The Toni Times | August 2021
Summer continues to be busy, and there’s a lot of new information and events to share. Since our last newsletter, not only has Governor Gavin Newsom signed the 2021-22 state budget, with its major investments and record reserves, the Legislature and the Governor have also reached agreement on several other major issues.
You may recall the powerful and heartbreaking image that circulated of kids doing their homework in a Taco Bell parking lot, because they didn’t have Internet access at home. We just established a new program to help ensure Californians, urban and rural, have access to high-quality broadband internet. That includes $6 billion in state and federal funding to expand the state’s broadband fiber infrastructure and increase internet connectivity for families and businesses. Also, as someone whose library card was a treasured childhood possession, I am very pleased we are making the largest investment in history in our libraries, with $439 million in funding for modernization and renovations of branch libraries across California.
Another agreement between the Legislature and the Governor expands child care slots, increases provider reimbursement rates, and waives fees for families for the 2021-22 budget year. I moved to California because my sister needed help caring for her baby. It’s great all these years later to be part of our state’s historic investment in the quality, professional child care that so many families rely on in order to work. The investments we’re making don’t just help the parents who need childcare to find or keep a job, they also help build a strong foundation for future generations.
With drought conditions and weather events caused by climate change continuing to keep California at grave risk from fires, the final budget allocates more than $1 billion in fire protection and prevention programs—and that’s on top of the $536 million dollars we passed earlier this year for a broad set of investments, including $12 million dollars for the San Diego River Conservancy to take early prevention actions such as brush removal and strengthen our fire resiliency.
In the rest of the newsletter, you’ll find a breakdown of the local benefits and impacts of these recent budget actions. You’ll also see highlights from some great things that are happening all around the 39th Senate District.
One last point: though we have made amazing progress on vaccinations, there is more work to do. One thing we’ve certainly learned in the last 18 months is how quickly information on COVID-19—and science- and medicine-based advice in response to it—can be updated as new facts emerge. Always double check reliable resources to determine the latest on what you and your family or you and your business need to know. Please check the County of San Diego’s website for the latest information on vaccines.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you are having a wonderful, safe, and healthy summer!
It was wonderful to join my San Diego colleagues and community members to celebrate the major investments the 2021-22 state budget makes to our region. During a press conference in Ocean Beach on July 21, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Assemblymember Chris Ward, City Council President Jennifer Campbell, City Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera, and I discussed the more than $200 million in funding that will be invested in the 39th Senate District and throughout our region.
One of those investments is the very pier where we held the press conference. The Ocean Beach pier is a landmark for our region, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. But after decades of rising tides and waves, it is in dire need of repair. This year’s budget allocates $8.4 million to the City of San Diego to begin a capital improvement project to reconstruct the pier so it can remain a community asset, and a beloved memory for those who visit.
Millions of dollars also will flow into our communities, parks, libraries, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and neighborhoods. These include:
- HOMELESSNESS & HOUSING: One of the most pressing issues that this budget helps address is homelessness. I’m pleased to say we were able to make record-level investments to address this crisis on our streets. The San Diego region will benefit from $100 million over two years – with the City of San Diego set to receive $27.3 million in year one.
- PUBLIC SAFETY: The San Diego City Attorney’s Office will receive $1 million to aid its groundbreaking Gun Violence Restraining Order Training Program, which removes guns from people who pose a credible threat of violence to themselves or others. California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta has praised the program as a model for the rest of the state.
- INFRASTRUCTURE: With less rainfall statewide, water issues are understandably top of mind for Californians, and it’s a top priority for my colleagues and I. This year’s budget includes $50 million in funding for the region’s Pure Water project. The City of San Diego has a goal to provide one-third of the city’s water through recycled Pure Water by 2035, and these funds bring us a step closer. The budget also includes an $18 million investment in the San Vicente Pump Station – a bold, renewable energy storage solution – and the City of San Diego will receive $3.1 million for its Chollas Creek Infrastructure Project to treat storm water runoff.
- LIBRARIES & EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT: The budget also includes a $2.4 million restoration project for the Logan Heights Community Library, as well as a $35 million renovation for the San Diego College of Continuing Education’s Educational Cultural Complex.
- UC SAN DIEGO HOSPITAL
While in the District, I was also able to meet with the team at UC San Diego Health, including Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, to celebrate a $30 million investment in this year’s budget for the Phase One development and construction of a brand new replacement hospital in Hillcrest.
This new medical facility will complement the university’s vision for a new healthcare campus, one that will include housing. The current Hillcrest hospital serves all San Diego and Imperial County residents, along with parts of Riverside County.
This pandemic has shown us the importance of our health care infrastructure. I was able to hear from medical professionals to truly understand the impact the pandemic has had on our first responders, doctors and nurses.
