As your Assemblywoman, these would be my top priorities:
Tackling the housing crisis head on.
Our East Bay community faces a severe shortage of homes that are affordable to low- and middle-income young people, families, and seniors. Too many members of our diverse community—from artists and teachers to service workers and seniors who’ve contributed to our community—are being displaced, and we need to provide as much protection as possible to those facing wrongful evictions and skyrocketing rents. As your Assemblymember, I would champion three key approaches to address our community’s shortage of homes: one, build more affordable homes for low-income people more quickly two, protect existing tenants from displacement, especially seniors and people with disabilities and three, grow in a smart way by building more homes in walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods, so we can share our community while protecting our East Bay way of life.
We must also recognize that the shortage of homes in our community cuts across other issues: exacerbating homelessness, contributing to more greenhouse gas emissions from workers forced into long car commutes, and denying low-income families and hardworking young people equal access to the world-class educational and professional opportunities of the Bay Area. I believe in—and am committed to fighting for—an East Bay that is sustainable and accessible to all.
Read more: My Housing Plan
The Bay Area’s housing crisis saps our incomes, shuts out members of our community, and reduces diversity. Here are some ideas for how to address it.
The greatest threat to our prosperity, diversity and equity in the Bay Area is the skyrocketing cost of housing. Neighborhoods with access to good schools and public transportation are now out of reach even for middle-income families. Our housing crisis is part and parcel of our broader struggle with growing wealth inequality — California has the highest concentration of billionaires and millionaires, while at the same time 40% of population is living at or near the poverty line. Housing is a fundamental human need and our current status quo is simply not meeting that need.
Forcing people from all walks of life to move further and further away from their jobs and spend hours on the road commuting is not a Bay Area or progressive value. Our severe housing shortage is pushing away the very people that give our communities their strength, vitality, and character. Teachers, first responders, restaurant workers, seniors, artists, and activists find themselves increasingly excluded from the Bay Area’s thriving urban centers, disproportionately impacting communities of color.
Bay Area cities that refuse to build enough housing for the people who work there do real harm to individual and public health, to our environment, and most of all, to the people who are left homeless by the housing shortage. As I work to address California’s housing crisis, I will never forget there are people for whom our decisions can mean the difference between being housed and being on street.
As the next Assemblymember for District 15, I would fight for progressive and practical solutions that focus on creating homes for everyone who wants to be a part of our community. I firmly believe that we can achieve sensible policies that create housing, strengthen our neighborhoods, and help the Bay Area live up to its values of welcoming newcomers and sharing prosperity.
The California legislature — with leadership by the Bay Area’s very own Senators Skinner and Weiner, and Assembly Members Thurmond, Bonta, and Chiu — took a significant step in the right direction last fall by passing a set of bills called the “Housing Package.” The Housing Package provides funding to house the homeless, helps communities better plan for new residents, and speeds up homebuilding in places that aren’t building their fair share of homes. But we have to do more.
Here’s what I will fight for as your next Assemblymember:
Build more homes for folks at all income levels — and build them quickly.
We need more housing across the board. We need affordable housing for families and folks threatened by homelessness. Our homelessness crisis is squarely a result of our housing shortage. To fix this, we need to expand upon the affordable housing funding measures passed in the legislature last year to increase the production of subsidized housing for low income people. This means we need to pass the $4 billion dollar statewide housing bond. In addition, we should consider creating the California Public Infrastructure Bank, devoted to financing more affordable housing. We also need more homes for our teachers, nurses, non-profit workers and other middle-income folks. To this end, we should create workforce housing and reclaim public lands like parking lots for housing. We should also support alternative ways to promote more housing like incentivizing limited equity housing cooperatives and accessory dwelling units. Building more homes at all income levels — low income and market rate — will ease the pressure cooker nature of our market and get Bay Area people into the homes they need.
Protect existing tenants from displacement, especially seniors and people with disabilities.
We have to guard aggressively against displacement and create a safety net for low income families, who are our most vulnerable residents on the brink of instability. Two out of five Californians live in or around the poverty line. Three out of four Californians can’t weather an emergency expense of $700 or more. Nearly half of renters spend 35% of of their income on rent. We can create policy and provide relief in a few potential ways.
One, we should immediately implement anti-gouging legislation that would make it illegal statewide for any landlord to increase rents beyond a certain cap (as determined by a formula.) If elected, authoring this bill is the first thing I would do in the Assembly. This would protect tenants from the excessive rent increases we’re currently seeing driven by profit-seeking landlords, and would be a broad protection for every tenant in California, regardless of what city or county they live in.
Secondly, we should fix Costa-Hawkins, the state law which outlaws rent stabilization for any unit built after 1995. One potential fix could include a rolling date for buildings to come under local rent stabilization laws, as opposed to the 1995 fixed date. This would ensure new housing can be financed and built to support community needs while still empowering local municipalities to implement appropriate rent stabilization measures.
Thirdly, we should significantly increase and expand the Renters Tax Credit (RTC) and set rates based on metro area. The RTC is currently only $60 per person or $120 for a family. Homeowners get the financial benefit of deducting their mortgage interest. Renters need relief too. Putting real money into the pockets of our renters can go along way to helping those out who are $700 away from falling over a precipice and spiraling into poverty.
Lastly, to prevent unscrupulous landlords from wrongly kicking tenants out of their homes, I would also push for legal services for folks facing unfair eviction. We know this works. We’ve seen success in the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act pilot program designed to help low-income Californians facing high-stakes civil cases. The results were a drastic increase in the likelihood of settlement, the majority of which reduced back-owed rent or helped protect tenants’ credit by keeping eviction notices off the public record. Among Shriver program clients, 67% of cases settled, as compared to 34% of people who represented themselves. While all Shriver clients received eviction notices, only 6% were ultimately evicted from their homes. Let’s bring this to scale and really help those that need it.
Grow in a sustainable way by building more homes in walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods.
As progressives, we know that welcoming new people to our country and our communities does not mean sacrificing our quality of life. Our cities are far too dependent on cars, roadways, and interstates. As we build new housing, we need to do so in forward thinking ways that makes walking possible and incentivizes use of public transportation and bike commuting. Consequently, we should be linking our housing goals with transportation funding so we can create incentives for cities to build. Creating walkable neighborhoods along transit corridors is critical to meet our climate action goals and support safe and healthy communities.
Tackle Our Homelessness Crisis Head On
We can’t talk about housing without addressing our growing homelessness crisis. We see it everyday and it’s time to act. We need to do three things: one, we should provide a safety net to prevent homelessness before it starts. Those most vulnerable are folks who are exiting from criminal justice, health care, child welfare system and military institutions. They should be discharged into stable housing, rather than onto the street. We should provide mental health services, substance abuse counseling, education and employment assistance. Secondly, we need to prevent chronic homelessness by responding quickly to those newly on the streets. Folks need access to shelters with low barriers of entry and rapid rehousing with short term rental assistance. Lastly, we need to invest significant resources for the chronically homeless and those with severe disabilities. This means permanent supportive housing without any preconditions, which is a necessary foundation to begin treating health issues. This should be housing with no time limit and wraparound supportive services that promote residents’ recovery and maximize their independence.
I believe in — and am committed to fighting for — an East Bay that is sustainable and accessible to all. This is why Assemblymember David Chiu, chair of the Housing Committee, and State Senator Scott Wiener, a member of the Housing and Transportation Committee, have endorsed my candidacy. We need practical, pragmatic policies to get us there. I know from talking to you and your family, friends, and neighbors that you expect a representative who not only cares about your issues, but who is dedicated to achieving workable solutions that can win statewide support. I believe that I am the candidate who can meet those expectations, and I hope you’ll join with me as I work to bring California home.
Read more: My Homelessness Plan
We are in the middle of an unconscionable homeless crisis — over 130,000 Californians currently are living in shelters or on the streets. We see its symptoms everywhere in the East Bay; it’s hard to walk down the street without seeing someone who is living and sleeping where no person should have to live and sleep: on the sidewalk, in a tent under the freeway, in a car or a falling-down building with no heat. We all see the stress, stigma, and pain that comes with being unhoused, and we all feel helpless at times about what we can do.
This crisis affects us all: when people must live in these places not meant for human habitation, they are robbed of their dignity, health, and access to basic human rights. And the mental and physical health and safety problems that often arise when people are forced to live on the street can create serious public health and safety risks for both the homeless and surrounding community members. People of color are disproportionately represented in our homeless population, making this not only a housing issue, but a racial justice crisis — in Alameda County alone, nearly 50% of homeless individuals identify as black. We also have more unaccompanied children, veterans, and people with disabilities who are experiencing long-term homelessness than any other U.S. state.
This is a problem for all of us, and we must all be part of the solution. Despite how hopeless the magnitude of this crisis can make us feel, I refuse to normalize this unjust reality. We can and must do a better job at helping all our community members find and sustain permanent housing.
Our homelessness crisis is a direct symptom of our housing shortages, inadequate social safety net, mass incarceration policies, holes in our health care and education systems, and structural racism. To truly eliminate homelessness in California, we must take an approach that is creative, compassionate, and just. We must create more affordable homes, and we must expand our wraparound services that help people get back on their feet and stay there. We must uphold the dignity and rights of our unhoused friends and neighbors and use a multi-pronged and collaborative action plan to help all our community members find a place to call home.
Here’s how I would tackle our homelessness crisis:
Increase our permanent housing options:
It’s no surprise that the lack of housing in our district and state is the strongest predictor of our growing homeless rates. Today, two out of five Californians live in or around the poverty line, and nearly half of all Californian families cannot afford the cost of their local housing. This makes a huge percentage of us one car breakdown or medical crisis away from homelessness. And our shameful history of redlining and racism means that communities of color are most impacted by this threat.
Getting more low- and middle-income people into affordable homes is my top priority. We need to make it easier for cities to build new units at all income levels, and we need to make sure that all new building projects include significant percentages of units that are truly affordable for low- and middle-income people. To accomplish this, we must reform our land use policies, make it easier to build accessory-dwelling units, encourage landlords to rent to formerly homeless folks, and incentivize new transit-based housing development along our BART corridors (see my housing plan for more on this.) We must also make sure that all our homelessness policies truly start with “Housing First”: we’ve got to dedicate many more units to public housing for people experiencing homelessness, fund more supportive housing sites, and provide flexible dollars for subsidies that allow these people to keep their housing once they find it.
Better collaboration and funding allocation statewide:
Funding for addressing homelessness comes from all levels of government, and most is currently funneled into 46 separate “Continuums of Care” (CoCs) throughout California, which trickles down to cities and community-based organizations to use for their programs and shelters. And even at the state level, our homeless service system is fragmented — –at least 18 different agencies currently fund and implement homeless assistance or prevention programs. All of these different players and pieces means that it’s hard to ensure that dollars move smoothly and quickly through our system and that all players can collaborate with each other to get homeless people the supports they need.
If we’re truly going to solve this crisis, we must do a better job of tackling it together. I support Gavin Newsom’s plan to create a homelessness czar that would help us better collaborate on regional and state-level programs and streamline our funding to make every dollar count the most.
