Remembering Steve Tamaya

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Former political reporter and political aide, Steve Tamaya, died 10 years ago this month. He was 37.

MY good friend and one of the best political reporters this newspaper has ever seen died 10 years ago this month.

Steve Tamaya started having headaches and walked into Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center that late June afternoon and collapsed. Doctors said it was a brain aneurism that led to a massive stroke.
I said my goodbye at his hospital bedside, while Steve was in a coma. He squeezed my hand as I spoke to him about forgiveness, God and heaven.
A few days later, on July 3, 1999, he was gone.
Myself, and some 350 others celebrated this tough, yet extremely gifted journalist’s life at a memorial service in Fullerton July 8, 1999. He was taken at age 37, way too soon. But his legacy did not end that day.
Every year of the past 10 years since his death, a young journalist student at Rio Hondo College where he went to school is awarded for his or her dedication to this important craft. Those that knew him and shared his passion for politics and journalism, including his mentor and professor at Rio Hondo College from 1980-1982, John Francis, helped set up the Steve Tamaya Scholarship Fund in 1999.
A small scholarship is given to the Rio Hondo student who best epitomizes Steve’s hard-nosed style of news gathering that made him one of the smartest political writers and later, political aides in the state. (After leaving journalism, Tamaya worked for Sen. Richard Mountjoy and then for the City of Diamond Bar).
This year’s scholarship recipient was Marlene Chavez, lifestyles editor of Rio Hondo’s school newspaper El Paisano. According to Francis, Chavez “is a very hard worker — in the mold of Steve — and is a good writer.” Chavez also is editor-in-chief of this summer’s edition of La Cima, the school’s magazine, which Steve Tamaya was editor of in 1981.
“There has been a scholarship winner every year since his death and some have gone on to work in the field,” Francis said on Thursday by e-mail.
I count myself as someone who learned under the scholarship of Steve Tamaya how to be a better journalist and a better human being.
Donations can be addressed to: Steve Tamaya Scholarship Fund, care of Rio Hondo College Foundation, 3600 Workman Mill Rd., Whittier 90601.

* * *
Steve would be all over the special election in the 32nd Congressional District.
Of course, the first observation he would make is that it is being held on Tuesday, in mid-July. Heat, summer, barbecues and pool parties don’t usually go with politics and elections. Elections are more common with autumn, drizzle, pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce.
What is it about politicians as they climb the ladder of political office? They become more aloof with each rung.
Assemblywoman Judy Chu, when she was a Monterey Park City Councilwoman, was always very approachable. Even as a member of the Assembly, she or an aid would stop by the newsroom or drop an e-mail about her latest bills, which include one that helped the state increase its revenue from tax slackers by offering them a payment option without a penalty. I can count on one hand a pol who helped close a budget gap. Judy Chu is one of them.
Yet, in this election campaign, she’s ducking debates, including a town hall she skipped Thursday in El Monte sponsored by the American Legion. Rule No. 1: If you are going to be successful in Congress, don’t forget your constituents. As Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of success is just showing up.”

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About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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