Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 63

Margaret Abe-Koga, Council Member at City of Mountain View

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Show notes

Margaret Abe-Koga shares her journey since graduating from the university. She returned to the Bay Area and studied American government, eventually volunteered for Anna Eshoo, a San Mateo County Supervisor. She worked for her for six years before deciding to try other things. She ran a small business and started a Leadership Institute for Asian Pacific Americans at a local community college. After getting married, she decided to start a family and had her first daughter in 2001. People encouraged her to run for political office, and she ran for Santa Clara County Board of Education and Mountain View City Council. She was elected in 2006 and served as mayor in 2009 and 2020.


The Crises Mayor and City Council Responsibilities

As a city council member in Mountain View, she is the first AAPI Asian American Pacific Islander female to serve on the council and is currently serving her fourth term and fifteenth year. The council’s main work is land use, planning out city development, and ensuring services for housing and residents. They are responsible for police, fire, public works, parks and recreation, and run a library. They also make land use decisions and allocate funds for services.  Mountain View is home to Google, and over the last 15 years, Margaret has worked with Google to create a business-friendly community and ensure businesses are mindful of the community. Margaret’s main responsibility is to attend city council meetings. Recently, she has been working on a general plan to create a vision for the city and align projects with it.  Margaret also serves on several regional boards, including the Air Quality Management District, a clean energy authority. She spends a significant amount of time on these boards, attending meetings and meeting with constituents. She also attends community events, such as ribbon cuttings and neighborhood block parties, to get out to the community.


Dealing with Complex Issues of City Council

Margaret talks about how important it is to listen to different perspectives, from libertarian to democrat, and make decisions without making it too personal. The council has a tradition of treating businesses business and not making it too personal, allowing for deliberate decision-making and voting. Margaret talks about  the challenge of handling complex issues like housing impact fees and the Brown Act, which prohibits outside discussions. To sway or persuade colleagues, Margaret works with community groups or constituents to gather their input and provide public comment time.


The Importance of Policy Issues and Raising Minimum Wage

Margaret discusses the importance of policy issues and the politics involved in implementing them. One of her major initiatives was raising the minimum wage in Mountain View, which now has one of the highest minimum wages in the country. However, the council did not have enough votes to pass the increase by ballot initiative. Margaret shares what she did to engage and persuade the public and convince council members to vote for the increase. Margaret explains that the politics of policy initiatives involve figuring out who the players are, what motivates them, and who they are aligned with. She also discusses the costs and benefits of a minimum wage increase. Margaret emphasizes the importance of data in decision-making, she also highlights the importance of research, and outreach to the business community and public opinion in addressing the costs and benefits. 


Working in Air Quality Management and Clean Energy

Margaret talks about the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, a group of 24 elected officials representing nine counties,  responsible for ensuring clean air and pollution control. They regulate oil refineries and other pollutants, but have not set regulations yet. Recently, they banned the replacement of gas appliances in 2020 by 2029, focusing on the link between gas appliances and public health issues like asthma and lung cancer. The district is also working on reducing pollution levels in cars, as lower socioeconomic populations often live near freeways, contributing to poorer health. The district is working to combat and lower pollution levels to create more equitable communities, and to address pollution from automobile exhaust and promote more electrification with funding programs that are also available for lower-income households.  Margaret discusses her experience procuring wholesale clean energy and her journey in the industry. She shares her goal of having her own sources and building new sources of energy to increase the grid. The industry is growing rapidly, and she is excited about the innovation happening. Margaret mentions that she has been involved in the Institute of Politics, which allowed her to intern and receive a stipend for her work. 


Influential Courses and Professors at Harvard

Margaret mentions Professor Morris Fiorina at Stanford who taught her in a government class. She also mentions her involvement with the Asian American Association (AAA) at Harvard, which has been a significant part of her work. She talks about how her identity as an Asian American was shaped by her parents’ immigrant background and realized the importance of having a voice in communities and the importance of empowering the Asian American community and communities of color. She believes that everyone has a voice in the political process and that her involvement with AAA at Harvard has helped her understand the importance of empowering communities of color. Margaret is currently running for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and has a website with links to her campaign. She appreciates the interest and support from her peers, and she wishes her the best in her future endeavors.



