News from Sen. Blakespear – December 15, 2023
I am currently attending the “Western Legislative Academy from the Council of State Governments West.” It is excellent training with only four state legislators invited from each of 13 states. The goal is to learn the skills and approach to becoming the best and most effective legislator and public servant I can be. I’ve just begun this conference in frigid Colorado, and I’m excited about the topics we’ll explore, such as “Public Problems, Choices & Decisions: Governing for the Public Good” and “Influencing Effectively to Manage Difference.”
I was invited to many conferences, trade missions, trainings and legislative networking opportunities in this 3.5-month period between legislative sessions. I declined nearly all of these out-of-town opportunities except this Western Legislative Academy in Colorado Springs. In my efforts to manage the personal sacrifice of being away from home every week during the first nine months of the year, I wanted to be solidly at home in my district to attend local events and fully connect to the daily rhythms of my own family life.
But this training was the exception because I see it as highly valuable in helping me hone my skills and mind to represent you at the state level the best way that I can.
Read on for more updates about recent happenings in the district.
Bring Them Toys – And Boost Your Well-Being!
Our annual holiday toy drive is off to a great start and there's still time to make a splash in the sea of generosity. The San Diego County drive is accepting toys through the morning of December 19, and the Orange County drive continues to accept gifts until December 22.
Here’s a fun fact: A recent study revealed that those who sprinkle daily "micro-acts" of joy and generosity into their lives experience a whopping 25 percent boost in emotional well-being throughout the week. Talk about a holiday hack for happiness!
So drop off unwrapped toys at any of our district offices or follow the merry map in the flyers below for additional locations. For Encinitas elves, swing by 169 Saxony Rd., Suite 209, Encinitas, CA 92024. Laguna Hills helpers, head to 24031 El Toro Rd., Suite 201A, Laguna Hills, CA 92653.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a colossal thank you for being the magic that makes the season brighter for those in need!
We held the third subcommittee hearing in the San Clemente Council Chambers, only a few short miles from the rail tracks where the rail line was shut down throughout late 2022 and early 2023.
At this hearing of the Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resiliency, which I chair, we highlighted new research that the Subcommittee commissioned from the nonpartisan, independent Senate Office of Research (SOR). You can find a link to the report on the subcommittee’s web page.
Other external researchers from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and UC Irvine Institute of Transportation Studies shared and affirmed these ideas about how to improve rail service and better manage the corridor. The subcommittee will be evaluating these suggestions and contemplating how to best move forward to ensure the rail line gets the support and direction it needs.
My Senate subcommittee colleagues and I had a robust discussion and it’s tough to summarize. However, it’s clear that we agree there are opportunities to improve how our rail line works for real riders. You can access links below to see media coverage of the hearing or watch the entire hearing yourself or the link above to read a report that details the challenges the rail corridor faces.
I want to thank the City of San Clemente for hosting us and everyone who participated, including our outstanding panelists, who are listed on the agenda for the hearing. I also want to thank my fellow members of the subcommittee for a thoughtful discussion.
I enjoyed the public engagement at the hearing. Many lined up to provide public testimony.
To watch the entire hearing, go to the Senate media archive web page and click on the WATCH link on the line beside 12/11/2023 Senate Transportation Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resiliency.
Orange County Register: Challenges facing key rail line’s future discussed in San Clemente
San Diego Union-Tribune: Climate change imperils San Diego County’s coastal rail corridor, panelists say
Fox 5 San Diego: Future of LOSSAN railway debated in first of several meetings
I talked with Jaime Chambers from Fox 5 San Diego about the need to make rail service reliable.
Our fentanyl problem intersects with other issues that our state is facing like homelessness. In 2021, 36 percent of the deaths of homeless people in Orange County were directly linked to fentanyl. This is another reason why I will continue prioritizing California’s housing and homelessness issue. We must protect our most vulnerable and keep our public spaces safe.
I want to thank the many elected officials in attendance, Mission Viejo Mayor Brian Goodell for having us in his city, and Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Nikki Elkerton for her informative presentation on why the DA’s office is trying fentanyl at the federal level.
I am grateful that our community partners, Fentanyl Solution Group and Partners for Wellness, hosted tables at the event with helpful information on the resources available in Orange County to help with Fentanyl. Visit the Orange County Health Care Agency’s fentanyl is forever website to learn more about the resources available to OC residents, including where you can get life-saving Naloxone. My San Diego constituents can visit the San Diego Health & Human Services Agency Website for similar resources.
I also want to recognize the Saddleback Pre-Law Society for their attendance. Fentanyl has surpassed car accidents as the number one killer of people between the ages of 18-45. We need leaders in our classrooms to learn about this issue and have conversations with their classmates about the dangers of fentanyl.
