Michael Cacciotti, , has worked for the state of California for more than two decades.
First, he served as Deputy Attorney for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and then Deputy Attorney General with the State of California Department of Justice handling consumer fraud.
He says this experience combined with four years working for former Speaker Pro Tem of the California Assembly Mike Roos has given him the institutional knowledge to excel as an Assemblyman.
Cacciotti is also an advocate for the environment, who serves as a board member on AQMD and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. As city council member of South Pasadena over the past decade, he has saved the city thousands of dollars in conversions like compact fluorescent light bulbs, drought tolerant plants and hybrid fleets.
Patch interviewed Cacciotti as part of a series on candidates running for office.
The below interview has been edited for length.
Patch: You began serving as a councilman of South Pasadena in 2001 and are on your third term as Mayor. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment while in office?
MC: Turning the city around fiscally. When I got on the council, there was no money being spent on infrastructure. There were millions being spent on fighting the freeway, which you have to fight the freeway—but in a smart way.
... We went from 3 million to 13 million in reserves now. I don’t think any city has ever done that.
It’s a great council, and we have worked together to embark on a massive infrastructure program—basically rebuilding the entire city from scratch. The leases—stuff like that is very important. Cities have these concessions in municipal leases where at the state level, here’s what I can do:
They did an audit just last year, and the state has thousands of leases, and they only audited about 32. They found out the state was losing tens of millions of dollars by not reviewing—like we did here in the city [of South Pasadena]. There’s potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.
Patch: Let’s talk about your stance on Caltrans homes. What do you feel the state could gain from selling the approximate 500 homes it owns along the 710 corridor?
MC: When I worked at Caltrans, I’m the one who did all that stuff with eminent domain. I handled a lot of lawsuits when people tripped and fell at those properties; the state got sued for a million dollars—because someone was electrocuted or [there was a] faulty wire, an explosion … a roof caved in …that costs us millions of dollars a year, so the savings there would be in the millions. … in staff to oversee that, litigation in the legal department and then the sale [would put] $500 million to a billion dollars in the State Treasury for transportation projects. The cities and municipalities will get that tax increment back, which was lost for the last 40 years. Everyone wins all the way around.
Patch: You are the only candidate who has been a teacher. How would this affect your role as Assemblyman if elected?
MC: I’ve been in classrooms. My first year, most classes were 25 students, but some were over 35, [and in those classrooms] I was a babysitter almost. I couldn’t teach. Class size is very important. I experienced it personally. It was a nightmare for teachers and nothing gets done for the students. I know the importance of technology and resources.
If it were three years ago … I worked for the state three years ago, I knew the snap shop then when we had a billion dollar budget, and I wouldn’t have supported a tax increase. In those three years, we’ve cut to $700 million. We’ve cut jobs; we’ve furloughed people. My caseload went from 40 to 80 cases.
... The education system, we have cut so much. There may be pockets or mismanagement here or there—like I mentioned in the leases—but the education system, there’s not much more room for cuts.
Patch: I know you oppose an What does your transportation plan look like?
I’m building a 21st century transportation system. You hear the Gold Line go by. Look at it—even now, mid-day—it’s almost half full. People are actually using it. As people get older—over 70, 80 [years old]—they are not going to want to drive. They want to be able to walk, bike, get on a train and go wherever they want in the region.
There is an exhibit right now at the Huntington [Library]; it talks about the empire—the railroad system back in 1880s. … Millions of people rode the lines, and never needed a car.
… It would create tens of thousands of jobs to finish this network. … Instead of a freeway—which would decimate the area—a light rail line.
Patch: Do you think Californians would embrace the idea? A lot of people are attached to their cars.
I think the new generation of people—even mine, the baby boomers—we are different. We are all eating healthy, walking, riding bikes. I came here in my electric car … I even ride to work when ten years ago I didn’t. If there were bike transportation corridors, more and more people would ride bikes.
As a nation, the senior citizen population is going to almost double in the next 15 years. People are going to want alternatives to a car. You are always going to have a car, but mass transportation in this region—as the population gains, the goods movement—we’ve got to have alternatives. All around the world, everyone else is doing it.
… We have to do something with the local traffic in this region … light rail or commuter bicycle.
Patch: Overall, what differentiates you from the other candidates?
MC: I am the only one who can go in there with a local, regional, and state perspective. You need that interconnected relationship to understand state government. Most people right now … by the time they figure it out, they are ready for the next job and they are gone.
There really is not enough institutional knowledge up there. You need to hold hearings and look at big policy issues. I really think since I understand the state so well, I’m not going to need to be educated for five years. I know what the problems are with Caltrans, the Attorney General Office—all these agencies.
Cacciotti is one of five candidates in the newly-drawn 41st District, which extends south to north from South Pasadena to Altadena, then east to foothill towns out the way to San Dimas.
Check back this week for more candidate Q&As.