04:21 What does the city council do in Mountain View? 

09:21 A typical week for a city council member

14:58 Housing Impact fees 

19:51 Evolving public sentiment on housing

22:51 The politics of raising the minimum wage

31:10 The impact of the minimum wage increase on housing

35:39 The link between gas stoves and asthma

39:22 What Is the Silicon Valley clean energy authority? 



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Margaret Abe-Koga


Margaret Abe-Koga, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host, will Bachman and I’m here today with Margaret Ave Koga, who many of you may remember as Margaret Ave. She got married and hyphenated. Margaret, welcome to the show.


Margaret Abe-Koga  00:20

Thank you so much. Well, I really appreciate having the chance to be on your show. It’s a pleasure.


Will Bachman  00:26

So Margaret, let’s start by telling me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.


Margaret Abe-Koga  00:35

Well, so I’m from California, originally the Bay Area. And soon as I graduated, I came home. Being college was my first experience outside of the Bay Area, frankly. And as much as I enjoyed my experience at Harvard, I knew California was home for me. So I returned back to the Bay Area back home. And I studied American government and was interested in getting into public service. So I came in as 92. The elections going on, and I volunteered for my then future boss. Her name is Anna Eshoo, who was a San Mateo County Supervisor. I grew up in San Mateo County. And they had actually met her earlier in high school and then interned her through an IOP. At the crankcase school IOP. program, they had like an internship program there. And so when I returned, she was running for Congress, I volunteered for her campaign. She was elected in the year the woman and then she invited me to work for her. So I, that was my first job working for our member of Congress and worked for her for six years, and then decided to try some other things. Also, I am an only child and my parents are getting are getting older. So there’s some health issues that we’re dealing with with my dad. So I actually ran a small business for a few years, it was a small, indoor cycling fitness facility, and then also helped start a Leadership Institute for Asian Pacific Americans at our one of our local community colleges. And then I decided, or my husband and I, we got married in 95. We were able to save up and buy a house here in Mountain View, and then decided it was time to start a family. So I had my first daughter in 2001, right after 911, and months after that. And then people had been encouraging me to run for political office myself, and I really hadn’t thought about it. I was happy helping other people. But having my daughter changed something and changed, kind of a lightbulb went off. And so it motivated me to run for office. So I ran for my first office, which was for the Santa Clara County Board of Education, and was elected there. And then two years later, I had my second daughter, and folks were encouraging me to run for Mountain View City Council. We were losing the two women on the council and they wanted me to run to represent. So I did with a one month old, I started a campaign, which I don’t recommend to anybody. It was quite an effort. I lost by 105 votes that I’m still counting that I am. And, and so I ended up being appointed to the planning commission and two years later ran again, and was elected in 2006, to my first term on the city council, our city of mountain views about 80,000 people now, I’m the first AAPI Asian American Pacific Islander female to serve on our council. And I am now jumping way ahead. I’m now in my fourth term in my 15th year, and I served as mayor in 2009 during the Great Recession, and again in 2020 during the pandemic. So folks call me the crisis mayor, and it’s definitely has been quite a journey but something I really love. Obviously, like my family is, you know, top priority I love being a mom first that’s my first job has been my first job. But certainly being in public service and an ally to that Office has been quite an experience, but a very worthwhile one. So I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.


Will Bachman  05:09

Okay, amazing. Wow. So I definitely want to dig into this and hear about this. So first, just orient me a bit. What does the city council do in Mountain View, I suppose in different places, city councils might play different types of roles and have different levels of authority and different, maybe some places, it’s like a volunteer thing, some type, like maybe it’s a job, what to tell me about being a city council person in Mountain View.