From putting test strips on college campuses to funding CHP and California National Guard fentanyl seizure efforts, we are making progress. More must be done.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and I spoke frankly to the audience about what more needs to be done at the state level to address the dealer-side of fentanyl. We agree that Alexandra’s Law (Senate Bill 44), which Sen. Tom Umberg championed in 2023, and I supported as a co-author, should be law.
We are seeing movement in that direction in places like Placer County, where Attorney General Rob Bonta and Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire secured a murder conviction for the dealer who killed a 15-year-old girl by selling her pills with fentanyl.
I want to thank the two mothers who spoke to me and my staff about their beautiful sons lost to this poison. As a mother, I cannot fathom the depth of their loss. They are right – we must do everything possible to fight this!
The tour began with a briefing with leadership from the San Diego Sector to learn about how the Department of Homeland Security patrols the border between California and Mexico near San Ysidro. Interestingly, the San Diego Sector encompasses 56,831 square miles, including 931 miles of coastal border from the California border with Mexico north to Oregon.
San Diego Sector's primary operational area of responsibility consists of 7,000 square miles, including 60 linear miles of international boundary with Mexico and 114 coastal border miles along the Pacific Ocean – which runs the entire length of my district in San Diego!
It is impressive to hear about the dedication and hard work of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) staff. These men and women work tirelessly to secure our borders, often under challenging conditions. It's crucial that we take a moment to appreciate their commitment to keeping our communities safe.
During the tour, there were obvious gaps in infrastructure that could significantly help CBP. This highlights the importance of ensuring that our infrastructure is robust and capable of effectively managing border security.
Immigration reform is obviously needed and that can only happen if Congress acts. I’m proud of the $1.3 billion that the State of California has invested in supporting migrants, but Congress needs to act to reform our nation’s immigration laws.
I applaud their efforts. Additionally, it’s important to recognize the support from the San Diego County supervisors, who allocated federal funding to support the transition from those seeking asylum to their final destination in the United States. This funding is critical to giving these individuals basic needs for a day or two before they move on and it underscores our county’s commitment to taking care of people. Thanks to Supervisors Nora Vargas, Joel Anderson, Terra-Lawson Remer, and Monica Montgomery-Steppe for caring.
Our tour also shed light on the human component of migration. Behind every statistic, there are individuals with unique stories and aspirations. While we recognize the need for secure borders, it's equally important to approach immigration reform with empathy as individuals seek asylum or refuge from their home countries.
My book club, which I’m calling Our California!, will walk us through "Solito," a powerful novel by Javier Zamora. This memoir intricately weaves together the experiences of a young boy from El Salvador who migrated to reunite with his parents in the United States. It’s a part of our California fabric and it provides a poignant perspective on the challenges faced by those seeking a better life and adds depth to our understanding of the complexities surrounding immigration. You can sign up for the book club here. The first meeting, over Zoom, is on January 13 at 11 a.m.
Welcome to Your New Solana Beach Office, Assemblymember Boerner!
I was happy to join Assemblymember Tasha Boerner (left) for the opening of her new office in Solana Beach. I enjoy working with Boerner in our districts and in Sacramento on our many shared goals representing San Diego County residents.
Assemblymember Tasha Boerner represents a majority of my district, but on the other side of the Legislature, the Assembly. She’s a former Encinitas City Council colleague of mine and I’m so glad to work with her in Sacramento. She’s a fierce advocate for her constituents and cares deeply about her communities. She brings a wealth of expertise, energy, and accomplishments to the Assembly. Just like my office, I know that Assemblymember Boerner values being available to those she represents, and her new district office open house showcased her accessibility. Contact info for Asm. Boerner can be found on her website here.
Supporting Small Business in Orange County
Across my district, I am committed to helping small businesses thrive. I enjoyed meeting with leaders from several South Orange County business organizations recently at Saddleback College to talk about the latest trends, issues with state government and what I can do to help. Here I am talking to (left to right) Scott Alevy, of the Laguna Niguel Chamber of Commerce; Curt Stanley, of the Rancho Santa Margarita Chamber of Commerce; and Josh Finlayson, of the Orange County Business Council.
Where to go for Help
Get immediate assistance on a range of issues – 211 San Diego
Food – San Diego Food Bank
Housing and homelessness – 211 San Diego
Services for seniors – Serving Seniors
Services for veterans – The San Diego Military & Veteran Non-profit Directory
Domestic violence shelters – Kathy’s Legacy Listing of shelters
Get immediate assistance on a range of issues – 211 Orange County
Food – Orange County Food Bank
Housing and financial assistance – Family Assistance Ministries
Services for seniors – Age Well Senior Services
Services for veterans – Tierney Center for Veteran Services
Domestic violence shelter – Laura’s House
Thank you for your support. I am honored to serve you.
To learn more about what I am doing, follow me on social media.
Email me at Senator.Blakespear@Senate.ca.gov
Call my Encinitas district office at (760) 642-0809
Call my Laguna Hills district office at (949) 598-5850
Call my Capitol office in Sacramento at (916) 651-4038