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League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Full Biography for Ira Ruskin
Ira Ruskin is a city councilman and former mayor of Redwood City, the largest city in the District, elected to the City Council in 1995, re-elected in 1999 and in 2003. He finished first in a field of twelve in the first election, first in a field of six in the second election and first in a field of seven in 2003. He was chosen unanimously by his peers as mayor from 1999 - 2001.
As the following record shows, Ruskin has worked aggressively and effectively to protect the environment, improve public education and services for families, create affordable housing, promote economic prosperity and defend women's rights.
The Environment To enhance the environment, Ruskin supported Bair Island Open Space Preserve and the closing of levees on Bair Island by Redwood City to protect endangered species. Ira led the effort to develop a new city-wide neighborhood tree preservation and planting policy that will provide an urban forest for future generations. He initiated "CityTrees," a foundation devoted to raising funds for planting trees throughout Redwood City. He also helped create a successful city-state partnership to rid local sloughs of squatters and derelict boats, eliminating a toxic problem in waterways leading to the Bay. In addition, he has promoted successful conservation policies including city cost-sharing incentives for energy- and water-efficient appliances, a water reclamation program and programs educating homeowner associations in water conservation for large-landscape areas.
Education Ira has been a leader in building a pioneering partnership between the City and the Schools -- establishing libraries/media centers in every Redwood City School District elementary school, developing homework centers at city libraries, building new school playgrounds and, in partnership with the County as well, building new school playing fields that are used community-wide when schools are not in session. Ira also played a major role in the Redwood City Education Foundation, which restored music to the curriculum in grades 2 through 4.
Women's Rights Ira first became active in public service in the defense of women's rights when he initiated and chaired a forum of education and protest about the use of rape as a genocidal weapon of war in Bosnia. He helped bring attention to the plight of the Bosnian Muslim women in a public forum which included the live trans-Atlantic interview of rape camp survivors. For his efforts, Ruskin was the recipient of the first-ever award from DAWN (a Democratic feminist organization) to a man for "excellent work performed on behalf of freedom and equality for women." Ruskin then became involved in local electoral politics, winning election to the Redwood City Council.
Domestic Violence Ira led the effort to provide stable City funding to Shelter Network, a non-profit dedicated to providing shelter and transitional services to homeless families and individuals, especially battered women and children.
Protection of Seniors To protect seniors, Ira introduced the policy in Redwood City of requiring nursing homes to admit visiting community police officers to help prevent elder abuse in nursing homes. The San Jose Mercury News (May 2, 2003) called this "a bold step" and "a first for a California city."
Childcare As an advocate for children, Ira played a critical role in establishing childcare as a government and community priority. He helped develop childcare requirements for new business and residential development and forge partnerships between the city and private sector to open new childcare facilities.
Housing Ruskin helped establish new affordable working force housing in Redwood City's transit corridor, including an award-winning mixed development in City Center Plaza and an award-winning, 200 rental unit project just completed with 15% affordable units. He helped create a first-time home buyer program for teachers and others in the City. Fiscal Management Ira helped establish a budget reserve policy for the first time in Redwood City, a farsighted fiscal measure now paying off given the economic downturn. He was instrumental in establishing the current Redwood City Council planning and budgeting process, consisting of setting clear and defined Council priorities for a two-year cycle and aligning the budget and staff resources with those priorities. He also successfully led the effort to restore direct Council oversight of the annual outside audit of the City's books to ensure a proper system of checks and balances.
REGIONAL RECORD OF LEADERSHIP
Protecting the Hetch Hetchy Water Supply To improve the Bay Area regional water system, Ira helped to organize and served as Chair of the Committee for Regional Water Reliability since its inception in 2001. The Committee represented the elected officials and corporate officers of the 28 Bay Area cities and water districts in Santa Clara, Alameda and San Mateo counties that receive water from the Hetch Hetchy System.
Last year, the Committee worked with the State Legislature to help pass three pieces of landmark legislation +including AB 1823, mandating the repair of the Hetch Hetchy regional water system. Ira helped develop the legislative strategy, testified at all hearings on these bills in the Assembly and Senate and introduced many local public officials who were present to support the legislation. On the basis of this leadership, Ruskin was recently elected Chair of the new Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.
Emergency Medical Response Ira played a critical role in the successful effort to establish a new, efficient San Mateo County wide emergency medical response system (serving on the 5-member negotiation oversight committee that hammered out the multi-agency agreement). The system uses firefighter/paramedics as first responders, resulting in faster, uniform countywide response times - cutting response times almost in half without reference to city borders.
Transportation Ira is a Director of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority which deals with the county and regional transit/transportation infrastructure necessary for our cities, residents and businesses.
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND Ira Ruskin is a communications consultant. For twenty years, he has provided communications tools for technology companies, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 firms, and for non-profit and government agencies. Ira develops communications strategies and materials for marketing, sales and public relations. Ruskin received his MA from Stanford University in Communications and his BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley.
Government Positions (Elected and Appointed) and Other Board Positions Redwood City Council, elected 1995, re-elected 1999, re-elected 2003 Mayor of Redwood City, 1999-2001 Chair, Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (current) Chair, San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water System Financing Authority (current) CalFED ABAG Task Force (current) Chair, Water Management Subcommittee (current) Organization of Chinese Americans, San Mateo County, Advisory Board (current) Redwood City Education Foundation, Advisory Board (former Executive Board member) San Mateo County Transportation Authority (current) San Mateo County Criminal Justice Council (current) San Mateo County Joint Powers Authority (for emergency medical response) + former San Mateo County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Advisory Board (former)
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