Margaret Abe-Koga  05:40

Mountain Dew. So Matt, as I mentioned, it’s about 80,000 people now. So it’s considered a midsize city. So our city council is technically part time, we get a small stipend a month, but not really enough for folks to, to make a living off of. We have seven members, and we rotate the membership. So everybody usually gets a chance to be mayor. And like, most City Council’s, I believe, our main work is in the area of land use. So, you know, planning out a city development, what types of development housing versus, you know, commercial developments, where does that go. And then ensuring the services to support the housing and the residents. We we are in charge of police and fire, public works, parks and recreation, we run a library. So it’s the land use decisions that we make. And then the big part of our work is the budget and allocating funds for all of the services that are required to support a city and its residents. And the development that occurs within our city. I think for Mountain View, you know, our claim to fame, or what’s put us on the map is Google, we are the home to Google. And yes, over the last 15 years that I’ve been on council I’ve been able to, to work with them and see them grow in our in our community. And so quite a bit of our work has had has been with our relationship with Google and, you know, ensuring that we have a community that is business friendly. And and also making sure that the you know, businesses are mindful of the community as well. And being able to, you know, find ways to work together to make a strong community for our residents and our businesses.


Will Bachman  08:06

Talk me a bit about the kind of day to day of being a city council member, or give me a snapshot either of a typical week or a typical month of life, you know, in terms of visit, you know, yeah, is it meeting with constituents or walk me through sorts of meetings or, you know, open forum meetings or meeting with business owners walk me through what it’s actually like being in that role.


Margaret Abe-Koga  08:32

So, our main responsibility is our city council meetings. And we used to meet every Tuesday night, we’ve tried to streamline things and to do two meetings a month. And so, you know, we have a number of issues. Again, a lot of the agenda items have to do with development and development projects are planning we’ve been spent, we’ve spent a lot of time over my terms, redoing what we call a general plan, which is like the blueprint of the city, to have a vision for what we want the city to look like and to grow into. And then projects come in, that are hopefully aligned with that vision. So that takes a lot of our time. And many items on our agenda. The budget we do every June. So we were on the fiscal cycle, July 1 Through June 30. And so that’s a big part of our work. And so my typical week is that it centers around our council meetings and what’s on the agenda. And oftentimes I will get requests to meet with constituent groups or if it’s a development project, the developer whatever’s on The agenda around that there’s obviously interested parties. And so they often reach out. And I’ve always made it a practice that I meet with anybody who wants to meet with me trying to be accessible. So much of my time is spent there. It’s also just like reading the packet and doing the research and the homework to be ready for a council meeting. But I also sit on a number of regional boards as a representative of my city or through appointments through the county. So in addition to the city council, I serve on five regional regional boards, one having to do with transportation or to having to do with transportation. When the Air Quality Management District, I serve on our we have a clean energy authority. So it’s a Community Choice aggregator, so we provide clean, clean energy or 100%, carbon free energy now, to our residents. In our area, it’s a joint powers authority. It’s a joint effort with several cities in the county. And then I am president of what we call the city’s association of Santa Clara County, which has representatives from all the cities, one from each city. And we get together to talk about issues of mutual concern. So I chair that board. So that takes quite a bit of my time to I have meetings with all of those boards, on other days, have to do the same prep for that and meet with constituents on issues we’re covering on those boards. So even though it’s technically part time, I spend a good 30 hours or more on the work. In addition, there’s a lot of invitations to events, community events, and people like to see their member or their, or their council member or the mayor, especially ribbon cuttings, neighborhood block parties, things like that. So I try to get out to the community as much as I can. So it is close to a full time job. And I think that’s the challenge is that we don’t get paid full time. But the time is full time. And so it’s it’s a bit of a challenge at times. But I’ve certainly enjoyed it.


Will Bachman  12:33

I’d love to hear you walk us through a decision that you’ve been a part of that could have gone either way, we’re no you didn’t have a strong point of view before. And it wasn’t like an obvious one where it was, obviously against your vision or in support. And where you wouldn’t necessarily be able to predict how all the different council members would vote or even yourself when you first saw, Could you walk us through some case example like that, where you had to kind of dig in and really learn about it, think about it.


