Nathan Mintz, one of two Republican candidates competing to represent California's new 66th Assembly District, is a rocket scientist who solves hard problems for a living, he told Patch.
Mintz is one of three men—the other two being fellow Republican Craig Huey and Democrat Al Muratsuchi—vying to represent the South Bay in Sacramento next year.
The 28-year-old aerospace systems engineer at Raytheon is a self-described "beach conservative"—someone who is socially moderate and fiscally conservative—who said he's fed up with the bickering in Sacramento.
"I'm sick of this state not working … nobody knows how to act like an adult up there," Mintz said, adding that right now, the legislators appear to be acting very cliquish. "It's like high school all over again."
Instead of succumbing to partisanship, Mintz said he would try to solve problems by looking at "quick, realistic things we can do … to create jobs." He's also willing to compromise, something he described as "desperately needed" in Sacramento.
For one, he indicated he would back efforts to make it easier for businesses to, well, do business in California, which in turn would help lower unemployment. Lowering unemployment, he said, would improve the state's economy.
"It takes two years to open a restaurant in this state," he told Patch, adding that it takes only five weeks to open one in Texas. "No wonder nobody wants to do business here."
Instead of raising taxes, "we have to be smarter about how we spend the money," he said. (See Mintz's responses to our questionnaire below for more information on his political beliefs.)
Mintz's ideas have impressed multiple local politicians and organizations. The seven-year South Bay resident has received the endorsement of both the Redondo Beach and Torrance area chambers of commerce, Torrance Mayor Frank Scotto, Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin, Manhattan Beach Mayor Wayne Powell, Palos Verdes Estates Mayor George F. Bird Jr., and multiple current and former council members from Redondo Beach, Torrance, Hermosa Beach and the cities of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
He also earned the endorsement of former California Gov. George Deukmeijian, who Mintz called a "model politician that I would like to follow."
"I was really honored to get his endorsement," Mintz said. "That was really a treat."
This is not Mintz's first foray into the political arena. The founder of the South Bay Tea Party—who has since distanced himself from the ultra right-wing aspects of the movement—surprised many with a strong run against now-Assemblywoman Betsy Butler for the heavily Democratic-leaning 53rd Assembly District seat in 2010. (Butler has decided to run for the seat in the 50th Assembly District.)
In the new 66th Assembly District, which covers Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Democrats have only a slight registration advantage.
He's also not too worried about Huey, who also surprised analysts with his strong showing against Democrat Janice Hahn in the 33rd Congressional District special election last year. So far, Huey has received more than double the campaign contributions as Mintz, including loans from Huey to himself totaling $100,000.
"I have a very broad coalition of support," Mintz said. "I have supporters in every city in the district."
For now, Mintz said he doesn't have any greater political ambition than that of an assemblyman who truly represents his constituency.
"We desperately need leaders that are looking for solutions, rather than grandstanding," Mintz said. "Let's roll up our sleeves and get something done."
Below are answers to a questionnaire that Patch sent to every candidate for the 66th Assembly District. Questions were chosen from those submitted by Patch editors and readers.
Patch: State your top priorities in your first 30, 60 and 90 days in office, if elected.
Nathan Mintz: Most legislation proposed in the assembly is submitted at the beginning of the session for distribution and consideration, so the 30-, 60- and 90-day rules don’t apply, at least legislatively.
My legislative priorities include:
- Helping protect small businesses from "drive-by lawsuits." Junk lawsuits are cluttering up our overbooked court system and making a few attorneys and professional plaintiffs wealthy at the expense of small-business owners. I want to give businesses a safe harbor so that they have a period of time to fix problems identified “in the public interest” before they can be sued for them.
- Mandating performance based budgeting for state government. Performance-based budgeting techniques, like those used in many industries such as aerospace, can help us catch cost overruns early and address them before we go over budget. This could save billions.
- Slow down new regulations and give businesses a chance to catch up. We do this through legislation mandating that new regulations will take effect only once or twice a year and that businesses be given 90 days (or more) notice prior to being subject to new statutes.
- Pension reform: Cap pension payouts due to so-called “spiking,” “air-time” and other abuses. A few lucky retirees are making more in retirement than they made on the job due to these abuses. This increases our state’s pension liability and drains resources from vital services. This needs to be stopped.
- Reducing the costs of our prison system. It currently costs more per year to incarcerate someone at San Quentin State Prison than to send them to Stanford—over $55,000 per year versus $28,000 per year in Texas. This represents over $5 billion in cost growth in 10 years. We bring costs down by reforming employee benefits to control costs, controlling prison construction costs and better managing prison medical costs.
Patch: Which of the tax measures on the November ballot do you support? If you want to increase taxes on the rich, what do you say to those who say who contend such hikes discourage entrepreneurship, investment and growth? If you do not support higher taxes or extensions, why not, and what alternative budget balancer do you support instead?
Mintz: I oppose the tax measures on the November ballot. Giving more money to Sacramento from the taxpayers when so many are out of work will not put our state on a more sound fiscal footing—if anything, it will make it worse.
The easiest way to fix our budget deficit is to put people in the private sector back to work. We do this by removing regulatory barriers to job creation, curbing junk lawsuits, rolling back red tape and making our tax structure more competitive.
Reducing unemployment by 1 percent will raise a lot more revenue than raising taxes 1 percent. We should focus on putting people back to work, rather than taxing them more to fix our state’s budget problems.
