Letters to the Editor

A colleague’s tribute to John T. ‘Jack’ Knox

John T. “Jack” Knox, left, is sworn in by Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan as the new state assemblyman from the 11th District on Nov. 22, 1960. With them is Sen. George Miller. Knox died April 4 at 92.
John T. “Jack” Knox, left, is sworn in by Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan as the new state assemblyman from the 11th District on Nov. 22, 1960. With them is Sen. George Miller. Knox died April 4 at 92. Associated Press file

A reason to trust government

Amid the understandable demonization caused by our new, toxic White House, let us pause and acknowledge a great public official.

John T. “Jack” Knox died earlier this month at 92.

One of California’s greatest legislators, he represented Richmond from 1960 to 1980 as a Democrat in the Assembly, 20-plus productive years.

Having slighted the powerful Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh, Jack was demoted to the then-lowly Muni and County Government Committee.

Once there, however, he developed, authored and passed massive reforms.

He stopped furious city annexations by establishing California’s Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. He halted the filling of San Francisco Bay with legislation creating the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

He co-authored the Knox-Keene Act, which established the regulatory framework for HMOs and prepaid health plans. He created the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires environmental review of all construction projects.

Also, by forming a select committee, he, over seven years, reformed the Corporate Security Act, rewrote the entire Corporations Code and added a new set of nonprofit corporation laws, then created a number of public finance agencies to issue public construction bonds.

Further, he personally argued before the California Supreme Court to validate local sales taxes for highway financing. There are now more than 20 “self-help” counties building roads.

Jack traveled to Washington and almost single-handedly brought the extension of the 580 Freeway through Richmond to San Rafael. Through friendship with Modesto Republican Jack Veneman, then an undersecretary at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, he also brought a major Social Security building to Richmond.

During my own 14 years in the Assembly (1961-1974) and thereafter, I never heard him disparage anyone, not even outrageous colleagues. After his legislative service, Jack became a name partner in a major law firm, opening its San Francisco office.

Do learn to trust great public servants and good government.

William T. Bagley, San Rafael

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