Big Blue Bus Director of Transit Services Stephanie Negriff (left) on Friday guides U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) through the BBB maintenance facility on Colorado Avenue. (photo by Brandon Wise)

COLORADO AVENUE — In the midst of a tight re-election race, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stopped by the Big Blue Bus maintenance facility on Friday to defend the federal stimulus bill, highlighting Santa Monica’s use of federal funds to create jobs by purchasing new, hybrid buses.

“We are here today because the Big Blue Bus is such a great example of how we are creating jobs right here in Southern California through the economic recovery act,” she said. “We have people all over this country going, ‘The economic recovery act didn’t do a thing,’ and I’m going all over the state proving that it is very important in this very, very difficult and slow and painful economic recovery.”

In her speech, Boxer, who is ahead by only four points in the polls for November’s midterm election against Republican Carly Fiorina, defended the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus bill, and clean energy as ways to create new jobs to boost the economy and also responded to questions about her reelection campaign.

BBB used $14.2 million in stimulus funds to buy 15 new buses, 10 of which are hybrids, and is also in the process of updating its 360 bus stops to feature real-time signs that provide next bus arrival information, shade structures, lighting, seating and trash and recycling containers. City Hall was one of the first in the country to spend the stimulus funds it was granted, which Stephanie Negriff, Santa Monica’s director of Transit Services, said Boxer recognized, partially prompting her visit Friday.

When Boxer arrived at the maintenance facility, her own transportation being a hybrid Nissan Altima, Negriff gave her a tour, moving from the inside of one of the new hybrid buses to the training facility for maintenance workers to the depot where the buses are serviced.

After the tour, Boxer was introduced by Mayor Bobby Shriver, who expressed the city’s gratitude toward Boxer’s support of the stimulus bill and clean energy.

“We’re very happy that she was able to see the buses that she has helped us purchase, all made here in Southern California, for the citizens of Santa Monica and everybody on the Westside,” Shriver said. “The last couple of years have been really tough for the transit industry, as people know, and the American Recovery Act really helped us.”

During her address, Boxer emphasized clean energy is the best way to get out of the recession, but America is currently lagging behind other countries, like China and Germany, in clean energy technology like solar power. But California has the potential to be a leader in the country for clean energy, Boxer said, citing Santa Monica’s BBB as an example of what the state has already done.

Citing the BP oil spill off of the Gulf Coast that has lasted for 74 days and threatened the billion-dollar fishing and tourism industries in the South, Boxer said now it is more important than ever to pursue clean energy, not just to create jobs, but to protect the coasts.

“Think about what would happen to Santa Monica’s economy if people couldn’t go to the beach,” she said.

Should Boxer win in November, it will be her fourth term in the Senate.

Though she is only four points ahead of her opponent, Fiorina, Boxer said she is not worried about getting reelected, saying the choice between her and Fiorina is “the clearest choice in the country.”

Fiorina does not support the stimulus bill, supports off-shore drilling, is against gun control laws and wants to repeal Roe vs. Wade, positions Boxer said she does not believe are in line with California voters.

But in a statement in response to Boxer’s comments Friday, Fiorina contended Boxer’s policies have not helped the people of California.

“The contrasts in this race could not be more stark between an out-of-touch career politician who has pressed for job-killing legislation, more than a trillion dollars in tax hikes and more government intrusion into our lives, versus a proven business leader who has a record of creating jobs, meeting payrolls and managing billion-dollar budgets through tough times,” Fiorina said in the statement. “Barbara Boxer is consistently rated as one of the most liberal senators in the United States and has failed the people of California for 34 years. That is unacceptable, and it is time for her to go.”

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