Margaret Abe-Koga  13:09

So over my 15 years, I’ve served on with on several councils, meaning that the makeup has changed. Every two years, we have an election where half the council is up for election. And then we have term limits of two terms of eight years total. So that’s definitely offered opportunity for me to serve with, you know, a variety of colleagues and folks from a wide spectrum of ideologies and, and perspectives. And so I would say more now, it’s probably more predictable. But in my beginning years, I served on a council that had my colleagues were representative of the full political spectrum from you know, Democrat, if you say want to say on the left, all the way to libertarians on the right. So to be frank, those years, were years when I had no I oftentimes walked into a meeting not knowing where the votes were gonna come from. And so it’s, yeah, it was just really a matter of listening to different perspectives. And fortunately, we’ve had a tradition here and not view where on the whole we, you know, treat businesses business and try not to make it too personal. And so we can deliberate and decide and then, you know, take a vote and move on. So, I think we’ve had been able to have honest discussions. I’m thinking like Way back then, there was a discussion about housing impact fees. So when a developer, you know, proposes a development of a market rate development, we now require them to pay a fee for affordable housing. And at that time, we again, I had colleagues who are libertarians who don’t believe in any kind of fees or taxes. And then again, we had on the more left side, you know, folks who, who thought that that was important. And so I didn’t really know where that was going to go. And it was just, you know, discussion. I mean, I knew the leanings of folks. And so it was about how to craft a compromise. And I figured that was the way we would get get to someplace was just to figure out, you know, what that middle ground is, and the compromise. And so it was a lot of discussion there. There’s also a lot of prep work that happens, frankly, we are allowed to talk to to other council members before the meeting. So we will try to do that to get a sense of where folks are.


Will Bachman  16:19

And then what you can only talk to to like there’s a rule against talking ahead of time.


Margaret Abe-Koga  16:22

Yes, yes. So we have, since everybody is seven, no majority can speak to each other before a meeting, so it’s a it’s called the Brown Act. And it’s about transparency, so that we’re supposed to do, you know, our business in public, transparent to everyone. And so we can’t have like, outside discussions of the majority to in order to ensure that transparency, and accountability, so, so yeah, so so we are able to talk to to others, but we can’t cross that majority line. So yes, and then it’s like knowing, like if we want to, you know, Sway, sway, or persuade our colleagues, sometimes, I would work with community groups or constituents who might know those folks and ask them to weigh in, you know, they’ll organize and come out, and we provide public comment time, so they can all speak for two or three minutes. And I think that does matter, when you see, you know, folks come out interested in an issue that could persuade me or my colleagues. So yeah, it’s a combination of all of that, that leads to some kind of decision at the end. And, and I remember in that case, it was, I don’t think anybody was really happy with the final result. But we did reach a compromise, and we’re able to make a decision and vote and move forward. So yeah, and I think that’s what I’ve learned is that, you know, compromise. It’s hard to it’s difficult to please everybody all the time. But I think I’ve strived to reach about 75 or 80%. And I think if you can hit that you’re doing pretty well.


Will Bachman  18:35

You think of any issues over the years, where you have actually changed your mind, perhaps based on experiencing something firsthand, or, you know, seeing the real world impacts where you, you know, you know, an issue like, you know, potentially the housing vouchers are something else where you felt one way and then over time, either through, you know, constituents bring additional facts to your attention, or just sort of seeing how policies played out in the real world, that you’ve, I’d love to hear how you’ve changed your mind on something.


