California State Assembly District 15 Candidate Forum

Get ready to vote! On October 12th, UC Berkeley SWE members heard from Buffy Wicks and Jovanka Beckles, two of the candidates running to represent California State Assembly District 15. Please see below for an overview of the forum, and to hear both candidates’ thoughts on various policies related to the UC Berkeley and SWE community.

UC Berkeley SWE would also like to thank Dr. Fatima Alleyne and Uche Uwahemu for helping us coordinate this event.

Candidate Profiles

Buffy Wicks has worked in progressive politics for over 20 years. She was an organizer in the anti-war movement, and fought for better wages and healthcare for Walmart workers. Wicks hopes to ensure equitable social safety that will allow mobility for all. She is endorsed by President Obama, Kamala Harris, and Gavin Newson.

Jovanka Beckles is a 2-term Richmond Council member. She has been in commission for 8 years, and previously worked in Richmond for 18 years as a mental health specialist. As a Richmond City Council Member, Beckles creates policies to improve the quality of life for local families.


What is your stance on equal opportunity for women in the workforce?

BW: We need to take into account that we have major challenges around racial inequities, not just gender inequity. Latina women make 43 cents to every white man’s dollar. There are real challenges to address head on. We need to fight for legislation that tackles pay gap head on. There needs to be more transparency around data related to the pay gap. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women (mostly of color). From my experience with Walmart, I know that there are lots of issues related to anti-union, predictive scheduling, etc. Emeryville has started predictive scheduling; it seems small, but it’s an important piece of the equation. We need to invest in higher education and education across the board — funding is critical. We used to have the best public education system [in the United States], now we’re 47/50 for state of living for children. We need to support early childhood education and caregiving. We must support families as well — women leave the workforce to raise children, and when they go back there is a clear pay inequity. The majority of small business owners are women (of color). We need to make sure they have access to capital & resources. We have to look at this intersectionally, and consider challenges around race.

JB: Right now we have a country that’s really minimizing the skillset of women, the power of women. As a woman of color — we come in all shapes, sizes, age, race — one group of women can have it easier. We’re often paid less, passed over for promotions. As a woman of color in assembly, you can count on me to be an advocate for equal opportunity, and strong policy to create the opportunities we deserve. [I will] advocate for creating equity when it comes to the kind of opportunities we have/don’t have. We should be getting same the pay as men. When it comes to equality and equities, women of color tend to get paid less than white women… We need a strong advocate in Sacramento.

Do you plan to advocate for STEM research and education funding?

JB: Absolutely. We bring so many different skillsets to STEM as women. Political will also comes in — the will to be able to provide and create a budget for STEM, for research, for pay, for training. Currently, the expansion of a capacity to train needs improvement. We need to be able to fund. We need to have thepolitical will to budget training and more grants for women in STEM.

BW: In terms of funding for education/STEM, CA is going to have roughly one million new STEM jobs available. It comes back to education funding — that is our economic future. Kids are graduating $100,000 in debt. We need a larger increase in funding for education. K-12 education is protected under prop 98, which protects part of the budget for lower education; it’s not there for higher education. We have to figure out a more stable funding mechanism for higher education. I’m a big believer in community college — it provided me big opportunities. Everyone who wants a 4-year degree should be able to have one. I support the cost of housing and all things associated with it. I support strong vocational programs in building trades/ renewable energy, etc. in community college. I absolutely will fight for more funding in STEM research/education. You don’t believe you can be something if you can’t see it. There needs to be holistic approach.

How will your platforms affect students, particularly students at public schools? What are some policies we should look out for?

BW: There’s a lot around education. More broadly for students, how many of you want to own a home? How many think it is attainable? Even if you come out of college with a good job, it’s very difficult. For 30–38 year olds, the chance of home ownership is 33%. For millennials, it’s 11% — because costs are so expensive. We need to build more homes so you can stay here. You are our future, we should do everything we can to keep you in these communities. People are working 10, 12 different kinds of jobs. The world is evolving but policies have not evolved with it. We need to create things like single-parent healthcare, create equitable social safety nets — not just focus on education, but also a holistic approach on what your life is going to look like after you graduate.

JB: I’m endorsed by all three progressive student organizations on campus and many faculty unions. I have lots of support, and that support is based on seeing my track record. It’s based on my voting record in city council. These organizations see that I can be trusted to always stand up for you all, your parents, [and] the planet. My campaign is corporate-free. For every policy decision I will make, I always to put the needs of people over corporations. The current system is not working for any of us. I am just one person with a movement behind me.

