Pictured: Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, former Senator Fran Pavley, Christen Hebrard, with Young Democrats of America, and  Senior Climate Advisor for Tom Steyer’s campaign, Vien Truong.  Photo by Kyle Keyser

by David Michael Courtland

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer talked about his support of their efforts to deal with climate change at the Climate Warriors’ Town Hall held at the community center of the Oxnard Performing Arts Center (formerly the PACC) on Monday, Feb. 17.

“It’s not often you know a [presidential] candidate; I’ve shaken hands with two or three of the others,” said former State Senator Fran Pavley, who represented parts of Ventura County for 14 years in the state legislature. “I’ve actually known Tom for 10 years.”

Other panelists included 44th District Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin. Rounding out the panel was Christen Hebrard of the Young Democrats of America. The panel was introduced by Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez.

“Climate change has always been one of my top priorities,” Pavley said, “but he’s the only one I know who over the last 10 years has done something about it.”

Pavley said Steyer’s voter registration drive in 2010 helped defeat Prop. 23, which was designed to undo her landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB32. Signed into law in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, AB32 created a cap-and-trade system to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by this year.

“Ventura County has benefited from his leadership,” Pavley said. “His NextGen America foundation funds good projects.”

In 2017, Steyer’s green energy advocacy group, NextGen America, released a video opposing plans to replace the Mandalay Generating Station with a gas-fired plant on Oxnard’s coast.

“One thing I can say is that, if he becomes president, he knows where Ventura County is,” Pavley said.

Irwin also noted Steyer’s grassroots activist efforts in Ventura County, recalling that he made “a big investment” in voter registration when she first ran for California State Assembly. Irwin said she is a big supporter of infrastructure projects like the planned Rice Avenue grade separation, which she said would reduce traffic and thus pollution.

Steyer has said that if he is elected president, on his first day in office he will declare that climate change is a national emergency so that he can use special powers to deal with its impact.

“Not only its physical impact but its impact on lower income people,” Pavley noted. “He’s been very strong on reducing air and water pollutants regardless of zip code.”

Hebrard also noted the economic and health effects of climate change on people, particularly those with few resources.

“Most Americans don’t have $500 in their savings account,” Hebrard said. “[Steyer] will declare a climate emergency from Day 1. We can actually decarbonize energy and transportation — that’s going to create jobs.”

Ramirez, who said she first met Steyer in 2014, continued the environmental justice discussion.

“Our city is one of the most polluted, particularly South Oxnard,” where farmworkers suffer from asthma and pesticide exposure from doing work nobody else wants to do, Ramirez said.

“I think it’s very irresponsible for our elected leaders to ignore what’s happening,” Ramirez continued.

Pavley and Irwin encouraged people to let their elected officials know the environment needs to be made a priority, with emphasis on local investment.

“If we don’t invest in local communities like Oxnard, we’re not going to move forward with our goals,” Irwin said. “The Green New Deal sounds great, but we need to make sure no one is left behind.”