Bill Monning is a California state senator who represents the Central Coast. He co-authored the End of Life Option Act, which allows terminally ill patients to request aid in dying. Before joining a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion on end-of-life care—“Does Medicine Know How to Approach Death?”—he talked in the Zócalo green room about childhood obesity, Chinatown, and the best beach in his district.
What’s the best beach in your district?
Pfeiffer Beach, in Big Sur. Unfortunately it’s not a very well-kept secret.
You received a Fulbright scholarship to teach and do research in Peru and Chile. What did you teach and research?
I taught negotiation mediation. My research was on a conflict in Peru, where a new mining company was raping the mountains and mining for gold. I was meeting with some of the activists who opposed the mining company.
What did you miss most about California when you lived abroad?
Drinking water out of the tap.
Before joining the state legislature, you were a professor of international negotiation and conflict resolution. What’s your favorite strategy for breaking up a dispute?
The toughest part of any negotiation is getting people to the table. Once you do that, then you’ve got a chance.
If you auditioned for American Idol, what song would you sing?
It’d have to be something easy. Probably some Beatles song. “Let It Be.”
What keeps Santa Cruz weird?
When’s the last time you embarrassed yourself?
Probably when I bent over and ripped a hole in my pants at the beginning of a day of meetings. I stayed in my seat that day.
What’s the best thing we can do to reduce childhood obesity in California?
We know that sugar-sweetened beverages represent the leading source of sugar in kids’ diets. So what strategies can we use? Label warnings and a tax that directs funds into public education.
You’ve been working hard on that soda tax. Do you drink soda yourself?
I try to stay away from it, knowing what I do. But I never preach abstinence. I occasionally will resort to a Diet Dr. Pepper.
What movie would you like to see a sequel to?