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November 6, 2018 — California General Election
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California State AssemblyCandidate for District 15

Photo of Jovanka Beckles

Jovanka Beckles

Democratic
Richmond City Councilmember
90,405 votes (46.4%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Expand rent control across our state while also encouraging housing expansion
  • Implement a single-payer, Medicare for All system to cover all California residents.
  • Fully fund K-12 public schools to reduce class sizes, improve teacher compensation, and restore arts, music, and vocational courses.

Experience

Experience

Profession:County children's mental health specialist
Member, City of Richmond City Council — Elected position (2014–2018)
Member, City of Richmond City Council — Elected position (2010–2014)
Member, City of Richmond Planning Commission — Appointed position (2009–2010)
Member, City of Richmond Economic Development Commission — Appointed position (2007–2009)

Education

University of Phoenix Master of Business Administration, business administration (2006)
Florida A&M University, Tallahassee Bachelor of Arts, psychology (1988)

Biography

As a children's mental health professional for Contra Costa County for decades, I've seen how the lives of our kids and their families can be transformed. As a two-term Richmond City Councilmember and long-time leader in the Richmond Progressive Alliance, I’ve experienced how working people can organize their community, overcome corporate control, and build a better future. Now I am running for the California State Assembly to transform our state government to work for people, not profit.

My story is the story of many Californians. I am an immigrant. I was born in Panama City, Panama and came to the U.S. with my parents as a child. I attended Florida A&M on a full basketball scholarship, graduating cum laude. Basketball taught me collaborative values and teamwork skills. My devotion to people who need help led me to my career in mental health and social work.

As a long-time resident of Richmond, I could not sit on the sidelines and watch a vibrant community continue to suffer from cuts to public services, severe crime, and industrial pollution. My effort to help form a merchants' association on San Pablo Avenue was an initial foray into community organizing to prevent violence.

With this experience, I joined forces with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), ran for city council, and was elected in 2010. When I ran for re-election, I learned how corporate special interests strive to dominate the political process.

In 2014, Chevron spent over $3 million against me and my running-mates because we insisted on corporate-free politics, strong environmental and safety protections for our community, and an independent city government. Chevron lost when thousands of Richmond residents re-elected me and chose a progressive direction for our city.

I spearheaded the City Council’s move to raise Richmond's minimum hourly wage to $15. I helped pass the first new rent control in thirty years in California and worked on a trailblazing effort to prevent homeowners from foreclosure and eviction. I championed "ban the box," successfully eliminating municipal job and housing applications’ requirement that applicants reveal conviction records. This vastly eased successful re-entry for formerly incarcerated community members. I led the city effort that won over $100 million in new tax revenue from Chevron, and worked hard to limit toxic pollution from its oil refinery. Billionaires and corporations buy elections to maintain their own power, sabotaging working people’s interests. That is why I have never taken contributions from corporations or billionaires, and never will.

As your State Assemblymember, I will work for people, not for profit.

Please join my campaign to win a California for the many, not the few.

Who supports this candidate?

Organizations (88)

Elected Officials (33)

Individuals (67)

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (4)

What do you think the State should do to encourage affordable housing for all Californians?
Answer from Jovanka Beckles:

California has an unprecedented housing affordability crisis driven by the failures of the for-profit housing system. While corporations and housing speculators make record profits from our homes, working tenants pay the price in skyrocketing rent, and homeowners face growing vulnerability to market bubbles and foreclosures. 

 

We need a serious, studied response to the housing affordability crisis. I support many existing efforts, and I'll vigorously build and participate in legislative alliances for innovative housing solutions. I support these goals from housing bills introduced in the Assembly this session:

 

AB 2065: To advance the use of surplus public land for affordable housing.

AB 2562: To provide $500 million in low interest state loan funds to affordable housing and community development projects, to replace federal funding cuts.

AB 3152: To provide property tax relief for affordable rental housing.

AB 2162: To fast-track approvals for supportive housing for the homeless.

On the ballot this November, I also support Proposition 1 to approve $4 billion in new state bonds for building and renovating affordable housing, and Proposition 2 to allow a transfer of existing tax revenue to support homelessness prevention programs.

 

For-profit evictions are rampant in our state. We need to repeal the Ellis Act of 1985 to ensure that cities can limit landlords' abilities to evict renters or change building purposes through bankruptcy or conversion to condominiums.

 

I am critical of the recent Senate Bill 827. I strongly support building more affordable housing near transit corridors. However, as it was written, SB 827 gave major benefits to for-profit developers while restricting communities' ability to shape their own development. SB 827 would have cut the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) impact statement requirements for many new developments, putting local communities at risk. SB 827 would have removed height restrictions and municipal parking capacity requirements for "transit corridor" developments. I believe such changes should be made with local community participation, not under a state mandate designed to benefit for-profit developers. We need to build high-quality, affordable housing near transit, and we can best do so through a not-for-profit, social housing model driven by local community planning.