Prevent Homelessness Before It Starts: A Robust Social Safety Net:
The best and most just solution to our homeless crisis is to prevent people from becoming unhoused in the first place. To do this, we must invest further in our social safety net, and put better mechanisms in place in our schools, hospitals, jails, and community hubs to identify and reach out to those at risk of losing their homes. The resources we spend here on our students, friends, and neighbors will help keep our community members housed, and will save us money in the long-run.
This means we need to bolster our public programs that give low-income people access to fresh food, rent assistance, quality health care, higher education, and job training. We should make these services more accessible especially for people who are formerly incarcerated, disabled, veterans, or foster youth, as these groups experience the highest rates of homelessness.
We also need more nurses and counselors in schools who can identify students with physical or mental stress or illness around their family’s housing situations, and connect them with these public supports. Without these resources, our students too often slip through the cracks — more than 200,000 of California’s students reported being homeless at some point in the 2016–2017 school year. Our schools are community hubs that can lead the way in preventing homelessness — but we must provide them with the funding and staffing they need to do so.
Finally, we need to significantly expand tenant protections so that people are not unjustly or unexpectedly displaced from their homes by profit-driven landlords. In the East Bay where more and more of our community members live in constant fear of eviction, I support bolstering our just cause eviction laws, reforming Costa-Hawkins, increasing and expanding the Renters Tax Credit (RTC), and guaranteeing legal services for anyone facing unfair eviction.
A Public Health Approach: Strong Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment Services
Homelessness often involves a serious mental illness or substance abuse cycle: those who lack mental health care services or substance abuse treatment services are more likely to become homeless, and homelessness often causes serious mental illness. Because of this cycle, about 1 in 5 homeless individuals report a mental health illness and/or a substance abuse disorder.
Yet too often, we simply lock these people up instead of addressing the root problem. A person dealing with severe mental illness in California is four times more likely to be in prison than in a state mental healthcare facility. Not only does this approach to homelessness and mental health lack compassion and equity considerations, but it results in too much spending on our jails that we desperately need for our schools, transportation, and public housing. The National Institute of Health found that about 15% of incarcerated people had dealt with an episode of homeless in the year prior to their incarceration. We need to do away with local policies that criminalize homelessness, and we need to expand the use of behavioral health and substance abuse treatment alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders that are struggling with these issues.
Our community clinics and nonprofit service organizations are fundamental supports for this work, and we must expand their capacity to provide effective outreach for and serve our homeless population (see my health care plan for more on this.)
So how do we fund this work? The Mental Health Services Act provides us with a stable funding source for services to our homeless community members with mental health needs. But more than a decade after it was passed, state officials are missing the data to understand if and how that money is being used and whether it is truly helping this population. And a huge portion of that money is currently being held up in administrative court proceedings. I support Proposition 2, which would help immediately free up the 2 billion dollars allocated by the 2016 No Place Like Home program to provide supportive housing services to homeless people with mental illnesses.
Improve our Whole-Care System to Increase Exits to Housing
We have a complex web of programs and services throughout California that offer shelters and programs to help care for and rehouse homeless people. But connecting to these services is too often confusing, laborious, and frustrating. We need to further streamline people’s access to the specific housing and whole-care services that will best serve their unique needs. And we need to take steps to improve and expand the parts of our homeless support system that are most compassionate and effective in getting people back into homes, and change or replace those which aren’t.
This starts with improving our outreach services. We need more trained staff who can connect with people experiencing homelessness- especially those who are not currently accessing public services- and understand their unique situation and needs. We should not be using outreach to force people off the street, but rather as a way to build relationships and trust with our homeless neighbors and match them with supportive services. Outreach teams can also do important work to communicate with the general public and change negative stigmas around homelessness.
We must also make sure that our emergency shelters, which are critical resources to immediately support our unhoused neighbors, are structured and run in a way that is compassionate and culturally competent. A significant percentage of California’s unsheltered homeless population currently choose not to access public shelters because of cleanliness or privacy issues. All our shelters and navigation centers should be low-barrier — that means clean, welcoming of partners and pets, and equipped with on-site access to social services that homeless people rely on.
We must also face the reality that while emergency and temporary shelters are critical resources to help people get off the streets in the short-term, they are a band-aid to our homelessness problem, not a permanent solution. In the long-term, we need to increase our use of flexible fund programs like rapid-rehousing and interim housing models that enable local governments and community-based organizations to provide client-specific support. These supports include housing search assistance, time-limited housing subsidies, and wraparound services ranging from transportation and child care to mental health services and addiction treatment. Research shows that these programs can be cheaper and significantly more effective than traditional shelters in helping people end homelessness — especially for women and children.
For the chronically homeless in our communities — who have experienced homelessness for at least a year and who have a disability — we need to continue to provide permanent supportive housing, with ongoing subsidies and wraparound services, long after they have found housing.
Implementing all these programs well means that we need to allocate far more funding to solving homelessness, and be smart about how we use each dollar. We have strong federal funding sources through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Medical Mental Health Funding, as well as Prop 63 money statewide. But our skyrocketing rates of homelessness means we need increased funding, plain and simple. And to make each dollar count the most, we have to better streamline services so that each support provider, whether it’s an agency or community-based organization, has access to the subsidies and flexible funds they need to make sure every person experiencing homelessness in California finds their way back to a permanent home.
Boosting funding for public education.
I am a product of public schools – from kindergarten through college. It helped propel me from a single-wide trailer in a small town in northern California to working for President Barack Obama in the White House. I believe everyone has a right to quality public education and I will support legislation to reduce teacher shortages, increase funding for K-12 public schools, invest in community colleges, and ensure our public universities are accessible and affordable for California residents. We cannot let access to safe schools and a good education be determined by where you live, the color of your skin, or how much your parents make. Our legislature must be a champion for educational equity through specific funding increases for resource-starved schools and by giving teachers the tools they need to lead disadvantaged students on the path to success. We can find that funding by taking a hard look at corporate loopholes under Prop 13, among other strategies.
Read more: My Education Plan
California once had the best public schools in the country. Families moved west in search of better opportunity and quality education for their children. Unfortunately, California now ranks 47th out of 50th in standard of living for children. One in four children go hungry every day. We rank 41st in the nation on spending per child. More troubling, access to quality schools all too often is determined by where a child lives. Thus, there are glaring racial and socioeconomic inequities.
We are failing many our children; especially children of color. It is unconscionable. We urgently need a “kids-first” agenda, one that prepares our students for the changing workforce of the future. An educated workforce is not only critical to our economic growth, but essential in our ability to combat the growing wealth inequalities that are so pervasive in California.
Here’s what I will fight for:
More Funding For Schools
We must invest in our children by investing in our schools. California has only recently dug out of the deep hole created by the recession, and we remain woefully behind other states when it comes to ensuring our public schools have the resources they need to prepare our children for college and careers.
The quality of a school depends on the teachers in the classrooms, and therefore we must ensure teaching is a profession that is desirable and viable. We should provide more professional development, coaching, mentoring, and resources for continued education. We should pay our teachers more. In areas with a high cost of living, like Assembly District 15, we need to provide housing assistance so our educators can live within the communities in which they work.
We have a significant teacher shortage, particularly for science and math, and have the highest teacher to student ratio in the country. We should reinstate recruitment and incentives programs to attract and retain racially and culturally diverse teachers.
Address the Needs of the Whole Child
We know learning in the classroom is significantly impacted by circumstances outside of the classroom. It’s critical we look at the whole child and address their social, emotional, and behavioral growth to provide each child the opportunity to thrive. Children living in pervasive poverty and experiencing trauma need schools with more resources to address their social and emotional needs. These resources should include school psychologists, nurses, librarians and an investment in restorative justice programs.
Children who are socially and emotionally developed handle challenging difficult situations better; they create positive relationships, learn to check their emotions, and can calm themselves when upset. The ability to hone these skills enable children to learn and achieve at higher levels.
Learning Starts on Day One
Since children begin to learn from the day they are born, we should think of early child care as education and as an entitlement, like elementary school, social security, unemployment benefits or Medicare.
To this end, we should subsidize quality child care on a sliding scale and fund universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. We should professionalize the care industry by unionizing the workforce, providing professional development and apprenticeship programs and increase their educational requirements so early caregivers can receive the same pay as elementary school teachers.
Early childhood educators should have access to free community college as well as housing assistance as a way to live where they work. The more affordable and quality early education our children get, the better a society we are.
High Expectations and Accountability for All of Our Schools
Every school should be great. We should expect the best from all of our public schools, both traditional public schools as well as charter public schools. Along with increased funding and support for our public schools, we should set high standards informed by multiple measures for accountability — academic achievement, dropout rates, rates of suspension, graduation rates, etc — and clear transparency in how resources are spent.
We should support and model the successful elements of high performing public schools so other students can benefit. For consistently low performing public schools, increased funding should be coupled with clear accountability and a focus on supporting and developing strong school leaders.
Charter public schools can serve a need in our community, but we need more transparency and accountability in how they are run. Charter public schools must be subject to the Brown Act, the Political Reform Act and the Public Records Act, as this would enable parents and the community at large more insight into how taxpayer dollars are being spent.
We need to make it easier to identify poor performing charter public schools and to take action to quickly fix or shut those schools down. We need to find ways for charter public schools to work with district schools. Collaboration requires both the district as well as the charter to both come to the table in partnership. Lastly, we need to outlaw for-profit charter schools — I applaud the passage of AB406 which does just this — and under no circumstance should we consider vouchers for private schools.
Preparing Students for Life
We should be preparing students with tangible skills for life. I believe we need more project-based learning opportunities, where students learn by completing inter-disciplinary projects that solve complex real-world questions. Kids learn through doing and collaborating, and hands-on projects are a vehicle for gaining skills traditionally taught through lectures and worksheets.
Project-based learning emphasizes higher-order learning skills — critical thinking, synthesis, and evaluation — over comprehension or memorization skills. For instance, we should start financial literacy at a young age, and teach our kids the basics, like how to save, how to spend within their means and how the stock market works.
Research has shown that students who engage in regular project-based learning demonstrate better problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and do better on standardized tests than their peers. In order to successfully implement this model, teachers need training, coaching and high-quality planning materials. Partnerships between secondary schools and higher education should be strengthened to leverage resources and provide additional opportunities for students through mentorship programs, professional development for teachers, curriculum materials, and early college preparation instruction.
Reinvent Higher Education
In 1960, California’s leaders set us on the path to becoming the 5th largest economy in the world by developing the Master Plan for Higher Education. The Master Plan represented an innovative commitment to world-class quality public higher education that lifted up generations of other Californians.
Today, nearly 60 years later, California needs a new plan to meet the urgent challenges students face and to propel future generations of Californians. As California lawmakers work to build that new vision, students and families in our district need to know that I will fight for each and every one of them to be able to earn a college degree or credential that helps them land a great job.
That starts with making our community colleges free and open to all, something my friend and our next Governor Gavin Newsom supports too. But as a community college graduate, I also know that tuition and fees are only part of the equation. We need to do much more to make sure students have enough financial aid to afford meals and a safe roof over their head, so that no student has to choose between going hungry and buying a textbook or paying for class credits.
