Virtual Town Hall Questions for Toni Atkins

The incumbent tackles questions about the state economy, jobs and climate change (and how it could affect Coronado). She is seeking a second term 78th State Assembly District.

Patch sent questionnaires to each of the candidates in races appearing on Tuesday's primary ballot. The re-drawn 78th State Assembly District includes Coronado, La Jolla, Del Mar, Imperial Beach and Solana Beach. Democrat Toni Atkins, a former San Diego City Council member, is seeking her second term in the Assembly. She faces two opponents, Republicans and Robert E. Williams.

Patch: I’m a 37-year-old public school teacher, and every year I fear losing my job. Why should I vote for you?

Toni Atkins: Without teachers, there is no education and without education, there is no economic growth and no future for our young people. That is why preserving and stabilizing public school funding has been one of my priorities during these recent extraordinarily difficult state budget deliberations. While K-12 schools are afforded a guaranteed portion of the state’s revenues through Proposition 98, a guaranteed slice of an ever-shrinking pie becomes smaller and smaller.

I am hopeful that voters will support Governor Brown’s proposed temporary tax increases that will be on the ballot in November. Without these new revenues, schools will lose funding equivalent to three weeks of the academic year, despite Prop. 98 guarantees.

These temporary taxes are an investment in our children and in our future. If we do not provide a quality education to each student, even when the economy does turn around, we will not have the qualified workforce we will need for the information and technology based economy of the future that is the key to our prosperity.

We must stabilize school funding so that teachers don’t have to spend every Spring wondering where they will be in the Fall and whether they can support their families. I am honored to have the endorsement of the California Teachers Association and pledge to continue to make education a priority.

Patch: I’m 52 and own a greeting card shop, and this economy is still killing me. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: Small business has always led California toward economic recovery after periods of recession and the fact that your small business is still struggling is an indication of how slowly this recovery is happening. The importance of small businesses is the reason I carried legislation to declare May 2011 as Buy California Small Business First Month. I continue to be committed to making job creation and economic recovery a priority for our state. Among the steps I am taking toward that goal is helping to lead efforts to replace recently eliminated redevelopment programs with revitalization zones that will stimulate growth in local communities. I have also been a leader in policies that support smart growth policies –sustainable, integrated live/work communities which strengthen neighborhoods and encourage people to patronize local small businesses.

Patch: I’m 45 and been out of work for 14 months. I’m educated, but employers won’t even give me alook. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: As I have stated above, creating jobs and revitalizing our economy are my top priorities for state government. In addition to working with my colleagues in the legislature to turn the economy around, I am also committed to avoiding drastic cuts to our safety net programs, which are more important than ever now that so many Californians are unemployed. Affordable housing, homelessness prevention programs, educational financial aid programs, access to health care and many other services are in jeopardy as we try to balance the state budget. We cannot get through this recession on cuts alone and it is my hope that voters will approve the short term revenue measures on November’s ballot so that our neighbors like you who are victims of this recession will have the helping hand they need until the economy improves.

Patch: I’m 18 and getting into the state university system is harder than ever – and more expensive. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: Access to quality affordable public higher education is absolutely critical to our ability to succeed in the modern global economy; yet, each year, tuition and fees increase and the number of students who can attend our great public university system shrinks. Two examples of ways I have supported higher education is my support for additional revenues so further cuts can be avoided and the middle class scholarship program I have co-authored. Without additional revenues, state colleges and universities will be forced to absorb another budget cut, on top of those absorbed already in years past, and it is clear that further tuition increases will have to make up part of the gap. The Middle Class Scholarship Fund closes a tax loophole favoring out of state businesses and uses the funds to provide scholarships for middle class students attending California public colleges and universities. Fees for these students will be reduced by as much as two-thirds, making college a reality for young people like you.

Patch: I’m 44 and my commute to work is close to an hour. So these gas prices really pinch. Whyshould I vote for you?

Atkins: As both a San Diego city councilmember and a state assembly member, I have supported the expansion of effective mass transit programs that will enable people to leave their cars behind when they go to work. I will continue to work to ensure that affordable, clean, convenient mass transit is available throughout our area. At the same time, I am also working to create jobs in our own community so that you will have employment options closer to home.

Patch: I’m retiring in 10 years, but I see little chance of Social Security lasting my lifetime. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: Social Security is a program of the federal government, not the state government, so I cannot directly impact its future. However, I pledge to continue to be a voice on behalf of protecting Social Security and Medicare for retirees. I am privileged to have strong relationships with the men and women who represent San Diego County in Congress and I will advocate on your behalf with them. In addition, it will be my priority to restore California’s strong economy. Most retirees find it difficult to survive on just Social Security benefits, although it is vital that they continue to be available. My goal is to enable workers to set aside enough from their current pay to supplement those benefits so they can enjoy their retirement in dignity. Only with reduced unemployment and a robust economy will that be possible.

Patch: I’m 39 and worried about our country’s moral fabric, since it is moving toward gay marriage and marijuana legislation. My church is my main source of strength. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: As a member of the LGBT community I welcome the increased equality that has been extended to people like me in recent years. However, I am also grateful that our nation is founded on the principle that government has no business in our private affairs, most importantly in how or where we choose to worship God. I will always act to protect churches from inappropriate encroachment by government and any attempts to impose a personal moral code that is not of a person’s own choosing.

Patch: I’m 30 and drive a Prius. I hear about Big Oil and “clean coal,” but manmade climate change isleading to more frequent hurricanes and tornadoes. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: I am honored to have been selected by Assembly Speaker John Perez to represent the State Assembly on the California Ocean Protection Council. Among my responsibilities on OPC is to protect our oceans and coastline from the effects of climate change. One impact of climate change that will be particularly significant for us in this area is the rising sea level, which is caused by the expansion of warming ocean waters and the melting of global ice masses. 

If current trends continue, experts predict that by 2050 sea level will be 12 -18 inches higher along our 70 miles of coastline. That means shrinking beaches, collapsing cliffs, and elimination of tide pools and wetlands. It also means flooded transportation corridors and threats to homes, businesses, hotels, the Port of San Diego and even the airport. Coronado is one of the communities expected to be particularly affected.

I am working with my colleagues on OPC to prevent this in two ways. One is by supporting policies and public education to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The other is to provide local governments, businesses, and residents with strategies and tools for reducing the impact of climate change. In addition, business revitalization policies that emphasize clean, green technology may help us reverse climate change in the future.

Patch: I’m a 47-year-old musician and I’m losing my house to foreclosure. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: I support the National Mortgage Settlement and California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ strong advocacy on behalf of homeowners experiencing foreclosure, a devastating result of our recent recession. Under the NMS, homeowners may be eligible for loan modifications, assistance with short sales, and other protections and assistance for distressed borrowers, even restitution for those who have already lost their homes. The NMS only applies to five of the nation’s largest financial institutions, but it is my hope that the Attorney General, supported by the state legislature, can extend these benefits and protections to every Californian who faces the loss of his or her home.

Patch: I’m 35 and see nothing happening in Sacramento to solve my problems. All I see are the extreme wings of both parties blaming each other and getting nothing done. Why should I vote for you?

Atkins: As a member of the San Diego City Council for 8 years, I successfully served in a non-partisan environment in which partnerships with members of a different political party were very common. What really mattered was shared goals for the success of our communities and our constituents and that crossed party lines. Sacramento is unquestionably a more partisan environment, but even there I have been honored to have bipartisan support for many of my legislative proposals and I have been pleased to support good legislation, regardless of whether there was a D or an R next to the author’s name. I pledge to continue to look for solutions and partnerships, regardless of party affiliation, as a returning member of the legislature.

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