 

To fund strong public programs for affordable housing I'll work to eliminate the tax credits, loopholes, and subsidies that benefit for-profit developers, housing speculators, and luxury property owners. As I explain in fuller detail in my Just Economy plank, I will work to raise taxes on housing speculation, vacant investment housing, and luxury home sales. Working people create California's great wealth. We should use that wealth to provide the good housing we all need.

 

To immediately increase affordable housing construction, I will work to enable state-supported loans to single family homeowners who build an in-law unit on their property, so long as they rent the unit at affordable rates. Like an existing state solar installation program, homeowners will be able to pay back these loans as a deductible through their state property taxes. This program will help working homeowners build equity while providing new affordable housing where working tenants have a need.

According to a "Civility In America” survey, 75% of Americans believe that the U.S. has a major civility problem. If you are elected what will do to address this?
Answer from Jovanka Beckles:

I think the best way to deal with incivility is to exemplify civility, and this civility needs to be an engaged civility, not abstract or distant civility.

I was sorely tested during my first term on the Richmond City Council, when I was viciously verbally attacked at public meeting because I am a black Latina who is lesbian. The attacks were probably motivated both by conviction and by pragmatism – that is, some people were really uncomfortable with me because of who I am, and others were out to get me because of my resistance to Chevron’s historical domination of Richmond politics.

I am devoted to uphold free speech in our political system. A politician should, I believe, exercise forbearance as an example for others and to enable a focus on the real issues that bear discussion. Richmond needed policy debates, not personal invective.

Vindicating my position, the Richmond community came to my defense in a beautiful series of actions and public statements. Author Steve Early, in his recent book “Refinery Town” (Beacon Press, 2017), described the events this way:

“In August 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page story detailing the ‘taunts, rants and ridicule about her sexual orientation and race’...”

Two days later a strong editorial condemned the use of personal insults involving “racial and sexual orientation slurs,” Early wrote. Then, African-American ministers. the Reverend Phil Lawson and the Reverend Kamal Hassan

. . . spoke out at a packed city council meeting on September 15,2014, attended by local gay activists and out-of-town supporters.

That big meeting turnout for Beckles, seven weeks before the council election, threw her usual foes on the defensive. It also helped build public support for a new code of conduct and city harassment policy to curb disruptions and limit hate speech at Richmond council meetings. Both guidelines are now in effect. . . .

My detractors’ vitriol tested my mettle. My defenders’ generosity buoyed me up. I was touched and overwhelmed by their support and was reaffirmed in my belief that basically, deep down, most people feel sympathy for their fellow humans.

As lawmakers, politicians must strive to stay engaged with their constituents, even those who disagree and might sometimes viciously attack them, and keep coming back to the essence of public service: to help the entire community build a better society. That is the basis of a vibrant, caring democracy, and that’s why my politics are from the grassroots up, not from the top down.

Climate changes, and the shifting between very wet weather and drought, worry Californians. What strategies would allow that your district to both satisfy its water needs and protect the environment? Please be specific.
Answer from Jovanka Beckles:

The water question is embedded in the more cataclysmic question of global warming that is destroying the way that we live on earth.

Degradation of our environment and the need to establish environmental justice are the main reasons I entered politics and have served for two terms on the Richmond City Council. Corporations' influencing government and spreading public misinformation obstruct urgently needed actions to mitigate climate change. 

As a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance my primary mission was to wrest control of the city’s government from our largest local corporation – Chevron – and  to improve the lives of our residents and the health of our city. I have been deeply involved in repeated initiatives to bring Chevron into compliance with environmental and worker safety standards and  pursue remediation of the consequences of Chevron’s long domination of the city. (I have been endorsed by five environmental groups.)

As a corporate donation-free candidate, I am not beholden to any special interest groups, such as Big Oil and Big Water.

We should return power to local Air District boards to protect the public health and make them democratic: Air and Water District seats should be directly elected by their communities.

More money needs to be committed to maintain and restore California’s water infrastructure, as demonstrated by the 2017 Oroville Dam crisis. We should repair California’s existing water supply infrastructure before seeking to solve the state’s water supply problems by investing in huge new projects.

I oppose the Delta tunnels project. It threatens access to irrigation and clean drinking water for the Delta’s population and threatens wildlife, fishing and recreation. The project as planned promises massive environmental and economic harm.

Delta planning must respond to scientific evidence that demonstrates the need to reduce water diversions from the Bay/Delta estuary to save the West Coast salmon fishery and restore the health of native fish. State staff should help develop a plan to address catastrophic changes in Delta salinity. Coastal development needs to be limited and to take into account accelerating sea-level rise.

California should continue and expand fines for water waste at all levels. Those funds should assist programs that educate and advocate for ways that Californians can conserve our limited water supply. I support AB 885 requiring K-12 schools to install and maintain certified water filters, requires schools to replace lead pipes, and community water systems to periodically test water at schools.

I oppose AB 398 because Cap and Trade has turned pollution into a commodity.

I oppose transportation of fracking oil, tar (oil) sand oils, coal, and other hazardous materials through California.

In Sacramento I will urge passage of Senate Bill (SB)100 to achieve 100 percent renewable and zero-carbon electricity in California by 2045 and efforts to reach that goal earlier.

