Synopsis: Hilda Zacarias is the hands-down choice over K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian for election to the state Assembly from the 33rd district, which covers San Luis Obispo County and part of Santa Barbara County, in the November 2 election.
Hilda Zacarias is the hands down choice for election as this area's representative in the State Assembly on November 2, mainly because she is absolutely clear on the critical issues that San Luis Obispo County and the northern part of Santa Barbara County, which make up the 33rd District, face and how California's budget crisis can be attacked to bring renewed hope for the future of the state's 37 million children and adults.
She is as straight as an arrow in telling where she stands on each and every issue. You name it, and she will tell you not only what she thinks but what she intends to do about it as a member of the Assembly. That's almost never heard of in politics at any level, except for John Laird, who was defeated for state Senate from this area on August 17. Why is she like that? One key reason is she is a trained, experienced accountant who deals in concrete facts and numbers. Because Sam Blakeslee was elected to that Senate seat, electing Zacarias to the Assembly is even more important so that this area will have at least one true voice in Sacramento.
Of the utmost and immediate importance is the question of offshore oil drilling, which Zacarias adamantly opposes and would vote against and work to block in Sacramento because she is acutely aware that the Gulf of Mexico oil eruption that destroyed lives, businesses and wildlife there could easily happen anywhere along California's coast if drilling into the sea floor were permitted. More than 90 statewide environmental organizations came out against a proposal last year to start drilling again.
Her opponent, K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian, is for it, showing how blind he is to potentially devastating threats to the local coast and all of California's precious marine waters. Could that have anything to do with the fact that he is in the oil business—he owns a number of gas stations in the county?
And he has amply demonstrated that same blindness as a disastrous member of the California Coastal Commission for four years where he has compiled the next-to-worst voting record. In votes on conservation measures, his record in 2008 was the lowest (25%) among Commissioners who held elected office (Achadjian is and was then a member of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and was appointed to the Commission by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the second from the lowest among all Commissioners. (The voting chart was posted on the Sierra Club site but was compiled jointly by the Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club Coastal Programs, League for Coastal Protection, Coastal Protection Network, Coastwalk California & California Coastkeeper Alliance.)
Zacarias also has extensive experience in local government as a member of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District board before being elected to her current position on the Santa Maria City Council.
On a key environmental issue, this one on the November 2nd ballot, Zacarias opposes and Achadjian supports Proposition 23, the crucially-important initiative funded by out-of-state oil refiners that would rollback AB 32, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, which made California the national leader in reducing greenhouse gases through energy efficiency, including (EXPANDED USE OF) renewable sources.
Zacarias, a fifth generation American, also has extensive experience in local government as a member of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District board before being elected to her current position on the Santa Maria City Council.
Achadjian, a native Armenian who became a citizen in 1982, portrays himself—and is portrayed by much of the local media—as a moderate, nonpartisan member of the Board of Supervisors. But his voting record as a Supervisor and on the Coastal Commission belie that image.
In sharp contrast to Zacarias, Achadjian's stands on issues in the Assembly campaign are so vague as to be hard to fathom.
The reason I mention their citizenship backgrounds is to dispel any assumptions that she is a newcomer to the U.S., especially with a Latino name and the controversy around immigration. And in discussing her citizenship, I feel obligated to mention his.
Here are some examples (from his website at under "issues") of what he says he would do as an Assembly member:
—Reduce regulatory compliance costs while making more flexible existing regulation to keep more good jobs on the Central Coast.
—Keep down taxes and fees on those who create jobs(.)
—Increase support for our agricultural and tourism economies.
—Eliminate statewide departments that duplicate county and city services.
—Fight for a spending cap to limit government spending each year to a formula based on population and inflation.
—Require that tax dollars spent on schools get into the classroom and are not wasted on Sacramento bureaucracy.
—Empower local school boards and school principals with more authority to determine how school funds are spent.
How would he do them, why are these steps needed, and what would they accomplish? How about just a few hints? No, all we get is glittering generalities, the trademark of a politician who apparently may have no idea how to get these things done. And couldn't be held accountable for getting them done anyway because pinning him down for what he is vaguely committing to is impossible. His statements are so broadly made it is impossible to hold him accountable for what he is only vaguely committing to.
Compare the clear-cut ideas that Zacarias has in mind (http://www.hildazacarias.com/ also under "Issues"):
—She supports a two-year budget with oversight and fiscal audits to provide greater certainty to our state's finances. She would reduce the number of commissions and political appointees that cost millions annually. She supports an oil extraction fee, an insurance surcharge to fund wild land firefighting, and closure of corporate tax loopholes.
—She would seek appointments to the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review; the Revenue and Taxation Committee; the Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy, the Education Committee, and the Committee on Human Services to pursue her ideas.
— She feels the most important problem we face in California is the inability to craft a budget, and the two-thirds majority requirement allows a small ideological group of legislators to hold California hostage for their special-interest purposes. She vows to advocate an initiative to address this structural problem.
— She supports strategies that bring businesses together with nonprofits and the government sector to address issues. She supports resources that provide technical assistance and access to funding through increased small business loans, and tax credits for creating jobs.
—She will support proven reforms (in public education). We have ample research, both quantitative and qualitative, that clearly shows what works. This includes class-size reduction, qualified teachers in all core subjects, increasing the number of credentialed counselors, identifying and mitigating learning disabilities, and ensuring that high school equivalency examination allows for training and certification of students who excel in the trades, technical careers and the service sector.
But it's not just that Achadjian is ambiguous on what he believes in and what he would do in Sacramento. He also is a flip-flopper.
First he opposed Arizona's controversial immigration law; now he says he supports it.
First he publicly refused to sign the "no new taxes pledge" advocated by the conservative groups; now he has signed it.
The best way to see the contrast between the two candidates is to watch them in action. That will be possible at 10:00 am on Saturday, October 2nd, when they will participate in a forum sponsored by The League of Women Voters at Arroyo Grande High School (495 Valley Road, Arroyo Grande). Zacarias will also meet the public from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm on Wednesday, October 6, and Friday, October 8 at her campaign office in San Luis Obispo (corner of Broad and Pismo). There are no dates for any scheduled appearances by Achadjian on his website.
With Democrats in lop-sided control of the Assembly (50 Democrats, 27 Republicans, one Independent, and two vacancies), it is obvious that Zacarias will have more influence than Republican Achadjian would and be able to get her ideas put into action. Just as Republican Blakeslee got almost none of his goals realized while he was in the Assembly, Achadjian is assured of the same fate. Is that what this area needs—another elected representative who can't get anything done, even if he tries to?
Zacarias is our best—and only—chance of getting the Central Coast behind some real and possible solutions to Sacramento's—and our—problems.