As a state lawmaker, I will fight to fix funding for the California State University and University of California systems to end the vicious cycle of rising tuition and fees. We need to secure a permanent funding source for these systems, so that we can begin rolling back tuition and fees and expand our university system to serve many more students. Since 1980, California has built 22 prisons but just 1 new University of California campus — it’s high time we re-prioritize our students and our higher education institutions in our state funding processes. And the state investment in our colleges and universities more than pays for itself through their contributions to innovation, job creation and increased incomes for graduates. At UC, within five years of graduation, the majority of Pell grant recipient students will earn more than their family. As the state grapples with the growing income inequality, investments in education can advance social and economic mobility while supporting state workforce needs. But we must invest more public dollars.
Finally, we need to do much more to support students so that they can graduate on time and get a great job out of college. That means dramatically expanding the number of counselors and mental health resources, protecting Dreamers on campus, and making it easier for students to pick and fulfill majors that will lead them to high-paying careers. It means better coordinating statewide higher ed data systems to better understand which programs most support student success, creating incentives for students to attend under-utilized campuses, and leveraging our online learning resources.
Our district should be a place where every student can get an advanced degree — whether it’s a professional certificate or a bachelor’s degree — after high school, and I’ll fight to make that happen as your Assemblymember.
Feeding our Children to Create Lifelong Nutritional Habits
We have a tragic paradox — a quarter of our kids go hungry every day, and yet 33% are obese. We add to the problem by not feeding our children appetizing, nutritious food nor are we giving them enough time during lunch to eat in our crowded urban schools. No school should be serving chips, pizza, soda and candy for lunch.
We need to prepare our kids to make good nutritional habits starting at a young age in order to combat our obesity, heart disease and other weight-related illnesses. Studies show that nutritional school lunches raise student achievement. We should be incentivizing and bringing to scale ideas like the Edible Schoolyard Project, born right here in AD15, which interweaves student-led urban gardening with nutritional lunches to serve healthy meals to our students. We should increase public funding for Farm to School programs. As it does on many issues, California should be leading the way nationally on providing the most nutritious school lunches available.
So how are we going to fund these principles I believe in so strongly? One way to provide more revenue, is to close the Proposition 13 commercial property loophole. By doing so, we will add $9–11.4 billion into our state budget every year. This would mean that big corporations like Chevron, Transamerica, and Disney would be required to pay their market-rate fair share of property tax. This would infuse the critical resources our state needs to ensure our children have the quality education they deserve, and these corporations would benefit from a better educated workforce.
Empowering Our Workforce to Drive Economic Change
California’s workforce and economy is like no other. We are home to one of the most diverse and innovative workforces in the country, and we have the fifth-largest economy in the world — but we know that our economy is not working for everyone. Meanwhile, the economic recovery and progress that we have seen since the Great Recession is due squarely to the grit and innovation of our workers. They are the backbone of our thriving community life, and our state government must work hard to ensure that all workers benefit from our state’s economic prosperity.
As your Assemblymember, I would:
- Champion unions in the aftermath of Janus
- Protect our immigrant workers
- Move the needle on equity in the workplace
- Leverage higher education to drive economic justice and progress
- Keep big corporations accountable
- Champion small business
- Build a 21st-century care economy
Read more: My Workforce Plan
Our changing economy also brings with it new workforce needs. As our economy evolves with new jobs and technology, we must pass legislation that also champions our workers in new innovative ways. As the right-wing tries to diminish the power of unions, we must bolster and expand the power of California unions. And in an age of growing income inequality, we need to ensure that people who come here to work can afford to live here, and that all workers can find homes. We must address these income inequalities at the state and local level head-on by passing workforce, housing, and safety net policies that protect and benefit our most vulnerable workers.
As your Assemblymember, I would:
- Champion unions in the aftermath of Janus
- Protect our immigrant workers
- Move the needle on equity in the workplace
- Leverage higher education to drive economic justice and progress
- Keep big corporations accountable
- Champion small business
- Build a 21st-century care economy
Here’s how I would fight for our workers and help grow our economy:
Champion Unions in the Aftermath of Janus
Unions are essential protectors of workers rights and need to be at the table on all our workforce policies. We all should have the unequivocal right to collective action and collective bargaining, and that right is protected and upheld for us through the hard work of unions.
I have spent two decades working with and for the Labor movement fighting for workers’ rights. I have experienced firsthand how union power and voice make our workplaces and communities more just and prosperous. Unions not only help their members, but they serve as the counterbalancing force to unchecked corporate power, which impacts all workers.
The Janus v. AFSCME decision unfairly weakens unions’ ability to ensure these worker protections and will especially hurt women of color, who disproportionately work in the public sector and who already face a double pay gap. In the aftermath of this decision, I support legislation that helps unions reach out to their members and that makes it easier for to organize by increasing penalties on employers who violate labor laws. We should also use union-led project labor agreements and community benefit agreements as much as possible to ensure fair and just hiring and contracting practices within local communities.
In order to address the shrinking power of unions in the long-term, we can explore large-scale reorganizations of union activity by sector (as is used in Europe), and build broad wage boards to enact strong protections for workers across entire industries — a tool used recently in the Fight for Fifteen.
Protect our Immigrant Workers
As the Trump administration continues attacking our immigrant neighbors and ICE ramps up its unjustified raids and deportations, we must protect the rights of our immigrant workers, both documented and undocumented. Besides this being a clear social justice issue, our immigrants are critical to the success of our workforce — California has more immigrants in its workforce than any other state, and undocumented immigrants alone make up 9% of California’s labor force.
We should be proud that California has passed many laws ramping up undocumented workers protections in recent years (like AB263, AB450, and SB54), but we must carefully monitor their implementation to make sure we’re getting them right. Employers must not be able to get away with wage theft or substandard working conditions by threatening to call ICE if someone complains. This dynamic hurts us all — it blocks access to justice for immigrants, damages employer/employee relationships, undercuts the bargaining power of workers and unions, and contradicts our core values. We must also increase funding for the California Attorney General’s Office, so that we can continue using our legal system to fight back against federal attacks on undocumented worker rights.
Move the needle on equity in the workplace
All workers should have access to a truly livable wage that takes into account local housing and living costs, and all workers should have the same opportunities for wage increases and promotions, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
In California, we have made progress towards this reality — but we have more work to do. Women are currently paid 86 cents to the white male dollar, and full-time black and Latina women workers make even less — 63 cents and 43 cents, respectively. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and disproportionately women of color, and almost three times as many women as men work in occupations with poverty-level wages. This is unacceptable — we must keep pushing the needle on pay equity and income inequality in California.
To ensure livable wages for our workers struggling with poverty, we should continue to push for minimum wage increases, reform Prop 13 to increase revenues for affordable housing and better schools, and bolster our safety net by modernizing and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. We should establish a Working Families Tax Credit that would expand the definition of work to include more of our low- and middle-income workers, and include students and caregivers in our workforce definitions. We should expand our unemployment insurance system to create a short-term “job-seekers” allowance that allows workers to weather disruptions in the workforce.
We must also make it easier for current workers to plan for childcare or educational opportunity by expanding the work done in Emeryville to pass a statewide Fair Work Week Law, which would require employers to provide advance notice and predictability of scheduling or face fines. And we should carefully watch the implementation of Stockton’s Universal Basic Income program, which is an exciting pilot that will give 100 residents $500 a month for 18 months — no strings attached. If we see positive outcomes for project participants, we should consider implementing the Stockton’s model throughout California.
As we work towards pay equity, we must also toughen our stance on workplace harassment and address inequities around how our workers are treated. With the onset of the #MeToo movement, we’ve all seen the horrifying statistics about workplace sexual harassment, and we know that low-income workers experience this harassment most. While #MeToo helped shed light on systemic misogyny and sexual misconduct, most women, and especially low-income workers, do not have the resources and vast support networks to so publicly and thoroughly confront their attackers and gain retribution. We can address this by getting rid of non-disclosure agreements that enable perpetrators to hide their crimes, and collecting better data across the board in our workforce that presents a fuller picture of the sexual assault implications for victims of color.
Leverage Higher Education to Drive Economic Justice and Progress
We will never see true equity in our economy until we eliminate the generational wealth and opportunity gaps that people of color continue to see as an effect of our shameful history of segregation and redlining. Especially since affirmative action was banned in California, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction of students of color in our colleges and universities. We must create more and better opportunities for our low-wage workers and people of color to access our higher education system, so everyone has the opportunity to build wealth and opportunity in their career. That means repealing Prop 209 to lift the affirmative action ban, increasing diversity among our students, faculty, and staff, and covering tuition and living expenses for low- and middle-income students.
We must protect and re-invest in job training programs that have a technical and vocational focus in order to bolster our workforce development, keep our students out of lifelong debt, and provide all residents opportunities to find good-paying jobs. And as our economy evolves, it’s important that we offer job upskill opportunities so that everyone can find and hold a good job in an age of growing automation. This can happen at our community colleges: as a California community college graduate myself, I know from personal experience that community colleges are a vital means of combating socioeconomic inequality and providing everyone, regardless of financial background, with the opportunity to succeed. I applaud our recent efforts in this work through the passage of AB235, which expands pathways to existing and new types of apprenticeship programs.
As we wrestle with growing income inequality, the investments we make in education can help all communities while supporting state workforce needs. But we must invest more public dollars in our higher education systems to accomplish this — see my education plan for more on these ideas.
Keep Big Corporations Accountable
As our workplace evolves, we should hold companies accountable to correctly classifying their workers — no one should be designated an independent contractor just so that their employer need not provide them with a benefits plan. This hurts workers and costs us billions of dollars each year in lost payroll taxes. We must hold companies accountable to the California Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Dynamax lawsuit, which tightens the rules on who can and cannot be classified as an independent contractor.
We also must uphold high standards for employer transparency and anti-wage discrimination. California’s Fair Pay Act already serves as a model for many other states to protect people of all genders, race, and ethnicities from employer wage discrimination. But we still need more access to data on employee salaries, so that employers and legislators can better understand where pay gaps exist and adjust their hiring and promotion policies. Our government should pass SB1284 as an important step in these efforts, which would require businesses to report data on their workers’ earnings. And as income inequality grows in our state, we should also pass legislation that incentivizes corporations to close the earnings gap between their top-paid and median workers, and encourages employee ownership and appointments to boards.
While companies like Amazon are transforming our consumer economy, too often we hear of their fulfillment center workers or drivers subject to inhumane working conditions. We currently provide substantial tax credits and incentives to companies through programs like California Competes— we should attach conditions to these incentives that require large companies to meet a “corporate accountability checklist.” This should include commitments to fair wages and workplace policies for workers, transparency around worker harassment policies, and other good corporate practices.
We also need the booming California tech industry to step up to the table and invest further in state and local projects and programs that bring wealth to low-income communities. The economic progress and prosperity that these companies bring to California is exciting, but that prosperity is too often only felt by a small part of our workforce. With their innovative work structures and benefits programs and climbing profits, Silicon Valley and our other tech hubs can and should play a major role in piloting new initiatives, contributing to local economies, and building community pipelines to tech jobs through collaboration with our schools.