500 words is too little systematically to address California’s – and the planet’s – climate change challenges. The problems are enormous and we must base our policies on sound scientific advice embracing the precautionary principle before the profit motive.

What programs or strategies would you suggest to meet the educational needs of the youngest and most poverty stricken Californians?
Answer from Jovanka Beckles:

As a mental health professional I work with educators every day who dedicate their lives to helping underserved communities and students who need extra attention. 

California was once a global leader in public education from kindergarten through university. The “tax revolt” began a long slide that has now become a public education crisis. Charter schools and private university funding are not good solutions. After years of deteriorating funding, I will go to Sacramento pursuing a shift away from privatization and prison funding to improving and equalizing funding for public education at all levels.

I support implementation of Proposition 98 (constitutional funding guarantee for K-12 schools and community colleges), and AB 2808 for fair and full funding of schools.

We must reform or repeal the Proposition 13 legislation to close loopholes to generate funds for our schools at all levels.          

All Californians should have free pre-school, free childcare, and tuition-free access to community college, the Cal State and University of California systems.          

To set our students up for success we must expand career and technical education programs for all students, including a school-to-union pipeline to train our young people for green-collar union jobs.

Because I value neighborhood public schools above all, I advocate a statewide moratorium on new charter schools until and unless existing such schools are demonstrated genuinely to improve choice without damaging public schools.

I believe state loans made to community colleges when they were taken over by the state should be forgiven, i.e. Compton community college.

I support AB 204 (Medina) that waives enrollment fees for community college students.

I support SB-68 that would create an exemption from nonresident tuition for children of immigrants who cannot demonstrate California residency because of their immigration status (Dream Act students). I strongly oppose federal efforts that target undocumented students and faculty, or that undermine an inclusive vision of community colleges.

We need to improve coordination between community colleges, school districts, cities, counties and other agencies on the delivery of social, health, and mental health services.

Our schools can only improve if we respect and reward our teachers. In that vein, I advocate  establishing access to affordable housing for faculty. Our teachers are key to the viability of our society. I oppose merit pay/pay for performance for teachers.

California should have democratic elections for, rather than the Governor’s power to appoint, the statewide K-12 State Board of Education, the Community College Board of Governors, CSU Board of Trustees, and UC Board of Regents.

Throughout my political career I have worked closely with the local Teacher unions in Richmond to advocate for English As A Second Language for K-12 and Adult education, to improve the nutrition level of school meals, to raise teacher salaries, reduce the student-to-teacher ratio and fought Big Soda that spent millions as we campaigned to tax their deeply unhealthy products and invest the funds in school social programs.

I pledge to consult faculty representatives and local educators as I consider any decisions and policies.

Who gave money to this candidate?

Contributions

Total money raised: $510,397

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

1
Employees of State of California
$15,700
2
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
$13,200
3
California Nurses Association and employees
$9,100
4
AFSCME California
$8,800
4
Amalgamated Transit Union
$8,800
4
CA Teachers Assoc., Assoc. for Better Citizenship
$8,800
4
California AFSCME
$8,800
4
California Faculty Association
$8,800
4
California Federation of Teachers
$8,800
4
SEIU California
$8,800

More information about contributions

By State:

California 94.91%
Washington 1.80%
District of Columbia 1.57%
Louisiana 0.46%
Other 1.27%
94.91%

By Size:

Large contributions (85.95%)
Small contributions (14.05%)
85.95%14.05%

By Type:

From organizations (41.36%)
From individuals (58.64%)
41.36%58.64%
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

My political philosophy is simple. Representatives of the people should represent the people, not the big corporations that have come to dominate America's politics.

I believe in people-powered, bottom-up politics. I don't take money from corporations and thus I'm not indebted to them. As a Richmond City Councilmember now, and a State Assemblyperson if I'm elected, my way of operating is to find out what my constituents need -- starting with the neediest among them -- and then work with the broad community to develop ideas about how to fulfill those needs.

When innovations in government or law prove necessary, I work with knowledgeable people and with my fellow lawmakers to craft solutions to the problems facing those constituents. 

 

Position Papers

A Healthier California

Summary

This paper argues for urgent progress toward a single-payer health system and a set of complementary health measures to retain healthcare affordability. enhance access, promote health provider coordination, and emphasizing preventive and community healthcare approaches. 

Aside from my service on the Richmond City Council, I work as a full-time children’s wrap-around mental health specialist for Contra Costa County. Every day I see the effects of poor health and rediscover the needs of our children and families in my day-to-day work. I will bring my ground-level experience to discussions and legislation in Sacramento aimed at improving Californians’ physical, mental, and economic health. I believe California needs to focus on five aspects of the healthcare problem right away: (1) working for a single-payer healthcare system, (2) retaining access and affordability even while working on single-payer, (3) preserving and enhancing healthcare access and delivery for all California residents, (4) promoting provider coordination, and (5) emphasizing preventive and community healthcare approaches.

