Berkeley Forum, Goldman School of Public Policy host CA state treasurer Fiona Ma

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The Berkeley Forum partnered with the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, or GSPP, on Monday to host California state treasurer Fiona Ma, who discussed “green” bonds and sustainable finance at an event attended by about 100 campus community members.

The event — held in the UC Berkeley Alumni House Toll Room — was the first of Berkeley Forum’s 14-person speaker series this fall semester. The lineup, however, narrowed last week when the Berkeley Forum canceled its scheduled event with presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. In addition to Ma, astronomer Jill Tarter also spoke at a separate Berkeley Forum event on Monday evening.

“The Forum has lined up a diverse range of speakers to come to Berkeley this semester,” said Berkeley Forum spokesperson Ian Wong in an email. “We are confident that our events will inform and strengthen discourse on campus.”

Before her election to the state treasurer’s office in 2018, Ma worked as a certified public tax accountant, served on the California State Board of Equalization and was the first Asian American woman to become speaker pro tempore of the State Assembly.

As state treasurer, she now works to inform members about the California State Legislature’s financial condition, and gives recommendations for the state’s annual budget.

While speaking with GSPP Dean Henry Brady, Ma discussed tackling climate change by way of sustainable bonds for public transportation.

“As congestion is getting worse and our focus is on reducing tailpipe emissions … being able to put more money into public transportation is going to be a big priority,” Ma said.

In conversation with a Berkeley Forum representative, Ma also spoke about affordable housing on college campuses — an issue that affects event attendees such as campus junior Kai Serrano Eusebio. Ma said her office is looking into the possibility of expanding college-affiliated housing across all California campuses. She added that she is working on a bill to refinance student loan debt.

Eusebio attended the event in part because Ma piqued his interest, as he is a political science major with an intended public policy minor.

“I’m generally curious about what a day in the life of Fiona Ma is — especially with holding an important position in politics,” Serrano Eusebio said prior to the event.

In closing, Ma took questions from the audience. She addressed issues ranging from streamlining marijuana dispensary banking to cryptocurrency regulation.

Throughout the event, Ma also shared anecdotes from her childhood, early career successes and past campaigns.

“This is my fourth elected position,” Ma said. “I haven’t lost yet and that’s because I don’t want my parents to say ‘I told you so,’ and two, because I never want to go back and do people’s taxes again.”

Rachel Barber is the lead student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.