Bill Monning - photo by Jake Fabricius
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
It’d have to be something easy. Probably some Beatles song. “Let It Be.”

Q: What keeps Santa Cruz weird?
The people.

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

*Photo by Jake Fabricius.