Ira Ruskin, former mayor of Redwood City, dies at 70

Ira Ruskin, the mayor of Redwood City from 1999 to 2001 who later served three terms in the California Assembly, died July 3 after a three-year battle with incurable brain cancer. He was 70.

Ira Ruskin

Ruskin died peacefully at his home under hospice care, according to news reports. Funeral services were held July 9 at Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City, where Ruskin had been a member in previous years.

Ruskin was born Nov. 12, 1943 in New York City. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1968, then earned a master’s degree in communications from Stanford in 1983. Before entering politics as a Democrat in the mid-1990s, he owned a small, high-tech communications consultancy.

Ruskin served nine years on the Redwood City council, starting in 1995. He was elected to the state Assembly in 2004 by defeating Republican Steve Poizner in a race that was tabbed the “most expensive race in the history of California.” Poizner spent $6.6 million, much of it his own money, on his campaign, while Ruskin’s campaign came in at $2 million, according to public databases.

The 21st District Ruskin served covers parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. According to, Ruskin was rated highly by consumer, labor, women’s, minority and environmental organizations, low by business groups and zero by the gun owners’ lobby and the California Taxpayer Association.

In 2010, he was the co-sponsor of a ceremony in Sacramento that honored Holocaust survivors and concentration camp liberators. Before entering elective office, he was an activist on behalf of wartime Bosnian Muslim rape victims.

“Ira Ruskin was a mensch,” Rabbi Nat Ezray said in his eulogy this week. “He cared deeply for his fellow human — and that care was sincere and earnest. He lived a life of service and devotion. He had the highest integrity and morality of anyone you would ever meet. Ira did things the right way — with ethics and morality.”

Ruskin told supporters in a May 2011 email that he had a malignant brain tumor. He said he had emergency surgery that month and was planning to treat the cancer with radiation and chemotherapy. Ruskin is survived by Cheryl Perman, his wife of 40 years; the couple did not have children. — j. staff