1. Single Payer Healthcare

In April 2011, long before introduction of the current single-payer bill (SB 562 and its analogue in the Assembly), I co-authored a resolution adopted by the Richmond City Council supporting Senate Bill 810, the California Universal Health Care Act of 2011. In the intervening years, as single-payer has moved to the center of national debate and become supported by a majority of Americans, its urgency for California has only increased.

As a State Assembly member, I will do everything in my power to enact single-payer health coverage for all Californians as would happen with adoption and implementation of SB562. The Assembly should move ahead with its own hearings and draft legislation to implement a single-payer system. Few if any policy changes could do more to protect the health of our communities, lower costs and boost our economy than universal, single-payer healthcare.

If we instituted single-payer Health insurance coverage, we would not only reduce the costs of medical care, we would absolutely improve the health status of our communities. We could also begin to redirect money to prevent illnesses, rather than just waiting to treat people when they become chronically ill.  We not only have a moral obligation to heal the sick, we also owe it to ourselves to improve the health of all of our residents. As somebody who works with the mentally ill, I see every day the consequences of the Health disparities in our communities that could be dramatically improved with equitable health insurance coverage for everyone.  As the opioid epidemic claims and victims every day, we do not provide adequate funding for treating those with drug addiction disorders. Instead of criminalizing these victims, we could be providing appropriate and necessary treatment to help them overcome their addiction.

Physicians for a National Health Care Program (PNHCP), a physician-led organization, states, “We already pay enough for health care for all – we just don’t get it. Americans already have the highest health spending in the world, but we get less care (doctor, hospital, etc.) than people in many other industrialized countries. Because we pay for health care through a patchwork of private insurance companies, about one-third (31 percent) of our health spending goes to administration.”

PNHCP explains that single-payer

. . .is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. Under a single-payer system, all residents . . . would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. The program would be funded by the savings obtained from replacing today’s inefficient, profit-oriented, multiple insurance payers with a single streamlined, nonprofit, public payer, and by modest new taxes based on ability to pay. Premiums would disappear; 95 percent of all households would save money. Patients would no longer face financial barriers to care such as copays and deductibles, and would regain free choice of doctor and hospital. Doctors would regain autonomy over patient care. [http://www.pnhp.org/sites/default/files/faq_2018.pdf]

While I favor a national health-care system, California is certainly a large enough economic unit that we could embark on such a system even before the federal government does so. As in so many other areas, California could lead the country to better health. As the PNHCP says about the US as a whole, in a state system, “Replacing private insurers. . . would recover money currently squandered on billing, marketing, underwriting and other activities that sustain insurers’ profits but divert resources from care. . . .  Combined with what we’re already spending, this is more than enough to provide comprehensive coverage for everyone.” 

2. Retaining Access in Advance of Single-Payer

The Assembly and Senate will likely take some time to hone a single-payer system, and if experience with the current governor is any indicator, even passage would not guarantee rapid implementation. There are tremendously important things we need to do to retain broad access to healthcare for all Californians as we fight for, devise, and transition into a single-payer system (whether this takes place at the federal or state level).

Even as we seek improvements, our citizens are threatened by US Congress H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act, which seeks to repeal and replace President Obama’s effort to improve health coverage for Americans, the Affordable Care Act.

California can protect its citizens from these federal misdeeds. Rather than destroying Medi-Cal by underfunding it, as the federal government is attempting to do, we must preserve Medi-Cal. Legislators need to establish protections and continue to expand services regardless of federal proposals as we continue our statewide mobilization for a single-payer system.

While working for single-payer, I will fight to ensure that workers’ wages cannot be continually cut to make up for rising healthcare costs. Employers’ cuts to employee healthcare benefits highlight the need for single payer healthcare.

California healthcare workers are facing understaffed departments and are forced to work overtime, putting patients and employees at risk. We must make sure healthcare employers commit to providing safe staffing levels and paying competitive wages to prevent a healthcare provider crisis. Sacramento needs to pay more attention to conditions of and compensation for our healthcare workers, including helping healthcare workers to find and afford housing within reasonable distances from their workplaces.

Nurse/patient ratios are established for patient and nurse health and safety; they must be followed or people will die. Nurses put their lives on the line to save other’s lives, and they have every right to refuse unsafe assignments. I would initiate or support legislation that upholds and strengthens these standards by increasing the number of inspectors and mandating stiff penalties for facilities that violate them.

3. Preserve and enhance healthcare access for all California residents

Throughout California there are healthcare deserts, communities that lack access to vital healthcare professionals and institutions. We must establish and preserve clinics, hospitals and transportation options to make sure that all Californians have the healthcare access they need.

The consolidation and centralization of healthcare providers – one of the consequences of corporatized health systems – is part of the reason hospitals and clinics have closed down in rural and outlying communities and even in locations in major cities that, for some reason, the big health companies find undesirable. California needs to develop compensatory financing systems so that all its citizens are close to needed healthcare services including clinics, urgent care and hospital facilities. In my own district, I’ll fight to preserve Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley.