Margaret Abe-Koga  19:11

Yes, so I think, you know, that’s the, the beauty of this job is that it’s, you know, these issues are very complex and have so many layers to them. And the challenge oftentimes is when you’re running for office and campaigning, people want to know, you know, where do you stand on this issue or that issue and they want an answer, you know, I support it or oppose it. But once you’re in office, you realize there’s actually a lot of pieces to that issue and, and so, it you can’t can change your mind on things once you know, learn more about about it. And then and then issues will evolve over time. And, and then public sentiment will evolve over time as well. Um, I would say when probably one of the biggest issues that we’ve dealt with and it has to do with Google, and where Google is located in a part of a city that has always been like a business park area, and there was very little to no housing. And as I think, frankly, the whole country is experiencing a housing crisis. But clearly here in the Bay Area, it’s accentuated. And so early on, Google had when they were proposing to expand and suggested that they include housing in their expansion plans, and it was just something that we’ve never done. And given that they’re situated, they’re situated. And so I, it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me at that time, because there wasn’t the infrastructure to support housing out there. But because of the crisis, the housing crisis that we’re experiencing, there was a growing sentiment that, you know, we just needed to build more housing as much as we could. And so the community started to support the concept. And, and so, you know, over time, as I looked at it, and as the housing issue grew, I did I ended, I ended up changing my mind and supporting the proposal to add housing to their, their their expansion plans. So we actually just approved their final plan a couple of weeks ago. And it’s like a expand, they’re expanding to, I think, up to 3 million square feet of office space, and then adding 7000 housing units, which is quite a bit our city we have about right now about 40,000 units. So quite a bit of growth. And I think it’ll be it’ll have some challenges. But over the course, and this has actually been like a 10 year conversation, we identified the needs, you know, in terms of infrastructure and services that would be required to support that residential. And knowing that we couldn’t do it as the city alone, we, you know, as Google to invest in, in those infrastructure and service needs, and, and so we come to an agreement, and they will be contributing to building the support services. And, and so, um, yeah, so that’s what I would say, probably the biggest issue that I’ve dealt with where I’ve changed my mind, and it’s, yeah, it took a while. It took a long time. And it was a Yeah, it was many, many layers to it. But I think, you know, we’ll see how it works out that I am optimistic that it will work out in the end.


Will Bachman  23:12

Now, you told us that you majored in government. What do you understand now, about how government works? That you did not know, when you were majoring in Government at Harvard?


Margaret Abe-Koga  23:24

Um, I would say, I certainly have learned the intricacies in you know, in college, I learned about, you know, how to how does Congress work and really more just write the basics. You know, how to pass a bill. And being in it now, for close to 30 years. I realize how, you know, how much more complex it is, and the politics of behind, you know, everything, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on where, where you stand, I guess, you know, there’s politics and everything.


Will Bachman  24:05

Help us understand that a little bit more. Can you give us an example of an issue and the type of political stresses are forces acting upon you to you know, push you in different directions? Okay, 2422


Margaret Abe-Koga  24:42

Oh, hello,


Will Bachman  24:43

hello, we’re back. Okay. Sorry. No worries.


Margaret Abe-Koga  24:46

I don’t know what happened.


Will Bachman  24:47

I’ll just ask that last last that last question again. Okay, so I was okay. You mentioned Margaret, you mentioned that the things can get very political help unpack that for us a little bit? Can you think? Can you share an example of an issue and the types of complex political considerations that you need to take into account? Or, you know, walk through? Like, what are the different factions that might be advocating one way or the other? And how you have to work to navigate those?


Margaret Abe-Koga  25:23

Yes, so um, it’s what I’ve learned is yes, that could be a policy issue. That seems pretty simple. And in terms of it being the right thing to do. But depending on, you know, who’s supporting it, who’s introducing it, who’s supporting it? The politics can affect the outcome. And, you know, I’ll even say like, for me, one of my big initiatives that I worked on and in champion was raising the minimum wage, we actually now in Mountain View, have the one of the highest minimum wages in the country. And that this was back in 2014. It was a movement actually in a bigger city demonstrate in San Jose, they had passed a minimum wage increase by ballot initiative. And then I had learned we could do it by council vote. And so I wanted to introduce that and to do that, but at that time, I looked at my council, and I didn’t think there were enough votes there. I was maybe one vote short. So it, I had to figure out how to try to move at least one person to come my way. And it was like, over the course of a year, when this one of my colleagues who sat next to me, you know, we were, we would talk have some chat, you know, in between. And it was a time when we were starting to see like, a real accentuation of the housing crisis. And we were starting to hear from members of the public coming to our council meetings, talking about the high cost of living. And I noticed that my colleagues would mention or make comments about, you know, how challenging it must be, and seemed really sympathetic to the concerns that were being raised. And so I thought, okay, maybe, you know, we have a chance with him. And then I looked at, I looked at who his supporters were, and who might be sympathetic as well. And I reached out to them and asked them if they might talk to him with him. And they did. And then we also garnered the just trying to get, you know, the critical mass of people to support and come into our council meeting since the start talking about raising the minimum wage. So we did that. So, you know, engaged in a number of efforts based on, like, what I knew about my colleagues, and what I thought would move them. And so that’s like the politics face that, you know, we have to play to move into a policy initiative. And in the end, it turned out that this, my colleague turned to me one day, and he asked me, he said, You know, when are you going to bring up the minimum wage increase? Because he was ready to support it. And so we were able to actually get it past that year. So, yeah, so there’s that the politics piece, there’s, you know, figuring out your you know, who the players are, what motivates them? And then, yeah, even like, you know, who they’re aligned with, and trying to use those tools to get folks to come on board.