Champion Small Business
Small business and entrepreneurship have always been and continue to be at the foundation of California’s economy and vibrant workforce. Opening their own business gives people the chance to build and sustain income and assets for themselves and their children, which is critical to eliminating our generational wealth gaps. Business ownership is second only to home ownership as a leading source of wealth.
Today, there are 3.9 million small businesses in California, which employ 49% of our workforce. In 2018 alone, small businesses created 283,000 new jobs in our communities. 1.9 million of these businesses are minority-owned, and the fastest-growing population of small business owners is women of color. These businesses have the power and potential to innovate in new ways and address needs in our communities — like the Oakland-based Josephine Meal Company, which hired local cooks, who didn’t have the means to start their own restaurants, to sell meals to Oakland families, nonprofits, and community groups. But Josephine Meal Company had to shut down this year because of a lack of financial and technical resources — a fate all too common for small business owners. We can and should prevent such closures by better supporting small business owners with the access to capital and technical assistance to ensure their businesses, and their employees, thrive.
Data shows us that California small business owners are overwhelmingly eager not just to make a profit, but to embrace robust employer practices that provide workers with the same competitive and fair benefits and wages that we champion in our unions and big businesses. Many small businesses aren’t able to offer robust benefits because it’s unaffordable, not because they don’t think their employees deserve it. They just need more supports from the state in order to do this well and keep their businesses thriving.
First and foremost, we can support entrepreneurship and employee rights at the state level by providing more quality access to the capital that these employers need. We should expand funding for nonprofit lenders and programs like California Capital Access Program (CalCAP), which helps small business owners get the loans they need from banks and avoid loan defaults. We need more legislation like SB1235 that requires more transparency and toughens our standards on fair treatment, fair debt collection practices, and nondiscrimination requirements from lenders and brokers. When SB1235 is passed, we should make sure that the Department of Business Oversight implements it with fidelity. And we should make sure that California collects sufficient small business lending data to monitor our success in these efforts. These measures are especially important to support entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs, whose credit denial rates are disproportionately higher than their white and male counterparts, and who are given overall smaller loans and higher interests rates, even after taking creditworthiness into account.
Community entrepreneurs also need better access to technical assistance and resources to manage their business well. Anyone who has paid taxes knows that managing any assets, let alone a business and multiple workers, is often a frustrating and bewildering experience. We need to make sure that our small business owners have the training and guidance they need to keep their business afloat and give their workers fair wages and competitive benefits. California recently increased its financial investment in a federally matched small business support and technical assistance program. This program provides small business owners strategy and technical assistance for free, and disproportionately serves women and minority entrepreneurs. We should continue to invest further in this network and collect data on how these services help small business employers and workers in our evolving economy.
Finally, we must double down on our efforts to expand and bolster Medi-Cal and Affordable Care Act protections, paid family leave and explore and expand new portable benefits options like CalSavers — small business owners’ abilities to offer competitive health insurance and benefits depends on it. With the right level of state support, small business can continue to be a vehicle that drives our economy forward and promotes justice and community power throughout California.
Build a 21st Century Care Economy
By 2030, caregiving will be the single largest occupation in California. Nearly everyone will need care at some point in their life: when they have a child, if a parent needs long-term care, or if someone gets hurt and needs to take medical leave. Yet although the cost of child and elder care at daycares or in-home care is through the roof, our caregivers are still some of the lowest paid workers in our society. And caregivers are disproportionately women of color, who were excluded from the National Labor Relations Act decades ago — part of our shameful past that we can rectify in California through concrete policy reform. Specifically, I believe we should consider implementing a Universal Family Care plan, drawing from work done in Hawaii and Maine. We can start by establishing a commission that would include domestic workers, care providers and those needing short- and long-term care, to determine if California could use these best practices in its own program.
Fighting for Health Care for All:
California is taking an important and necessary look at universal health care and creating a single-payer system. Making that happen will mean making some difficult choices in our budget and tax policies. I believe California can and should be committed to providing single-payer health care for its residents. I am ready to be bold, tackle tough spending questions, and keep California moving towards a stable single-payer health care system – while immediately moving to protect vulnerable Californians from the Trump administration’s plans to take critical medical coverage from millions.
Read more: My Health Care Plan
That same week, we began bombing in Iraq.
Our nation’s leaders could find the money to fund an unjust foreign war but not basic health care for American citizens. I couldn’t sit idly by in the face of such lopsided policy priorities. If I was going to help people like my friend, I had to roll up my sleeves and get to work. This experience set me on a path to fight for the rights and benefits of working-class people and families as an organizer, to work for President Obama, from the campaign trail to the White House, and champion the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Twenty million Americans, including my friend, now have access to health care for the first time thanks to the ACA, and can no longer be denied care based on preexisting conditions.
Fundamentally, my two decades-long career as an organizer, my work on the ACA and in politics, and my decision to run for this Assembly seat, has been driven by this experience with my friend, and my steadfast belief that access to quality health care is a basic human right.
If elected, here’s how I will fight to preserve all Californians’ right to quality health care:
Pathway to Single-Payer Health Care: Start with a Medi-Cal Public Option
Currently, the American health care industry consumes a significantly higher percentage of our country’s GDP than other comparable industrialized nations, but has comparatively mediocre services and patient care and lower citizen access to covered care. In a nutshell, we’re currently spending more and getting less than other countries. And significant health disparities exist throughout this system that we must address– more than half of all uninsured people in California are Latino/a, almost twice as many of women of color self-report their health as “fair or poor” as white women, and asthma is three times more deadly for black children as white children.
Today, California is taking an important and necessary look at universal health care and creating a single-payer system. I believe California can and should be committed to providing single-payer health care for its residents, and I fully support Medicare for All federally. A single- payer system has the potential to lower cost, confusion, and uncertainty for our citizens. It would ensure health care security for working people and health equity for all communities, make our companies more competitive, and free Californians from being tethered to their employer for health care, thereby allowing them to do what they do best – take risks, innovate, and change the world. This is the vision we should all be striving for, and as someone who has spent her career bringing people together to pass progressive policy, I believe I’m uniquely suited to push us towards a single-payer health care system in Sacramento.
While we work towards single-payer, there is an intermediate and immediate step I believe we must take now to ensure our citizens are protected from Trump’s disastrous policies- we should immediately create a “Medi-Cal public option” to ensure affordable and quality care open to all state residents.
While California has one of the strongest and most competitive exchanges set up by the ACA, Trump’s actions threaten to destabilize people’s access to health care and our robust social safety net. A Medi-Cal public option would mean the government would take the risks, set the rules and pay out the claims. This would live on the exchanges and compete with private insurers, many of whom are risk-averse and could leave the marketplace at any moment. Any state resident could opt for this plan, receiving the same quality care that that current Medicare recipients receive. This could serve as an important and necessary next step on our way toward a single payer plan, while at the same time stabilizing our exchanges and protecting us from the President Trump’s power grab aimed at helping the wealthy at the expense of the poor. I strongly support AB2472, which would push us forward on this important step by enabling Covered California to conduct a feasibility study for a California public option.
In conjunction with implementing a public option, we need to take immediate steps to reduce medical price gouging to bring down health care costs. California can also lead the way in exploring a transition to a value-based care system, which could help us prioritize preventative care and reduce hospital readmissions rates and long-term health care expenditures.
Once Californians’ access to quality health care is protected through these steps, we must take creative and bold action to explore additional revenue streams to fully fund a single-payer system, which could include closing the corporate loophole in Prop 13, reducing our prisons and corrections expenditures, and reassessing inequitable tax policies. We will need to conduct a more robust analysis of expected costs and savings to get a clear roadmap of how much money we will need and how we should allocate it. And we’ll also have to get a federal waiver to reallocate Medicare funding into a single-payer system– a move that will take time, given our current federal administration.
Throughout all of these steps, I will tackle tough spending questions and champion creative policy solutions to keep moving us towards a full single-payer system where every Californian has access to quality health care.
Protecting East Bay Access to Emergency Health Care: Saving Alta Bates
I will work tirelessly to prevent the closure or relocation of services from the Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley. I am deeply opposed to the removal of this important resource for inpatient care and emergency services for East Bay residents. We have a moral imperative to preserve emergency care for East Bay residents. Moreover, health care providers should be able to work in the communities where they live — at Alta Bates, saving jobs means saving lives.
The potential removal of Alta Bates is part of a broader existential threat that puts the East Bay at risk of becoming a hospital desert. When communities have to travel great distances to access quality hospital care and especially emergencies, patient safety is jeopardized and lives are put at risk. Richmond residents and the whole of West Contra Costa already lack adequate access to hospital-based medical care. Though Kaiser Richmond Medical Center’s 28-bed emergency department and 50-bed hospital offers critical and life-saving services, community needs for emergency, in-patient, and obstetric care outpace available beds and services in the area. The I-80 corridor between Richmond and Oakland can take an hour to travel during rush-hour traffic — those 11 miles are fatal to anyone who needs immediate, on-site emergency care. If elected to represent the District 15, I will do everything in my power to make sure that emergency rooms, inpatient care, and all other necessary services remain present and fully functional in our East Bay community.
Bolstering Our Public Health System: Championing Our Safety Net Health Providers
As a state, we must continue to lead the country on taking a public health approach to our opioid and other addiction crises. The best way we can support our community members suffering from substance use disorders and drug dependency is by leveraging and expanding our rehabilitation and public health programs as alternatives to incarceration–see my criminal justice platform for more on my ideas on decriminalization and rehabilitation.
We must bolster funding for safety net health providers like Highland Hospital in Oakland, which is using innovative programs and medication-assisted treatment practices to help their patients end drug dependencies. Such providers prioritize essential services and care for our most vulnerable populations as part of their core missions- such as the LifeLong TRUST Center in Oakland, which provides affordable health care to those experiencing homelessness in the East Bay, as well as other critical supportive services such as access to showers, food, and housing assistance.
These hospitals and community clinics who serve primarily low-income communities need the financial and staffing capacity to be able to meet the physical health and mental needs of their patients, who are often overexposed to environmental hazards, behavioral health needs and substance abuse risks because of the glaring inequities in our other public systems. Mental health services, especially, are too often unavailable for those who need them: recent research shows that about two-thirds of California adults with a mental illness, and two-thirds of adolescents with major depressive episodes, did not get treatment. Increased state support for our safety net providers, in addition to better statewide structure and strategy around how we spend Mental Health Services Act revenue, can help hospitals and community clinics better integrate their mental and physical care services and make these services more robust.
I see these safety net hospitals and community clinics as essential defenders of health care and health equity, often for our lowest income residents and most vulnerable populations. They have played a crucial role in my life from the time my friend was diagnosed at a community clinic in San Francisco with HIV to my collaboration with Planned Parenthood, while at the Center for American Progress, in launching a national initiative to better conditions for women and their families. While working in Obama’s White House to pass the Affordable Care Act, I found that California had more uninsured people than any other state, and Medicaid failed to cover many vulnerable groups who overwhelmingly rely on community health centers for their health care. I am proud of the steps we were able to take through the ACA Medicaid expansion to protect and bolster the operations and capacity of community health centers all across the state and country. Today, I am just as committed to increasing their funding, availability, and accessibility to ensure that we take a compassionate public health approach to growing rates of drug addiction, behavioral health needs, homelessness, and poverty across California. Safety net providers and community clinics are a centerpiece of my health care platform because they don’t just serve our communities – they are an integral part of them.