4. provider coordination

Especially because healthcare has become a profession of usually dispersed specialties that individuals have to figure out how to navigate just at the worst time – when they need help – I believe it’s vital to improve coordination between the institutions that come most closely into contact especially with our neediest citizens in helping to determine individuals’ healthcare needs and ways to serve them. Community colleges, school districts, cities, counties and other agencies need to develop coordination and cooperation routines for the delivery of social, health, and mental health services.

5. Prevention and community health

Beyond trying to fix our very flawed sickness care delivery system, we must think about individual and community health in a very different way. Let’s think about preventing illness and keeping communities healthy in the first place. Even then-Senator Barack Obama voiced concern in 2008 with these very stark words: "Simply put, in the absence of a radical shift toward prevention and public health, we will not be successful in containing medical costs, and improving the health of the American people."

So what would preventing illness actually look like? Here are two examples that California could easily implement if the political will was present:

First, a state-funded public health media and nutrition campaign to counter the obesity epidemic, much as HIV has been addressed in the past. The obesity epidemic is causing catastrophic premature illness and mortality but it is entirely preventable!

The elements of nutritional health are well known. Whatever the fad diets of the day, the vast preponderance of scientific evidence shows that diets rich in fresh vegetables and fruit, with substantial protein (whether meat or vegetable) and whole grains and nuts, consumed in moderate portions and without significant amounts of added sugar or refined carbohydrates reduces obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But on a day-to-day basis, many of California’s citizens don’t follow the experts’ advice. Advertising, ready and cheap availability of processed foods and sugar-laden treats are levying huge healthcare costs and individual suffering on our citizens. What can we do? Our schools can help with nutrition education; our state can adopt taxes that raise the prices of unhealthy foods just as they did with cigarettes; our healthcare providers can be urged to address their clients holistically and preventively, not just therapeutically. The state can help make Californians healthier!

Second, much as California has decriminalized marijuana, it should consider decriminalization of the use of illegal drugs. Drug addiction and use must be addressed as public health issues, not matters of criminal justice. This would improve outcomes and hugely reduce pressure on our justice and incarceration systems. Think of all the lives that could be saved, the needless victimization of addicts that could be avoided, and the billions of dollars that could be saved by dramatically reducing the prison industrial complex. With drug addiction considered a health problem within a framework of preventive healthcare built upon principles of benefit for patients rather than benefits for insurance companies and huge healthcare companies, drug treatment facilities could replace prisons for many people whose prospects now are being crushed by inappropriate punitive, rather than curative or maintenance approaches.

A third point, now embedded in California state law, is the requirement of vaccinations for entry of children into public schools. I support universal mandatory vaccination except when medical conditions -- such as immunological insufficiencies -- preclude immunization.

Corporate-free politics and California’s Health

Right now, legislation and legislative initiatives in California are dominated by lobbyists. These people have the expertise, the funding, the longevity in Sacramento and the dedication to delve deeply into their policy areas and to craft legislation that serves their employers. Unfortunately, their employers are mostly large corporations that have interests in legislation that protects their profits.

I’m running for Assembly District 15 as a corporate-free candidate. Having worked steadily in my day job as a mental health wrap-around specialist for children, spending much of my remaining time engaged in Richmond politics seeking to improve life in my community on the basis of grassroots, ground-level upward mobilization of people’s talents, I’m convinced that California as a whole could vastly improve its residents’ health by pursuing a single-payer, state-defended, highly accessible, coordinated and significantly preventive healthcare system.

These aren’t the innovations that the big corporations view as important to them. They aren’t necessarily profit centers. But for California’s people, they are vital and they are attainable. That’s what I plan to work on in Sacramento as a representative of Assembly District 15.

Housing for All

Summary

Housing in California needs to be affordable at all levels of income and vulnerable residents need protection from eviction and profiteering by unscrupulous real estate and financial operators. California needs more housing, more affordable housing, and greater protections for its people.

I will fight to win housing for people, not for profit:

  • Expand rent control at the local and state level to protect housing affordability.
  • End harmful Costa-Hawkins limits and allow strong, universal rent control by winning Yes on Proposition 10 in November.
  • Protect working homeowners against foreclosures and predatory lending.
  • Support strategic rezoning with local control to prevent displacement and build affordable housing near transit corridors.
  • Build Housing for All, with several hundred thousand units of new affordable social housingstatewide in ten years through a mixed-income, high-quality public or not-for-profit model.
  • Raise taxes on housing speculation and vacant investment properties to fund affordable social housing.

California has an unprecedented housing affordability crisis driven by the failures of the for-profit housing system. While corporations and housing speculators make record profits from our homes, working tenants pay the price in skyrocketing rent, and homeowners face growing vulnerability to market bubbles and foreclosures. Nearly all of us have seen families and communities torn apart by housing speculation. Luxury housing developers see no profit in building the affordable housing we need.

I am proud of our housing justice accomplishments in Richmond. As a City Councilmember for the past eight years I helped win the first new rent control law in California in 30 years, supported a major redevelopment plan, and developed a nationally-leading program to protect homeowners from foreclosure. If elected to be your Assemblymember, I will be a leading champion for working renters and homeowners.

