February 17, 2004 > Interview with District 20 Assembly Candidate Tom Pico
Interview with District 20 Assembly Candidate Tom Pico
TCV: Can you give our readers information about your background and your accomplishments?
TP: I was born on Maui, Hawaii. My dad started working in the pineapple fields at age 12. We moved to California in 1950. Both my parents were factory workers in paper mills in Antioch. I am a product of the California Public School System. I graduated from Diablo Valley Community College, then on to San Francisco State where I received a Bachelors of Arts degree in Accounting in 1966. I am a Certified Public Accountant with a Masters Degree in Taxation from Golden Gate University in 1976.
I used my GI Bill benefits after serving in the military. After receiving my BA degree, I went to work for the US General Accounting Office as a congressional investigator. I was then drafted in the US Army and went through the Infantry Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, GA. I was commissioned in the Finance Corps and spent several years as a finance and accounting officer at Ft. Ord. I did many operational audits and quality control procedures. For a short time, I ran the entire military pay function at Ft. Ord.
I went to work for one of the large ("Big Four") CPA firms and left them as an Audit Supervisor - responsible for Kaiser Foundation and Healthplans throughout the United States and for virtually every savings and loan institution in the Bay Area. I did a lot of work with a lot of agricultural cooperatives. I left to establish my own tax and consulting business. I got my MBA from Golden Gate University during this time. I consulted with many small firms and a few larger ones including Golden West Financial Corporation, World Savings and Loan and Challenge Dairy Products.
In 1978, I was chosen as the Controller for Challenge Dairy. I worked there until 1980 and left for a new company, a spinoff from Del Monte foods. I was the V.P. Finance/Chief Financial Officer for Granny Goose Foods and a holding company. I helped to create a property development company for them. I then moved on to another startup, a buyout of a refractory company of Kaiser Aluminum Chemical Corporation. I went to them in 1985 as the Controller and became the Chief Financial Officer. I helped to get them established. This was a multi-national company with operations in Canada, U.S. and 1,500 employees. I helped to create a captive Worker's Compensation Company for National Refractories & Minerals to control costs through self-insurance.
In 1991, I went out on my own accounting practice in Pleasanton. I was elected to the City Council in November 1992 and have served on the council ever since. I have been elected twice as a city councilperson and twice as mayor.
In the political arena, I started getting involved in the politics when I worked to stop the formation of a redevelopment agency. I felt Pleasanton was not a blighted community and we didn't need to have handouts from other taxing agencies to revitalize our downtown. We were successful in stopping the formation of a redevelopment agency and successful in the revitalization of our downtown without creating another layer of government bureaucracy. I have been active in open space, environmental issues and active in committees to save Pleasanton Ridge from development. I am the recipient of the Green Belt Alliance/Green Belt Star Award. I have been endorsed the Sierra Club in every campaign I have run as well as the League of Conservation Voters in this one.
I have helped to bring a real stable financial, economic position to the City of Pleasanton. We have adopted conservative financial policies and created an economic vitality and strategic plan for the city. Pleasanton is positioned very well for the future. In good economic times, we have stored away money for reserve. I have served as the Chair of the Board of the transit system and on the Board of the Livermore/Amador Valley Waste Water Authority. I have been actively involved in urban growth boundaries and dwelling unit caps and an active supporter of Measure D that took the county out of the development business.
Probably the most significant accomplishment is the negations with the Bernal property - five hundred acres of property opposite our county fairgrounds. San Francisco originally wanted to build 3300 homes there. We eventually prevailed that allowed San Francisco to get the money they wanted and build some homes and office properties, but allowed our city to get 318 acres of land in the heart of town to be used as a community park. I have been busy with our business community to weather the ups and downs of the economy.
TCV: What is the population of Pleasanton.
TP: Just about 70,000
TCV: How would you help large cities such as Fremont with their large deficits? They claim much of their problem is due to state takeaways.
TP: The issue is not solely related to takeaways. In the case of Fremont, there wasn't much economic diversity. All the eggs were in one high tech "basket." In Pleasanton, we have tried to diversity our economic base. We have been very conservative in our economic policies in Pleasanton, setting aside monies during good times for a reserve that is adequate to see us through hard economic times.
At the state level, until we solve the budget crisis and until we return California to economic prosperity, everything that we cherish is at risk. What I want to do is take my strong financial skills to Sacramento. I want to become a member of the budget committee, be the chair in a couple of years. I would like to be on the Revenue and Taxation Committee. I would like to be on the Transportation Committee. I can bring a lot of strength and experience. I am the first Democrat, CPA candidate in the State of California in the last 25 years! We need to send someone with finance in their background and proven leadership to help balance our budget. I don't think we need more attorneys.
It is going to be tough. It will be a long term issue. You don't solve this type of problem overnight. The positive thing is that we have a crisis and that creates an opportunity for some real fundamental, structural change. The citizens of California are ready for a change in the way we do business.
TCV: What will passage of Proposition 57, the $15 billion bond measure, do for the state?
TP: It buys us time. We don't have many other options at this time. It is too late to raise money this year. If we don't pass the bond, we will fundamentally run out of cash. When you run out of cash, the most vulnerable and critical systems such as education and social programs that impact the most needy people, are going to pay a massive cost. The bond is just creating some "bridge financing" and little bit of room to breathe while we find our way out of this situation. The only "sacred cow" that I have is k-12 education.
TCV: What can we do about the Workers Compensation problem?
TP: There has to be a balance between the payment of benefits to employees and the costs to employers. It appears there is something structurally wrong with the system. We need fundamental structural reform. The advantage I bring to the table is that I was the Chairman/CEO of a Workers Compensation Captive Company. I bring some unique skills to the discussion. We started a workshop with our business community in Pleasanton to discuss this. We have a broad range of people talking about this to see if we can come up with solutions.