Housing is a Human Right
Housing across California has become prohibitively expensive. Nowhere is this more true than in our urban cores, specifically Los Angeles and San Francisco. But even with their notoriously high rents in San Francisco, no city in the entire country is less affordable for the people who work in it than Los Angeles. Even affording to pay “median bottom-tier rents,” according to Zillow, costs working class Angelenos an incredible 121.2 percent of their income. That is a crushing cost for everyday Angelenos.
In AD53 the problem is even more acute — a full 60% of the district has to make ends meet on an income below the level that qualifies for affordable housing assistance from the city, and up to 40% could qualify for federal housing aid through Section 8, but the wait list to get into that housing is more than 4 years. Los Angeles is ground zero for the housing crisis in California, and AD53 is one of the areas hardest hit.
Chris supports the idea of changing the rules around the construction of affordable housing to look at what the poorest among us are making, and working up from there. It’s absurd that “affordable housing” that receives tax benefits and zoning bonuses for developers is still priced well above what working class families and individuals in the neighborhood can possibly afford to spend.
California has allowed our housing stock to stagnate, leaving us with between 3 and 4 million fewer homes than we need to house all of our residents. This shortage has driven prices ever higher, which in turn pushes up rents, and pushes our rent-burdened neighbors into homelessness at a horrifying rate.
Chris understands that in order to build the nearly 600,000 affordable housing units that our city so desperately needs, a new approach is needed in Sacramento. All options must be on the table for increasing this supply:
- Repealing the deeply racist and exclusionary Article 34 of the California Constitution
- Enacting strong renter protections, including repealing Costa-Hawkins, and either repealing the Ellis Act outright or reforming it radically to give tenants a Right of First Refusal to buy out their building and form a co-op or community land trust when their landlord decides to sell the building
- Reforming property tax law in California, specifically tackling the impacts of Prop 13 (passed in 1978) and Prop 6 (passed in 1960) that have resulted in huge tax breaks for corporations and golf courses — it’s time for the public to stop subsidizing the property taxes for fantastically profitable companies like Disney and Chevron, and to stop massively subsidizing country clubs for the mega-wealthy
- Creating a state-level rental assistance program to pick up where the federal Section 8 program falls short
- Establishing a California Public Housing Trust Fund that emulates the success of Red Vienna and builds on the work of the People’s Policy Project
Chris is not taking any money from luxury real estate developers. He can be trusted to fight for fair, inclusive housing policies that protect everyone in California.
Healthcare is a human right.
Nowhere else in the developed world does anyone pay so much for such poor results. Every day our neighbors suffer and die from curable and preventable illness simply because they cannot afford the exorbitant costs of treatment. We need a single-payer system, and we need it now.
“Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” – James Baldwin
Healthcare should not be contingent on your income. Healthcare should not be contingent on your job. Healthcare should not be contingent on the whims of an insurance adjuster. Healthcare is a human right.
Healthcare must be free at the point of care. And healthcare must be universal.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, granted access to health insurance to millions of Americans. But the legislation was written by the medical insurance industry to protect themselves, not to help us.
Leaving health insurance in the domain of the “free market” is a deeply flawed solution. As long as the profit motive remains in healthcare, insurers will be motivated to skimp on care, deny coverage and drive up premiums and deductibles — hurting their patients at every stage. We must value people over profit. Always.
“…the uninsured rate in California dropped by nearly half, from 16% in 2013 to an all-time low of 9% in 2016. However, 2.9 million Californians remained uninsured.” – California Healthcare Foundation, 2018
The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage to millions of people, but it has done nothing to bring down prices. Year after year the state of California allows premiums to increase by double digits. In 2018 the average increase across the state was 12.5%, in 2019 it is estimated to be 9.7%.
Now, people are paying an average of $500 a month or $6,000 a year, just for coverage. Families are paying more than $1,000 a month. That doesn’t include deductibles or the cost of care. 10% of income is going into the pockets of health insurance bureaucracies.
“Over the past five years, the average annual deductible among all covered workers has increased 53%.” – Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018
High deductibles, co-pays, and the cost of treatment are also climbing, nearly doubling costs for anyone who has insurance.
