Some people who manage to make headlines get there based on what they say – they’re conveying important, revelatory information; others get there based on how they say it – they know how to harness words in a way that gets them noticed. Substance and style can both work, is what I’m getting at.

Perhaps no one combined the two as powerfully this year as Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

Voice of the Year

Much of Weber’s legislative efforts this session focused on two of the most influential interest groups in California: teachers and cops.

One of Weber’s bills will create a sea change among law enforcement agencies across the state, requiring them to collect racial data on who they stop, and to make the results public. Another bill, which would have standardized policies for agencies that used body cameras, fell short, but not before generating a lot of discussion about transparency, privacy and where one starts to hinder the other. Weber also injected herself into the local debate about Section 182.5 prosecutions, and voiced her concerns directly to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Weber, a former educator and San Diego Unified board member, also introduced a bill that would have made mild changes to teacher tenure. That, too, got shot down. But it forced a serious discussion of the issue at the highest level – even among her fellow Democrats.

Then there’s her style.

Weber manages to be both blunt and elegant in policy discussions. She just might’ve generated enough memorable moments this year to sustain her own Best Quotes of 2015 list. A sampling:

“You’re going to rape me, rape my bill, and take it as your own?” – Weber to a fellow Assembly member who wanted to combine pieces of the teacher evaluation bill with his own measure.

“You and I have juice. You are the speaker of the Assembly. I’m the chair of the state budget committee. We got juice. How do we use this juice? How do we try to intervene on behalf of our communities to make a difference?” – Weber to VOSD’s Liam Dillon, describing conversations with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins about addressing issues in the national spotlight.

And finally, this quote – also about the teacher tenure bill – is almost absurd in how perfectly it illustrates why Weber is on this list:

“I ask you not to park my bill but to keep it in the conversation … I know that’s controversial, but I think at some point our children deserve, deserve those of us to stand up for them and to fight to make sure this happens.”

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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