would determine when utilities’ actions had contributed to a wildfire (and make them ineligible for compensation) as well as a fund which would be kept as a trust fund for paying out claims.

McGuire stated his support was based on the fact that victims and their compensation would come first in all dealings under AB 1054.

While the audience tone in general was supportive, some less than pleased constituents grilled McGuire on his support for stricter vaccination requirements for school-age children, anger over PG&E’s decision to do pre-emptive power shutoffs and a desire to scrap the high-speed rail project.

McGuire was respectful, but held his ground on the vaccination issue, agreed that PG&E had significant issues, but that the shut-offs were necessary, and said he was in favor of plans to halt and reassess the current iteration of the high speed rail project, but that long-term it was a solution that was necessary to manage traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

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