Former assemblyman Ira Ruskin dies at 70 | July 9, 2014 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - July 9, 2014

Former assemblyman Ira Ruskin dies at 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.

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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.


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