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Our view: The loss of Richman leaves us poorer

Posted: August 7, 2010 3:44 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Keith Richman has been described as both challenging to work for and a true statesman in Sacramento.

From 2000-2006, Richman represented the 38th Assembly District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley. He was intelligent, and he was demanding — having little patience for bureaucracy and preferring to cut to the chase in Sacramento.

When the 56-year-old medical doctor died of brain cancer July 31, roughly a year after a malignant brain tumor was discovered, we lost the type of person who is all too rare in the halls of the state Capitol.

Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste said of him: “Keith’s American patriotism and leadership truly exemplify all that our founding fathers dreamed as a legacy for this country.”

That type of leadership is all too rare today, as politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to dither and delay a state budget, many refusing to yield an inch in the name of bipartisanship.

Five years ago, Richman was sounding the bell about budget-expenditure issues that are finally being discussed at the local and state levels today.

A physician before his foray into politics, Richman advocated for health-care reform and fought for pension reform during each of his three terms.

He found out the hard way that in Sacramento, special interests, as he put it, “pretty much call the shots.”
Richman also found little willingness between politicians to work together.

As Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters noted in a recent column, when Richman proposed improving California’s system of medical services for the poor without spending more money, the Republicans weren’t interested in social services. Democrats wanted universal health care, and consequently, nothing happened.

Richman believed in the power of ideas, evidence and reason to effect change. He may have seen little change in his time as assemblyman, but we hope his legacy is a clarion call to the current and future leaders of California.

When he termed out and left the Assembly, Richman didn’t leave politics behind. Instead, he founded the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, an organization committed to educating the public and lawmakers about state employee retirement benefit issues and fiscally responsible solutions that are fair to employees, employers and taxpayers.
It gives us hope that Richman’s successor, Cameron Smyth — who knew the late assemblyman for about a decade — has shown a similar willingness to reach across the aisle in the quest to make California great again.

We need elected officials who are less devoted to political ideology and party-above-all-else loyalty, and who care more about what’s in the best interest of the community at large.

California would be a much better place if there were more Keith Richmans on both sides of the aisle in Sacramento.


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