Will Bachman  29:25

That’s very interesting. So with something like that, with the minimum age, minimum wage increase. How did you weigh the costs and benefits of that? So certainly, some people you know, benefit because now they’re getting a higher wage than they were before. But then there’s some kind of people who are somewhat invisible, who, who actually might be harmed by it, because they might have been hired by a business at whatever. $12 an hour but the business won’t hire them at $15 an hour. So now they’re kind of Um, someone being harmed because those jobs aren’t created anymore? How did you kind of go about that, like weighing that cost and benefit? To push that policy?


Margaret Abe-Koga  30:12

Yes. So, especially like in our area in Silicon Valley, a lot of our decisions have to be backed up by data. So it did take it, it was a year long effort, you know, when sight introduced the concept, then, you know, we directed our staff to do some work and research and, and go out and get public opinion. We, you know, went out and did focus groups, we reached out specifically to the business community, to the Chamber of Commerce, did surveys, to get as much information and data as possible. And what at that time we discovered was that, we also are having, you know, short labor shortage, especially with working in like the service industry, restaurants and ice cream shops and whatnot. Because frankly, the cost of living here is so high. And so it looks, it turns out that majority, at least of those be we’re serving, we’re paying more than the minimum wage anyway. And then and so. Yeah, so it wasn’t like it would increase what they were doing that much more because they were mostly doing it. Certainly, there were some impacts, things like compaction, where if you pay, you know, your, your frontline folks a certain amount, then you have to pay the management a little bit more. And so that increases costs a bit. So we looked at all of the data. But in the end, I think even the business community on the hill, the majority, at least those that we had talked to, were supportive. And so that made it doable for us to move forward with the increase. And it was for me a way, you know, we were talking about many different strategies on addressing the issue of increased housing costs, frankly, and I looked at it as another way of being able to answer to that by providing folks better wages, and that the data, we were seeing the data, folks saying that, you know, they’re able to pay their rent on time more often because they had the minimum wage increase. And, and we looked at like San Jose and other cities that were raising their wages, minimum wages to to get that kind of data. So certainly there is the research and data collection and, and the outreach, outreach to the community and getting public opinion is very important to the work that we do.


Will Bachman  33:10

I’d love to hear a bit about the work on some of these Commission’s that you’re on. Can you talk to us about the Bay Area, Air Quality Management District? And what are some of the, you know, big initiatives or challenges they’re working on?


Margaret Abe-Koga  33:24

Yes, so the we call it Buck bed for short. Our Air Quality Management District, we are a group of 24 elected officials that represent the nine counties in the Bay Area that make up the Bay Area. And our charge is to ensure clean air. So our work is around that pollution control. We, in the Bay Area, we have several oil refineries, and they are actually a large cause of pollutants. And so we’re in charge of regulating them as well as you know, all types of, of pollutant pollutants. And so we haven’t set regulations, yet we have our staff that will go out and enforce those regulations. Unfortunately, not everybody follows those regulations. So we you know, we have fines and fees. But I’d say most recently, one of our biggest decisions we just made a few months ago was to to ban the replacement of gas appliances in 2020 by 2029. So we will restrict the sales of gas appliances and 2029 and I Um, that has to do with the the data that shows that gas appliances cause the pollutants that that directly affect public health. And so a lot of our work is air quality is tied to the public health and the effects it has. And so trying to we, we were to basically provide, you know, are trying to keep the air clean or make the air cleaner, so that we have healthier communities.


