McKenzie Jackson
California Black Media

Some time ago, a quizzical third grade student posed a curious query to Delaine Eastin. The grade schooler asked Eastin why she was named after the school he attended, the Bay Area’s Delaine Eastin Elementary School.

However, the proper question should have been why the 17-year-old school building is named after Eastin. The answer isn’t complicated. Eastin, 70, a college professor and member of the Union City City Council from 1980 to 1986, a state assemblyperson from 1986 to 1994 and the state superintendent of public instruction from 1995 to 2003 has been an education advocate all her life.

Eastin, one of nine women elected to statewide office in California history, said her education efforts in Union City helped reduce school truancy, daytime crime, and increase high school graduation rates.

“The reality is the school was named after me because I worked to bring the city and the school district together,” Eastin said adding having a school share her name is “the biggest, most wonderful tribute that I have ever received in my life.”

Now, Eastin is seeking to top that. The Democrat is vying to not only become the Golden State’s next governor, but also the first ever women to serve in the state’s top legislative position. She is one of several candidates jockeying to replace outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento.

Eastin is often overlooked in the polls but heading into the June 5 primary election the Bay Area native announced she will touch down in all 58 California counties to campaign and challenged all gubernatorial candidates to pledge they will fight for pay equity between genders and races if elected to office.

Eastin is one of several potential governors that were interviewed by California Black Media.
During the interview, edited and condensed for clarity, the nominee for governor, said the goals of her governorship would be increasing education opportunities, building more affordable housing, promoting healthcare for all, and cleaning up the environment, during the interview, edited and condensed for clarity.

“I believe very strongly that elected officials should stand up for all the people in our state,” she said.

If elected as governor what policies will you implement?
“I had left political life in 2003 but watched as the inequalities in our state grew and the middle class was shrinking. I’m really running for four major reasons. First, I believe education is the cornerstone of any successful society. It’s the best crime prevention program. It’s the best economic development program. It’s the game-changer for so many of us. I think we need more paid paternity and maternity leave. We need more child development. We need pre-school for all. We need to make kindergarten full day. We need to make it mandatory. We need to invest more in K-12 education reform. We are 41st in the 50 states in what we are spending per child. We used to be fifth, tied with New York. New York now spends more than twice per much per student then California. We need to make college tuition free again and build some additional campuses, so we don’t turn away 67,000 students at CSU as we did last year. On all levels, from pre-school to grad school we must invest in education in a much better way.

Housing is a huge problem in California. We have been building something like 80,000 units a year when we should have been building 180,000. Meaning we have the largest number in percentage of homeless of any state at 22 percent. Beyond that, we need to build affordable housing near transportation hubs all over California. Many times, you have a couple and one goes north; one goes south; one goes east; one goes west. They don’t go to the same place. If you build affordable housing next to the transportation hub at least you can avoid getting in your car and contributing to the pollution.
Third, healthcare for all. Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege for the wealthy. Every single person in this state needs an opportunity to have healthcare. Last, I’m a huge supporter of clean air and water for everyone. Right now, some of our poorest neighborhoods are the neighborhoods where the children are least likely to have good water and the air quality is most likely to be poor. I’m committed to fracking as well as identifying new and better ways to commute, get people around as well as better ways to help people have an environment to grow and prosper.”

Is their one position you have held that has prepared you to be governor?
“I’ve grown in every position I have had. City council made me better in the assembly. The assembly made me a better superintendent. As superintendent is the area where I learned the most. That contributes to me being a better governor. I administered to over 40 percent of the California budget. It’s not an insignificant role, and the truth is I really believe transformed the department. The culture of the department changed, people were on a mission and they hadn’t been. People were encouraged to collaborate and to figure out how we can do better. We diversified the department. We brought in a very diverse group of leadership. When I got to the department it was pretty white and the leadership was pretty male. I went out and used the ability to use Visiting Educator Program – you can take someone from a school district and pay them their school district salary to their district and they can work in Sacramento – doing that I was able to bring in some very talented African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and have much more diverse department. I intend to do that across California.

Why is diversity in government important?
“We are a diverse state. The state government should look like the state. We should give children a chance to see role models that are them and have an understanding that the government is a place of equal opportunity and there is more potential for leadership for people who are from very diverse backgrounds.”

Why should Black voters consider you as their candidate?
“All my life I have fought for equal rights and justice in our society. I came out of Union City Council; it is a majority minority community. I went to the assembly and I fought for equal rights, social justice and better opportunities for all people. When I got to the assembly, I worked very hard to get appointed to the education committee. Eventually, I got to chair that committee. I feel very certain my leadership at the department was especially important because I opposed Prop 187, Prop 209 and Prop 227. They all passed, but I sued Gov. Pete Wilson. I joined the lawsuit against 187 and we won the lawsuit, so it was overturned we didn’t have to make the teachers become immigration officers. I’m proud to say 227 has now been overturned by the voters. I stand up for what I believe even when it’s not fashionable. I believe that black lives do matter. I believe very strongly that elected officials should stand up for all the people in our state.”

What type of relationship would you strive to have with the federal government?
“I will stand with the people of California, and I will not allow a thug in the White House to push us around. The concept that a racist, misogynist is President is very disturbing to me. I will not {inaudible] for him. We will stand together as Californians on behalf of the future of our state and the rights of our people. We will not be pushed around by the federal government.”

How would #MeToo movement effect your governorship?
“I believe very strongly in equal rights for all. There is discrimination based on race, but there is even more discrimination when you combine race and gender. The reality is African American women are far more discriminated against then African American men. What we have a chance to do is say we are going to fight for all of California, irrespective of their gender or race. Everybody has a wonderful future because we are going to say the priority in California is the rights of the people who live here.

I am going to work to get rid of the pay inequity. You must have pay equity. It discriminates against families when women make less than men. If we are doing the same work. We must make sure we reach a sense of justice in California for all people.”

How would you address housing problems?
“We will have a full court press endeavor to build 300,000 units a year for the first few years. You can’t do more than that because you don’t have enough plumbers and carpenters and roofers. We would use a variety of different means to stimulate the housing. The state would provide incentives to communities to build affordable housing. I believe in the California Environmental Quality Act. It has become ossified. It takes too long to get things approved. We have got to work to streamline the approval process. When we do that we will see there are lot of nimble people that are eager to do this.
Another thing I would change is the commercial/industrial property tax. Because of Prop 13, commercial/industrial properties, many of them don’t modernize because they have these very low tax rates like 1978 tax rates. So, you wind up with situations like the Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland where a bunch of people died because the guy didn’t want to be reassessed, so he didn’t change the outside of the building he just turned the inside into apartments. That was illegal, but no one knew he did it and as a result 23 people died. Commercial/industrial properties must be assessed every ten years or so. Prop 13 was supposedly done to help homeowners. Homeowners were paying like 52 percent of the property taxes when Prop 13 passed now they are paying 72 percent now it may be as high as 74 percent. We need to get more commercial and industrial property tax into the system. With that money we can do a lot of things different and better.”
mckenzie@cablackmedia.org