Glazer would be a strong independent California controller – Lake County Record-Bee
California needs a controller of integrity and experience in state government – someone who has demonstrated political independence, the ability to foster bipartisan cooperation, and a willingness to speak truth to those in power.
Bay Area State Senator Steve Glazer is the only candidate in the June 7 primary who meets these criteria. Californians who want a controller who will effectively manage the state office of more than 1,400 workers and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively should vote for him.
As California’s Chief Financial Officer, the Controller pays state employees’ salaries and other government bills; sits on 78 boards and commissions, including those overseeing the state’s two largest pension systems; and serves as an independent watchdog, detecting fraud and abuse.
With incumbent Betty Yee set to step down later this year after completing her assigned two four-year terms, the race has drawn six candidates, including the Los Angeles City Controller, a member of the State Board of Equalization and a former political adviser to Mitt Romney.
But it’s Glazer who brings the deepest experience, having served as political and policy advisor to former Gov. Jerry Brown, as a councilor for Orinda, as a member of the Board of Trustees at California State University, and since 2015 as a state senator from the East Bay.
In the Senate, Glazer, a Democrat, has demonstrated a stubborn streak of independence, a willingness to press on in the face of special-interest opposition, and a laser focus on data-driven surveillance of government programs.
Despite objections from the BART administration and unions, he successfully negotiated the creation of an independent inspector general at the transit agency. A Glazer bill led to the creation of an educational data system to track student performance and program effectiveness.
Glazer’s currently pending bills would expand data collection on the spread of infectious diseases and expand public disclosure of the information; track spending and outcomes in mental health programs; and fill a loophole that has allowed school districts, unlike other local public agencies, to avoid reporting salaries to the state controller for public dissemination.
One of his greatest accomplishments was passing the 2016 law requiring the California State University campus to provide incentives for students to enroll full-time so they can graduate in four years. It helped increase the four-year graduation rate from 19% in 2015 to 31% in 2020.
The faster the students complete their studies, the less debt they take on and the faster the university can free up space for other students. The bill demonstrates the kind of focus on efficient use of public resources that would be an asset to the state Controller’s Office.
Glazer acknowledges that as Controller he will not be able to legislate. But he will be able to use the bureau’s audit function and bullying pulpit to push lawmakers to make smart changes in areas like housing, schools and climate change to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.
As a Controller, he has also served as a policy maker on numerous boards and commissions, including those of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension plan.
The two pension system bodies are dominated by members who are loyal to the state and local public employee unions. Glazer would bring a refreshing independent voice and an understanding of the intricacies of pension system accounting.
That’s in contrast to Malia Cohen, a former San Francisco supervisor who now sits on the state board of equalization, who, although she sits on the board of the city’s public employee system, has been unable to answer key questions about pensions. Cohen, a Democrat, sees herself and her role as controller as a “social justice warrior.” This isn’t the independent analyst that state residents need to run the bureau.
While candidate Ron Galperin, Los Angeles City Controller-elect, shares the title with the state post he aspires to, city-level responsibilities aren’t nearly as broad. But Galperin, also a Democrat, is the auditor there and he understands very well that she must be independent. However, Galperin has been criticized for not being direct enough, which we saw in his audit of the city’s pension system.
Lanhee Chen, the only Republican in the running, faces a steep climb. No GOP candidate has won statewide office since 2006. That said, since Democrats are likely to split their party members’ votes, Chen is likely to make the runoff and will be worth watching.
Chen holds four Harvard degrees — a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s and doctorate in political science, and a law degree. He served in the administration of George W. Bush and was Romney’s chief political adviser during the senator’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2012.
Today, Chen is a Public Policy Fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford. He is quick to distance himself from those whom the GOP has transformed from what he calls a party of principles and ideals to a party of personalities. What he doesn’t have is much experience in the California government or elective office experience.
The other two candidates are Democrat Yvonne Yiu, who declined to answer our questions, and Green Party member Laura Wells, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010 and for controller in 2002, 2006 and 2014.
There is a large field of candidates, but only one brings the combination of government experience, integrity, political courage and independence. This is Glaser. Vote for him in the upcoming primary.
– The Editor, Bay Area News Group