Sen. Leland Yee: Honoring Rep. Tom Lantos

For 28 years, Congressman Tom Lantos has been a tireless advocate for the needs of his constituents. While best known nationwide, and around the world, as an expert of foreign affairs, he has also gotten a great deal accomplished on behalf of his district. As such, I have introduced a resolution into the California state Senate that would name the tunnel at Devil's Slide after Lantos, in recognition of his great work on behalf of that project, and his noble career as a whole.

Lantos was born in Budapest in 1928 and, after escaping from a forced labor camp, fought the Nazis as a member of the underground resistance during the occupation of Hungary. This fearless commitment to justice has been a hallmark of his legislative career.

Elected to the United States Congress in 1980, Lantos has risen through the ranks while establishing a reputation as a crusader for working families, the environment, animal rights, reproductive rights and equality for all Americans. Most of all, he has been known as a tireless advocate for human rights around the world. Throughout his career, from Rwanda to Bosnia to Darfur, Lantos has weighed in strongly that the United States has a moral duty to stamp out genocide.

Around the world, he is a recognizable figure as one of the most prominent foreign affairs experts in Congress. However, while he has done a great deal on the national stage, we here on the Peninsula must also remember what he has done for our community.

Back in 1973, the Sierra Club proposed the Devil's Slide Tunnel as a means of accessing the cities of the coastside without causing unnecessary damage to the local environment. CalTrans considered the idea viable, but did not have the funds to make the project a reality. However, in the early '80s, Lantos procured $58 million in federal transportation funds to repair the highway around Devil's Slide in the wake of a major landslide that left the coastside stranded.

Years later, after frequent attempts, he was able to provide $150 million for the construction of the Devil's Slide Tunnel. In 2005, ground was broken, and it is currently on schedule to be finished by 2010.

I had many opportunities to work with Congressman Lantos over the course of my career, but perhaps the most memorable was in the Assembly back in 2004, when we had to keep the project from dying in the Appropriations Committee. With his assistance in getting funding, I was able to help keep the project alive.

Now, at the end of his 28 year career, I find it fitting to bestow upon him the honor of naming this project he worked so tirelessly for the "Tom Lantos Tunnel at Devil's Slide."

Sen. Leland Y. Yee is the assistant president pro tempore at the California Senate.