Will Bachman  35:39

Okay, you’re referring to, like gas stoves and asthma? Is that the kind of linkage?


Margaret Abe-Koga  35:45

Yes, I mean, there’s data that shows, so gas stoves, you know, water heaters, so gas supply of fireplaces, anything in the home, that’s run by gas tends to have higher levels of pollutants that cause asthma, lung cancer, a number of different types of health, illnesses. And so our charge is to keep the air clean, so people will be healthier. And there’s definitely we’re seeing a correlation of this wave, obviously, like the rest of the country has been focusing on race equity. And there’s definitely a disproportionate amount of effects on those who are in our lower socio economic categories. And so it’s a race equity issue now, as well.


Will Bachman  36:57

The gas appliances


Margaret Abe-Koga  37:02

overall, just with not with gas appliances, specifically, but I guess, like in terms of the charge of the Air District, things like even, you know, cars, and we are finding like, you know, the Lower, lower socioeconomic populations tend to live near freeways where there’s a lot of guests still a lot of guests cars that pollute the air, and so their, their health is not as good as other parts of the communities. So, you know, we’re trying to combat and to try to lower those pollution levels so that you have more equitable communities in regards to help.


Will Bachman  37:50

Amazing. What are some of the other big initiatives that you’re doing? Other than the gas appliances? What are you doing to address pollution from automobile exhaust?


Margaret Abe-Koga  38:01

So it’s, so we do have another arm where we we get funding from the state, primarily, to administer programs. So we do have a program we call clean cars for all so we provide subsidies for folks, lower income folks who want to get an Eevee an electric vehicle, so we have, you know, subsidies for, for the for them. So we’re trying to encourage folks to go more electric and, and we have grant monies to do that we we have grant funding for cities to to electrify their buildings or to look at buying their fleet there. You know, there’s City Municipal cars that they use, making them electric. Schools, we simply have funding for electric school buses. So we’re, we have funding opportunities to encourage more electrification sample


Will Bachman  39:16

and is that kind of separate from or is that also tied to your work on the Silicon Valley Clean Energy?


Margaret Abe-Koga  39:22

So they get it’s actually a separate organization. So that, you know, in the end, it all ties together in terms of the work that we do and, and I, my interest has been to try to create more collaboration amongst all of these different agencies and boards that I sit on. So Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority is it’s a we call it joint powers authority. So 12 of the cities in our county of Santa Clara County, as well as the county got together not even 10 years ago. Well, it’s actually a bunch of residents who came forward to a number of our cities asking us to look into doing this. And, and so we we joined up together to create this separate agency. And what we do is we go out and source our the energy from clean sources. So solar, hydro, geothermal, we still have a company, a private company, PG, and E that does the transmission part, the poles and wires, but we are now in charge of finding the sources of energy. And our mission is to have them all carbon free sources. And so it’s like a enterprise in that sense. And so, yes, so it’s a separate entity. But again, similar mission to provide clean energy that also ties into, you know, our, in our focus is to reduce GHG emissions. But again, that ties into public health to


Will Bachman  41:12

now is this. I’ve read how and actually did a project on how some parts of the country you’ll have these retail energy providers that are different from your normal local distribution, utility. Is that is Silicon Valley Clean Energy? Are you kind of the the monopoly provider in the area? Or is it one choice among many that that local residents have that they can, you know, opt in to, to that entity? Or they can get it from the default, pg&e or they get it from another provider?


Margaret Abe-Koga  41:47

Yes, so we are the opt in you call it default, the default Yes, and then you can opt out and then go to Piccini. As your other option, and we only cover the the agency or the communities that are part of this authority, so the the 12 cities in the county, and then we actually have a couple of cities that have their own municipal utilities. And then San Jose being, you know, the population wise, it’s half of our county, Santa Clara County, so they actually have their own Clean Energy Authority. So yes, there are a number of different agencies that do the work. And what have you made? On geography,


Will Bachman  42:39

I guess? And what have you learned about procuring wholesale, clean energy? Where do you guys buy it from? And what have you learned about that industry?