(From left to right: UC Regent Richard Leib, Pro Tem Atkins, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, UCSD Vice Chancellor of Marine Sciences and Scripps Institution of Oceanography Director Dr. Margaret Leinen, Assistant Director of Fleet Operations Bruce Applegate)
I will never forget the first time I saw the California Coastline, when I moved to San Diego in 1985. I was struck by its beauty, but came to appreciate its’ power in terms of how it impacts our climate, as well as its importance to our economy. The ocean and our bay sustains our fishing and tourism industry, as well as our role in the military.
That is why I so value the partnership I have with the team at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Their mission to understand our oceans to find solutions to environmental challenges is critical, and I appreciate their dedication to research that will be invaluable to our state.
On July 23, I joined with the UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography to announce $35 million dollars in funding for the design and construction of a brand new research vessel. It will replace the 40-year-old Robert Gordon Sproul, a classroom on the sea, which has helped graduate and undergrad students conduct research, including the impact of plastics in our ocean, sea-level rise and climate change. It’s that very science that is also guiding my own legislation this year, SB 1, the Sea Level Rise Mitigation and Adaptation Act.
Science gives us the basis for action, and it’s imperative that scientists have the support they need to continue their research, which in turn helps us all!
There have been many issues I’ve worked on this past year and many crises to solve for. But when it comes to issues of the heart, actions speak louder than words. That’s why I worked hard to ensure that $1.5 million was allocated to the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation for the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the San Diego River.
This bridge will not only honor the memory of Max Lenail, who lost his life hiking earlier this year, but will also ensure the safety of all future visitors to the park. Like so many of us, Max was drawn to Mission Trails to enjoy all of its natural wonder. Max, who was studying to become a doctor at Brown University, had just returned to San Diego two weeks before his death.
Max will not be forgotten – and his memory will live on as outdoor enthusiasts safely make it to the other side of the rivers banks. I applaud Max’s parents, Ben Lenail and Laurie Yoller, for their activism and determination to see this project through. And I thank their friends and loved ones who have helped to raise an amazing $750,000 in funding for this project.
This bridge also meets the needs of the Mission Trails Regional Park Master Plan. And it is a privilege to help ensure that this pedestrian bridge becomes a reality in this great park.
Team Toni Tours Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
Team Toni was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the San Diego Symphony’s beautiful new venue, the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park. What an incredible new addition to San Diego’s waterfront. Our state budget allocated $3 million for capital improvements for the Symphony. This new venue, which will hold a grand opening later this month, will serve as both a public park, an outdoor venue for private events, and a permanent outdoor home for our Symphony.
There is also a variety of concerts planned this summer, with more to come in the Fall. I can’t wait to see a show here!
Airport Authority Opens New Support Facility
As a frequent flyer who uses the San Diego International Airport each week, it was my pleasure to join the Airport Authority leadership and staff, along with civic leaders and community partners to celebrate a new facility that is part of the airport’s infrastructure progress.
The Airline Support Building provides a convenient location for the public to pick up and drop off live animals or bulky cargo items shipped via passenger jets, and will serve Southwest, American, Delta and United airlines.
The completion of this project is a testament to the team at the airport. Construction never stopped, even during the most difficult times of the past year. Thank you to all who were instrumental in this achievement. I’m happy that our state budget will further invest $95 million in travel and tourism investments and promotion for California. This funding will continue to assist in the recovery of thousands of small, local businesses that provide key services to our tourism partners across the region.
House of Peru Opening its Doors in Balboa Park
Balboa Park is one of those places in the District that is stunning and awe-inspiring – it’s our urban sanctuary and the heart of culture, history, and tourism in San Diego. Internationally, Balboa Park is a destination beloved by San Diegans and visitors from around the world.
Two years ago, I ensured that the state budget invested $400,000 for the New International Cottages in Balboa Park. That effort came full circle last month, when I joined representatives and community members to celebrate the opening of the House of Peru, a project that respects the beauty of the diversity in our city, region and state.
I love the purpose of these cottages: to demonstrate a spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill among the many multicultural and ethnic groups represented in the San Diego community. By opening these doors, the House of Peru has a permanent home among the 33 other cultures represented.
The San Diego Blood Bank Needs You
(San Diego Blood Bank President & CEO David Wellis joins Senator Atkins as she donates blood.)
Donating blood is rooted in my family history. My dad, a dedicated blood donor, had a very rare blood type that just happened to match a young child in our community who had a blood disorder. They were able to meet once, and that is probably why he wound up donating three gallons over his lifetime.
Given the nationwide blood shortage, I made sure to stop by the San Diego Blood Bank late last month. The blood shortage is at critical levels, with some supplies of blood types dwindling to about two days worth of supply -- normal supply is about seven days. Without adequate blood donors, surgeries and other important therapies could be delayed. Donors of all types are needed, including platelets, but O+ and O- blood types are vital. Blood donations save lives, and the time is now. To make an appointment, call 619-400-8521 or click here.
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