Senate candidates Cortese, Ravel vie for support in San Jose debate
Dave Cortese and Ann Ravel are seen in a forum hosted by the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association earlier this year. They participated in a virtual debate Oct. 12. File photo.

State Senate candidates Ann Ravel and Dave Cortese went toe-to-toe in a debate that covered issues ranging from the economy to police reform.

The candidates both supported balancing the state budget and oversight of Santa Clara County Public Health. They differ on their support of ballot measure propositions.

Ravel took shots at Cortese throughout the debate, which was hosted Oct. 12 by the Almaden Valley Community Association.

“I … care about government transparency, government accountability and honesty,” Ravel said, “including honesty in campaigns, because people who aren’t honest in campaigns, you’re not going to be able to trust them.”

Ravel touted her experience at the “highest levels of government in every level of government.” Cortese referred to himself as the local representative.

“I have been a local official here spending my time in your neighborhoods … and in the small cities that are a part of this district,” Cortese said.

Ravel, who was nominated to the Federal Election Commission by President Barack Obama, described herself as “working for all the people” and said her decisions wouldn’t be influenced by special interests.

Cortese, who served for more than 10 years on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and eight years on the San Jose City Council, said he will continue to work on pressing issues.

“Housing and homelessness, climate, justice reform, education … all of those things are ripe for action and will be major issues in the state Senate,” Cortese said.

Regarding the state budget deficit, Ravel said the state needs to audit every agency and will have to negotiate with the federal government.

“Assuming the Biden administration is in office,” Ravel said, “since I’m working on the transition team, I think I’ll be able to talk with them about helping California.”

Cortese spoke of his experience having to balance the budget during the recession while serving on the Board of Supervisors.

“We had to negotiate with 24 collective bargaining units and get them to accept concession contracts,” Cortese said. “The state’s going to have to do the same thing.”

Priorities

Ravel said her priorities focus on responding to economic and health impacts of COVID-19. She spoke of providing fair, accessible medical care, bringing businesses back and re-educating people for new jobs.

Cortese said his priority is balancing the state’s budget while supporting faster COVID-19 testing and better protocols to allow businesses to continue to reopen. Cortese also said housing and homelessness are “huge priorities.”

“We have a housing deficit,” he said. “We’re creating jobs at a 6-to-1 ratio over housing in the Bay Area and that can’t continue.”

Propositions 15 and 21

Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than purchase price.

Business owners with $3 million or less in holdings would continue to be taxed based on their purchase price. A small business’ personal property would be exempt from taxes, with $500,000 in value for a non-small business’ personal property.

The ballot initiative is projected to generate $8 billion to $12.5 billion per year, with 60% going to local governments and 40% to school districts and community colleges.

Ravel said although she doesn’t support Prop. 15, more funding for schools is needed as well as changes to the “unfair” tax structure. She said the $3 million threshold on small businesses would have a negative impact due to triple net leases.

Cortese said he supports Prop. 15 as large commercial properties have had a tax loophole. He said school districts are struggling under revenue limits and some properties haven’t been reassessed in decades.

Neither candidate supports Prop. 21, which would allow local government to enact rent control on housing first occupied more than 15 years ago, with an exception for landlords who own no more than two homes.

“We need to be careful about placing restrictions on rents that are so severe,” Cortese said. “They undermine the legislation that’s already in place and force developers to leave the area. We need housing … and affordable housing badly.”

Ravel said rent control will make housing costs rise and adversely affect affordable housing.

“What we have to do is … start building more truly affordable housing so everybody can live here; the teachers, the firefighters, everybody,” Ravel said.

Public health

Both candidates favor more oversight of Santa Clara County Public Health.

“Some of the health decisions … have unequal health consequences,” Ravel said. “They have failed during COVID to provide what is necessary.”

Cortese said because of the pandemic, the Board of Supervisors made a Declaration of Emergency to qualify for millions in state and federal emergency funds, which bestowed “tremendous power” on public health officials.

“What I would support is legislation that says that either the public health official or the county’s Board of Supervisors could hold that vested authority in emergencies,” Cortese said

Police reform

Cortese said all 58 counties in California should adopt Santa Clara County’s “8 Can’t Wait” police reforms to have uniformity at the state level.

Ravel said there needs to be transparency of police officers’ files, especially of those who have committed crimes, so agencies don’t hire people “who have done things that are inappropriate for police officers.”

She said the state legislature has this responsibility as it oversees policing standards, hiring and issues regarding independent reviews and DAs imposing punishments.

Both candidates asked for voters’ support.

“You’ve vetted me,” Cortese said. “You’ve allowed me to lead on the same issues we’re addressing here today. I want to ask all of you to trust me with your vote … sending me to the state Senate.”

Touting her endorsements, Ravel said, “I’m running because I really care about this place.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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