I enjoyed reading yesterday’s blog by Serge Dedina, with photos and his account of a disappearing beach lifestyle and quirky characters. The changes Serge is documenting in his hometown of Imperial Beach are important for our region to recognize. IB represents an important and disappearing element of the “California mystique” that has attracted people to our state for generations, and inspired the HBO production he described.
I was surprised that no one commented on what Serge posted. In contrast, I received several comments re: my “day in the life” post. But given the interest in politics – especially during an election year – I guess that’s to be expected.
The calendar info was offered in response to questions I’ve received re: how I spend my time. Yesterday was especially busy due to the travel up north. Most days, there are multiple demands on my time, but I get to stay in one city.
One post asked: “how do I assure myself that staff is accurately communicating my needs, and that you, not they, are making decisions?”
My office staff in Sacramento and San Diego meet with people when I’m not available, contact state agencies to answer constituents questions, and keep me informed when someone needs to meet with me personally. All letters from my office are reviewed and signed by me personally before they go out. Sometimes I will make changes to a letter, or call a person rather than respond in writing. Other times I ask for a meeting to be set up to discuss their questions.
The employees in the offices of elected officials typically work long hours and weekends, and the salaries of all state employees are public knowledge – most don’t earn as much as they could in private business. I’m fortunate to have smart people working in my office, providing excellent constituent services, and I rely on them for information, and also to investigate issues that could lead to new laws.
As for my votes – my staff advises me of comments received from constituents, and forwards emails and letters that arrive at the office. I take these into account when voting in Sacramento.
I can understand concerns about how our tax dollars are used. Before I was elected I was a community college teacher, and managed state and federal grants to develop information technology programs. When those funds began to disappear as the economy slowed, I decided to give up my teaching position and enter politics to work to get those dollars back.
A big motivation for me was, frankly, fear. I feared today’s students – the children of “ordinary citizens with ordinary jobs and ordinary schedules” as one post described – were being denied the affordable and good quality educational opportunities many of us had while growing up in California. I feared that despite spending billions on education in our state, the next generation would not be ready to take on the challenges that we face as the world’s 6th largest economy, and home to nearly 37 million people.
The only way California will continue to succeed is by supporting smart, healthy, educated and committed people, ready to work in the most diverse state in the most diverse nation in the world. We can claim many Nobel Prize winners in our universities – but few college programs really prepare people for life as an elected official.
I welcome your thoughts on how to improve that. Politics matter in people’s lives, so how can we best prepares someone for this line of work? The schedule I posted yesterday shows how demanding and diverse the role of an elected official can be. What provides the best “vocational training” for this job?