The Toni Times | December 2020

December 1, 2020

A Note from Toni


It’s December! And while I know we are all eager to turn the page on 2020, I also know this last month of the year will be a busy one, with holiday traditions—both old and reimagined for the times we are in—and with all the work that is going on to prepare for the year ahead.

In the California State Senate, we began preparing for the 2021 session of the Legislature even before we wrapped up the last one! Our top priority, of course, is continuing to help Californians through this pandemic and to ensure that our economy recovers and grows. And we are looking forward to working on those critical issues with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris once they take office in January.

Our next session will officially begin December 7, when newly elected and re-elected Senators will be sworn-in. I am enormously proud to be starting my second term as the Senator for the 39th District—and honored that the voters have again placed their trust in me. I will respect and honor that trust every single day. I will also always remember where I come from: both the small towns of Southwestern Virginia where I grew up, and the big city of San Diego, which I have now called home for 35 years.

Senators will be reintroducing important bills on housing production, broadband access, and criminal justice reform, along with other bills that had the support to pass this year but were prevented by some unfortunate roadblocks in the process. I will also be reintroducing my bill to help local communities fight sea level rise, which I had set aside to focus on the pandemic and the economy. Because these bills have already had so much heavy lifting done to get them into shape they will be among the very first to be considered in 2021.

One of the best things about being part of this community is the many opportunities we have to give back. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my staff and I worked with California American Water providing gift cards to over one dozen local non-profit organizations to purchase meals for hundreds of families as part of “Operation Gobble.” And thanks to the generosity of community partner PepsiCo, we were able to offer holiday meals to benefit San Diego Youth Services, a nonprofit committed to serving homeless, runaway and other vulnerable youth. Team Toni also assisted with the annual Scott Carlson and Dan Ferbal Thanksgiving Dinner, hosted by the San Diego LGBT Community Center and the Imperial Court de San Diego. Following local and state guidelines to protect the community, they worked with local businesses to distribute “to-go” dinner boxes. December provides even more opportunities for us to help. Right now there are many organizations in our community whose need is even bigger than their hearts.

During Christmas of 1944, E.B. White—the author who gave us Charlotte’s Web—wrote a memorable article thanking all the soldiers, sailors, nurses, and homefront workers for everything that they had done in that difficult year. His message remains the same today when you think about all we have been given by health care workers, and grocery clerks, and first responders who are doing their jobs so the rest of us can all live as close to normal as possible during COVID-19. Or by everyone who signed up to be part of a clinical trial for a vaccine. Or by the people who check-in on their elderly neighbors or help local businesses stay open. 2020 has certainly been tough. But, as E.B. White said back then: “This is a Christmas you will never forget, people have been so generous.”

Jennifer and I wish you and yours all the best this holiday season. And, here’s to a brighter 2021!



A Wave of Hope

USA map with various colors


I was six years old when a diverse crowd of drag queens rioted for queer rights at the Stonewall Inn and seven when the first gay pride parade marched through New York City. I was 15 years old when Harvey Milk was elected in San Francisco and 16 when he was killed. Despite the tumult and devastation, watching these headlines unfold from my little corner of the countryside in southwest Virginia inspired me. They gave me hope that I too could make a difference.

Over the past five decades, LGBTQ+ leaders have made incredible gains in our communities, statehouses, and in our nation’s capital, culminating in the historic rainbow wave we saw this election. Standing on the shoulders of trailblazers like Kathy Kozachenko, Harvey Milk, and Danica Roem, a new crop of LGBTQ+ candidates across the country won their campaigns, further proving that whom you love and how you identify is not a liability. What matters is the work you do.

The rainbow wave of 2020 will go down in history as the year Sarah McBride was elected to become the first transgender State Senator, making her the highest-ranking trans person in the country. The year Mondaire Jones was elected to become the first openly gay Black Congressmember and Ritchie Torres was elected to become the first openly gay Afro-Latino Congressmember, increasing the number of LGBTQ+ members of Congress to nine. The year my friend and colleague Todd Gloria was elected to become the first openly LGBTQ person and first person of color to be Mayor of San Diego.

What is also beautiful about this rainbow wave is its diversity. So many who have felt marginalized and overlooked will now get to see that someone like them is working for them.

