Having served as education advisor to Gov. Ronald Reagan, I've been asked why I am supporting Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle for state Assembly, especially given the multitude of shameless political attacks her opponents have leveled at her.
For those of you who haven't decided, I want to share with you why I believe Leslie is the right person for the job.
My first concern is California's budget crisis. Every year, Sacramento politicians promise they have balanced the budget, cut spending and are living within their means. Of course, every year we learn the budget was full of gimmicks, they dodged the tough decisions and we are worse off.
It really irritates me when I see our politicians threaten the very existence of our educational system with huge cuts in funding merely as a means to scare voters into passing a new tax to fund excess spending. No one in Sacramento wants to bite the bullet and reduce overspending.
Leslie will ask the tough questions, just as she has done in Newport Beach and will work to build consensus over halting continuous runaway spending. She will be more effective than our extremist representatives who only achieve gridlock.
In Newport, Leslie has constantly demanded the city produce a balanced budget through structural cuts and not by tapping reserves. She has suggested and supported tough decisions, and has the results to prove it.
Leslie worked hard to make Newport Beach government more efficient, fought for common sense solutions, protected important vital services like police, fire, paramedics and libraries, and helped earn the city a rare and coveted triple-A credit rating. During Leslie's tenure on our council, our city's reserves have grown to more than $90 million, the largest ever in the history of the city.
Another significant issue California must address is pension reform. The state of California's unfunded pension obligations make Greece look like a trivial accounting error. The state must get a hold of the skyrocketing pension costs or, before long, our entire state budget is likely to collapse under its own weight.
In Newport, Leslie worked as one of the toughest council members on the council team bringing public employee unions to the table to negotiate a deal that, for the first time ever, required employees to contribute to their own pensions. As a result, the city of Newport Beach is more fiscally sound, has a better handle on increasing pension costs and employees are paying their fair share.
Her opponents on the other hand have never been effective in achieving any degree of leadership in causing change at either the local or statewide level of government. One is completely inexperienced and the other ineffective.
Orange County's Republican Party unanimously endorsed Leslie when she ran for City Council in 2006 and in 2010. County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh said then: "Leslie is vigilant on behalf of her city's taxpayers and has a record to prove it."
This time, because Baugh has decided he wants to serve as kingmaker and protect seated members of the state Legislature, he saw to it that Leslie wasn't even invited to make a case for her candidacy.
Baugh believes Costa Mesa is the role model for how Republicans ought to conduct themselves in office and has established arbitrary litmus tests and pledges to control candidates. The truth is, Leslie takes only two pledges: the pledge of allegiance and the oath of office. Leslie refuses to be controlled by political parties and special interests; instead, she remains committed and accountable to the voters who have elected her.
If you want to compare the success extremists have in creating good government for their citizens, to the success of those who know how to balance competing interests, all you need do is look at the financial health of Newport Beach and compare Newport's AAA bond rating to Costa Mesa's financial struggles.
We must bring our budgets and spending under control. We cannot accomplish this on the back of education and no change will be permanent without resolving the unsustainable pension benefit plans offered by the state of California to public state workers. We need leadership in Sacramento who will work toward this goal, and that is why I am voting for Leslie for state Assembly.
RUSH HILL is a member of the Newport Beach City Council.