News from Senator Blakespear - June 26, 2023
Greetings and Happy Summer!
We’ve just passed the summer solstice -- the longest day of the year -- and now we’re slowly headed back toward the darker, winter months. It’s been so uncommonly cold and overcast that it’s hard to believe the year’s apex has already come and gone. Finally we’re enjoying the sun!
While my teenagers soak up rays at the City of Encinitas Junior Lifeguard program this week, here in Sacramento we’re racing to finalize the state’s budget by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.
The Legislature voted on, and passed, the $311 billion state budget last week. But that’s not the end of the story because some major details remain to be worked out between the Legislature and the Governor.
One of the outstanding issues still to be negotiated relates to how to streamline the permitting and environmental review around our state’s largest infrastructure projects to deliver clean energy, water and climate-adaption related projects faster. There is an unprecedented amount of federal funding available for infrastructure and the state needs to position itself to access this federal money.
How to both streamline projects, AND protect sensitive ecosystems, habitat, and quality of life is a top issue in Sacramento right now.
In the biggest picture, the state budget we passed protects the progress made in recent years, by maintaining modest increases for K-12 schools, higher education, cash aid and services for eligible needy families and the elderly, and medical care for one third of the state’s population who is on Medi-Cal. It also preserves the state’s rainy day fund and safety net reserve. Unemployment remains at historic lows and these reserve funds are needed when caseloads grow during economic downturns, which we’re not currently in.
Here is a good article from the Sacramento Bee providing an overview of the budget if you want more information.
Back home in the district, we have a lot of great things going on! I want to thank all of you who attended the Open House event. I really enjoyed talking with those who came. (Pictures and details below.)
I remain supremely honored and committed to serving as your representative! Thank you for reading, and I welcome your input.
This photo is of a recent lemon-picking gleaning event held by ProduceGood. Photo courtesy of ProduceGood.
In July, our volunteering group will glean oranges from a large orchard with excess fruit for donation to the local food bank.
I am extremely excited to be partnering with ProduceGood to host a gleaning event to harvest fruit for food insecure families across the San Diego region on July 8. We need volunteers to help us pick fruit. Please join us!
Who: Senator Catherine Blakespear, local hunger-relief non-profits Feeding San Diego and ProduceGood
What: Collaboration between government and non-profits to address food insecurity. More than 330,000 people face hunger throughout San Diego County. Since 2012, ProduceGood has provided almost 300,000 pounds of fresh citrus and avocados to Feeding San Diego, in addition to diverting over 700 TONS of perfectly edible produce from the landfill.
When: July 8, 2023 (9 a.m. – 11 a.m.)
Where: Private orchard in Rancho Santa Fe with over 150 Valencia orange trees (location and instructions about logistics sent over email to those who register to volunteer)
Sign Up: Visit the ProduceGood website to sign up. You need to register and sign a waiver to participate. We have a total of 32 slots so sign up right away. Choose the box that says “I am interested in CropSwap-backyard gleaning.” People of all ages are welcome. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. If you have questions, contact Fernando Hernandez on my staff, at Fernando.A.Hernandez@sen.ca.gov
An encampment on J Street over Interstate 5 in San Diego. Photo courtesy of The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Homelessness is among the top problems cited by California residents in surveys and it’s a major focus of mine.
I am impressed that the City of San Diego City Council and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria took some big steps last week to address the city’s large and growing population of unsheltered residents. On June 13, the San Diego City Council in a 5-4 decision voted to ban homeless encampments on public property. This proposal was among the most ambitious and contentious I’ve seen in memory.
For starters, the problem of homelessness just continues to worsen. This month we learned that a January count tallied 10,264 people as homeless in San Diego County, a 22 percent increase from the previous January. That included a 32 percent increase in the City of San Diego.
The newly-passed ordinance allows the city to cite or arrest homeless camping on public property if they refuse an available shelter bed. The ordinance also prohibits camping within two blocks of sensitive areas, including schools and parks, regardless of the availability of a shelter bed. I support the City of San Diego in its approach and believe we HAVE to do more to eliminate encampments.
It is simply unacceptable to tolerate the ever-increasing number of people living unsheltered in public places not fit for human habitation, and in environmentally sensitive areas, like river beds and canyons.
This week, we learned a lot more about what is driving the state’s growing problem of homelessness. Conducted by UC San Francisco, the biggest survey of homeless Californians in decades showed that a financial event, like losing income or having a spouse pass, is the top reason Californians fall into homelessness.
This article in CalMatters offers a great overview of what the survey found.
The study confirms that a lack of affordable housing is the foundation of our homelessness problem. Additionally, the study reports that 75 percent of homeless people lived in the same county where they lost their last housing, belying the often repeated myth that people are moving to southern California to be homeless.