Protecting Our Homes by Expanding Rent Control

I strongly support Yes on 10, the Affordable Housing Act, on the ballot this November. Prop. 10 will repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act of 1995, a state law passed due to real estate corporation lobbying and campaign donations. This law prevents cities from setting the strong rent control they choose. Costa-Hawkins blocks rent control on single-family buildings, on buildings constructed after the 1980s or 90s (depending on the city), and any rent control for new tenants after a vacancy. Costa-Hawkins was a huge giveaway to the real estate lobby and housing speculators. In just one year after it passed, average market rent increased by 40% in Berkeley alone. We must end harmful Costa-Hawkins limits on rent control. By winning Yes on 10 this November, we can take back control of our homes and put a stop to the price-gouging and displacement destabilizing our communities.

If elected, I will vigorously advocate for expanding rent control across our state. If we win Yes on 10, then I will use my state position to support efforts to cover single-family homes, buildings constructed after the 1980s, and new tenants after vacancy. I will lead the effort from Sacramento to support local expansions of rent control and will work toward a statewide rent control policy that sets a reasonable baseline of protection for all. I will be a committed leader in the fight against housing corporations' further attempts to block rent control at the state level.

To expand rent control across our state while also encouraging housing expansion, I will support careful local control exemptions. Until we have our Housing for All plan in action, private development is likely to play an important role in new housing construction. Our efforts to expand rent control must protect the security of working homeowners who live in their homes. Along with new incentives for affordable housing construction, I will support local measures for an 8 to 15-year exemption from rent control for new housing units, to be reviewed again when social housing construction is well underway.

With careful measures to expand rent control, all working people in California will be able to benefit from security, affordability, and control over our homes.

Building Housing for All

Between 2010 and 2016 the Bay Area added 500,000 jobs, but only 50,000 homes. In Oakland in 2017, the for-profit housing system built 3,960 high-cost market-rate housing units, and only 324 affordable housing units. At the same time, on an average night, 2,761 people lived unhoused on the street and over 5,000 homes stood vacant as investment properties. The for-profit housing system focuses investment on maximum profit opportunities and luxury market-rate housing, not affordable housing for working people. We need to move beyond the trickle-down, for-profit housing system to the bold, publicly-supported models that can provide affordable homes for all.

I will advance a Housing for All plan to fund construction of hundreds of thousands of new affordable social housing units across our state within ten years. We will provide state funding for local governments to build a new generation of social housing: homes built through high-quality public, non-profit cooperative, and community land trust models. We will learn from the successes of cities across the world with active input of community members statewide, as we build a not-for-profit social housing system with beautiful facilities, density near public transportation, and strong mixed-income communities.

Once in Sacramento I will push for building hundreds of thousands of units of social housing within ten years. Serious policy planning by state agencies and local governments will be guided by this goal. I will push for state laws to support expansion of community land trusts that can provide not-for-profit, affordable housing.

Protect Housing Security for Working Homeowners

Working homeowners in the Bay Area are becoming more vulnerable every year to runaway housing speculation and financial manipulation. I will be a legislative leader for protecting working homeowners through foreclosure prevention, credit counseling, and pre-purchase assistance. As an elected leader on the Richmond City Council, I helped lead the nation with a public program intended to keep foreclosed homeowners in their homes by using eminent domain to take foreclosed homes from the big banks and turn them back to their residents. As housing bubbles and financial speculation loom as a greater threat to the security of our homes, I will work creatively to use every public tool available to protect the security of working homeowners.

Abandoned housing creates risks for homeowners and tenants, and I will draw on my experience with in Richmond to lead on state policy. Derelict homes pose a fire danger to surrounding homes and can create safety hazards for a neighborhood's children. We need to pass legislation allowing communities to quickly take over abandoned buildings, renovate them with public and non-profit support, and make them available for those who need housing.

Immediate Actions for Affordable Housing

We need a serious, studied response to the housing affordability crisis. I support many existing efforts, and I'll vigorously build and participate in legislative alliances for innovative housing solutions. I support these goals from housing bills introduced in the Assembly this session:

  • AB 2065: To advance the use of surplus public land for affordable housing.
  • AB 2562: To provide $500 million in low interest state loan funds to affordable housing and community development projects, to replace federal funding cuts.
  • AB 3152: To provide property tax relief for affordable rental housing.
  • AB 2162: To fast-track approvals for supportive housing for the homeless.

On the ballot this November, I also support Proposition 1 to approve $4 billion in new state bonds for building and renovating affordable housing, and Proposition 2 to allow a transfer of existing tax revenue to support homelessness prevention programs.

For-profit evictions are rampant in our state. We need to repeal the Ellis Act of 1985 to ensure that cities can limit landlords' abilities to evict renters or change building purposes through bankruptcy or conversion to condominiums.

I am critical of the recent Senate Bill 827. I strongly support building more affordable housing near transit corridors. However, as it was written, SB 827 gave major benefits to for-profit developers while restricting communities' ability to shape their own development. SB 827 would have cut the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) impact statement requirements for many new developments, putting local communities at risk. SB 827 would have removed height restrictions and municipal parking capacity requirements for "transit corridor" developments. I believe such changes should be made with local community participation, not under a state mandate designed to benefit for-profit developers. We need to build high-quality, affordable housing near transit, and we can best do so through a not-for-profit, social housing model driven by local community planning.