Despite the tumult and devastation this unprecedented year has brought, this election gives us hope for what’s ahead. It is our job to hold on to that hope, nurture it, and help it bloom into more progress.

While we may have seen many firsts this year, as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris likes to say, they will not be the last.


Community Volunteers Sew, Donate Thousands of Masks

Community volunteers


“It’s a simple act of kindness.”

That’s how Michelle Harvey describes her group of super-volunteers known as the San Diego Face Mask Sewing Group. At a time when we are all being asked to remain vigilant and protect ourselves and others from COVID-19, Michelle has inspired nearly 2,000 volunteers to literally lend a hand and sew 60,000 masks.

This all started in March when the first shelter-in-place order went out. Her friend, an ICU nurse, told Michelle the staff was in need of masks. Michelle said her son had received a sewing machine for the holidays, and they both figured that the stay-at-home order gave them ample time to learn how to sew and do something for a good cause.

They first made three. Then the call went on out on social media for volunteers. The response was overwhelming. The masks have found their way to hospitals, schools, military bases, first responders, as well as mail carriers, non-profits, and caregivers across the entire San Diego region. They’ve even been donated to Mexico and other states.

“This isn’t a political issue. What we’re doing is filling a need.”

Michelle said this effort created a sense of community – virtually – allowing strangers to come together to trade fabrics, patterns, and stories. For folks who don’t sew, they volunteered as drivers or purchased materials for the group.

“We don’t charge for any of these masks. That’s not what this is about. As long as there’s a need, we’re doing it.”

As it turns out, her son whose sewing machine inspired this project, is now immunocompromised. Michelle says he’s among those who now benefits from all of us who wear a mask.

Thank you Michelle and your group of super sewers.


Safely Celebrate the Holidays

Wishing you a Happy & Safe Holiday Season

As we’ve come to expect in 2020, the holidays this year will be different. Due to the continued presence of COVID-19, and the increase in positive cases in San Diego County, we need to remain steadfast in following the necessary health precautions. We must wear our masks when in public and around others, wash our hands thoroughly, maintain six feet of physical space from those outside our homes, and avoid gathering with people we do not live with.

Many of San Diego’s treasured holiday traditions have been reimagined so we can still enjoy their festive cheer, while staying safe! Drive through A Taste of December Nights at the Inspiration Point parking lot to enjoy delicious treats from local food trucks and vendors. Tune into KPBS Radio 89.5 FM to enjoy The Old Globe’s audio rendition of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas On The Radio! from your home or while driving by the many homes and streets lit up for the holidays. Hop in your car for the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center’s Hanukkah Happening Hits the Highway, a driving tour of San Diego’s Jewish landmarks and symbols, accompanied by Hanukkah stories, music, and games. Watch the Little Italy Holiday Special to see their virtual tree lighting, a musical performance by the Our Lady of the Rosary Choir, and a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Looking for more ideas? Visit for a list of other ways to celebrate the holidays!

It has been a long year and all of us are feeling fatigue from COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean it has gone away. The virus is still a very real threat to everyone, especially the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Please adhere to the following health precautions as you celebrate the holidays and usher in the New Year:

  • Get your flu shot
  • Limit holiday celebrations to no more than three households
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Maintain 6 feet or more of physical distance
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently
  • Bring hand sanitizer
  • Staying home and enjoying virtual celebrations is the safest way to enjoy the holidays this year

Please join me in doing your part to keep your families and neighbors safe, and help small businesses stay open, safely.


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Around the District

During Transgender Awareness Week, San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community members and allies honored the trans people who have been violently killed as a result of their gender identity by placing five altars throughout the area. At the time of this publication, 39 trans people have been killed in the U.S. this year – that have been reported – making 2020 the deadliest year on record for the trans community. We must stop this hate.


In partnership with California American Water, and through the support of Partnership for a Better San Diego, Team Toni was able to help donate gift cards to 15 non-profits to purchase holiday meals as part of Operation Gobble – one of my favorite events of the year – ensuring hundreds of San Diego families in need were able to celebrate Thanksgiving.


My staff and I were also proud to join the San Diego LGBT Community Center and the Imperial Court de San Diego to provide Thanksgiving meals to go for this year’s annual Scott Carlson and Dan Ferbal Community Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s wonderful to see these organizations and so many others find creative and safe ways to continue to give back to neighbors in need.