This is my first blog posting for voiceofsandiego.org readers- thanks for the opportunity!
I’m approaching the completion of my first term as an elected official, and the one thing that stands out to me is the amount of learning (sometimes closer to “information overload”) that takes place every day.
To give readers a sense of this, I will let this first post be “a day in the life of a California Assemblymember,” to offer readers a sense of what is sometimes required in this line of work. (A local writer had asked to shadow me at my new job when I was first elected in 2004. The logistics made that difficult, so perhaps this will suffice.)
(FYI – if this topic is not of interest, please come back for my next postings. I will respond to your comments, discuss legislation, upcoming ballot measures, and address the state’s potential involvement with one of the biggest development projects facing downtown San Diego: the Broadway Complex.)
Some people think an elected official’s life is glamorous, but consider spending 24 hours this way:
8 a.m.: head to the airport to fly to Sacramento
10:25 a.m.: Arrive in Sacramento where I am picked up by staff and handed a folder of items to look over, respond to, decide upon and discuss within the time it takes to drive to the Capitol office.
11 a.m.: Since I was just appointed Chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, my first order of business on Wednesday will be to meet with my capitol legislative staff and the Housing Committee staff to consider upcoming work issues.
11:25 a.m.: Leave the Capitol building to a meeting across the street
11:30 a.m.: Attend an endorsement interview with a professional organization
12:25 p.m.: Walk back over to the Capitol building
12:30 p.m.: Catch a quick lunch and meet with Capitol Staff between bites
1:00 p.m. : Walk down to one of the Committee Rooms in the Capitol and attend the Economic Development Commission meeting
1:45 p.m.: Leave the Capitol again – this time by car – to an “off-site” meeting. (This is what we call meetings that cannot take place on state grounds due to the nature n campaign vs. office holder)
2:00 p.m.: Arrive at my “off-site” meeting and talk with Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez to discuss my campaign plans
2:30 p.m.: Drive back to the Capitol office and, since I have so much time on my hands, look for new office space within the Capitol. Our current space does not allow for interns. (The recruitment of interns to support paid staff is essential to our overall success. We recruit students from universities in San Diego and Sacramento who are looking for practical experience in government, public policy making, etc. We try to give them assignments that match their studies, and they may eventually be hired to work in our office.)
3:00 p.m.: Catch up with Capitol staff on anything I may have missed during my previous five minutes in the office earlier in the day. Go through my desk, notes, letters, etc. Today, I sent out personal notes of thanks to returning Legislators who, like me, have been given new committee assignments.
3:30 p.m.: Head back to the airport for a 4:30 flight to San Diego
4:00 p.m.: While waiting to board the plane, this is the time I return phone calls and read e-mail
4:30 p.m.: Fly to San Diego. This is the time I read those items which were handed to me when I first arrived in Sacramento
6:00 p.m.: Arrive in San Diego, meet staff at the curb and go immediately to a meeting with a local labor union
6:45 p.m.: Have a staff briefing while driving to my next meeting
7:00 p.m.: Address a class at SDSU to discuss the legislature and recruit volunteers for the campaign
8:15 p.m: Leave SDSU and head over to my final event of the evening
8:30 p.m.: Arrive at the reception in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month
9:00 p.m. (or somewhere close to that): Drive back to the airport to recover my car. If all goes well I will arrive back home, likely more than 12 hours after I departed. I’ll do a little reading, check email- and probably collapse around midnight.
Except for the flight, this agenda represents a fairly typical day during campaign season. I often work into the evening to cover both my officeholder responsibilities and, since I run for election every two years, the demands of campaigning. During August, I was on a plane traveling between San Diego and Sacramento Monday/Tue/Wed/Thu for a few weeks. (Our session ended August 31).
Sometimes these flights are my only a chance to catch up on reading. Flights are the one time the cell phone isn’t ringing and email isn’t available.
What do I want to accomplish as a result of all this activity?
- Stay in touch with my staff and colleagues in Sacramento as it is important for the smooth operation of my two offices. We need to work as a team, and we serve my constituents best when we coordinate our efforts between the San Diego and Sacramento locations.
- Gain insight into the state’s finances- present and future by attending the Economic Development Commission meeting. This month our speakers include an economics professor from Sacramento State, and the director of an international trade center.
- By sitting down with the California Credit Union Association’s staff I can become educated about the work they are doing for communities that are underserved in the financial services arena, and how federal regulations impact their operations.
- By attending the labor meeting, I can learn more about the struggle with working conditions at a local hospital, and I would like to help improve their situation. Later this month I will meet with an administrator from the hospital, and will be better able to respond to both sides of the debate after these conversations.
- At SDSU, I will be able to listen to students and encourage them to be part of the political process. Democracy requires every citizen’s active and informed participation, and I want college students to understand how best to plan and organize to have a voice in the decisions that impact their lives, from increases in tuition and college fees, to efforts to reduce global warming, to the price of housing and the outsourcing of the jobs that they may be preparing to perform.
- The final event – an evening reception – is a chance to meet socially with people that don’t necessarily have a political agenda, but might have questions about the bills sitting on the Governor’s desk, the upcoming ballot measures, or simply wonder what the state Assembly does.
And what do I learn as a result of all these interactions? Mostly, what an incredibly diverse state we live in, and what an impossible job legislators have to accomplish within our short term limits (six years maximum in the Assembly). I try to do my best to represent the people I serve- but it can be daunting.
Am I doing a good job? I’ll hear from many of my employers on Nov. 7 – it’s not only Election Day, when voters submit their official “job performance reviews” – it’s also my birthday.
Please check back to hear how these meetings went on Wednesday, and other topics.
Editor’s Note: The incorrect version of this post was published earlier.