Advocates Score California Legislators on Transportation

Streets for All recognizes champions of safer streets in the state legislature, acknowledges some rising stars, and notes who opposes efforts to improve transportation safety

Sacramento. Image from Streets for All: 2021-22, California State Legislators, Mobility for All
Sacramento. Image from Streets for All: 2021-22, California State Legislators, Mobility for All

Streets for All, an advocacy group focused on creating a sustainable and equitable transportation system, has issued a report card on California state legislators’ actions on transportation during the just-completed two-year session. There should be no real surprises here for Streetsblog readers, who have read about many of these champions and watched the progress of their efforts.

The report gives top marks to Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), the current chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, who authored thirteen pieces of legislation related to safer, more equitable streets in the 2021-22 session. These included bills on funding, planning, bicycle law, speed limits, and parking.

Other champions receiving kudos from Streets for All are:

  • Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), author of six solid bills, who kept coming back with a bill on decriminalizing jaywalking until it was signed by the governor, and has also worked on bike safety stop bills and speed camera pilots (which haven’t passed).
  • Retiring Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who worked on camera enforcement to keep bus lanes clear and making leading pedestrian intervals more universal throughout the state.
  • Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Glendale), who started riding his bike during the pandemic shutdown and become a stanch advocate for planning to increase traffic calming and reduce driving (including authoring an ultimately unsuccessful bill to give a tax credit to people who don’t own cars).
  • Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who successfully fought to fast-track CEQA clearance for bike and pedestrian projects, and has been a strong supporter of safer streets.
  • Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), “A diligent defender of the climate,” whose work to increase transit ridership and decrease carbon emissions always incorporated equity.

The report card also recognizes “legislators on the rise” who showed a marked increase in their support for safer streets. These include Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D-Berkeley), Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), and Senators Henry Stern (D-Thousand Oaks, who, despite his work on climate, earned a relatively low grade overall – but has been improving), Anthony Portantino, and Susan Eggman (D-Stockton).

Scores were arrived at based on authorship and voting record on bills sponsored and supported by Streets for All. The bills are listed in the report. Of course, because this is a score card, it also gives low grades to legislators who voted against or abstained on these bills. Many of them – not all – are Republicans, which is a disappointing fact. There’s no reason safety should be a partisan issue, but that’s what it has become.

The poorest scores were earned by Senators Melissa Melendez (R-Murrieta, who is termed out) and Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield, who never let pass any opportunity to speak up in support of polluting industries).

Another poor performer is former Assembly Transportation Chair Jim Frazier, a Democrat representing Discovery Bay who liked to call himself an “avid bicyclist.” He earned an F for his problematic, combative insistence on opposing efforts to increase safety for bike riders.

The point of a score card is not just to give a pat on the back to those who agree with the scorekeepers, or shake a finger at those who don’t. California needs to change at every level, in planning and prioritizing, infrastructure and policy; as Streets for All puts it, what is needed is “a complete reversal of the last several decades of harmful car-centric transportation policy.” That won’t happen unless champions at every level are out there working to make it so.

This scorecard, says Streets for All, “serves as a reminder to legislators [that] Californians want better transportation options and we deserve representatives who are aligned on that mission. [It] ensures accountability by watching your votes and abstentions through each committee and on the floor.”

It’s also aimed at inspiring all legislators to do more “to support a better future for mobility in California.”

High scores in our report card reflect substantive support and authorship on legislation that moves us closer to a state with sustainable and widespread multimodal transportation. Average scores indicate areas for improvement. Low scores point to opportunities for voters to apply pressure on their representatives to improve in future sessions.

Find the full report here. And if your representative did poorly, write them a note to remind them to do better next time. :/

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