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Introduction by Managing Editor Shawn Raymundo
Vote-by-mail ballots have begun to hit constituents’ mailboxes this week as California’s Primary Election is less than a month away. In an effort to give our readers more insight into the slate of candidates vying for seats in major local elected offices, we’ve given those running an opportunity to respond to some questions related to issues impacting South Orange County.
Every district-area candidate seeking office in the State Senate and Assembly, Orange County Board and U.S. House of Representatives was given three questions and asked for 400-word responses to each.
Some candidates did not submit responses to our questions. Space for their responses was left blank.
Over the past year, we’ve seen inflation soar as a result of supply-chain disruptions, higher demand on goods and services, as well as impacts to the food and energy markets in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Do you have any plans or ideas on mitigating these effects for Californians, and what do you think about calls to suspend the gas tax to relieve prices at the pump?
Assemblymember Laurie Davies*
We are projected to have tens of billions of dollars in surplus funds this year, most of this coming from your taxes, yet we have families choosing between gas and food. All we’ve gotten from a one-party rule is a proposed rebate that could be several months away. The super-majority has continued to vote to not hear Republicans’ immediate relief bill. Now, not only is there no relief, but the governor and his party missed the deadline to reduce the summer blend gas tax, which needed to be done by May 1 and will now add an additional $550 million in taxes to all Californians. I support an immediate halt to the gas tax for one year and support a decrease in the state gas tax rate.
San Clemente Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan
Californians need relief from high prices and inflation, including high gas prices. With the recent news of California’s $68 billion budget surplus, I would support tax rebates to give money back to average Californians. Californians deserve tax relief and we should also incentivize and make it easier for local businesses to stay in California to keep their jobs here.
To address supply chain issues, we must invest in our infrastructure, including ports, roads, highways and more. And ensure we have a skilled and trained workforce to construct these projects.
With high gas prices, any solution must benefit consumers directly, not line the pockets of big oil companies. That’s why I support the proposal to give $400 to California drivers. That’s more than what the average California family will spend on gas tax for a full year. Meanwhile a gas tax holiday would not guarantee a full reduction in cost for consumers, it would mean the oil companies and gas stations would continue to make more profits at the disadvantage of Californians. However, I’m for an all-of -the-above approach and would also support a plan to both suspend the gas tax and provide rebates if that’s what it takes. We need to provide Californians with financial relief now.
In the wake of the most intense days of the COVID-19 pandemic, what are your thoughts on how the state legislature should influence daily life of Californians going forward, in terms of guidance and mandates—masks, social distancing, vaccines, or otherwise?
If the COVID-19 era taught us anything, it’s that one-size-fits-all policies from the state are not the solution. I support local control across the board. Let’s let local jurisdictions and local people figure out what is best for them. We are seeing the damage to our children in being isolated for a long period of time. We need to weigh physical health with mental health and allow our local school districts, along with parents, to make these important decisions.
First and foremost, we must always listen to science. Our public health discourse has become too political and not based on what’s best or right for our community. On the San Clemente City Council, I took a leadership position to help lead our area’s response and recovery from the pandemic, including direct financial support for small businesses, students and those in need of assistance.
We must be prepared for future public health emergencies that ensure we do not repeat the events of 2020. To start, we must ensure we have the supplies, including masks and medical equipment, at the ready to be prepared. And we need to develop better plans to coordinate with medical and public health officials to ensure our students are not kept out of school and our economy does not come under risk.
The job of the state government isn’t to make our lives harder. Instead of focusing on heavy mandates, we need to invest in systems and programs that will help us live our lives, especially those that keep schools and businesses open and operating. That includes infrastructure such as ventilation that help keep us safe. In the end, the state government should implement these common sense safety measures, educate the public on health risks, and allow individual Californians to make important health care choices.
What’s your perspective on satisfying the need for more affordable housing in the region, and what do you think about claims that the state is overreaching on the issue—a matter some say is better handled by local municipalities?
Unless we commit ourselves to reforms that allow more housing to be built, housing will continue to get more expensive. Everyone knows that CEQA has to be amended to make it harder to stop housing projects, but the majority (who have a super-majority in both Senate and Assembly and hold the governor’s office) has failed to act. Unfair rules and head-shaking fees to build new housing must be reduced so that the next generation of Californians aren’t forced to leave the state to find an affordable house.
Our entire state is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis and we are seeing the implications across our community. We must make this a priority and find real solutions—not just talk. The root of this problem is a housing shortage. Our younger generations are concerned they may be forced to move out of California and may never be able to afford a home. This is unacceptable.
I will work to build more housing for people of all income levels, which means removing some of the red tape and obstacles to building new housing and giving economic incentives to build where it’s needed most. That must include affordable housing and market-rate housing production, with projects so certain workers, including teachers, police officers and firefighters, can live in the communities they serve.
This cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. We must empower our municipalities to ensure that they build affordable housing that is right for their community. The design, size and location of new housing needs to fit the local character. I am a strong believer in local control and providing incentives, rather than imposing penalties, is a more effective way to actually get it done.
Be sure to check out responses from the candidates running in the other local elections, including the 49th Congressional District, 36th Senate District, 38th Senate District, and Orange County Board Fifth District.