This is impacting lives. If families are spending nearly $20,000 a year in premiums and deductibles, then they have no money left over to save for retirement or emergency expenses. Average workers are left with a dire choice: health or savings.
Many people are choosing to go without coverage altogether, leaving them with few options if they get sick. Instead of preventative care overseen by their primary doctor, they are forced to seek help in emergency rooms where bills easily reach thousands of dollars for one visit. Long term health suffers because people wait until they are in crisis. These costs continue to add up for patients and the state.
Meanwhile health insurance CEO’s are paid millions of dollars a year to oversee a system that is bankrupting families. And those profits are then used to protect their monopoly on our health by funding politicians to block a fair system. As long as our healthcare is privatized patients will suffer physically and financially.
“Four in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money… Over one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.” – US Federal Reserve, 2018
Many life saving drugs are also kept out of reach of patients, pharmaceutical companies hide behind patents to protect profits and insurance companies deny life saving medications because of the price.
The cost of insulin, a critical part of managing diabetes, nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016. There is absolutely no reason that any drug that has been in use since 1921 should ever double in cost, let alone doubling in just four years.
Image from the Health Care Cost Institute, 2019
We can choose to continue to tinker and tweak the system as it stands now, hoping for a future that is slightly better. Or we can choose the solution that has worked over and over in countries across the world: provide single-payer, universal healthcare for everyone.
With a single-payer system:
- We save an incredible amount of money
- Life-saving medication won’t be out of reach for those who need it
- Workers aren’t tied to jobs they don’t like by insurance they cannot afford to lose
- Families don’t go bankrupt because of serious illness — right now 42% of cancer patients exhaust their life savings within 2 years
- Small employers don’t have to worry about picking an insurance plan for their employees, or renegotiating those terms every couple of years
In truth, our country needs a federal Medicare For All plan like what Bernie has been championing for years. But we cannot afford to wait for Congress to solve this for us. California is the world’s fifth most powerful economy — we can afford to make the Healthy California Act a reality. We can show the rest of the country that a healthy future is possible.
Better and more preventative treatment reduces the risk of minor injuries turning into catastrophic woes. It’s time we joined the rest of the world in treating health as a public good, not a commodity to be traded for profit.
The costs of healthcare has a direct impact on issues like housing as Californians are squeezed by increasing costs on all sides.
For vulnerable urban communities, displaced wildfire survivors, and many other residents of California, climate change isn’t something that we can put off worrying about for a few years — it is their reality, today. These are just some of the most visible of our front line communities. Changing how we approach housing construction, urban infrastructure, and utility management are going to all be key to addressing climate change here in California, and ensuring a just transition toward environmental justice.
“The latest research projects the Los Angeles region to be 3°F to 4°F warmer by mid-century, creating more frequent and intense heat waves that pose particular risk to Los Angeles’s most vulnerable communities.”
– Union of Concerned Scientists, Preparing for Climate Change Impacts in Los Angeles
In the summer of 2018 we had some of the most intense heat that Los Angeles has ever experienced. And extreme heat kills more people annually across our country than hurricanes, lightning, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, combined.
Last year’s heat wave wasn’t an aberration — it’s the new normal:
“The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and the four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014.”
– Rebecca Lindsey and LuAnn Dahlman, Climate Change: Global Temperature
And it is our most vulnerable communities that bear the brunt of these impacts.
In 2017, California was the 4th largest producer of crude oil in the United States. We must take immediate steps to end this damaging extractive process, across the state. Not only does this industry contribute to global climate change, it has immediate impacts on local communities who have had to live with pumping stations in their backyard for decades.
AD53 is home to multiple oil and gas drill sites, including 28 active wells located at 1328 S Hill St, just 2 blocks from the Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center. The ongoing impact of the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak demonstrates how the petroleum industry continues to threaten the health and safety of our community.
California is the largest economy in the United States — larger than all but 4 nations. Our state has been at the vanguard of environmental protection and technological innovation for decades. Our vehicle emission standards set the bar for cars sold all across this country. We must continue to lead the country in combating the effects of climate change.