To fund strong public programs for affordable housing I'll work to eliminate the tax credits, loopholes, and subsidies that benefit for-profit developers, housing speculators, and luxury property owners. As I explain in fuller detail in my Just Economy plank, I will work to raise taxes on housing speculation, vacant investment housing, and luxury home sales. Working people create California's great wealth. We should use that wealth to provide the good housing we all need.

To protect moderate and low income residents, while encouraging high-quality, mixed income housing developments, I support laws to allow income averaging in affordable housing credit properties. This reform will allow the 60 percent of area median income (AMI) occupancy ceiling to apply to the average of all apartments in a property rather than to each individual apartment.

Teachers in our communities have been especially hard hit by out-of-control rents and housing costs. Too often, this has forced educators to leave their communities or undertake punishing long distance daily commutes. I will support affordable housing programs that place a priority on providing good housing for teachers in the communities they serve. Both our immediate and long-term housing plans can be designed to prioritize housing security for public educators and thus strengthen our education system.

To immediately increase affordable housing construction, I will work to enable state-supported loans to single family homeowners who build an in-law unit on their property, so long as they rent the unit at affordable rates. Like an existing state solar installation program, homeowners will be able to pay back these loans as a deductible through their state property taxes. This program will help working homeowners build equity while providing new affordable housing where working tenants have a need.

Justice and Violence Prevention

Summary

A fairer justice system and a reorientation of policing and conflict management will lead to a more peaceful California.

In the Assembly I will fight for violence prevention through social programs, gun control, and stronger police accountability, and for an end to mass incarceration:

  •        End cash bail and onerous court fines.
  •        Abolish private prisons and private employment of incarcerated people.
  •        Social programs for violence prevention with ceasefire mentorship systems, reentry job training programs and violence prevention stipends.
  •        Win Medicare for All, along with comprehensive social work and public health programs, for violence prevention through mental health care.
  •        Implement an automatic, independent investigation process for police violence cases.
  •        Repeal California's "three strikes" law and end mandatory minimum sentencing.

California and the country at large face crises of police violence and mass incarceration. In 2017 alone, California police killed 172 civilians. If our state were a country, its incarceration rate would be among the highest in the world, higher than that of Russia or Iran. The state has begun reforming its criminal justice system, and I will push for further reforms. My approach to criminal justice and public safety rests on two principles: preventing violence by providing people with the means to live safe, healthy lives; and reforming our justice system to rank the needs of people over profit.

I put these principles into practice as an elected leader on the Richmond City Council. In my first term, I assisted in the creation of workplace anti-bullying legislation. I helped establish a municipal identification card for all residents, so that everyone could participate fully in our community regardless of immigration status. This effort was strongly supported by our Chief of Police to improve police-community interaction. I also spearheaded the successful effort to "ban the box" for municipal employment and housing so that people returning from incarceration could settle productively back into our community. Richmond's homicide rate has significantly declined as we have implemented these programs.

SOCIAL PROGRAMS AND GUN CONTROL FOR REAL VIOLENCE PREVENTION

As an Assembly member, I will work to prevent violence through policies that empower individuals and strengthen communities -- not through militarized policing and mass imprisonment.

In Richmond I promoted reintegration programs for formerly incarcerated people into our community, and I will do the same at the state level. Having served their time, returning residents should be able to obtain housing and jobs. I will press for strong statewide social programs for violence prevention, including ceasefire mentorship programs, reentry assistance, job training programs, and violence prevention stipends. I helped lead the design and implementation of these programs in Richmond and I am ready to develop legislation to bring these effective public safety innovations to communities statewide.

Adequate mental health care is an important element in violence prevention. We must recognize that those suffering from chronic mental illness or substance abuse are human beings and deserve dignity, care, and the resources necessary to survive in our increasingly unequal society. I will fight for a single-payer, Medicare for All system to provide excellent mental health care for all California residents, no matter their ability to pay.

Research shows that community-based psychiatric treatment is more effective and significantly less expensive than in-prison treatment in preventing crime and reducing incarceration rates for people with mental disorders. Community treatment options in California are vastly underfunded. Our state can and should provide adequate funding for a community-based continuum of mental health care. This should include permanent supportive housing, job training and subsidized employment, effective substance abuse treatment, educational opportunities, and access to highly-skilled treatment professionals. Medicare for All would make available these kinds of care regardless of wealth, thus contributing to violence prevention.

We need to dramatically reduce gun violence. I strongly support serious gun control measures including ammunition sale and clip size limits, a ban on assault weapons, and a statewide voluntary gun buyback program. The state should tax firearm industry profits as it does alcohol and tobacco sales to discourage purchase and to fund gun control and public safety programs. The safety of our communities should come before corporate profits.

