December 2017 Newsletter

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Note from Toni

As we get ready to flip the page to a new calendar year, December is a good time to pause – whenever we can between the hustle and the bustle of the holiday season – and reflect on the year behind us and think ahead to the one coming around the corner. I like to reset and remind myself of the core values that guide me through life and set the foundation for my policy priorities.

More than anything else, 2017 was a contradiction. While much of the news coming out of Washington, D.C., was disconcerting, California had an exceptional year. We passed the most forward-thinking budget during my time in the Legislature, and we approved major housing, climate-change, transportation, and parks and water legislation.

On the personal front, the Governor signed all 12 of the bills I sent him, highlighted by my bill to create a permanent funding source for affordable housing (SB 2), my landmark bill that requires the state to officially recognize nonbinary residents for who they are (SB 179), and my bill to help prosecutors get sex traffickers off the street before they victimize others (SB 230). My remaining bills address everything from protecting the San Diego River to making important juvenile-justice, healthcare, and labor reforms. I am extremely pleased.

Since the 2017 session ended in September, I have been reconnecting with the communities in my district – hearing their concerns and updating them on what’s been happening in Sacramento – and beginning to plan my agenda for 2018. And as I work with my staff on a number of ideas, I am remaining mindful of the core values that compelled me to public service in the first place.

I’ll never forget the advice my college mentor, Steve Fisher, gave me: Imagine the world you want to live in, and then work to create it. The world I imagine looks something like this:

Families live in safe, supportive, diverse communities that are close to good-paying jobs and free of pollution, with adequate housing at all levels of income and transit options for those who need or want to commute without a car.

These good-paying jobs are provided by companies that respect and nurture their employees and create a healthy work environment, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s good for business. We help the small businesses that power our economy and contribute to the vibrant and unique character of our communities.

Everyone has a basic right and access to affordable healthcare, where cost-reducing primary and preventative care is prioritized. No one is at risk of losing everything just because they get sick.

Our public schools operate on a level playing field. Our teachers are treated like the heroes they are – and are paid accordingly. And our top-notch system of higher education is affordable and accessible to all high-school students, regardless of income.

Neighborhood, regional, and state parks and natural places are abundant and accessible to everyone, because we understand the power that nature has to recharge our batteries and give us perspective. Arts and culture are emphasized because we understand their power to enrich our souls and challenge our minds.

In those rare times when someone among us runs afoul of the law, our colorblind and income-indifferent justice system focuses as much on rehabilitation as punishment. When that person emerges from incarceration, we do everything we can to make sure they are prepared for successful reentry to society so that they are not incentivized to reoffend.

There is less reliance on safety-net services, but when someone is struggling, we’re there to help them with rapid rehousing and access to healthful foods, childcare and job training.

Everyone is treated with kindness, respect, dignity, and equality regardless of income, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

To say this is easier said than done is putting it mildly, but when we shoot for something, we should always aim high. Whatever unfolds in 2018, these are the outcomes I’ll be shooting for.

Until then, I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season.

Operation Gobble a Huge Success

Each year, I look forward to participating in Operation Gobble, an event during which California American Water donates Thanksgiving turkeys to charitable organizations up and down the state. In turn, those organizations provide the turkeys to the needy families they serve.

This year, I arranged for many plump holiday turkeys to go to 11 wonderful organizations in the 39th Senate District, whose representatives came one by one to St. James Lutheran Church in Imperial Beach on November 21st to pick up them up.

Senator Atkins with Turkey
Providing turkeys to the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

It is a privilege to represent the residents of my district and be in a position to help families and individuals who are struggling. One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to help make the Thanksgiving holiday more joyous and festive for constituents who are less fortunate than others.

I hope your Thanksgiving was a happy one.

Sign Up for 'We All Count'

“We All Count,” the San Diego County Regional Task Force on the Homeless’ annual count of people living on the streets, in their cars, or in shelters will take place on January 26th, but organizers are already seeking volunteers who are interested in dedicating their early-morning hours (4 to 7 a.m.) to surveying people who are experiencing homelessness.

