The Toni Times | December 2022

December 6, 2022

A Note from Toni


This is a difficult newsletter note to write. I am still reeling from the sudden loss of Deanna Spehn: community leader, colleague, and my friend. Since her passing on November 12, it has been so comforting for Deanna’s beloved family and her countless friends and colleagues to hear the kind words and many stories that have been shared about Deanna—her brilliance, her love for her family and her work, and how much she gave to our community. There is more about our amazing Deanna later in the newsletter, I hope you’ll take a look.

One of the saddest parts of Deanna’s passing for me is how much progress we are making in San Diego and Sacramento on the issues she cared so deeply about and worked so hard to solve. Later this week, the opportunity to make even more progress will begin again and Deanna would have been in right there in the thick of it!

Yesterday, re-elected Senators and just-elected Senators came to Sacramento to begin the legislative session that will last until November 2024. It was an honor to join my colleagues old and new, especially my new Senate District neighbors, Senators Catherine Blakespear and Steve Padilla!  Congratulations to everyone who was on the ballot last month, and especially to our Secretary of State Shirley Weber, not only for being elected to keep serving as Secretary of State, but for overseeing such a well-run election process.

When we come back to the Capitol this January, we will continue working to increase housing, especially affordable housing, and to bring down homelessness—the decades-old challenge that seems to break our hearts particularly strongly this time of year. We will continue to build on the historic advances we made on climate change, helping protect Californians from wildfires at a time when a single lightning strike could destroy an entire community. And we’ll be furthering our efforts to help coastal communities like ours fight the dangers of sea level rise, building on my 2021 bill SB 1 — a bill, that, of course, Deanna Spehn was involved in from the concept stage to it being signed into law.

As we return to the Capitol, we are reenergized to address our ongoing challenges and find solutions that take California into the future. One of the things I am most proud of my colleagues for is the shared commitment the Senate has that real people with serious problems aren’t looking for performance art, they’re looking for political courage. And that is what we need to keep providing in 2023 and beyond.

Finally, I would just say Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. That is what December is really all about, and whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, the Solstice or all of the above in a wild month-long celebration, Jennifer and I hope all of us will find many opportunities this month to share and spread Joy wherever we can.

And Deanna, you remain in our hearts at this most special time of the year.

Thanks for reading,



In Memoriam Deanna Spehn


Team Toni lost one of our beloved family members on November 12 with the passing of Deanna Spehn, who served as my District Policy Director.

Deanna had been part of my team for ten years, during my time in both the Assembly and the Senate. She advised me on a host of issues including agriculture, environmental quality, water, energy, transportation, parks and natural resources, historical preservation, and coastal protection. Before joining my team, she worked for a decade as a policy advisor to Christine Kehoe, my predecessor in both houses.

I’ve known very few, if any, legislative staff who have demonstrated the same wealth and depth of knowledge as Deanna. She could not only recite key facts and figures—or quickly locate the information in the stacks of files on her desk—she could also provide essential perspective and analysis with the history and backstory of almost any topic in her purview.

Prior to working for the Legislature, Deanna held several positions at the City of San Diego, including Senior Policy Analyst to Mayor Susan Golding; Consultant to the City Council Committee on Rules, Budget and Intergovernmental Relations; and Policy Director for Councilmember Judy McCarty.

Deanna was a strong advocate for the preservation of our natural resources. Two of her proudest achievements were her work in the design and adoption of the City of San Diego’s historical Multiple Species Conservation Program and the conceptualization and implementation of the San Diego River Conservancy.

Her strongest devotion, however, was to her own community of Tierrasanta, where she called home since 1972. She was the co-founder and publisher of the Tierra Times, which printed its final edition in September after 45 years. (You may recall the article on that accomplishment in the October issue of The Toni Times.) She also served on the Tierrasanta Community Council and Planning Group, including a term as president, and chaired the Tierrasanta Open Space Committee.

In the flood of tributes we received after her passing, Mark Cafferty, President & CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, perhaps said it best when he noted that he had never “met anyone—in any line of work—who loved what they did more than Deanna. She truly loved the San Diego community and dedicated her life to making it a better place.” A collection of memories people have shared with us can be found on my website.

Deanna’s was a life well-lived, and we all are indebted to her public service. We send our condolences to her husband Richard, her daughter Michaela, the rest of her extended family, and all those whose lives she touched.


