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Assemblywoman Toni Atkins on what the state budget will do for San Diego, questions over cap and trade and more in our weekly roundup of news from the Capitol.
Ah, summer. It’s the time of year when the sun is shining, the water’s warm and there’s so little going on in the Legislature that people have time to turn awards for women and veterans into something gross.
That’s what happened when San Diego County Republican Party digital director Sage Naumann picked a fight over Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s decision to honor Nathan Fletcher, her boyfriend and a former Assembly member, as veteran of the year for her district.
— Sage Naumann (@SageNaumann) June 30, 2016
Gonzalez fired back with a long Facebook post. Here’s a snippet:
It is well known that Nathan and I are in a committed relationship, but there is a long line of assemblymembers who have picked husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and other relatives for recognition. Never once has it been questioned.
Indeed, I couldn’t find any evidence that the local Republican Party expressed outrage when former Republican state Sen. Jim Battin honored his wife as Woman of the Year, or when former Republican La Mesa Assemblyman Jay La Suer did the same. Or that they objected to former Assemblyman George Plescia naming then-Escondido Councilwoman Marie Waldron as Woman of the Year as she was running to succeed him. Or that they made a fuss over Assemblymen Brian Maienschein and Brian Jones honoring Wendy Urushima-Conn and Elaine Murphy, respectively, women who’ve donated to those legislators’ campaigns.
A Union-Tribune story from earlier this year profiling Maria Rocha, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez’s Woman of the Year honoree, mentions that she cuts Chavez’s hair. There’s nothing untoward about that, of course, but it is yet another piece of evidence that legislators aren’t selecting people based solely on a list of accomplishments. Relationships matter.
Still, it’s really hard to believe that Gonzalez and Fletcher – two people quite familiar with being in the spotlight, and the scrutiny it can provoke – wouldn’t have seen the bad optics here. First, there’s the fact that the relationship between Fletcher and some Republicans has become so toxic that Fletcher could cough without saying “excuse me” and it’d probably be enough for Republicans in town to call a press conference condemning him. But there’s also the fact that Gonzalez herself has been the subject of disapproval with one of these honors – when she was recognized as Woman of the Year by then-Assemblyman Ben Hueso in 2012.
CityBeat offered a criticism of Hueso’s Gonzalez pick that sounds almost identical to the current criticism of her Fletcher pick – sure, she’s deserving, but because of the personal relationships at play, Hueso should have picked someone else (emphasis mine):
Gonzalez defends the award, citing her decade-long history fighting for environmental and social justice in the South Bay, from helping to decommission a controversial power plant to running a job-training program for young adults in National City. … Still, considering that Hueso and Gonzalez are longtime friends and ideological allies, the choice gives off a whiff of cronyism; it’s hard to imagine there weren’t deserving women with stronger ties to Hueso’s district.
Compare that to Naumann’s criticism of Gonzalez picking Fletcher:
“Of course Nathan has done good work for veterans, and I don’t want to take away from that. I’m sure Gonzalez has thousands of veterans in her district who do good work in their community and don’t have the privilege of dating a politician.”
On KUSI, she said the state’s rainy day fund “is not where we need to be.”
And though the budget includes $400 million for affordable housing, “it won’t be spent unless the governor and lawmakers reach a deal on streamlining regulations for building new homes,” the L.A. Times has reported.
Addressing the housing crisis will take more than just money, Atkins told KUSI.
“We keep putting money in, but we also need to look at how we can build more housing quicker. We’re about 1.5 million units of housing short in California.” People need an affordable place to live, Atkins said, “so our kids don’t leave our state.”
On the education front, “Our budget for education is the highest it’s ever been in California. Almost $72 billion,” Atkins told KPBS. “Our local schools, San Diego schools will get about $50 million more, based on the Local Control Funding Formula – that’s so Sweetwater, Del Mar, Coronado, San Diegiuto, San Diego, all of the systems, do better.”
Locally, Atkins touted more money in the budget for the San Diego River Conservancy, maintaining Border Field State Park and to improve the Hillcrest DMV site.
Atkins also mentioned funding for interpretation for medical care, an issue that’s long been a problem for San Diego’s refugee community, which KPBS’s Megan Burks has documented.
• I’m hoping that if I just keep posting these stories explaining California’s insanely long ballot, perhaps we’ll all be prepared for it by November. (KQED)
• A group of San Diego parents filed a federal lawsuit challenging California’s new state law that requires most public schoolchildren to get vaccinations. The law was co-written by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. An earlier effort to overturn the law via ballot measure failed to collect enough signatures. (KPBS)
• CalMatters examines questions over the state’s cap-and-trade program, including “a scathing bipartisan scolding over a lack of transparency” spurred by remarks from Santee Assemblyman Brian Jones.
• Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on a $2 billion plan to fund housing for the homeless. Because of the size of San Diego’s homeless population, it is one of four counties that will receive a lump sum instead of having to compete with other counties for a pot of funds. (Sac Bee)