An era of California history will end a year from next January when the once and current governor, Edmund Jerry Brown leaves office. And even though the next gubernatorial election is a good 16 months away, what looks like a crowd of candidates are testing the waters.
Among them, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. Before she set off on a North State campaign swing, we reached her at her home in Davis.
As the former head of public schools from 1995 through 2002, there’s little surprising that Eastin is focused on education.
“We’ve really failed the kids recently and our level of support for education,” she said. “Right now, you get more pre-school availability if you live in Oklahoma or Georgia, so, we don’t have enough pre-schools. Families are spending a fortune on child development, and in some places it is as expensive as sending your kid to college. Kindergarten is not mandatory in California, 15 other states have figured out that it should be mandatory. We have the largest class sizes in America from K-12 and the fewest number of librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists, and it all comes back to the same unfortunate reality that we have dropped to the bottom ten of the 50 states in per-pupil spending. We used to be tied with New York when I graduated from high school, now New York is spending two times as much per child on education.”
Eastin said that California has fallen behind on its infrastructure, drawing attention to neglect of both the very visible deterioration of roads and bridges and to the largely unseen network of both water delivery and water treatment systems. She said the state should find ways to improve health care and economic development, and said California should be thinking big, and thinking long term.
“The reality is that the last water plan in California was done in 1957,” she said. “Pat Brown was governor. We aren’t doing long-term planning. We aren’t thinking ahead and in the largest state in the union, the most affluent state in the union, we should have long-range planning that does in fact help our infrastructure.”
She said it’s time to again, think ahead.
“When I think about our ancestors coming out of a depression and a war, who did so much for us,” she said. “In the last 50 years we’ve essentially been living off of their investment.”
Easton will be running in a crowded field, with a half dozen other serious candidates expected to seek the Democratic nomination and perhaps three seeking the Republican nomination. Asked why voters should choose her over candidates expected to gather more backing from insiders, more money and more endorsements like Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom or former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Eastin answered thusly:
“I do have a proven track-record of real, substantive policy-making,” she said. “I’m not just all hat and no cattle. And, I really do think the reality is, that you need someone at the helm in California that does in fact have the, not only the intellect and understanding for the issues, but an ability to articulate them, an ability to get people to work together to get things done.”
As far as some of the larger environmental issues being bandied about the state, Eastin takes a hard line against fracking saying it shouldn’t be permitted and had few kind words about the planned reconfiguration of California’s irrigation system, chiefly affecting the Sacramento River and Delta.
“The reality is, the voters voted down the peripheral canal and just because you put a lid on it and call it a tunnel, it’s still the same conveyance,” she said.
Eastin is scheduled to appear at the Chico branch of the Butte County Public Library Saturday at 1, at a Democratic Party fundraising dinner in Red Bluff Saturday evening, and at a brunch appearance at the Mount Shasta Resort in the City of Mt. Shasta Sunday morning at 10 a.m.