Supporting Our Primary Care Providers
The United States faces a looming shortage of primary care providers — by 2030, we may face a deficit of 100,000 physicians. One in eight infants is born in California, and by 2020, 14 percent of the U.S. population is expected to live here. In Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, the elder population is expected to grow by as much as 150 percent. Moreover, recent data shows that approximately 1 in 6 adults in California is diagnosed with a mental illness. Our growing and aging population demands increased numbers of physicians, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, nurses, and other health care providers that can meet our physical and behavioral health care needs.
We can begin to assuage the primary care physician shortage by increasing the number of residency positions available in California — without these positions, medical school graduates lack the ability to become independent, practicing providers of physical and behavioral health care. I would likewise support exploring more legislation that encourages California-based providers to work in areas of unmet need, such as the Steven M. Thompson Loan Repayment Program and the Conrad 30 Waiver Program, which helps immigrant physicians secure work in California’s high-need communities.
We must also strengthen and add vocational training programs that help students enter and succeed in the medical industry, which can happen through investments at our community colleges. We need to create financial incentives for students to pursue nursing and physician’s assistant training programs, and ensure that they have access to competitive California wages and sufficient scope of practice after they graduate. Our home care providers and caretakers, who are too often under-compensated for their important work taking care of our loved ones, also deserve significant wage increases, possibly partially-subsidized by the state.
As our economy evolves with greater use of automation and technology, we must monitor the use of telehealth services and work to make them an effective tool that supports, rather than replaces, our primary care providers. When used with patient safety and quality care as the standards, telehealth services can serve to enhance clinical practice and improve patient care, especially in circumstances where direct patient/provider interaction is not readily available.
Ensuring Health Care for all Californians, Regardless of Residency Status
As Washington leaders continue to threaten our immigrant communities, California’s legislature must defend our friends and neighbors from unjustified deportation and discrimination. I am incredibly proud to run for office in a state that has been so outspoken in its commitment to protecting immigrant communities. If elected, I will not only work to uphold California’s status as a sanctuary state but will also build on the values of inclusion and diversity that make California a beacon of hope for this country.
California is home to more immigrants than any other state, nearly 2 million of whom are uninsured. Approximately 1.2 million of those individuals are from low-income backgrounds and should qualify for Medi-Cal. I strongly support AB 2965 and SB974, both of which would help low-income undocumented immigrants gain access to Medi-Cal. I will work closely with my colleagues to ensure that all Californians, regardless of residency status, have access to the health care they deserve.
Promoting Responsible Use of Advancements in Medical Technology
California has long been a global leader in medical research and technological advancement. From our major public research institutions like UC Berkeley to hubs of innovation like Silicon Valley, our capacity for medical breakthroughs is in many ways an emblem of California’s exceptional character. 3D printing holds the promise of creating organs that could grow and develop with the body, supplementing or even replacing organ transplants. Robotic surgery may reduce surgical site infection and recovery time. Artificial intelligence can be integrated into health management systems to create better diagnostic tools, predict patient outcomes, and pinpoint cures for the most resistant and deadly diseases.
As we look towards a new age of medical technology, our legislature must be forward thinking in its approach to medical development. We should be open to and capable of evaluating new technologies, creating funding for innovative medical research, and even passing legislation that would incorporate medical improvements into Medi-cal and other state programs. And we need to include a more diverse population in our health research and clinical trials, so that new medical findings and treatments are effective for all racial and ethnic groups. At the same time, we need to be careful to protect people’s privacy and data and make sure that these new tools assist but do not replace the care best administered by trained health care professionals. If elected, I hope to help lead the legislature in partnering with the scientific community to usher in an era of thoughtful medical advancement that will improve the lives of citizens in California and beyond.
Championing environmental leadership and environmental justice.
Climate change is real, people. I am ready to fight to keep our state around for future generations. That means joining Governor Brown’s honoring of the Paris Climate Agreement and continued aggressive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. I support California’s cap-and-trade program because it is essential for both state-level climate policy as well as supporting global momentum to protect our planet. But “green” policy needs to be more than just rebates for electric car drivers – I will fight for clean air and water for all Californians, and fight against corporations that try to maximize profits by passing on the financial and human costs of pollution to poorer communities and people of color.
Read more: My Environment and Energy Plan
We still have much more work to do. We are increasingly witnessing the consequences of climate change every day, and we know that those impacts and the burdens of air pollution settle predominantly in low-income communities, and in communities of color. As if the challenges we already faced weren’t enough, the Trump Administration has posed additional significant threats to our environment and public health and we must do everything we can to stop his profit-driven, science-denying agenda.
In order to live up to our progressive values, we must:
1) Step up California’s leadership role on climate change
2) Infuse every policy and program with environmental justice priorities
3) Fight back against Trump’s dangerous deregulatory agenda
This means focusing our development on transit-oriented housing that cuts down on car pollution; equipping people with the tools they need to succeed in clean energy jobs; holding big polluters and industry accountable to local and state air quality laws; expanding children’s access to quality healthcare to address our public health crisis; and ensuring that all community members — from our student to homeless populations — have access to safe and clean water as we experience more frequent droughts.
To get this work done, we’re going to need to build strong coalitions and find creative solutions to achieve a cleaner, more equitable economy. I will leverage my relationships on the local, state and national level to do just this. I will insist that all our reforms include locally-focused mechanisms for equity in my district, even as we consider statewide and global goals. We can and should prove through our work in California that environmental progress need not come at the expense of justice or economic growth; rather, our environmental and energy reforms can protect and champion our communities, our environment, and our economy, both here at home and around the world.
As your Assemblywoman, here’s what I will fight for:
Continue California’s Leadership on Climate Change:
I will be a strong and relentless champion for steering California toward a clean, renewable energy future by advocating for legislation that sets an ambitious 100% clean energy target by 2045. I will work to ensure we meet or increase our goal of 5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and support legislation that promotes zero-emission public transportation. I also support SB964, which encourages state divestments in fossil fuels, and would support a statewide ban or moratorium on new fracking operations.
I support local communities in leading the charge towards clean energy in their neighborhoods, particularly through increasing our transit-oriented housing and providing clean, affordable public transportation options. Community Choice Aggregation programs represent an exciting opportunity for communities to exceed the state’s already-ambitious clean energy targets. As CCAs develop, it will be important to monitor grid reliability, strengthen energy storage procurement requirements, ensure project-labor agreements, and protect low-income consumers, so that CCAs can be a competitive and sustainable solution.
At the same time, we should be investing in research and development for new technologies that drive down the cost of renewable energy generation installation and storage. We also need more and better clean energy training programs so that California’s workforce — and especially low-income workers — is positioned to take advantage of this dynamic economic evolution.
As we work to reduce carbon emissions and associated pollution, we should continue to support and refine our market for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Though it needs reform to better hold local polluters accountable, we should be proud that our California Cap-and-Trade Program serves as a model for the nation and the world. Our efforts are an especially important tool for developing countries, who are now producing 60% of current global emissions as their economies evolve. We should continue this global leadership with our cap-and-trade model, but we need to do more to ensure that revenues generated by the carbon market directly benefit communities that have borne the brunt of climate pollution. And we need to make sure that just because we have a strong carbon market, we don’t forget to enact direct regulations on high-emitting refineries near impacted communities. This is not an either/or proposition; it’s a both/and. And I will work to hold corporations that aim to maximize their profits by passing the costs of pollution onto poorer communities and communities of color to account.
Fight for Environmental Justice By Improving Local Air Quality:
Our fossil-fuel-dependent economy has created a public health crisis throughout California. Low-income communities and communities of color experience disproportionate health impacts of air pollution due to a history of racist zoning practices and poor urban planning — a reality our government needs to own and reverse through careful policy planning. People in these communities often live closer to major freeways and refineries — like the Chevron refinery in Richmond — and consequently have increased rates of asthma and a host of other environmentally caused health problems.
This is injustice, plain and simple.
If elected, I pledge to work closely with environmental justice experts and advocates to push funding and legislation that meets the public health needs of these communities.
I would fight for more regulations and accountability measures to address the health and safety of our citizens who live in environmentally and economically burdened communities. I would also work to make sure that the state creates sufficient plan guidelines for the new Community Air Protection Program (created by AB617), and expands funding for more local programs aimed at improving air quality in pollution-impacted communities. Local boards, such as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, should also study and be allowed to enact stricter restrictions on emissions from refineries as they deem fit for public safety. And I would fight for further refinements to and broader use of Cal EnviroScreen to fully understand the impacts of pollution on low-income communities and communities of color, and make sure community members have access to information about their air quality.
These are all steps I believe we must take now to improve public health and safety in our communities. In the long run, to fix and reverse the inequitable impacts of air pollution, we need to do more to change our transportation and city planning habits. Vehicles are now the biggest emitters of pollution in the US, and research shows that the air pollution they create damages nearly every organ system in the body. Low-income communities and communities of color, who are more likely to live near heavily-trafficked areas like freeways, will continue to bear the brunt of this pollution until we change the way we live and travel.
That means promoting the construction of dense housing around transit stations, strengthening our position on tailpipe emissions, and accelerating production of lower emission and electric vehicles (EVs) and electrification of the heavy-duty sector, our state vehicle fleet, and Transportation Network Company fleet. It means making these vehicles (and EV charging stations ) accessible, sustainable, and affordable for all communities, which we can encourage by strengthening state building codes to require EV-charging ready wiring in all new construction and strengthening our position on tailpipe emissions. And it means spurring the design of cities and communities that promote car-less travel and, investing in our public transportation systems, and potentially exploring changes to gas taxes and vehicle licensing fees.
Protect Community Access to Clean Water
In a time when climate change and drought threaten our access to water, I will fight for water security for all. I will promote policies aimed at water recycling, water conservation, infrastructure improvements, better groundwater management, and development of a more resilient agriculture-water system.
To adapt to this new pattern, the Legislature should propose investments that address both the structural and behavioral challenges that we face around water scarcity and consumption. The Legislature should support investments in our water infrastructure, like fixing the pipes that currently leak 10% of urban water in California, and replacing any hazardous pipes in schools. Simultaneously, I believe the Legislature should encourage households to adopt greywater reuse systems and green building ordinances, and lead the way on better groundwater management through replenishing our aquifers and improving the State Groundwater Control Act. Lastly, we should pass legislation that helps develop a resilient agriculture-water system that can grow and provide nutritious food and sustain itself between periods of drought.
As part of addressing water security, we must ensure that clean water is available to all our populations, including our homeless population. Access to water is guaranteed as a human right under both international and state law. However, countless unsheltered California homeless residents are not accessing this right, which is an injustice we must address through our homelessness policies and public programs.
I do not support the Governor’s previous or current Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build tunnels that direct water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California. The project is unnecessarily costly, will do nothing to deter unsustainable water use, and further imperils the habitats for native and migratory species in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. It also undercuts efforts to improve local water independence.
