Honor 'Mimi' Robson. Photo by Sander Roscoe Wolff.
Honor 'Mimi' Robson has been a Long Beach resident for 26 years, and a California resident her entire life. A few months ago she realized that the Democratic incumbent for the 33rd State Senate seat, California State Senator Ricardo Lara, was running unopposed. Robson mounted a write-in candidacy for the recent primary, and is expected to be the only candidate opposing Lara on the ballot this November.
Robson is a licensed professional Civil Engineer, working primarily on projects that repair and retrofit commercial buildings to meet current seismic standards. She's also been involved with animal rescue efforts.
Long Beach Post: What is the impetus for your candidacy?
Honor Robson: In 2010 Californians passed Proposition 14, which changed our election process for electing our federal and state representatives. With this change it has made it harder and harder for people, especially Libertarians and other 3rd party candidates, to get into the general election. This is an issue I have been very involved with for the last few years. So when it was realized that the incumbent was running unopposed in my senate district, I got a call from the Libertarian party chair asking if I would run as a write-in candidate in the primary. I realized that it was time to put my money where my mouth is, so I had to say, “yes.”
What attracted you to the Libertarian Party?
The founders of the United States were trying to create a country of individuals, and that is what the Libertarian Party is all about. We (the party) are about creating a government that lets each individual live life free, without excessive government interference. What I mean is, within the basic societal contract - each person is free to do as they wish so long as it doesn’t interfere with another person's right to live their life as they see fit - we are in control of our own lives and property.
I think the biggest problem with the public perception of the Libertarian Party, if people have heard of us at all, is that people think we are a bunch of wingnuts that want to smoke pot and carry guns, but that is far from the truth! The truth is there are people that identify as Republican because they want smaller government and more economic freedom but are uncomfortable with the government being involved in a woman’s right to choose, or a person’s right to marry whomever they choose.
There are people that identify as Democrat because they want personal liberty in terms of women’s rights, marriage equity, etc. but think the government takes too much of their money! I say that those people are actually Libertarians and they just don’t know it yet. The basics of the Libertarian Party are less government, more freedom.
Do you agree that some limits are necessary for a civil society to function?
Absolutely, and so does the Libertarian Party. I believe that I should be able to live my life the way I see fit, so long as it doesn't interfere with another individual's right to live theirs. It's the basic principle of non-aggression. Basically my rights end where yours begin. And that’s where the government comes in. Making sure we all live have our rights protected. For instance, and individual can make their own choice in terms of drinking alcohol, but what we can’t do is make the choice to drive while drunk as that is likely going to infringe on someone else’s rights.
More people are learning about the Libertarian Party this election season! We held our national convention at the end of May and nominated our candidates for President, Gary Johnson, and Vice President, Bill Weld. They were both successful and popular state governors and are getting a lot of national media coverage. With so many Republicans and Democrats feeling let down and disenfranchised by their parties, people are looking for another option and our candidates are a great option!
How is California doing, economically?
Based on just the GDP, California was ranked 7th or 8th when compared to all countries in 2014 and 1st when compared to the other states; however a big economy is not necessarily a healthy economy. To get a full economic picture of the health of the state you have to dig a bit deeper.
California had over 38 million people in 2014, so a much better comparison is the per capita GDP by state, not the gross GDP. In 2014 California ranked 10th in per capita GDP but, if you adjust that by the cost of living which, in California, is about 34% higher than the national average, it brings California’s rank down to 39th in the country. That isn’t very impressive.
What are the state's most significant economic strengths?
In California we have many industries that either were effected less by the economic recession of 2008 or have rebounded since. In Southern California the fastest growing sectors of the economy are professional and business services as well as tourism and the service industry which broke growth records in 2015. In addition, our state budget is finally balanced, but that is due to the huge tax increases that were passed in 2012.
The recovery in the economy has produced an increased income in the state’s wealthiest residents which, in turn, has increased the state’s revenue. However keeping the budget balanced, especially with an ever increasing gross budget which, right now, is over $170 billion, will be very difficult if we continue to lose our tax base.
What are the state's most significant economic challenges?
One of the biggest issues in our state is negative domestic migration. What that means is more people are leaving California for other states than are coming here from other states. While it’s true that California remains the top state in attracting international migrants, many of whom are low income earners, during the time between 2007 through 2014 almost a quarter of a million more people moved out of California to other states than moved here from other states. Also, according to new studies, low and middle wage earners are leaving California at a higher number despite the creation of new jobs in the state.
