Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Al Rodda

Sacramento's key legislator in the California process for two decades (1958-1980) died at age 97.  Senator Al Rodda was a Stanford PhD in history.  He was soft spoken and principled.  

He was defeated for re-election in 1980 by one of the most despicable politicians in our history, John Doolittle.  Doolittle exploited the fact that Al had not kept up with changes in the suburban part of the district.  A group of us came to him about a month before the election and he dismissed the threat that Doolittle posed.  Doolittle was the antithesis of Rodda - his legislative output was miniscule.  He was arrogant and narrow minded.  Senator Rodda was decent and thoughtful.  He took his job very seriously.

I worked with Al when he chaired the Senate Education Committee and later when he moved to the Finance Committee(which is now Appropriations).  He believed deeply in the legislative process.  His hearings were able to get to the substance of an issue.  On complicated matters he allowed both sides to present their thoughts and then helped the committee come to a decision.  That is a significant contrast to many legislative leaders today who don't bother to listen or think about much.

One other quality about Senator Rodda which I admired, beyond that deep respect for the process, was his sense of humor.  The Bee quotes one comment which typifies that sense 
"I used to call myself an agnostic humanist existentialist," he said. "Now I call myself a theist humanist existentialist."

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