Through my experience at California Common Sense, we identified over $10 billion in wasteful spending that could be eliminated. Until government learns to spend the people's money more effectively, I don't think it's fair to ask the people to pay more.
Patch: When it comes time to balance the state budget, will you negotiate with legislators across the aisle?
Mintz: Absolutely. Everything must be on the table and all ideas must be considered to get us out of the hole we are currently in.
In my career as an aerospace engineer, I have worked with teams of others to help make programs worth hundreds of millions of dollars do more with less and still get the job done on time and to the highest standard of quality. Now is the time to quit kicking the can down the road, and work together to fix our problems.
Patch: Though Gov. Jerry Brown's most recent revised budget for the state does not include any major new cuts to public schools, he warns that if his ballot measures to increase taxes in the fall don't pass, schools will see an additional $5 billion cut. In the meantime, some school districts have passed or are considering bond measures and parcel taxes to shore up local budgets. How would you support public education?
Mintz: The easiest way to support public education is to reduce restrictions on local school boards on how they can spend the money they have, and freeing up more dollars in Sacramento to go to the classroom. Our state Ed Code is over 300 pages long and is a tangled web of mandates and earmarked spending that tie school board’s hands and gives them fewer tools to fix problems. We need to reduce these requirements and reduce the compliance costs for local districts.
Additionally, we need to make sure that our kids are safe at school and have the best teachers teaching them. It shouldn't cost over $300,000 to terminate a bad teacher, like it currently does in LAUSD. We can fix this by streamlining the review process for teachers so that teachers that are suspected of impropriety towards students (such as at Miramonte school in LAUSD) aren't just shuffled around from school to school but are given a quick review and, if warranted, are shown the door.
Patch: AES Southland officials have said they intend to apply for a permit to build a new power plant to replace its on the coast of Redondo Beach. While officials say the new plant will be smaller, run cleaner and provide power when it's not available from renewable resources, opponents say the new plant would continue to blight the area and double particulate pollution. Two citizen groups aim to put an initiative on the ballot that would rezone the land under the plant to allow a large park and some commercial and institutional usage. What is your opinion on AES' plans for a new plant and the zoning initiative?
Mintz: First off, no one wants a power plant in their neighborhood—but that is not the issue. Because state regulators have total regulatory authority over the future use of the AES site and the fact that the city has absolutely no role in this, we need to focus on what the city should do to work with AES to do what is best for the community.
It is also important to note that a large park is not free: commercial and industrial zones generate city revenue; parks and residential zones consume revenue with services. Converting the entire 52-acre facility to parkland (as one of my opponents recently proposed) would cost tens of millions to the state or city just to buy the land and clean it up, and millions of dollars each year to maintain the park and patrol it. The state is broke, so the costs for this would likely be carried entirely by Redondo Beach residents, who would be confronted with the choice of either hiking their own taxes substantially, or sacrificing police and fire protection and money for schools, for parkland.
If the California Energy Commission mandates that the plant must be repowered, we should push for the smallest facility possible, with the strictest noise and emissions levels that are possible with modern technology. Using technologies such as emissions control systems (many of which are manufactured here in Carson for use curbing emissions from railroad stations and on maritime ships docked in the Port of Los Angeles), we can reduce the emissions of any future plant more than 99 percent from what it would be otherwise. We should then look for effective ways to zone the other 40+ acres of the site to modernize the waterfront and use it to draw commerce and hundreds of new jobs to the South Bay.
Patch: California is showing signs that it’s beginning to dig out, albeit slowly, of the recession. Still, in many parts of the state, jobless rates are staggering, and most residents can’t afford mortgages, even in traditionally wealthier neighborhoods of Los Angeles. What job-creating investments do you support? How do you propose to make California more business friendly?
Mintz: First off, government doesn’t create jobs. The private sector, where capital is put at risk and innovation leads to new wealth being created is where jobs are created. Government does however have the capacity to destroy jobs through over-taxation, over-regulation and wrongheaded policies.
This is a complex problem and there are a lot of things that can be done, but I will try to focus on just a few areas that I can work on as a legislator.
Through my work with Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, I have spent a lot of time in Sacramento advocating for tort reform to stop junk lawsuits, which prey on small and large businesses alike. We need tort reform to curb “drive-by lawsuits.” We also need to reform some of our environmental laws (known as CEQA) to prevent competitors from using junk lawsuits to tie up competing development projects. Bad lawsuits cost good jobs, and we must take steps to stop them.
We also need to provide a stable regulatory environment for businesses here so they can plan for the future. This includes scheduling new regulations to be rolled out only twice a year and giving businesses a compliance grace period for some regulations after non-compliances are identified.
We should also conduct a top/down review of all existing regulations to determine compliance costs and re-evaluate regulations that are particularly costly on business owners to comply with (a good example of this is the meal break penalty on servers, which is paperwork intensive and costly to both servers and restaurants alike).
We also need to reform our workman’s compensation system, by putting more common sense limits on payouts to attorneys and cracking down on fraud. We also need to bring down health care costs in California by increasing competition in the health insurance system and allowing more insurance companies to operate in California thereby giving consumers more choices to right size insurance to their own needs. These steps will decrease the overhead costs, making us more competitive with other states and thereby attracting capital and new jobs.
Patch: On social issues, what is your position on same-sex marriage? What about abortion?
Mintz: I personally believe that government has no place in my bedroom or my doctor’s office—or anyone else’s, for that matter.
This is the first in a series of profiles on candidates for California's 66th Assembly District.