Preserve and Defend Our Public Land, Bay, and Coastlines
In addition to suffering from drought, our land and our communities are deeply suffering from recent wildfires, which are only likely to increase in frequency due to climate change. My dad fought wildfires for the U.S. Forest Service for 35 years: this is an issue close to home for me. To prevent more wildfire disasters, I believe we should pass legislation aimed at three goals: ecosystem restoration (thinning crowded forests and dead trees and using prescribed fire, to prevent the buildup of flammable vegetation); community preparedness (helping community leaders develop local disaster preparedness plans); and wildfire response (securing funding for proper staff and equipment resources for rapid response).
I also believe we need to protect our bay and coastlines from overdevelopment — not only to maintain their beauty for generations to enjoy, but also to avoid the dangers of flooding from sea-level rise. That includes opposing any efforts to weaken the California Coastal Act or the authority of the SF Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the California Coastal Commission, and strengthening these agencies’ authority to require planning for projected sea level rise and invest in protecting critical infrastructure around the bay, including our airports. And it includes opposing any new efforts by the Trump Administration to increase offshore drilling in California waters. I would also work to establish steady, reliable funding to restore our wetlands that serve as natural flood and storm barriers, and invest in infrastructure like seawalls to protect against the impacts of climate change on our coasts.
Resist Trump’s Dangerous Environmental Policies
The Trump Administration’s refusal to recognize climate change as a scientific reality should not and will not deter California from leading the world towards environmental sustainability and climate resilience. I strongly support legislative efforts (such as SB 49, 50, and 51) to protect California from federal rollbacks of environmental protections, and to also maintain or even strengthen existing state protections. This includes ensuring that the California Air Resources Board maintains its authority under the federal Clean Air Act to enact stricter vehicle emissions standards. This includes safeguarding our public lands from private development and resource extraction and preventing censorship and destruction of scientific information and data. And it includes increasing funding to State Attorney General’s budget to litigate federal attacks on CA environment and energy laws.
Furthermore, I believe we shouldn’t simply play defense against Trump Administration actions — we should continue to promulgate and push forward an affirmative, equitable, and proactive policy agenda in support of renewables, energy efficiency, and just environmental and climate policy solutions that can serve as a model for the rest of the country and the world.
Fighting for safety and justice for all residents.
We must be honest about the outrageous racial disparities in our criminal justice system, work to end racial profiling and mass incarceration, and promote fair and impartial policing. And we must support re-entry programs to put formerly incarcerated individuals on a path to success. Although California has made progress in passing strong new gun laws that have helped make us safer, we can build on that success and invest now in tested community violence intervention programs to further reduce gun violence and save lives. We should increase funding for California’s CalVIP program and identify areas to bring private funding into fighting community violence. And to promote long-term community safety, we must also ensure that all of our children have a fair shot with equity in education.
Read more: My Criminal Justice Reform Plan
Californians pride ourselves on our progressive policies. We’re proud of our values of diversity, equality and equity. We’ve made great strides towards improving our broken criminal justice system. We’ve reformed drug policies that targeted low income black and brown communities, overwhelmingly passed Prop 57 to emphasize rehabilitation over retribution, and severely limited abusive solitary confinement for juveniles.
But we still have a lot of work to do. Prison overcrowding is rampant, with many facilities operating at nearly 150% of design capacity. Over 60% of inmates return to prison within three years of being released. Our broken bail system incarcerates people simply for being poor. Women’s incarceration has increased 700% since 1980.
Our justice system is far from equal; we can’t talk about criminal justice reform without talking about its racial disparities. People of color are disproportionately targeted for arrest, face harsher sentencing, and are less likely to receive parole. One in seventeen white men will face incarceration in their lifetime, but for black men that number is a shocking one in three.
Justice demands a more holistic approach to dealing with crime, one which looks at crime’s root causes and seeks to address these issues at their foundations. Many law enforcement leaders themselves understand that we cannot simply arrest and incarcerate our way to safety: we must ask difficult questions and discern the underlying causes of crime so we may reinvest in our communities to address those causes. This will mean investing in community-based approaches that ensure everyone has access to preventative health care and mental health care, quality education, job training, trauma recovery and affordable housing. Crime is a symptom of these disparities; it cannot be solved until its causes are addressed.
What can California do? Here is a starting point:
Reform Starts in the Classroom
California’s prison costs have steadily risen in tandem with California’s falling education spending. In the last 30 years, we’ve built 22 new prisons but only one new University of California campus. On average, we spend annually less than $10,000 per pupil for K-12 education, and over $70,000 per prisoner. The solution is to reinvigorate education both for our children and for those involved in the justice system.
The classroom is where we teach California’s future leaders what good citizenship and good governance looks like. We must make good on the vision of California as a state of opportunity by teaching students from day one that they can learn from their mistakes instead of being held back by them.
We must end the school to prison pipeline. This means reducing police presence on school campuses by investing in school counselors, nurses and teachers, decreasing suspensions and expulsions that disproportionately target children of color, and prioritizing restorative justice over zero tolerance policies.
We must also build a prison to school pipeline. This means we need to fund vocational and academic education for incarcerated individuals, support second chance programs, and strengthen programs like Project Rebound and the Underground Scholars Initiatives — programs at higher education institutions, including UC Berkeley and East Bay community colleges and CSU’s that empower formerly incarcerated individuals to receive college degrees.
The classroom should not be a doorway to incarceration, and a past conviction shouldn’t be a life sentence to poverty and joblessness. We need to seriously invest in second chances, revitalize compassion and increase educational funding to meaningfully combat these critical barriers to safety and prosperity.
Redirecting Young Lives Instead of Incarcerating Them
There are about 6,000 young people currently incarcerated in the state, costing about $1 billion a year. Three out of four are incarcerated for non-violent behavior and 57% haven’t been convicted of a crime. These young people are disproportionally people of color (80% African American or Latino). African Americas and Latinos are more likely to be incarcerated after arrest while white youth are more likely to be sent to diversion programs. Incarcerated youth are much more likely to have been victims of trauma and over half have mental health issues. Locking them up will not address these underlying issues and will certainly not make our communities safer.
We must hold our young people accountable for crimes committed but incarceration is not the answer – it is the least effective, most expensive and most harmful approach. Instead we should support community-based services, which produce better outcomes for youth and reduce recidivism. We should support restorative justice programs like Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth and preventative programs like RYSE in Richmond. And we should promote individualized treatment enabling young people to have access to a diverse set of community-based options thereby allowing them to create a tailored treatment plan.
While holding people accountable for crimes committed, we should also strive to decrease recidivism and enable young people to make permanent exits from the revolving door of crime and incarceration. By build healthy communities, we will experience less crime.
Ending Money Bail and Fines and Fees
Our justice system must stop discriminating against the poor, who are predominately people of color, when it comes to court-ordered fines and fees. These cash requirements entrap people in a debilitating cycle of police stops, incarceration, judicial debt, and license suspension, which altogether create barriers to housing and employment, and makes us all less safe.
This is particularly evident in our broken money bail system. Money bail was a system created to guarantee that defendants would appear for trial. Instead, it puts a price on freedom that very few can afford.
Research from UCLA has found that the highest bail requirements are disproportionately imposed on black and brown defendants, whose communities often suffer the highest rates of unemployment. More than 70% of defendants studied could not meet their bail requirements, so they remained incarcerated waiting months or even years for their case to go to trial while wealthier defendants bought their freedom. Money bail ensures that an accused person’s right to go home is based on their socioeconomic status rather than their flight risk or the severity of their alleged crime.
We need to create a more effective and equitable system of pretrial release. New Jersey has already eliminated money bail, resulting in a reduction of the state’s jail population by 15.8%, while crime has simultaneously reduced by almost 4% and violent crime by 12.4%. In Sacramento, I plan to work with the Attorney General and my fellow legislators to sponsor bills to end money bail and other financially discriminatory court practices.
A Public Health Approach to Drug Policy
With the opioid crisis dominating national headlines, California has a responsibility as a pioneer of progress to set the standard for how this country approaches drug policy. We’ve made headway with the decriminalization of cannabis, but we need to start emphasizing rehabilitation over retribution across the board for drug use. We must address substance use disorders as public health problems rather than criminal justice issues.
This public health approach starts by eliminating stigma and discrimination towards individuals with substance abuse disorders. Those suffering from drug dependency sometimes commit crimes such as theft and battery in connection with their addiction. Punitive measures may satisfy someone’s desire for retribution, but they fail to address the root cause of the problem and they don’t actually make us safer. We need to approach drug-related crimes from an understanding of addiction as a neurological disease and symptom of environmental pressures.
We can better address drug crime and dependency by prioritizing drug treatment over punitive prison sentences, and by expanding innovative, harm-reduction approaches that help addicts on their road to recovery. We also need to support drug-related research to create evidence-based rehabilitation programming, particularly for chronic users. For patients of treatment programs, we need to ensure access to scheduled medications, such as buprenorphine, for therapeutic use.
A public health model will help mitigate prison overcrowding and reduce excess corrections expenditures. We need to transform the way we think about and legislate drug ‘crime’ to create a system built on empathy and pragmatic solutions rather than ineffective punitive approaches.
A Public Health Approach to Homelessness
It’s no secret that California is currently suffering from a dual crisis of scarce affordable housing and unprecedented levels of homelessness. Part of the solution to this crisis is building more affordable housing, as well as more housing at all income levels. But we cannot begin to address this crisis without having a conversation about how we can better care for our growing population of homeless individuals.
All too often, California tries to incarcerate its way out of homelessness. The National Institute of Health found that approximately 15% of incarcerated individuals had dealt with an episode of homeless in the year prior to their incarceration. Homelessness often involves a vicious mental illness cycle: those who lack mental healthcare services are more likely to become homeless, and homelessness often causes serious mental illness. A person dealing with severe mental illness in California is four times more likely to be in prison than in a state mental healthcare facility.
We need to create a public health approach to homelessness. This approach begins by eliminating stigma against homeless individuals and recognizing that they are human beings deserving of attention and care. I support Gavin Newsom’s proposal to create a “homelessness czar” in Sacramento, a state secretary who will be specifically focused on ameliorating the crisis of homelessness.
Instead of arresting homeless individuals, we need to provide them with permanent supportive housing and clinical care. These services must include mental healthcare, counseling for substance use disorders, and job training. When formerly homeless individuals are released from incarceration, these services must be available and accessible to prevent the continuing cycle of homeless arrests. We also need to expand the use of behavioral health courts that hold people accountable for harms they committeed but steer people struggling with mential illness out of the criminal justice system and into treatment and support services.
Eliminating the Death Penalty
I don’t believe in the death penalty, full stop. The death penalty does not deter crime, is racially biased and may result in the execution of innocent lives. There is a disproportionate application of the death penalty to people of color. Even when people are properly convicted of a crime, people of color are more likely to get harsher sentencing, including the death penalty.
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, California has spent an average of $308 million dollars on each of the 13 executions carried out. The death penalty is too high a price to pay for the possibility of wrongful execution. In Sacramento, I will help lead the push to end the death penalty in California.