Basic economics is the primary driving force. Those surveyed had a median monthly income of $960. Median rent is nearly three times that amount. Poverty is a major cause of homelessness.
The study also found that many had a serious mental health condition, substance abuse problems and had experienced physical violence in their lifetimes.
The study suggests a variety of measures to making housing affordable to those making less than 30 percent of the area median income. They include supporting the production of housing through income housing tax credits, expanding the availability of rental subsidies and supporting their use in the rental market.
Most importantly, we need a larger investment in the creation of very-low cost housing and mental health and drug addiction services if we want to meaningful reduce homelessness.
Matt Rubel (second from right) presenting a certificate to the Olivenhain Municipal Water District (OMWD) to recognize the completion of the Manchester Avenue Recycled Pipeline Project in April. In the picture are (from left to right) Michael Thornton, General Manager of the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority; Encinitas Mayor Tony Kranz; Kim Thorner, OMWD General Manager; and Neil Meyers, OMWD Treasurer.
Early this year, a constituent walked into my Encinitas District Office and told my staff he was receiving workers' compensation after a long career in construction. The man was trying to figure out why the private contractor overseeing the distribution of his workers’ compensation benefits wasn't paying his physical therapist like it was supposed to.
My District Representative Matt Rubel (pictured above) immediately went to work and spent the next few months getting to the bottom of the matter. After much digging, he determined the private contractor transferred the man’s claim. Once he led the physical therapist to the right contractor, the outstanding bills were finally paid, much to the constituent’s delight. We commend the man for reaching out so his doctor could get paid what they deserved.
Based in my Encinitas District Office, Matt is a District Representative who works on constituent cases and also on issues related to climate, the environment, energy, recycling and water.
A Minnesota native with a degree in advocacy and political leadership, Matt joined my office after serving as the volunteer coordinator on my campaign. Matt takes great interest in people’s personal stories and enjoys helping constituents navigate state government. We’re so lucky to have Matt on our staff!
As always, my staff and I are here to serve you. Whether it’s an issue with workers’ compensation or the DMV, we will do our best to help you figure out your issue. We love to help constituents! If you have a state government issue, please contact me at Senator.Blakespear@senate.ca.gov.
More than 200 constituents and local officials attended the Open House I held at my Encinitas District Office on June 10.
I hosted the event to showcase the new office, talk about my priorities, introduce my staff and listen one-on-one to constituents about their concerns.
To see our full library of photos taken at the event, go here. I invite you to share a picture from the event! If you do, please use the #catherineblakespear so I can interact with your photo!
Held from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. at the district office, located at 169 Saxony Road, Suite 209, it was a “zero waste” event, meaning all the waste generated could go in the green dumpster for anaerobic digestion.
I was thrilled that Congressman Mike Levin and many other officials could attend. Much thanks to my Senior District Representative Francine Busby for organizing the event.
The event included representatives from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, California State Parks, CalFresh, Covered California, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.
Here are more photos from the Open House.
I recently had the privilege of touring Qualcomm, the incredible multinational tech corporation headquartered in my district.
Qualcomm creates semiconductors, software and services related to wireless technology, and it is a major local employer. It has also developed semiconductor components or software for vehicles, watches, laptops, wi-fi, smartphones and other devices.
The corporation is at the cutting edge of technological development. In my tour, I learned about the impact of Qualcomm’s technology in how we communicate across the globe. I was impressed with the corporation’s “thinkabit” labs program, inspiring the next generation of inventors.
This is what California is all about – innovation. I am glad to support Qualcomm and the many other businesses in my district working to create the future every single day.
I-5 HOV Lanes
Team Blakespear’s Matt Rubel joined officials from Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments in Oceanside to commemorate the completion of four new miles of Carpool/High Occupancy Vehichle (HOV) lanes built on Interstate 5 (I-5) between Palomar Airport Road in the City of Carlsbad and State Route 78 (SR 78) in the City of Oceanside.
The southbound lanes opened to motorists on June 14, and the northbound lanes are due to open on June 26. These new lanes connect to the existing nine miles of Carpool/HOV lanes on I-5 between Lomas Santa Fe Drive to Palomar Airport Road, completing the 13 miles of Carpool/HOV Lanes planned as part of Build NCC.
This is great news that should ease traffic congestion and encourage carpooling!
Celebrating the U.S. Army and Flag Day
Team Blakespear’s Kim Carr joined (left to right, first photo) Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley and state Sen. Josh Newman at an Orange County celebration of Flag Day and the 128th anniversary of the U.S. Army’s founding.
What a great reminder of the foundational elements of our nation that bring us all together.
Do you think there should be a law about something? If so, click on the button below and follow the directions to provide your suggestion. I want to hear your ideas!
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