2010-10-08 / Community

Masry wants state to have a vision

By Daniel Wolowicz

Two years ago, Ferial Masry came within 4 percentage points of unseating Republican incumbent Audra Strickland in a narrow race for the California Assembly’s 37th District.

As Strickland terms out this year, Masry will make her fourth attempt for the assembly seat she first sought in 2004.

“California needs a new type of leadership,” she said.

The Newbury Park resident and Democrat challenges Republican Jeff Gorell of Camarillo for the office that serves parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, including Camarillo, Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks.

Both are seeking office at a time when voters hold an all-time low opinion of Sacramento lawmakers as the state battles high unemployment, a sluggish economy and large-scale cutbacks across the board.

A statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California earlier this year found that just 9 percent of likely voters approve of the work being done by state lawmakers.

It’s an image, Masry said, she would like to help turn around if elected Nov. 2.

“What I see is appalling,” she said. “I’ve never been scared in my life like I am scared this time because California is missing a lot of things.”

Although a longtime proponent of both healthcare and education, much of Masry’s platform this election is focused on the state’s economy.

It’s a problem that must be addressed before other issues can be tackled, she said.

“California really doesn’t have a vision, especially economically,” said Masry, a government and history teacher at a San Fernando Valley high school. “We don’t know the plans of the Republicans or Democrats or people in the Assembly in 10 years, 20 years or 50 years.”

Masry said the state “does not have monetary policy. It has only fiscal policy.”

She explained that both parties in the Legislature battle each other for tax dollars then look to cut pension, healthcare and education costs in an attempt to balance the state’s $21-billion, debtridden budget. She said the state does little to save money and functions with a “tax and spend” approach to government.

Masry said state lawmakers make fiscal decisions on a yearto year basis as opposed to having a long-term economic plan.

“Where are we going economically?” she said. “They have no idea.”

Masry said she supports using tax money to invest in California businesses, effectively creating a state-run venture capital firm that relies on the innovation of entrepreneurs for a return on investment as opposed to stock market investments.

Masry said she believes the fact that a two-thirds majority vote is required to pass the budget has hurt the state and California would be better off if a simple majority vote was all that was needed to approve the state’s annual budget.

“I think the majority should rule, because if the majority screws up, the voter can . . . get them out,” she said. “At least the voter would know who to blame. This way we’re not blaming anybody. We’re blaming the system.”

She said budget cuts in the classroom continue to hurt students in a damaged education system that’s in need of reform.

Masry said it’s lower income students who have mostly been hurt by state cuts.

“We graduate them without skills and abilities to help themselves, so what we condemn them to is poverty, crime and prison,” Masry said.

She said the state is geared toward a “one-system-fits-all” education plan that does not offer much in the way of trade schools.

“We are targeting only one system to teach everybody, and that is not realistic,” Masry said, adding that public education is the state’s “wealth. That’s our future.”

Born and raised in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, until age 10, Masry’s family moved to Egypt for its schools. She is a graduate of a college in Cairo. She immigrated to the United States with her husband in 1979.

A former small-business woman, she received her teaching credential and a master’s degree from California Lutheran University.

Because of her background, Masry said she can fully appreciate the personal freedoms allowed her in the United States, which has been a motivating factor in her previous attempts for the Assembly seat.

“I can’t believe I’m living in California. For me, it’s a dream come true,” she said. “I want to serve this state that I really love.”

Masry has three grown children, one of whom served in Iraq with the U.S. military.

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