Assemblyman Edwin “Ed” Chau (D-Monterey Park) is running to represent the 49th Assembly District, which includes Alhambra and a large portion of the west San Gabriel Valley, in the California State Assembly. The Monterey Park resident opened a law firm in Alhambra nearly 20 years ago, and prior to being elected to State Assembly in 2012, was a member of the Montebello Unified School District Board of Education.
Chau is facing off against Esthela Torres Siegrist on Nov. 4. In an email to Alhambra Source, Chau answered questions about development, the 710, and how he hopes to serve the San Gabriel Valley if re-elected. Read his responses below.
If elected in November, what do you hope to accomplish in your next term as assemblyman?
I am proud of my work to stabilize school funding and give parents greater control over how district funding is utilized. The bottom line is good schools create good jobs. Our focus has to be to give every high school student the opportunity to find a career or go to college. We must improve academic standards and performance, make college more accessible, and create more job training and educational programs so students can compete in the 21st century economy.
I will also continue focusing on providing local governments with the tools they need to accommodate the housing needs of all residents in our state, on being part of the conversation around meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets through transportation and clean technology solutions, and on ensuring access to affordable quality healthcare for all. Bottom line, I will continue working to find balanced solutions to the challenges facing my district and our state.
The city of Alhambra officially supports closing the 710 Freeway gap with a tunnel. Where do you stand on the issue?
I absolutely support the tunnel as the best alternative to closing the 710 North gap. A tunnel will not cause more pollution or disrupt life for local residents. In fact, it will do the opposite. Currently, with the 710 gap, drivers of roughly 200,000 vehicles have no choice but to use major traffic arteries. So the gap already disrupts life in Alhambra and southeast Los Angeles. A tunnel will relieve much of the pollution from idling vehicles. In fact, closing the 710 gap will remove about 2,200 pounds of air pollutants each day.
A tunnel will also reduce both arterial and freeway congestion by 20 percent. It will remove more than 75,000 daily trips from local streets and reduce regional cut-through traffic. Plus it will eliminate congestion at 22 percent of the intersections studied. The facts are pretty clear: a tunnel will reduce pollution and improve mobility.
Many of our readers have said that they feel Alhambra is overdeveloped. What is your stand on development in the San Gabriel Valley?
I tend to analyze projects on a case-by-case basis, because I am interested in the specific impacts of a particular project and the effect it will have on the community. Common sense says we need to continue to grow and develop to create jobs, but manage the process with an eye toward maintaining the feel and flavor of our communities and protecting our cherished parks, schools, landmarks, main streets, and local sensibilities.
Five cities in the San Gabriel Valley are adopting a regional bike plan, and Alhambra may be a gap in that infrastructure. You recently introduced a bill to add an additional bike rack to transit buses. Do you think improving biking infrastructure is important? How would you like to see biking improve in your district?
I think the biking movement is a great shift in thinking in our state and I’m happy to support it. Families want to be able to live, work, and play in communities that are walkable and bicycle friendly. We must integrate biking into our transportation planning processes, especially because of the direct impact on our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I understand that biking isn’t a traffic panacea, but every bit helps. Drivers need to respect cyclists and cyclists need to do their part to be responsible on our roads as well.
Recent studies have shown that minority voters, such as Latino and Asian American voters, have a lower turnout rate than other groups. How have you worked to increase civic engagement in the diverse Assembly District 49?
I have worked to increase civic engagement by encouraging participation in town hall forums to better inform my constituents about a particular policy issue. For example, in 2013 I hosted an informational town hall to inform and answer questions on obtaining affordable healthcare through Covered California.
Another way I engage my constituents is by partnering with others on important issues at press conferences, forums, and workshops. For example, I have participated in press conferences on mental health issues and senior scam seminars, a pet adoption event, and import and export business opportunities workshops. I also use online communications, such as e-alerts and newsletters, in an effort to inform and solicit opinions on policy issues from my constituents.
Some Alhambra residents have urged City Council to adopt a historic preservation ordinance to protect the historic resources in Alhambra. Do you think local leaders should prioritize historic preservation?
Yes. Growth and change are going to happen whether we like it or not. Our charge is to manage that growth responsibly. Part of honoring those that have come before us is securing the local history of communities so that future generations can understand our heritage, our history, and the shared values that bind us together.
Why should an Alhambra resident vote for you?
I’m particularly proud of the laws I have authored to allocate money to groundwater cleanup projects in the San Gabriel Valley, protect seniors from financial elder abuse, prioritize funding for supportive housing programs, and enhance privacy protections, among others. I have made great strides to ensure that my constituents and all Californians have the resources they need to take control of the issues affecting their daily lives.
I am honored to represent the San Gabriel Valley. I would be honored to earn your vote.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited and condensed. This piece does not represent the views or opinions of the editorial staff and is not an endorsement. Alhambra Source also invited Chau’s opponent, Siegrist, for an interview.