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State education official pulls few punches
Mazzoni addresses student concerns, criticizes term limits

| 09 April 2003



Kerry Mazzoni
Liz Weiner photo

Government officials are said to listen only to people who make campaign contributions or have a lot of clout. So when California Secretary of Education Kerry Mazzoni called former ASUC Vice President Josh Fryday (whom she knew from her days as a legislator) asking for the chance to speak with Berkeley students, it presented a golden opportunity.

Mazzoni met with Fryday and other student leaders on April 3 to talk about student fees, the UC budget, and other issues affecting Berkeley students, in a visit that Fryday said shows that “many politicians and policymakers care about the things that are important to students.”

While on campus, Mazzoni was the guest of honor at a lunch at the Institute for Governmental Studies. She shared her love for Berkeley in recalling childhood memories of riding her bike around campus and playing in the creeks when her father was a graduate student in the School of Education.

But when she turned her attention to California politics and the budget deficit, she pulled few punches, telling the faculty, staff, and students in attendance that her fellow Democrats must “step up to the plate and make budget cuts that they don’t want to make” before expecting Republicans to agree to tax increases.

Unfortunately, she said, term limits and redistricting have left California with an “inexperienced, polarized legislature… with ideologues on both sides” who do not have the experience or the will to make compromises on difficult issues.

In a talk to Lecturer Darry Sragow’s undergraduate political science class on campaign politics, Mazzoni challenged the prevailing wisdom that term limits help women in politics. “Women homework and men network,” she said, arguing that women generally succeed in the legislature by developing expertise, while men rise to power through their fundraising ability. Term limits, she said, by depriving legislators of the time they need to develop and implement new policies, undercut female legislators’ ability to get ahead by becoming experts in a policy field.

Mazzoni’s visit came during a busy semester in which State Treasurer Phil Angelides, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, Representatives Robert Matsui and Zoe Lofgren, California Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing Maria Contreras-Sweet, and several California state legislators have paid visits to the Berkeley campus.