My platform is committed to ensuring that going forward we will have tuition-free higher education, tuition-free preschool, free pre-Kindergarten. I also talk about how you have a place to live — so many students live in cars [or] are homeless. It’s unconscionable. We have to build more affordable housing. I encourage you to vote yes on prop 10 this November. People working 40 hours a week are still homeless. Costa-Hawkins is one of the reasons why I decided to run. It prohibits us as a city from covering units built after 1995. We have a lot of projects going up and the majority are not affordable housing. We can build hundreds of thousands of affordable housing in CA. We are the fifth largest economy, we have the resources. We should also deal with the root causes of homelessness. Even if you get to a point where you can buy a home, none of that matters if there is no planet to live on. I am a strong environmental advocate. I have been endorsed by every environmental organization in CA. They have seen me not waver when it comes to the health of my community in Richmond, and by extension, the health of this district. AB2979 was tabled — it’s the state seal of career technical education pathway completion. AB1743 died in committee [It is the CA technical education incentive program, which budgets roughly 500 million annually for careers and technical education]. This is what happens when you put corporations over individuals.

What is your call to action for us as students?

JB: Get involved. Stay involved. You are here because you understand the need — especially in 2018 — to be aware and awake, and understand the issues at hand. 2018 is going to be an important election because there is so much at stake. Get involved if you find we have shared values. Walk precincts, make phone calls, share important issues on social media… We are in a climate crisis, homeless crisis, healthcare crisis, tuition crisis; we are in crisis as a state. Your involvement is going to make a difference. I encourage you to always follow the money regardless of what race you’re watching. Follow it in every election all the way from governor to school board. Where a candidate gets funding is important. If the majority [of funding] is from outside of the district ask why. If privatized donors — why? That’s why I am corporate-free, I put the needs of people over the needs of a corporation. That’s what determines if someone will be working for you or the interests of campaign. This district is the most progressive and diverse in the entire state. We deserve a representative who is equally diverse. We deserve a rep with roots who follows a bottom-to-top approach to leadership. It’s important to elect people who do work for us, by us. Thank you for coming and being involved. I’m endorsed by Barbara Lee, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, three student organizations on campus, the Sierra Club, eight environmental organizations. That’s the reward for what I’ve been doing here for the last ten years.

BW: When you look at where we’re at right now as a country, and you see this sham of a Supreme Court justice. The message that that sent… Here in CA our third grade math and reading scores are 33rd in nation. There has been a 22% increase in homelessness in the last two years in Alameda County. This is where people come to have dreams and innovate. We’re two million homes shy of where we need to be. We’re in a critical moment. The younger generation — you’re the ones who are going to be able to fix it. Your active participation everyday in our democracy is warranted. 10, 20, 30 years from now we’re gonna look back at this moment and ask ourselves — what did you do to help? Get involved in any campaign at the local/state/federal/issue advocacy level. We have 25 days left for this election cycle. We can take back the congress, and make strong progress in this state. I believe I’m the progressive champion for this district… We can push the needle on fixing these problem. People worry if our political discourse is broken. I’m a true believer that the only way we make change in this country is from the bottom up. I do a lot of work on gun violence prevention. I worked on ACA for President Obama. I’ve been endorsed by 22 labor unions. I want to go to Sacramento and work there — with them, alongside them — to create equity, a social safety net, and a ladder up.

One of the key issues for students is the housing crisis in the Bay Area. We can’t afford to live in area where we have to pay $1,400 for a room or convert living rooms into quads/etc. What are some tangible goals you have to address this?

JB: The reason why we’re in this crisis is because of greed. If you look at the bottom of commercials it’ll say something nice but the most important part to look at is the “major funding by” piece. It’ll say something like “CA Landlord Association.” We’re in this mess because of greed. By voting for prop 10, we can put a stop to what is happening with rising rents. We also have to build more affordable housing. In the city, only 324 units were affordable. How do you do that? I believe we can have a housing for all program that build hundreds of thousands of new units. Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond have a new ballot measure to tax speculators, vacant property — that’s part of the problem. You have to address problems in way that creates more affordable units for us. It can be sustainable because it would be publicly funded and operated. That’s what we do, that’s how we tackle this mess. We need people beholden to us, not to developers and landlords. In Richmond, we now have in the works another project that is 100% affordable for all. The next three housing projects are all low-income to affordable to market rate. Those are the projects I’ve supported.

BW: I think the root cause of the housing crisis is that we haven’t built enough homes to keep up with the people who are here. There is a huge influx of high paying jobs; lots of communities haven’t done their fair share. In the peninsula, Apple built a five million dollar spaceship headquarters, and were required by local law to have 11,000 parking spots. How many housing spots [were they required to have]? None. They move into the rest of south bay, east bay, and commute to work, taking spots from locals. We need to build low-income/middle-income market-rate housing. We need to support transit-oriented housing. We have invested significant public resources into BART; we need to invest more. We need another trans-bay tunnel. We can’t have a housing conversation without a transport conversation. I will work with local leaders (endorsed by 8/10 mayors) to build solutions that work for our communities. I support reforms around Costa-Hawkins. The first bill I would introduce is anti-gouging. We passed this in North Bay fires to protect folks who lost their homes, and can take the same policy and do it statewide. I support increasing renter tax credit — right now it’s $60 a year. Homeowners get a huge tax incentive, renters don’t. I support a legal fund for renters facing eviction. We need to protect renters. There’s not one policy solution that’s going to solve all this. We have to work with a diverse coalition of people to achieve this.



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