Opinion: Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks reflects on her first term and looks to challenges ahead

She helped triple funding for gun violence prevention and pushed to help create housing for the ‘missing middle.’ Electing a new leader and pushing back against the Trump administration are priorities for 2020.

A year ago, I was on the floor of the State Assembly, getting sworn in as the new member representing Assembly District 15 (AD-15). My then two-year-old daughter was on my hip as I raised my right hand, my thoughts racing between the oath I was about to take and hopes my toddler wouldn’t start screaming.

I was just coming off the spirited AD-15 race — the countless candidate forums spanning the district, the 239 house parties where I spent nearly every night in a different living room. But it was in those living rooms that I truly learned what AD-15 residents want in their representatives: someone who is going to push for a progressive agenda, is honest with them about the tough choices we have to make and will focus like a laser at getting stuff done in Sacramento.

I’ve made a big down payment on this promise during my first year in office, and I want to take the opportunity to report on our progress. Governor Newsom signed eight of my bills into law this year that represent our district and its values — here, I’ll highlight a few of them:

First, we tripled funding for gun violence prevention programs to $30 million, resources proven to work and decrease gun violence in communities like Oakland and Richmond. The central grant program, the California Violence Intervention and Prevention program (CalVIP), helps fund highly effective programs like YouthAlive, Operation Ceasefire, Advance Peace Initiative, and the National Institute for Criminal Justice. These programs are the reason we’ve seen such a sharp decrease over the last decade in shootings causing death or injury — a 66% reduction in Richmond since 2010, and a 52% reduction in Oakland since 2012. I also ran an accompanying bill that codifies CalVIP into statute, thereby making these models more of a priority. With three times the available funding, you can imagine how much more of an impact these programs will have.

Secondly, we are continuing to tackle the housing crisis by accelerating the production of homes for families who make too much for subsidized housing but still can’t afford market-rate homes. My “Missing Middle” housing law will create more homes for working-class families by streamlining the approval process for moderate-income housing. I also jointly authored AB 1482, which will stop California’s most egregious rent-gouging practices that lead to homelessness. Laws like these will ease some of the burdens on renters and working-class families — and ultimately, the overall housing market.

Finally, amid the worst wildfire season California has ever seen, we elevated our district’s commitment to the environment and its people. My dad fought wildfires for 35 years, and I’ve known since I was my daughter’s age how important it is to protect our most vulnerable populations from the health impacts of these fires. It’s why I passed a law to establish Clean Air Centers, and provide grants to update the ventilation systems in designated community spaces. People’s access to clean air is their most fundamental right, the most basic thing to sustain life and well-being. This law recognizes that wildfire smoke can be devastating for homeless residents, seniors, and people with compromised health, and creates clean-air environments for those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.

These are just a few issues I worked on in the legislature — I also passed bills to expand access to CalFresh food benefits, allow BART to run on cleaner energy, and make our criminal justice system a bit more just. I passed a bill to crack down on abusive practices from companies like Amazon to their small business vendors. And, I voted proudly for the Governor’s state budget, one that will strengthen investments where it matters to our district.

The budget will direct $1.75 billion toward the production and planning of new housing, expand Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented young adults, and make our state’s highest-ever investment in K-12 education. It will provide $500 million for emergency homeless services and more than $1B to wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness.

Issues facing California in 2020

We’re facing some big issues heading into 2020, on both the state and federal level. It’s going to be a pivotal year for action in California. We must push forward on solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis. We have to ensure we are dealing with emergency preparedness and prevention of devastating wildfires. And regarding PG&E – we must reject the false choice that we can either have electricity or be safe from wildfires. We have to do both. 2020 will be a year for solutions — and, a year for accountability.


And, as we head into this critical year for the future of our democracy, our state must continue to lead the country in pushing back on attacks by the Trump administration. Whether they’re rolling back environmental protections, making more people go hungry, or continuing to inflict pain on our immigrant communities — we know this isn’t what we stand for. As Californians, we must do all we can to elect new leadership that represents our values, and push for state-level policies that counter the damage that’s been done.

The listening I did in those living rooms gave me a deeper understanding of what you want in an elected official, and I want to ensure I’m governing the same way. That’s why I want to be very intentional about inviting you to be a part of the process. I recently sent out a questionnaire asking what you care about and thousands of you responded. Please share your ideas, concerns, and priorities with me directly at my office in Oakland or Sacramento, or email me at Assemblymember.Wicks@assembly.ca.gov. Great ideas are born out of this district, and I’m eager for what our conversations might yield. Let’s roll up our sleeves and discuss the work that needs to be done in 2020.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks represents California’s 15th Assembly District.