First published in the Oct. 15 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Though they agreed that California life contained many issues for its residents, Laura Friedman and Barry Curtis Jacobsen differed in many key ways in how they felt Sacramento should approach those challenges.
Friedman, the incumbent Democrat from Glendale, and Jacobsen, the Republican challenger from Toluca Lake, aired out those differences in a forum held in Glendale on Wednesday. The Greater Los Angeles Area League of Women Voters hosted the forum, in which they queried the two Assembly District 44 candidates on a series of questions but did not have the two directly debate each other. (A separate forum hosting Assembly District 52 candidates Wendy Carillo and Mia Livas Porter was canceled after one of them had a scheduling conflict.)
The pair were asked about a number of environmental issues plaguing not just California, but frankly much of the nation.
In order to facilitate the state’s directive that all new vehicle sales be of electric vehicles by 2035, both agreed that the power grid had to be improved.
“Our air quality demands it. The health of our children demands it,” Friedman said, in defense of the EV mandate. “We do have to upgrade our power grid, there’s no question about that, but we do have the time and the resources to do that. California has never been afraid of the future. We’ve always embraced the future and this is where the whole world is going.”
Jacobsen, however, felt that the mandate was too ambitious and went too far.
“We can’t even supply enough power for the EVs we have currently, which is about 3% of the cars in California, when we have a particularly hot day,” he said. “At this current point, fossil fuel is the only answer. We’re not ready to go to a full electric grid. There’s nowhere to charge these vehicles. Where are the power stations going to come from? Ultimately, the power that powers these electric cars comes from coal-fired power plants, so unless we’re willing to spend the money and the time to improve the power grid, going to an all-EV car fleet in California is a nonsensical idea.”
Both agreed that an “all-hands-on-deck” approach would be needed to address California’s water crisis, with a diversified water portfolio being the realistic answer rather than there being a silver bullet. In particular, they said the state needs to ramp up water recycling.
“Potable reuse is going to be a huge part of the equation,” Friedman said. “The problem with ocean desalination is that it’s extremely expensive and energy-intensive, which is why it becomes difficult to make it pencil out. People don’t want to pay that much for water, and I don’t blame them.”
“We need to capture that water, reclaim it, clean it and put it back in the aquifers and reservoirs,” Jacobsen said.
However, Jacobsen disagreed with Friedman on desalination.
“Desalination has been done in Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states for generations,” he said. “We have the Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water, right next to our state. That’s an obvious answer to our water needs.”
When it came to legal cannabis in the state, both candidates said there needs to be stronger laws to fight against drug cartels and their affiliated illegal growers. Friedman said large illegal growers should be able to be charged as felons, and Jacobsen added that he was more concerned with the preponderance of fentanyl and intravenous drugs.
Friedman said she supported a move toward universal health care coverage in the state, while Jacobsen said he’d want to bolster the current system and work on eliminating roadblocks.
The incumbent also continued her advocacy of strong public transit access, while Jacobsen said he felt there was point of “diminishing returns” there and remained steadfastly pro-personal vehicle.
Regarding reproductive freedom, Friedman touted her record in supporting abortion rights while Jacobsen said he believes the cut-off should be when the fetus reaches a certain stage of viability at 15-20 weeks, except when the mother’s life is threatened.
The candidates disagreed on solutions to the housing crisis. Friedman said filling the void of the former redevelopment agencies to build more affordable housing would help reverse a population exodus, whereas Jacobsen suggested slashing taxes to make living here more bearable. Jacobsen added he was against the state overriding local zoning codes to force density development, particularly within single-family residential neighborhoods.
“It’s got to be done locally,” he said. “These are community decisions that cities are best qualified to make.”
Friedman, a onetime Glendale councilwoman, said she appreciated the importance of local control in planning.
“On the other hand,” she added, however, “we have a statewide housing crisis and the response has to be statewide, which means that cities can’t just choose to sit it out and not add housing, particularly in areas that are already existing job centers.”
The candidates also disagreed on whether a political body should be able to remove an elected sheriff from office, with Jacobsen saying that voting citizens hold them accountable enough.
“I’m against any measure that would take that away from the citizens of that county and put it in the hands of a handful of board members,” he said, adding that sheriffs are the “last line of defense” for civil liberties. “If anything, their autonomy should be bolstered. We’re the ones they answer to, not to a board of oversight that is appointed by a handful of politicians. That kind of thing just lends itself to corruption and cronyism.”
Friedman said she felt there needed to be a mechanism for obvious cases of abuse of power or criminal wrongdoing.
“If someone is doing something that everybody recognizes is seriously wrong, particularly if they are in a position to arrest people, there needs to be accountability within that time frame,” she said.
The forum can be viewed in full at the city of Glendale’s YouTube page.