By Toni G. Atkins | Notes from Toni
As we get ready to flip the page to a new calendar year, December is a good time to pause — whenever we can between the hustle and the bustle of the holiday season — and reflect on the year behind us and think ahead to the one coming around the corner.
I like to reset and remind myself of the core values that guide me through life and set the foundation for my policy priorities.
More than anything else, 2017 was a contradiction. While much of the news coming out of Washington, D.C., was disconcerting, California had an exceptional year. We passed the most forward-thinking budget during my time in the Legislature and we approved major housing, climate-change, transportation, and parks and water legislation.
On the personal front, the governor signed all 12 of the bills I sent him, highlighted by my bill to create a permanent funding source for affordable housing (SB 2), my landmark bill that requires the state to officially recognize non-binary residents for who they are (SB 179), and my bill to help prosecutors get sex traffickers off the street before they victimize others (SB 230).
My remaining bills address everything from protecting the San Diego River to making important juvenile-justice, health care, and labor reforms. I am extremely pleased.
Since the 2017 session ended in September, I have been reconnecting with the communities in my district — hearing their concerns and updating them on what’s been happening in Sacramento — and beginning to plan my agenda for 2018. And as I work with my staff on a number of ideas, I am remaining mindful of the core values that compelled me to public service in the first place.
I’ll never forget the advice my college mentor, Steve Fisher, gave me: “Imagine the world you want to live in and then work to create it.”
The world I imagine looks something like this:
Families live in safe, supportive, diverse communities that are close to good-paying jobs and free of pollution, with adequate housing at all levels of income and transit options for those who need or want to commute without a car.
These good-paying jobs are provided by companies that respect and nurture their employees and create a healthy work environment, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s good for business. We help the small businesses that power our economy and contribute to the vibrant and unique character of our communities.
Everyone has a basic right and access to affordable health care, where both cost-reducing primary and preventative care is prioritized. No one is at risk of losing everything just because they get sick.
Our public schools operate on a level playing field. Our teachers are treated like the heroes they are — and are paid accordingly. And our top-notch system of higher education is affordable and accessible to all high-school students, regardless of income.
Neighborhood, regional, and state parks and natural places are abundant and accessible to everyone, because we understand the power that nature has in recharging our batteries and giving us perspective. Arts and culture are emphasized because we understand their power to enrich our souls and challenge our minds.
In those rare times when someone among us runs afoul of the law, our colorblind and income-indifferent justice system focuses as much on rehabilitation as punishment. When that person emerges from incarceration, we do everything we can to make sure they are prepared for successful re-entry to society so that they are not incentivized to reoffend.
There is less reliance on safety-net services, but when someone is struggling, we’re there to help them with rapid rehousing and access to healthful foods, child care and job training.
Everyone is treated with kindness, respect, dignity and equality, regardless of income, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
To say this is easier said than done is putting it mildly, but when we shoot for something, we should always aim high. Whatever unfolds in 2018, these are the outcomes I’ll be shooting for.
Until then, I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season.
— Toni G. Atkins represents the 39th District in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.