BUFFY'S PRIORITIES

 

Priorities

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 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.

Secondly, 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.

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 where it makes sense.

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 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

The California Master Plan of 1960 established significant public investments in our higher education system — laying the framework for University of California, California State University, and California Community College schools. This set California on the path to becoming the 6th largest economy in the world.

Over the course of time, most notably since the early 2000s, we have significantly reduced public funding to our higher education institutions. We are transferring that cost to students, many of whom now face significant student debt. I believe we need to return to the spirit of the California Master Plan and prioritize our higher education system, making higher education accessible to all.

Students today deserve to have the same opportunities as past generations. Specifically, we need to make college debt-free for low-to-middle income students, not only covering the cost of tuition but housing, food and books. This means generating stable, predictable revenue as well as prioritizing higher education in our state budget process.

Since 1980, we have built one new UC campus, while at the same time adding 22 new prisons. University of California, Berkeley currently receives only 11% of its total budget from the State, but it continues to be a major economic engine for the state and one of the top universities for upward mobility. 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.

Our community colleges should be free to all, and we should support programs that aim to help students graduate or transfer. We need to create incentives for students to attend under-utilized campuses, which would help alleviate overcrowded campuses.

We should also promote concurrent enrollment across campuses to create flexibility for our students as well as leverage online learning. Lastly, we should create a higher education system that promotes lifelong learning and seeks to help non-traditional students gain the educational credentials necessary to compete in the modern workforce.

Feeding our Children to Create Lifelong Nutritional Habits

We have 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.

Ensuring all Californians have affordable access to healthcare.

California is taking an important and necessary look at universal healthcare 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.

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.

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.

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

On January 20, 2017, I stood on the Mall in Washington DC, with my 8-week old daughter in my arms, in a sea of pink hats, contemplating how I could be a part of the emerging resistance movement. I had worked for President Obama for six years: developed his grassroots organizing strategy and was part of the White House team that helped pass the Affordable Care Act. My daughter, Josephine, was due Election Day. I thought she’d be born the day we elected our first woman president. It was all so serendipitous. Except it wasn’t to be. And there I stood, taking in the scale and magnitude of thousands of powerful voices resisting Trump. I knew I would do some soul searching and that I would find my role in fighting our way out of this divisive and ugly politics.

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 proposed sanctuary state legislation 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.

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