Eliminating Solitary Confinement
Solitary confinement is the practice of isolating people in closed cells for 23 hours a day. It leaves individuals almost completely devoid of human contact for periods of time ranging from days to decades. Placing people in solitary confinement has often been used as an unjust preventative measure to manage anyone with a suspected affiliation to gangs. It also been used to quell political activism in prisons.
Solitary confinement imposes unjust psychological and emotional trauma on incarcerated individuals, especially those with pre-existing mental health issues. California has already begun the process of phasing out indefinite solitary confinement—the population of those in solitary confinement has decreased more than 60% since 2012. But we have to do more than simply reduce the numbers. We need to end the practice of solitary confinement as a whole to protect the basic human rights and dignity of incarcerated individuals.
Reforming and Informing Our Police Force
Following the tragic and preventable deaths of many black individuals—Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, and countless more—police forces have faced warranted increased scrutiny. Now is precisely the time to reform police practices to end systematic police brutality that disproportionately affects black and brown individuals and to build trust between police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.
The first step to accomplish this requires reforming the police bill of rights. State Senator Nancy Skinner has introduced a bill that would require the disclosure of investigations of serious uses of force, including police shootings. In Sacramento, I want to expand this by creating a mechanism for state-funded, independent investigations for all police officer involved shootings. This will allow local agencies to bring in outside investigators for use of force situations. In addition to a fair analysis of events, data collected through this process can help us develop policies to prevent future tragedy. We also need to expand the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 to include not just collecting data at the agency level, but at the officer level so problem actors can be identified early. We can’t reform police practice from a purely external standpoint. We also need to introduce systemic internal reforms and change the culture of policing from a warrior mentality to a guardian mentality.
We can begin to internally reform police practices by incorporating mandatory implicit bias, procedural justice, and de-escalation training into police academies and promote re-training throughout policing careers.
Throughout California, there is an immediate and serious deficit of police officers. When policing staff is low, police experience excess stress and demoralization, and police hiring practices necessarily become less stringent. We need to increase funds to hire diverse police officers from underrepresented backgrounds who are compassionate, capable, and well-trained, so that California’s police forces can lead the way for the rest of the country.
We need to work together to rebuild trust. Having a diverse and educated police force makes possible meaningful community policing, whereby police are no longer threats but integrated members of neighborhoods across California. Only through these measures can we begin to prevent incidents of police brutality and meaningfully move towards a compassionate policing system that protects and serves all of our communities.
Supporting People with Disabilities through Intersectional Policy Reform
Our district has an incredible history of leading the state and country on disabilities rights. Yet today, we still see glaring inequalities, inaccessibility, and under-representation for the 22% of Californians –about 3.8 million people– with some type of intellectual, emotional, or physical disability. It’s time for our district and our state to do more to lead again on ensuring that people with disabilities can live their daily lives fully and access the public rights and services that we promise to all Californians. And we all know moving the needle on disabilities rights doesn’t just help people with disabilities– a more accessible society helps us all. We must consider disability needs and priorities in every policy area we discuss and in every equity issue we tackle, from housing and homelessness to workforce training and wage equity. I would fight to bring disability rights leaders to the table on all issues, ensure quality education for our students with special education needs, improve our developmental disabilities services funding structure, and reform our mental health services and funding approach.
Read more: My Disabilities Rights Plan
Yet today, we still see glaring inequalities, inaccessibility, and under-representation for the 22% of Californians –about 3.8 million people– with some type of intellectual, emotional, or physical disability. The majority of these people are above the age of 65, and are disproportionately represented in black and Native American communities. They are much more likely than their peers to experience health problems such as heart disease or obesity. Right here in Alameda County, one in five people with disabilities lives in poverty, one in four does not have a high school degree, and three in five are left out of our workforce. And as the baby boomer generation ages, we’re seeing a skyrocketing need for strong accessibility supports and services.
It’s time for our district and our state to do more to lead again on ensuring that people with disabilities can live their daily lives fully and access the public rights and services that we promise to all Californians. And we all know moving the needle on disabilities rights doesn’t just help people with disabilities– a more accessible society helps us all. We must consider disability needs and priorities in every policy area we discuss and in every equity issue we tackle, from housing and homelessness to workforce training and wage equity.
Here’s what I’ll fight for as your next Assemblymember:
Bringing disability rights leaders to the table on all issues:
Disability issues aren’t isolated – policies around accessibility for people with disabilities must play a part when we discuss housing and homelessness, education, the workforce, transportation and more. We have to make sure that when we bring together community leaders, advocates, and experts to solve our community problems, we include advocates and leaders from the disability rights movements at the table. And across the board, we need to dedicate more funding to meet the needs of this community. A few examples of such issues include:
Tackling the housing crisis here in Assembly District 15 and across the state of California is my top priority– and it’s critical that we do so with an eye to what people with disabilities need. 41% of the housing discrimination complaints made publicly last year were about having a disability, and more than one-third of the nation’s chronically homeless–people with disabilities experiencing long-term homelessness–live in California. The fact is that a $900/month Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment, which many people with disabilities must live on, simply does not cover the median cost of affordable rent prices in the East Bay. We have to bring disability rights leaders to the table to ensure that we are increasing rental subsidies, building new affordable homes, and including accessibility features in new housing. We need to extend anti-gouging rent protections and new legal protections to tenants facing unfair evictions. And as a state, we need to re-invest in wraparound service programs such as In-Home Support Services (IHSS) that enable people with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities to live and thrive independently in their own homes.
In our workforce development plans, we must make sure we have vocational programs and higher education opportunities that are fully accessible to people with disabilities and those who work in disability care services. And as we tackle the problem of our unaffordable cost of housing across the state, we must push for minimum wage increases to make California liveable for all. This is especially important for people with disabilities who work low-wage jobs. Waiver exemptions in the Fair Labor Act, which were originally intended to help people with disabilities find work, create loopholes for employers to exploit their workers with disabilities and pay them less than minimum wage. California needs to join New Hampshire, Maryland, and Alaska in banning this atrocious practice. Finally, we must professionalize the care industry and better fund care workers, so this industry is a competitive career option, and so service providers can fully staff needed supports and services in our communities.
National research has found that the ACA has given people with disabilities more affordable health insurance options and better access to long-term, supportive services. But people with disabilities are already at higher risk for serious health problems, and too many still go without the mental and physical health services they need. The Affordable Care Act also remains under attack by the Trump Administration, and with that, protections for people with disabilities are under attack. It is critical that we push for a single-payer system as soon as possible to protect all people’s right to health care, and in the short and medium-term, we must create a Medi-Cal public option and pass a state individual mandate so that people with disabilities in California have access to stable, complete, and sufficient care.
As our transportation networks evolve, people with disabilities need to be able to access our trains, buses, and cars. I would fight to significantly modernize our BART stations and system to make new transit-oriented housing possible, and plan new improvements with accessibility features in mind. We should bolster our paratransit services, and as our ride service industry shifts and taxis are increasingly replaced by Ubers and Lyfts, we must make sure people with disabilities are not left out.
Quality Education For Students with Special Education Needs:
Our “kids-first” agenda is incomplete if we don’t provide a comprehensive curriculum and strong services for children with special education needs. Students with disabilities have the legal right to a quality education on par with their peers, and it’s up to us to make sure they are accessing that right. It is critical that we bring more resources to our state’s Special Education programs and that we ensure that Individualized Education Plans (IEP) are implemented and built in collaboration with students’ families, so that students with unique learning needs have access to the tools they need to be successful in school. I urge Governor Brown to sign SB354 which requires all IEPs to be fully translated into a family’s native language.
We should also lead the way in fostering and funding more Family Empowerment Centers, which help parents of students with disabilities to navigate the Special Education process and curriculum. Currently, only 13 CA counties have a Family Empowerment Center. We should pass AB2704, which would bring new Centers to counties statewide (including Alameda County), standardize data, and prioritize work in areas that do not currently have Centers.
We also need to increase collaboration between our schools and county services to make sure schools and teachers get the special education funding and professional development that they need to serve their students. And we must hold our schools–in particular, our charter schools– better accountable to district standards for special education regulations and systems. We hear too many stories from across California and the country about charter schools that cherry-pick their students – purposefully turning down students that they say they cannot serve. Instead, we must create and enforce systems that ensure existing charter schools accept all students. We must also ensure that all schools have the curriculum and support systems in place to ensure success for students with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. That means increasing our investment in our schools–see my education plan for more.
An Improved Funding Structure for Developmental Disabilities Services:
People with developmental disabilities have lifelong intellectual or physical disabilities that occur before age 18 and affect 3 or more areas of major life activities–this includes people with cerebral palsy, autism, and epilepsy.
Thanks to the Lanterman Act, 21 Regional Centers across California fund various service providers that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so they can live independent lives in integrated communities. These providers range from job coaches to full supported living service providers, who enable their clients to live full lives in their communities, instead of being segregated from society in state institutions.
Currently, over 300,000 people across California receive supports and services through these centers. But service rates have not kept up with the cost of inflation, and reimbursement rates from the regional centers to service providers do not reflect the true cost of service. Now more than ever, we need to pass statewide legislation that clarifies and increases regional center reimbursement rates to community-based service providers and makes sure sufficient funding follows each person, so that they can get the critical services they need to live full and independent lives in their communities.
Each year, service providers– feeling fiscal crunch and concern – are having to discontinue vital services or find themselves unable to pay their workers enough to fill badly needed staffing positions. These service providers have talented staff and the ability to provide individualized care to people with disabilities, but they simply lack the resources needed to make this actually happen. It’s time for California to lead the way in providing exemplary care to all people with disabilities, regardless of circumstance.
Mental Health Services and Funding Reform:
Part of truly serving our residents with disabilities means expanding mental health services to make them accessible to anyone, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or circumstance. As we do this, we must prioritize underserved communities and those who have historically lacked access to quality mental health care.
We also must do a better job of taking a public health approach to mental health services and end the trend of incarceration for people with mental health needs. A person dealing with severe mental illness in California is currently four times more likely to be in prison than in a state mental health care facility. We need to expand the use of behavioral health alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders that are struggling with these issues. And we should increase state support for our safety net providers to help hospitals and community clinics better integrate their mental and physical care services, and make these services more robust.
All this new policy means we need new funding streams. One way to provide more revenue is to close the Proposition 13 commercial property loophole and require big corporations like Chevron, Transamerica, and Disney to pay their market-rate fair share of property tax. We will also need to consider taxes on our wealthiest residents to bring critical funding and new resources to neighbors and friends with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.
I believe in an East Bay and a California that is accessible and built for all people, despite disability or need. If elected, I will fight to make sure that all Californians have access to stable, quality support and services that will allow them to thrive in schools, in the workforce, and throughout our communities.
Making California the most family-friendly state in the nation.
California is ranked 47th out of 50 for the standard of living for children. This is unacceptable for the world’s 6th largest economy. While our state is making important strides to support working families, I will lead the push for a package of legislation aimed at promoting the health and safety of California kids. We need to transform our system of early childhood services at the state and local levels to be more child-centered. California’s child-services system is fractured and diffuse, both in terms of how it is funded and the quality of care it provides to the millions of California children it serves. I believe we should have one single, affordable, accessible, high-quality, and integrated system of early learning and care. We also need to support families by enacting the most comprehensive paid leave policy in the country – a full 12-weeks paid leave for the birth of a new child or to care for a sick loved one. As women are increasingly the breadwinners for their families, and still the primary caregivers, the pressures they face are real. To ensure a level playing field for women and their families, I will fight for universal childcare, close the gender pay gap, and ensure all Californians have access to quality reproductive healthcare.