Representation Matters


This election cycle, Californians elected a record number of women and members of the LGTBQ+ community to the California State Legislature. On December 5th, new and returning legislators will be sworn in for a new session and our state will officially be the first in the nation to have more than 10 percent LGBTQ+ representation in its state house—but that’s just one of many firsts! Women are on track to hold at least 50 legislative seats statewide—a big increase from the 39 women legislators currently in the state Assembly and Senate. In the Senate alone, if Senator Melisa Hurtado is re-elected, 18 of the 40 seats will be held by women—that’s 45 percent! Representation matters and I am excited about the new perspectives and lived experiences my incoming colleagues will bring to the Capitol. The election of the most diverse group of legislators in state history is an incredible example of the democratic process at work. When Californians come out to vote, great things can happen!


Protecting our Progress Amid Economic Challenges


The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently released its annual report on California’s fiscal outlook for 2023-24, which indicates that our state is facing a $25 billion budget deficit in the year ahead and likely more challenging years beyond that. Fortunately, the California Legislature has been preparing for this possibility.

For the past decade, responsible budgeting has been the top priority of California leadership. We built up our reserves to record highs and paid down debts, while also making historic progress with new commitments that strengthen the middle class and support struggling Californians. With that sturdy foundation beneath our feet, I am confident that we can protect our progress through challenging times without increasing taxes on the middle class or making cuts to our core programs.

Our state has a proven track record of lifting up our most vulnerable community members with programs like the California Earned Income Tax Credit—a refundable cashback tax credit that puts real money into the wallets of lower income working families and individuals. To see if you qualify, visit

We will not give up ground when it comes to the incredible progress this state has made. California stands ready to weather the financial difficulty ahead of us and emerge stronger when the economy rebounds.


Get Covered for 2023 by Jan. 31


In its 10th year, Covered California’s open enrollment period is once again giving Californians the opportunity to sign up for high quality health insurance with the click of a button. If you or someone you know is looking for coverage in the new year, you have until open enrollment closes on January 31 to shop, compare plans, and sign up through Covered California for insurance that begins on February 1. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, almost 90 percent of members can also take advantage of financial help to lower their monthly premiums, including an estimated 79,000 people in San Diego. Check out your options for free at


Around the District




Thank you to the incredible folks at San Diego Zoo Safari Park for indulging the animal lovers in my office (myself, most of all) with a tour of the park and an introduction to Neville, the southern white rhino. I’m not ‘lion’ when I say I’m wild for all the Safari Park staff does to protect and care for animals, and educate humans on conservation, wildlife, and nature.



    Last month, I had the opportunity to check out San Diego State University’s Snapdragon Stadium! As the new home of the San Diego State Aztecs, the San Diego Wave Football Club, and the San Diego Legion, it is sure to be the first of many visits to this world-class stadium.



      Together, the Mid-City Family Apartments and the Harris Family Senior Residence are providing nearly 200 affordable housing units, plus on-site activities and case management services, for families and seniors in the City Heights and El Cerrito community. I was thrilled to join Mayor Gloria, San Diego City Councilmember Elo-Rivera, and many stakeholders and supporters of the project to celebrate its grand opening! 



        We will never know how many LGBTQ folks have honorably and silently served in the U.S. Military—until recently, it was their only option. That’s why I so appreciate the work the San Diego LGBT Community Center does to recognize service members from our community and thank them for all they’ve sacrificed for our nation. Congratulations to the 13 heroes inducted into the Benjamin F. Dillingham, III and Bridget Wilson LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor last month.



        For 10 years, Urban Street Angels has provided supportive emergency, transitional, and long-term housing; job training opportunities; and employment for young people facing homelessness. I was glad to celebrate its legacy, and thank CEO and founder Eric Lovett and the entire team for their longstanding commitment to our community.



        It was a pleasure to join Captain Dwight “Woody” Clemons, Commanding Officer of Naval Base Coronado and incoming Commanding Officer Captain Newt McKissick to celebrate the achievements our partner agencies have made in protecting the safety of our coastal communities. Working together, we make a great team!



        For over a decade, Home Start’s Maternity Housing Program has provided young mothers and children facing homelessness with housing, case management, and support services. Now, with the opening of Miracle on 34th Street, five beautiful new units will be available for this incredible program. Congratulations, Home Start!



        Ten years ago, California established the first-of-its-kind network of 124 Marine Protected Areas to protect biodiversity, build resilience to ocean stressors, and help safeguard marine life in the face of climate change. A decade later, we remain committed to strengthening and expanding this critical network.



        The Ocean Beach Library is a community treasure, providing opportunities for a lifetime of learning, and a space for folks to come together. I was happy to secure $28 million of local funding for libraries in our district, including $4.5 million for this expansion project.



        It was an honor to meet with local Tribal Chairmen during Native American History Month. Thank you to Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Chairman Ray Welch of the Barona Band of Mission Indians; Chairman Cody Martinez of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation; and Chairman John Christman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians for taking the time to speak with me.


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