I’m an optimist, a “hope springs eternal” type of person. But California’s brand is crisis and it simply doesn’t have to be like this. The ideas and solutions are right in front of us, but it will take courage to get things done.
The ugly truth is that our governor and legislative majority have been out of touch for the past decade. Their agenda continues to hurt the communities they claim to help. Californians who, on the brink of broke, thinking of leaving our state or giving hope up altogether, need us to find our new north and set our compass.
We are all feeling the “pain at the pump.” California has the highest gas prices in part because we have the highest gas tax in the nation. We need to immediately suspend the gas tax. It just makes sense, especially while our state budget is overflowing and California’s families often are being forced to choose between putting gas in their car or food on the table.
But California’s skyrocketing cost of living is just the tip of the iceberg of issues we need to address differently in order to improve the quality of life in our communities.
We all see the tents, campers, debris and filth on our sidewalks and in our neighborhoods. But the real heartbreak is the human tragedy of impoverished, mentally ill and drug-addicted Californians living, and dying, on OUR streets. In fact, half of the country’s homeless population lives in California. The current approach is void of compassion and an appalling failure of leadership.
The solution is to move the homeless from unhealthy and dangerous public sidewalks into care facilities and housing capable of treating drug addiction and mental illness. We can’t continue to allow the appalling lack of care that is turning neighborhoods into tent cities and failing those who need help. The failure to fix our homelessness crisis has also contributed to the tidal wave of crime washing over our communities.
Watered-down sentences, early release and the elimination of cash bail pushed by elitist politicians and activist district attorneys have led to an increase in violent crime.
Their message that it’s OK to break the law has been heard loud and clear by criminals, like the violent 28-year-old sex offender in Los Angeles who was recently sentenced to just two years in a juvenile facility for assaulting a 10-year-old girl – and then disgustingly bragged about the light sentence. Or, the violent criminal released early who stands accused in the Sacramento massacre that took six lives and injured 12 more.
It’s no surprise that crime victims feel abandoned because their abusers and attackers aren’t being held accountable thanks to out-of-control district attorneys like L.A.’s George Gascón. The results are obvious – horrific violence, brazen smash-and-grabs, and violent offenders loose on our streets to commit more heinous crimes.
But those in control of the state Legislature continue to reject common-sense proposals to strengthen penalties for criminals. Unbelievable.
As an educator and a mom, I know that nothing defines our future more than our investment in our kids. We must empower parents with choices, including charter schools, career technical education programs, child care tax credits, and early childhood education. That’s why I led the fight to give all 4-year-olds the ability to attend transitional kindergarten, for free – and now that’s the law.
There is so much we can do, together, if we reset our direction and set sights on a new horizon that will lead us to a new day; brighter and more hopeful than where California has been for the last decade. Hope springs eternal, always.
Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares is a mom and an educator whose district includes most of the Santa Clarita Valley and portions of the San Fernando Valley.