We do not need to wait for the advent of some new technology to save us. We can, and must, act now to use existing technologies to shift us away from an unsustainable future on an uninhabitable planet. To this end, we must immediately work to:
- Ban all fossil fuel extraction in California, starting with the immediate shutdown and safe decontamination of all urban oil and gas wells across the state.
- Shut down all fossil fuel power production in CA, end the importing of dirty power from across state lines, and get to 100% green energy in our power system in CA with no offsets used to juice the numbers by 2030.
- Municipalize PG&E and other investor-owned utilities in California that have consistently failed to value public safety over investor profits.
- Implement distributed smart grids across the state to make our entire energy system more efficient. This will both reduce the demand on our power generation facilities and enable our public utilities to more quickly adapt to changing weather conditions and prevent devastating wildfires.
- Ban single-use plastics (outside of medical uses, including disabilities and special needs) specifically in food, beverage, and consumer product packaging. Plastics come from petroleum, take hundreds of years to decompose, and are leading to massive environmental contamination with unknown health impacts to humans and other species across the entire planet. We already have alternatives materials that are sustainable, fully recyclable or biodegradable that can readily replace plastics virtually everywhere.
- Get our residents out of their cars as much as possible, and fully electrify our transportation infrastructure in the process.
- We already have plans to fully electrify our public bus fleets in CA by 2040, but we need it to happen faster than that.
- And we need more trains as well as more dedicated/protected bus and bike lanes.
- We need to repair and expand our sidewalks to make them friendlier places for pedestrians to walk.
- Expand urban and suburban tree canopies across the state, and address shade equity concerns in our towns and cities, improving our local air quality and helping reduce our need for air conditioning during the summer months (which drives serious demand on our electrical grid).
- Expand urban and suburban green spaces and public parks across the state. This includes developing legislation that would push cities and counties across the state to convert municipal golf courses into public parks, which are demonstrably better uses of these publicly owned spaces.
We cannot continue to conduct business as usual. Addressing the needs of every Californian as we move forward is key to providing true environmental justice, and absolutely fundamental in not simply surviving but thriving as we wrestle with a changing climate.
A fully-funded California public school system is an invaluable investment in our future. And that system should support Californians of all ages and walks of life.
Universal Child Care
Childcare in California is expensive. Everyday demands on working families already stretch budgets to their breaking point before child care is even factored in. Single parents and couples alike deserve 36 weeks of paid parental leave — and when they’re ready to go back to work, they deserve to know that their children are safe and sound. A free child care system will create good jobs that help foster healthy children.
Universal Pre-K / Support for Public Schools
Study after study has shown that pre-kindergarten education sets children up for long term academic success. Every child deserves access to free, high-quality, year-round educational programs from the age of three onward.
K-12 Education Reform
The issues facing our K-12 public education system in California are varied, and dire. But there are simple solutions that we can implement to dramatically improve the quality of education we provide to our future generations that will ensure a strong, vibrant future for California.
School districts up and down the state are suffering from chronic under-funding and this absolutely must addressed from the outset. Every student deserves access to clean, well-lit, comfortable classrooms full of all of the supplies and individual attention they need to help them succeed.
- Books and other materials, when there are even enough for each student to use, are woefully out of date, falling apart, or otherwise lacking
- Class sizes are too large
- Students are subject to locker searches — we need counselors in schools, not police
- Teachers are underpaid
- Classrooms and school buildings are in disrepair
- Heating and air conditioning don’t always work properly, making learning difficult for distracted and uncomfortable students and teachers alike
California ranks 41st in the country in per-pupil spending, and it shows. Let’s change that.
Outdated rules mean that teachers are sometimes on the hook to pay for their own substitute while battling illness. And our teachers have to fight hard during every contract renegotiation to keep their health insurance from being cut. Universal healthcare would unburden teachers so they can focus on their students.
Every campus needs full-time nurses and mental health counselors. Right now, many schools only have a nurse on campus a couple days a week and each counselor serves thousands of students. This puts students at risk by overburdening dedicated staff. It is common sense that we provide everything that students need to achieve at every school across the state.