Equal opportunity for all Californians.
In the Spring of 2017, I joined tens of thousands of women across the country who stepped into the arena and decided to run for office for the first time. I’ve never been a candidate before, but felt the need, with my daughter by my side, to get out from behind the scenes. With that, I filed for office to be the next California Assembly member for District 15 in the East Bay.
It’s great that we have more women running for office. And given the recent progress from the #MeToo effort, I think it’s time we have more women in positions of power. Research shows that when women reach the threshold of more than 30% of the leadership of an organization, the culture of the organization shifts. The California state legislature is behind the national average at 22% and given the recent departures by four male state legislators due to sexual assault allegations, I think it’s high-time we push past that 30% number.
But what’s also critically important is that our elected officials – both women and men – support policies that push for essential rights and protections for millions of women. This is the kind of structural change we need to level the playing field for women.
Read more: My Women’s Policy Plan
Later that spring, I joined tens of thousands of other women across the country who stepped into the arena and decided to run for office for the first time. I’ve never been a candidate before, but felt the need, with my daughter by my side, to get out from behind the scenes. With that, I filed for office to be the next California Assembly member for District 15 in the East Bay.
It’s great that we have more women running for office. And given the recent progress from the #MeToo effort, I think it’s time we have more women in positions of power. Research shows that when women reach the threshold of more than 30% of the leadership of an organization, the culture of the organization shifts. The California state legislature is behind the national average at 22% and given the recent departures by four male state legislators due to sexual assault allegations, I think it’s high-time we push past that 30% number.
But what’s also critically important is that our elected officials – both women and men – support policies that push for essential rights and protections for millions of women. This is the kind of structural change we need to level the playing field for women.
Here’s are some things we can do right now here in California create a more equitable place for women:
Enact a Better Paid Leave Policy
America has the worst family paid leave policies of any industrialized nation in the world, with only 12% of workers having access to any kind of paid leave policy. The stats are worse for service industry workers, who are disproportionately women of color – only 6% have any kind of paid leave policies. California should lead the way on requiring 12-weeks 100% fully paid leave for the birth of a child or the need to care for a family member. This will give women the time they need to bond with their children, figure out their new normal, and get back up on their feet and return to work, should they chose.
Support early childhood education and more affordable child care options
In addition to creating better off-ramps for new parents – i.e. better paid leave policies – we need to create better on-ramps for parents returning to the workforce, such as more affordable and better child care options. The average cost of child care in the Bay Area is $2000 per month for one child. It’s cheaper to send your child to college than to afford child care. In addition to the cost issues, we also need to be creating supportive learning environments, whether they be at child care centers, family child care centers, or in-home. Children begin to learn on day one. We should think of early childhood care as education and as an entitlement, like elementary school, social security, unemployment benefits or Medicare. To this end, we should subsidize quality child care on a sliding scale and fund universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. We should professionalize the care industry by unionizing the workforce, providing professional development and apprenticeship programs and paying our early caregivers the same as elementary school teachers. The more affordable and quality early education our children get, the better a society we are.
Protect women speaking out on sexual harassment and assault
We must do everything we can to root out inappropriate behavior by people in positions of power and protect the sexual assault survivors who are speaking out on these injustices. And it’s important that we pay extra attention to low-income workers who are some of our most vulnerable sexual assault victims. Some concrete policy solutions to address include: one, getting rid of secret settlement agreements and non-disclosure agreements that enable perpetrators to hide their crimes and continue abusing power; two, we should extend the statute of limitations on reporting workplace harassment, which is currently 1-year; three, end forced arbitration on harassment to allow for people to have their day in court should they choose that path; fourth, we need better data collections across the board, which looks at racial breakdown to have a better understanding of sexual assault implications for victims of color; fifth, we should explore requiring employers to disclose settlement agreements that are determined to have merritt, specifically to prospective employers; lastly, we need to provide counseling and supportive services for victims.
Empower women in lower-wage jobs
Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and disproportionately women of color. Many of these women work in the service industry for large corporations like Walmart and Target. One of this biggest challenges for these types of jobs, in addition to the low pay, is the fact that these types of employers consistency change work schedules with little notice. This makes it very difficult for workers to plan for childcare or educational opportunity. California should follow Emeryville’s lead and pass a Fair Work Week Law and require employers to provide advance notice and predictability of scheduling or face fines. In addition, we should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to put in the pockets of those struggling the most.
Promote Women’s Health Access
Under no circumstance, can we relent on protecting a woman’s right to choose and we must stay vigilant in this fight. But women’s health expands beyond that. More research shows the health disparities for women of color. Women of color get less prenatal care, for instance, and they are twice as likely as white women to say they are in poor health. Even in progressive East Bay, Planned Parenthood was forced to close clinics that served as a vital resource for women in our community due to resource constraints. We need to ensure women are getting the resources they need to live healthy lives. Health care is a human right.
I believe we are a critical moment in our history. Our political discourse feels broken in many ways and the hateful rhetoric coming out of our national politics is heartbreaking. But I am hopeful that we can find our way out of the wilderness. I am hopeful that California can lead the way, with women being at the forefront of this change.
Protecting and welcoming immigrant communities.
As the current president continues expanding his list of who does and does not belong in the United States, California must stand firm in protecting vulnerable members of our community from attack and unjustified deportation. I support California’s successful actions to become a sanctuary state because the best use of law enforcement resources is catching dangerous criminals, not threatening and deporting our undocumented neighbors. We must reject the politics of hate and fear, and we can do that through responsible legislation that protects crime victims and keeps undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Our strength is our diversity, and our diversity is reflected in our vibrant immigrant communities. I will do everything in my power to make immigrants from all corners of the globe feel welcome here.
Read more: My Immigration Rights Plan
As the current president continues expanding his list of who does and does not belong in the United States, California must stand firm in protecting vulnerable members of our community from attack and unjustified deportation. Our strength is our diversity, and our diversity is reflected in our vibrant immigrant communities.
I am incredibly proud to run for office in a state that has been so outspoken in its commitment to protecting immigrant communities. If elected, I will not only work to uphold California’s status as a sanctuary state but will also build on the values of inclusion and diversity that make California a beacon of hope for this country. California must continue to lead the nation with its progressive policies and demonstrate to the world that all who are willing to contribute to our society are welcome in our state.
I strongly support California’s actions to successfully pass a law declaring itself a sanctuary state, and now we must work to ensure that SB54 is implemented fully and upheld in the face of Trump’s attempt to dismantle it. I am a staunch supporter of the DACA program as well as California’s Dream Act, which continues to make college attainable for undocumented students. We must reject the politics of hate and fear, and we can do that through responsible legislation that ensures immigrants not only have all their civil rights respected and defended by the state and its law enforcement institutions, but also feel safe and comfortable to engage and build community in California. I will do everything in my power to make immigrants from all corners of the globe feel welcome here.
As your Assemblywoman, I would:
Expand Civil Rights for our Immigrant Communities
In the face of Trump’s abhorrent normalization of bigotry and racism, we also need to take steps to protect the civil liberties and rights of every Californian, especially those who are being unjustly targeted for their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. We are hailed nationally and globally as a progressive state that welcomes diversity, but that means nothing unless we show our commitment to these values through our actions. We must foster an environment where immigrants feel safe and are not afraid to report crimes to our law enforcement agencies—the very people responsible for protecting every Californian.
Ultimately, we must do more to protect and empower our immigrant families by addressing the disparities in access, quality, and outcomes that exist in all of our public systems. If elected, I would consider every state issue through an equity
Ramp up our Response to Hate Crimes
The rate of hate crimes has increased for the past three years in California, and the numbers we have likely don’t even capture the full picture, due to underreporting. We must facilitate better tracking of hate crimes in our state– I applaud our legislators for recently passing AB 1985, which took great steps in these efforts–and do more to increase prosecution and consequences for hate crimes. That also means we must equip our Attorney General’s office with the funding they need to continue litigation against discriminatory rules from Trump’s administration. And we must also address the problem of hate crimes in our schools–in the past year, almost 8% of hate crimes
Protect our Immigrant Workers
As the Trump administration continues attacking our immigrant neighbors and ICE ramps up its unjustified raids and deportations, we must protect the rights of our immigrant workers, both documented and undocumented. Besides this being a clear social justice issue, our immigrants are critical to the success of our workforce — California has more immigrants in its workforce than any other state, and undocumented immigrants alone make up 9% of California’s labor force
We should be proud that California has passed many laws ramping up undocumented workers protections in recent years (like AB263, AB450, and SB54), but we must carefully monitor their implementation to make sure we’re getting them right. Employers must not be able to get away with wage theft or substandard working conditions by threatening to call ICE if someone complains. This dynamic hurts us all — it blocks access to justice for immigrants, damages employer/employee relationships, undercuts the bargaining power of workers and unions, and contradicts our core values. We must increase funding for the California Attorney General’s
Ensure Health Care for all Californians, Regardless of Residency Status
California is home to more immigrants than any other state, nearly 2 million of whom are uninsured. Approximately 1.2 million of those individuals are from low-income backgrounds and should qualify for Medi-Cal. Recently, Trump’s action to expand “Public Charge” threatens the ability of immigrants in our state to use our Medi-Cal and social programs. It aims to instill fear and deter immigrants from receiving assistance from programs that are created with the purpose to protect and serve their basic human rights. I strongly support AB 2965 and SB974, both of which would help low-income undocumented immigrants gain access to Medi-Cal. These bills help us move closer to universal health care, targeting new resources to the estimated 1.2 million undocumented adult immigrants in California who are uninsured and low-income. I will work closely with my colleagues to ensure that all Californians, regardless of residency status, have access to the
Ensure Quality Educational Opportunities for our Immigrant Students
We must invest in our children by investing in our schools, and making sure that every student–including the over 250,000 undocumented children who attend Californian schools–has access to the educational opportunities they need to thrive in and out of the classroom. Our schools should be safe havens for immigrants children, fostering an environment for learning and inclusion.
In addition to the fact that all children, including our immigrant students, have a legal right to a free public education, we know that our workforce and our economy do best when we expand educational opportunities for our immigrant students. About 30% of our workers with a bachelor’s degree are immigrants, and almost half of our computer and data processing college graduates are immigrants.
In our K-12 system, we can better support our immigrant students by expanding English Language Learner interventions, multilingual educational programs, and other evidence-based learning initiatives that address language barriers to learning. We also need to ensure that immigrant families have access to social services, which we can do by expanding our social safety net and streamlining the process by which undocumented families can access needed services. A total of 750,000 K-12 students in California have at least one parent who is undocumented–their well being and success in school
In our higher education system, we need to make it easier for undocumented students to access and afford college programs that open up
Buffy Wicks for Assembly 2024. FPPC #1456909