Former assemblyman Ira Ruskin dies at age 70


Services will be held Wednesday, July 9, for former state assemblyman Ira Ruskin, who represented the 21st Assembly District for six years. He died July 3 at the age of 70.

The services will start at 10 a.m. at Temple Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas in Redwood City. A graveside service will follow at Alta Mesa Cemetery, 695 Arastradero Road in Palo Alto.

Click here for updates.

The Assembly district he represented stretched from the Almaden Valley in Santa Clara County to San Carlos in San Mateo County, and included Atherton, Menlo Park, Portola Valley and Woodside.

The Democrat from Redwood City told his supporters in a May 2011 email that he had undergone emergency surgery for a malignant brain tumor earlier that month and that he was preparing to undergo "aggressive treatment," including radiation and chemotherapy.

He said at the time that his doctors told him the tumor, while not curable, was containable. The illness halted his bid for a state Senate seat.

Mr. Ruskin served nine years as a city councilman in Redwood City, starting in 1995, and was mayor from 1999 through 2001. He was elected to the state Assembly in 2004, when he defeated Republican Steve Poizner to succeed Joe Simitian.

He was re-elected twice to the state Assembly before being termed out in 2010. He was succeeded by fellow Democrat Rich Gordon.

Mr. Ruskin championed an environmental bill to safeguard the state through toxic-substances reporting. He introduced a bill that funded the successful Parolee Reentry Program in East Palo Alto, which helped more than 100 people change their lives and exit the revolving door of crime.

In 2009, he attempted to get a bill passed that would have given new authority to the California Coastal Commission to impose penalties for violations of the Coastal Act.

He served on several Assembly committees, including budget, business and professions, environmental safety and toxic materials, and higher education.

He had planned to run for Mr. Simitian's seat in the state Senate in 2012.

"Given the treatment ahead, I am withdrawing from all political activity at this time in order to focus on my recovery and to be with my wife, Cheryl, friends, and family," he said in announcing his illness. "I will be looking inside myself to understand how I want to spend my time and how I otherwise want to contribute to the community."

Mr. Gordon has praised Mr. Ruskin's service in the Assembly. He said he was "impressed by the deep respect that so many in Sacramento have for Ira."

Mr. Ruskin received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968 and a master's degree in communications from Stanford University in 1983.

He is survived by his wife, Cheryl. The family prefers memorial donations to the Sempervirens Fund, 419 S. San Antonio Road, Suite 211, Los Altos, CA 94022.


Like this comment
Posted by Debbie Mytes
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Our region has lost a thoughtful and hard-working leader.

It's also worth mentioning that Ira worked to pass the legislation that created the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. This agency gives representation to all of us on the Peninsula who use Hetchy-Hetchy water and who would have had to pay for the repairs to the system without any voice in the process, if it were not for Ira's efforts.

He was a great leader for the environment, education, honest government and human rights. With condolences to his family at this time of loss.

Like this comment
Posted by Gail Slocum
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Ira, you will be greatly missed by so many. Thank you for all the good you have done.

I will never forget your telling the story of how you got inspired to get more imvolved in public policy and eventually run for office. As usual, it stemmed from your lifelong deep compassion for others, and your commitment to social justice. You said you had heard on NPR about the plight of the Bosnian Muslim women being held prisoners in rape camps during the genocide there. It inspired you to learn more and spurred you to help bring attention to this issue a local public forum which included the live transatlantic interview of rape camp survivors.For this work, you macame the first man to receive an award from DAWN (a Democratic feminist organization) for "excellent work performed on behalf of freedom and equality for women."

You had a soft-spoken and calming presence,m combined with deep passion, and effective manner of bringing important issues to light and connecting with a wide variety of people in the community, and helping us find common ground to really get things donw. I espcially appreciate the many environmental issues we worked on together, including helping save the State Parks when they were slated to be shut down.

With heartfelt sympathy to CHeryl, especially - as well as the many friends and family who will always cherish your memory. May your memory be a blessing, and your life an inspiration. Yasher koach, Ira! Rest in peace.

Like this comment
Posted by Lydia Guzman
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jul 9, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Ira's presents always honored our community. We knew he was looking out for us.
I will always remember Ira for his kindness.

Like this comment
Posted by JulieToo
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2014 at 9:49 pm

JulieToo is a registered user.

From everything I have read and heard about Ira Ruskin I am sorry that I never had the opportunity to meet him.

It is so clear what kind of a humanitarian he was and how much he was loved by all who knew him.

Like this comment
Posted by Rene White
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2014 at 10:00 am

Here's Ira featured in a short video from a 2000 PAL fundraiser in Redwood City.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 10, 2014 at 3:24 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

RIP Ira, you did a lot of good for a lot of people!!

Like this comment
Posted by gina
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Jul 10, 2014 at 4:22 pm

my father was a professor in the 70's teaching student film making. Ira was one of his students. being a stanford brat I got to know Ira long before he made it into the big times. Becoming a mayor of redwood city ca. and then an assemblyman in sacramento I tell hoards of people who have never met ira ruskin that fame and never fortune never changed ira. Instead of helping himself he turned to helping others the best way he could. Once you met Ira, what you saw was what you got. Just a kind gentle soul with a huge heart and a big laugh.He has done so much for the surrounding area as well as in Sacramento and will be missed alot. rest in peace, your 3 year suffering of a brain tumor is finally over.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on May 31, 2017 at 7:14 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jun 2, 2017 at 9:00 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 4,604 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 1,080 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 526 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 453 views