Margaret Abe-Koga  42:52

So it’s a growing industry and to the to our ultimate goal, I believe, is to actually have our own sources. So some of the work that we’re doing is to actually build new sources of energy to increase, frankly, increase the grid. And so that’s been interesting, exciting. But it’s all a lot. There’s a lot of new territory that’s being covered. So, you know, not everything works out right away. We’ve had some challenges, because of the demand has increased quite quite quickly. So we’re having some challenges with supply right now. So it’s a very, yeah, it’s new territory. Not sure what to expect. A lot of what we’ve been doing, right trying to do is to, like have backup and, you know, have resources and reserves so that we can be ready for the next big challenge, because we are finding, yeah, new new challenges every day. But I think that actually makes it really exciting, too. And I’m just excited about the innovation that’s happening. And then for government agencies, like a lot of people, you know, talk about how government takes a long time, but does our clean energy, a Silicon Valley Clean Energy, we’ve been up and running since 2017. So in less than six years, we’ve achieved quite a bit. And we’ve lowered been able to lower each City’s GHG emissions by maybe like 50% in some cases, so you can see the real impact and that’s what makes it really exciting.


Will Bachman  44:44

Let’s switch gears. I would love to hear dialing back to your days at Harvard. Are there any classes or professors that you had at Harvard, that continue to resonate with you?


Margaret Abe-Koga  44:57

So interestingly, I A couple of months ago, I went to a fundraiser for another candidate. And he had a panel discussion about the just the tenor of politics these days. And one of the speaker’s was Professor Morris Fiorina who I guess, was at Stanford, but he was one of my professors in a government class. I think it was about Congress, back then. And he was a professor, I just really liked him because of his style and his ability to bring in like real life situations and to the classroom, lectures and conversations. And so he was one of the professors I remember quite well. And so it was really kind of neat to be able to see him. What is it 30 Something years later on this panel? And, and so, yes, that was a, that was a special moment.


Will Bachman  46:06

That is nice to see a former professor. And any kind of activities outside of class that sort of shaped sounds like you’re involved in Institute of Politics, which helps set your course.


Margaret Abe-Koga  46:20

Yes, and that they enabled me to do this internship, they provided a stipend for me to intern and, and that really was, you know, what set the course for my future in a big way. I was very much involved in the Asian American Association. And that’s been a big part of the work that I do, too. I think it was in college, I learned, really learned about my identity as an Asian American. And, and, uh, you know, I got into public service and politics really, because growing up, my parents were immigrants from Japan, and they, and they never spoke the English language. So as soon as I learned English, I became their translator, and we were, you know, lower income, like my parents were working class, my dad was the gardener, and my mom made the meals for airlines. And so, you know, we struggled and being their translator, I saw the world through their eyes, and, and, you know, experience discrimination pretty early on in my life. And so, what I realized was, you know, when you don’t really have a voice in this community or society, you struggle, and you have, you know, you have a lot of hurdles to overcome. And so, I, it was left to the impression on me to that how important it is that everybody has a voice in our communities. And so that’s been like one of the values and principles that I’ve kept with me as I’ve worked in public service. And so that’s why it’s so important for me to, to empower my Asian American community, and frankly, all communities of color, and ensure that, you know, they have a voice in the political process. And a lot of that awareness came about through my involvement with AAA at Harvard, as well.


Will Bachman  48:34

Margaret, where can listeners find you online? Is there any links that you’d like us to share in the show notes?


Margaret Abe-Koga  48:42

Well, let’s see. Currently, I am writing now I’m going to be turning out of my council seat next year, and I’m running for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. So I have a website. Ma k que for Margaret Ave Koga me que forte number four, the number four nec for So that’s probably the easiest way to find me right now.


Will Bachman  49:08

All right. Margaret, is running for office yet again. So classmates come out and support will include that link in the show notes Margarita. It’s been such a pleasure and so amazing to hear about your career in public service. And you know, so often, the news is so often focused on national issues, but so much of our life is affected by local political leaders like yourself. So thanks for what you do. And it was amazing to speak with you.


Margaret Abe-Koga  49:38

Ray, thank you so much. It was a real pleasure and appreciate your interest and wish you the best