The vast majority of outbound migrants went to just 5 states: Washington, Texas, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. This is due, in large part, to the high cost of living in California (where we rank 48th), intrusive business regulations, and high taxes. California is ranked the highest in personal income tax, and 35th in corporate tax rates, with a rating of 48th overall. The 5 states I mentioned have either no or low personal and corporate taxes and a more business friendly environment overall.
As far as a business friendly environment, for 11 years in a row the Chief Executive Network has rated California the worst state in which to do business. This is due, in large part, to the fact that California’s regulatory environment is the most costly and complex in the nation. To put this in perspective, in 2009 California business, both small and large, paid approximately $9.5 billion in corporate income tax. The regulatory costs for those same businesses, in the same period, was more than $467 billion. That makes the regulatory burden 49 times greater than the tax burden.
What all this means is we are losing jobs, and our tax base. In April, California’s unemployment rate was 5.3%, which was higher than the national average. The rate in Long Beach was 7.7%, while in the remainder of my senate district the average rate was over 8.5%. None of these rates include people that have dropped out of the unemployment rolls after exhausting their benefits. They are not counted as either employed or unemployed.
Since 2009 over 9000 companies have moved their headquarters or diverted new projects out of California, and Los Angeles County was at the top of the list in terms of lost businesses. For instance, when Tesla decided to locate it’s $5 billion, 5 million-square-foot battery factory, which will employ in excess of 6,500, in Nevada over California one of the reasons cited as a determining factor was Nevada’s lack of corporate and personal taxes.
Another example, closer to home, is the Toyota Corporate offices, which have been located in Torrance for over 30 years. When they decided on expansion of the facility they choose Texas as their new home, taking with them more than 4,000 good paying jobs. While one of the major reasons given was the availability of affordable housing in Texas, they directly cited the company was motivated by Texas’s lower taxes and a regulatory climate that’s seen as much more favorable to business.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking in my neighborhood and spoke to a native Long Beach resident that will be moving with his wife and two young sons to Plano to keep his high paying job with Toyota. I am sure he’s not the only one from our area that will be doing this.
If elected, what solutions would you seek to implement to address these challenges?
My first priority will be to reduce or eliminate many of the regulatory agencies that are strangling local businesses and hurting our local economy. Over- regulation is not a recent phenomenon and can be traced back to the 70’s. Currently, the state Legislature, the Assembly and Senate, are not responsible for these regulations, but rather there are more than 200 regulatory agencies and commissions that have been given authority by the legislature. When regulations are adopted by the rule-making agency and approved by the Office of Administrative Law they have the force of law, without any legislative oversight.
Reforms should include reworking the Administrative Procedures Act to bring the legislative authority, which is now in the Regulatory Agencies within the Executive Branch, back to the legislature as called for in the State Constitution. Only when this power is brought back to where it belongs, constitutionally, can we start chipping away at the burdensome regulations that are often inconsistent across different agencies and lack transparency and accountability.
What role should State government play in protecting air, water, and other natural resources?
I agree with the Libertarian Platform on this issue. Pollution of air, water and land violates the rights of individuals to live their lives. Physical harm to health or property by pollution is as real as harm due to assault or theft and must be dealt with through objective legal procedures. If private citizens or businesses are producing an unhealthful environment it should be dealt with through our legal system and lawsuits should be initiated. These lawsuits should result in financial restitution to those that it has harmed and will, in turn, cause those producing the pollution to change what they are doing.
If elected, what would be your main legislative focus?
Reducing the size and scope of government by eliminating the growing number of regulatory agencies and, instead, bring those issue back to the legislature where they belong. Also, improving our crumbling infrastructure. A recent report by the EPA rated California Number 1 in water infrastructure needs. According to the report, the biggest need was for repairing and upgrading water distribution systems in the state.
I think we’ve all seen the reports of old water mains breaking in Los Angeles, sending water flooding down the streets. All this while we are in the midst of one of the worst droughts Southern California has seen in years. Another recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers had rated the transportation system poorly, noting that it is lacking the funding to maintain and improve the infrastructure. California has the nation’s second highest share of roads in poor condition and has 6 of 10 cities rated worst in the nation. We are in equally bad shape in all of the other aspects of the state’s infrastructure like levees, urban run-off and waste water.
If elected, how would you build consensus with your fellow State Senators to facilitate advancing your legislative agenda?
As a Libertarian, I am in a unique position to be able to work with people on both sides of the aisle. The Libertarian party has always had LGBT equity as part of our party platform, long before it was an issue on the forefront. I am also passionate about defending personal liberties, so am in favor of legalization of marijuana. The war on drugs has been proven not to work and it’s time to change the system that puts people in jail for something that affects only themselves. Also, because one of my primary goals is reducing the size and scope of government, fiscally, I would work with those in the senate that are focused on those issues.