Senator Atkins sitting on floor, talking with constituients
With civic leader Mel Katz, interviewing a woman who was experiencing
homelessness last January.

Along with other elected officials, civic leaders and many selfless volunteers, I participate in this event each year. It helps me understand the struggles of thousands or our county’s most vulnerable residents. More importantly, it creates the data that helps determine how resources are spent on reducing homelessness in our community.

If you would like to participate, please register online now through January 15th at And to learn more about “We All Count,” please visit

Apply to Become a Senate Fellow

Late in 2016, I selected Stephanie Park as my top choice among many impressive candidates to work as a Senate Fellow in my Capitol office, and I couldn’t be happier that the California Senate Fellows Program assigned her to me. Throughout 2017, Stephanie was an integral member of my staff, serving as my point policy aide on housing - my top priority.

Senator Atkins with Stephanie Park on Senate Floor
Recognizing the talents of my Senate Fellow, Stephanie Park.

Stephanie’s work was so valuable to me and for my constituents that I hired her on as a full-fledged staff member after the fellowship ended in October.

The application period for the 2018-2019 California Senate Fellows Program, which begins next October, is open now through February 12th, 2018. Anyone who will be at least 20 years old and a graduate of a four-year college or university by September 1st, 2018, is eligible to apply. There is no preferred major. Individuals with advanced degrees and those in mid-career are encouraged to apply.

The program is jointly operated by the California Senate and the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento. Fellows are paid a stipend of $2,627 per month, plus health, vision, and dental benefits. They earn six units of graduate credit from California State University, Sacramento for the academic portion of the program.

For more information, or to apply, visit the Senate Fellows website,

San Diego Businesses Expand with Tax Credits

On November 16th, the California Competes Tax Credit Committee approved $69 million in tax credits for 90 companies that agreed to make a combined $1.2 billion in capital investments and create more than 6,200 jobs.

Of that statewide total, 17 San Diego County businesses received nearly $12 million in tax credits to create 1,160 new jobs.

CA Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development

The California Competes Tax Credit, created in 2013, is an income tax credit available to businesses that want to come to, stay in, or grow in California. Since the program began, 865 have received $622.8 million in credits, making $15.7 billion in investments and creating more than 83,000 new jobs. Nearly 150 of those are San Diego County businesses, which have received more than $108 million in credits to create more than 15,000 new jobs.

If you would like to apply for tax credits for your business, the next application period is open from January 2nd through 22nd, 2018. Visit to learn more.

You can also learn more at a California Competes Tax Credit informational workshop that begins at 9 a.m. Friday, December 8th, in San Diego City Council chambers, on the 12th floor of City Hall, 202 C St., in downtown San Diego.

Register at

Celebrate the Holidays at These Events

My Staff at Your Service

My district staff is always available to help constituents navigate a complex web of state agencies. If you’re having trouble working out an issue with any state agency, please call my office at 619-645-3133, and my staff will do everything in their power to help.

My District Staff
Myrna Zambrano: District Director
Deanna Spehn: Policy Director
Jason Weisz: Senior Field Representative
Toni Duran: Field Representative
Chevelle Tate: Field Representative
Ryan Trabuco: Scheduler / Field Representative
David Rolland: Communications Director

Where to Find Me Online
Twitter: @SenToniAtkins


My district office is located at 1350 Front St., Room 4061, San Diego, CA 92101.

Around the District

Had a great conversation with residents in Kensington at the home of Patty Ungar & Philip Linssen.

It was another beautiful day in San Diego for the annual Veterans Day Parade.

I appreciated the chance to speak about the need for more women on corporate boards of directors at 2020 Women on Boards.

I always enjoy spending time at the Pride Youth Leadership Academy. I love how engaged, passionate, and brave they are.

I talked with a great group of engaged residents in the Rosemont neighborhood.

I had a great time at Art Produce Gallery in North Park, congratulating the gallery for the exhibit “Once Upon a Body” and for 17 years of community arts engagement.

I thank the Mexican American Business and Professional Association for allowing me to talk to them about housing.