Teachers across the nation are handcuffed by standardized testing requirements, we call this problem over-analysis. Teachers report that much of their between-class time is spent filling out paperwork instead of focusing on homework or meeting individual student needs. While this demand for constant reporting doubtless comes from a place of good intentions, constant progress checking ignores the full scope of education, and demoralizes both teachers and students.
Charter School Reform
Our state’s charter schools are currently regulated by a confusing mess of bureaucracies, which can result in some truly horrifying conditions for students. If a school loses accreditation with one office, they can simply shop around at other offices for a new license, without improving or fixing the problems that caused them to lose their accreditation in the first place! And the regulating agencies can be so overworked that some schools are being accredited by default without their application ever having been reviewed. By unifying charter school regulation we will stop this educational malpractice — charter schools need to be run for the benefit of the students, not for the profit of those who manage the school.
We were proud to stand alongside UTLA on the picket line as they went on strike to fight for their students earlier this year. California has been depriving students and teachers–neglecting our school buildings, and denying funding for basic supplies and support staff for teachers–all to pay charters. A robust teachers’ union, like UTLA, is critical to the success of our students and our public schools. And we will support them in the classroom, in the Assembly, and on the picket lines.
Special needs students are often considered last in budgets. Without the funding for individual attention, minor issues can become major roadblocks. Additionally, “disability” is used as an overbroad category. An autistic, blind, or developmentally-delayed student each require different learning styles and support, but too often they are dumped side by side in the classroom and denied all but the most basic assistance. We will work hand in hand with our teachers to create a system that leaves no student behind and ensures access to specialized education for everyone who needs it.
Debt Free Higher Education / Trade School for All
Access to high quality public education cannot end when you turn eighteen. Every public university, college, and any other post-secondary educational program in the state of California should be debt-free for all residents. Recent changes to state law that provide for a year or two of tuition-free community college is a good place to start, but it’s only a half-measure, at best. Debt-free college is not an unreasonable demand for all public post-secondary institutions in California — it was the norm before 1978’s Proposition 13 gutted school funding at every level in the state, but this is especially true for higher education.
To simplify the math let’s just use income before taxes:
- It took 300 hours of working at the 1975 federal minimum wage of $2.10/hr to afford University of California tuition and fees per year.
- It now takes 1263 hours at $11/hr to pay for one year of 2018-2019 tuition and fees — before taxes — that’s nearly 32 weeks of full-time work without spending any of the earnings on any trivialities like food, rent, or literally anything else.
The reality of our current level of public education funding is that we are failing our students across the board. What’s more, we’re saddling our college students with crippling debts to earn the same degrees that previous generations could afford with minimal, if any, student loans.
“…debt-free college does not preclude a modest amount of work or family savings in order to meet the cost of attendance; it simply sends a message to students that costs will never exceed what could be reasonably earned from a summer or part-time job.”
– Mark Huelsman, demos.org
This commitment must extend to everyone in California, regardless of immigration status. Governor Newsom has increased funding for DACA students, but his plan falls far short of fulfilling the actual need. Students who grew up in California without legal status or in mixed status households deserve the same access to higher education as every other Californian.
Labor Justice in Education
We must expand access to higher education, but it can’t come on the backs of underpaid, contract faculty. 73% of all courses at colleges and universities are taught by contingent faculty — instructors who are not tenure-track and who are often hired as “just in time” solutions at these schools. We must expand labor protections for adjuncts, call for existing laws to be enforced, and close the loopholes that allow such exploitation.
The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that graduate student workers, like teaching assistants and researchers, do not have the right to unionize. This is a dangerous way of undervaluing their achievements and efforts. A working higher education system must include protections for every employee and faculty member.
Continuing & Adult Education
As people flee environmental destruction in their home countries, they come to California. For too long, ESL education has been ignored and underfunded, sending a signal to thousands that they don’t count and shouldn’t trust the system. Conversely, integrating these students, whether young or adult, creates a stronger, more diverse and inclusive society.
An educated workforce is not a luxury. It is essential for California’s future. Debt-free college is an investment in keeping jobs in state, creating upward mobility, and encouraging everyone to engage in a lifetime of learning. No matter what your age is, exploring a new hobby, learning a new language, or changing career paths should all be easy, accessible, and affordable.