 

STRONGER PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY FOR POLICE

 

When we improve relations between communities and their police forces, our communities become safer. I support creation of local police accountability mechanisms. Guidelines for peace officers' use of force need to be tightened, as proposed in Assembly Bill 931, and the California Attorney General should fully enforce existing state laws on peace officers' use of force. I support community policing initiatives, like those we developed in Richmond. Police training, staffing, and procedures need to be directed to violence prevention and helping community members avail themselves of social services rather than suffering incarceration.

I will fight to repeal the Peace Officer's Bill of Rights, which shields police officers' disciplinary records from the public and makes it extremely difficult to fire officers for misconduct. I support Senate Bill 1421 as part of this process. I support creating an automatic, independent investigation process for cases of police violence, like the process I helped establish in Richmond.

I will fight for the end of civil asset forfeiture for private police gain. Under civil forfeiture laws, the police may permanently seize and profit from the property of anyone suspected of criminal activity, without ever charging the person with a crime. We must end this practice which unjustly places police profits over people.

 

END MASS INCARCERATION

 

We need to dismantle the system of mass incarceration that has destroyed lives and devastated communities. Our criminal justice system should be re-oriented toward rehabilitation, away from punishment and incarceration.

Far too many Californians have been imprisoned for possession of illegal drugs. This has driven up our incarceration rate and destroyed people's chances for productive lives. I support drug use decriminalization. Drug possession and use should be responded to as health problems, not criminal acts. Rehabilitation, counseling, expansion of life opportunities, and a health maintenance approach are more humane than criminalization, and will reduce costs and improve outcomes.

One way to vastly reduce our prison population and the pressure on our court system is to decriminalize drug possession. I want to work with other legislators to study the feasibility of and best practices for moving in this direction.

From my long experience as a children's mental health professional and based on review of scientific research about cognitive development, I passionately believe that we must end the prosecution of children as adults. Incarceration of children leads to further harm, not rehabilitation. We need to break the school-to-prison pipeline, care for our children, and thereby make their lives more productive and our communities safer.

 

I will fight to repeal California's "three strikes" law and to end mandatory minimum sentencing. Sentences should be determined on a case-by-case basis, attending to the individual circumstances of a crime and the particular characteristics of an offender. Ending mandatory minimum sentences will allow us to avoid needlessly cruel prison sentences and reduce inhumane overcrowding in our prisons.

 

I will also work in Sacramento to abolish the death penalty. The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment. It is hugely expensive to house death penalty convicts during long appeals processes, it results in the killing of the innocent and mentally ill, and it is disproportionately applied to people of color. Moreover, the death penalty has not been shown to deter crime. I support measures that reduce violence, not those that simply reproduce it.

Our current cash bail system is an affront to justice. Wealthy suspects don't have to suffer pre-trial detention, while poorer suspects spend long periods of time in jail. Sometimes people spend months in jail awaiting trial, and innocent suspects sometimes plead guilty just to temporarily gain freedom. I will work to end cash bail in California and nationwide. We should determine pre-trial detention according to the suspect's flight risk and threat, not how much money they can pay for freedom. I oppose attempts to replace the cash bail system with more prosecutorial discretion. Release should be the rule unless the prosecutor proves that the person is a flight risk or a significant danger to the community.

 

Everyone deserves the right to a strong legal defense, regardless of ability to pay. California's public defense programs have been drastically underfunded and overburdened for decades. Some public defenders' offices face lawsuits from the ACLU based on their insufficient ability to meet Constitutional requirements for fair and adequate defense. We must provide stronger state support for public defenders, fully supporting them to make sure our criminal justice system works for the many, not just the few.

 

Our criminal justice system should serve the needs of people, not the profits of corporations. When society considers someone's imprisonment necessary, it should be responsible for carrying out the duties of custodianship, care, and rehabilitation. Private prisons create corporate incentives to keep people in jail and to minimize assistance and services to them. We must abolish private prisons.

 

Private corporations should no longer employ prisoners. Private prison labor is exploitative and creates large profits for business while paying prisoners minimal wages, often giving them little in the way of useful training, and unfairly undercuts the wages of non-incarcerated workers. The state should provide prisoners who want to work with training and good, fairly-paid jobs that can prepare them for successful re-entry into their communities.

 

Videos (2)

— September 16, 2018 Campaign

Jovanka Beckles in various settings explainging her platform basics.

— October 31, 2018 Jovanka Beckles 2018

Good healthcare, housing, and education should be guaranteed for all Californians — not special privileges for those who can afford them.

On November 6th, California’s Assembly District 15 has a chance to elect a democratic socialist with a proven track record of fighting for working people against corporate interests.

California needs a single-payer, Medicare for All healthcare system, so that our health and peace of mind aren’t determined by the size of our bank accounts. We need strong rent control laws and homes for all, so that when times are tough our housing is secure. And we need high-quality, free public education from preschool through college, so that every young person can realize their full potential.

We deserve these basic elements of a dignified life and more. And since California is the fifth- largest economy in the world, we already have the resources we need to make it happen. All we lack is the political will to put people over profit. 

That’s why Jovanka Beckles is running for State Assembly. Together, we can create a California for the many, not the few.

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