California State Senator Bill Monning

The Toughest Part of Any Negotiation Is Getting People to the Table

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.

Q:
What’s the best beach in your district?

A:
Pfeiffer Beach, in Big Sur. Unfortunately it’s not a very well-kept secret.

Q:
You received a Fulbright scholarship to teach and do research in Peru and Chile. What did you teach and research?

A:
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.

Q:
What did you miss most about California when you lived abroad?

A:
Drinking water out of the tap.

Q:
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?

A:
The toughest part of any negotiation is getting people to the table. Once you do that, then you’ve got a chance.

Q:
If you auditioned for American Idol, what song would you sing?

A:
It’d have to be something easy. Probably some Beatles song. “Let It Be.”

Q:

A:
The people.

Q:
When’s the last time you embarrassed yourself?

A:
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.

Q:
What’s the best thing we can do to reduce childhood obesity in California?

A:
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.

Q:
You’ve been working hard on that soda tax. Do you drink soda yourself?

A:
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.

Q:
What movie would you like to see a sequel to?

A:
Chinatown.

*Photo by Jake Fabricius.