Former insurance commissioner and California assemblymember Dave Jones is running for State Senate in newly redrawn District 6.
Jones spoke with this reporter about homelessness, police accountability, healthcare, and some differences between one of his opponents, City Councilmember Angelique Ashby.
HOMELESSNESS & HOUSING
Q: What is your plan for addressing homelessness?
A: That is the number one issue that I hear from voters about, in addition to the lack of affordable housing. There are several contributors to this crisis. One is we simply haven’t built enough housing overall in California. We’re about 3 million units short of where we should be. That has contributed to the price of housing, rising rents, and homelessness. We’ve also not built enough affordable housing and when I was on the City Council in Sacramento, I authored and got enacted one of the most aggressive affordable housing ordinances Which required 15 percent of all new development to be affordable for very low and low-income households. That generated thousands of units, Unfortunately, my opponent in this race voted to gut that ordinance when she got onto the city council.
Jones is running against City Councilmember Angelique Ashby. Ashby has agreed to an interview later this week.
Instead, they substituted a fee that developers would pay. The fee was set so low that it has generated hardly any affordable housing. We had a strong ordinance That then got gutted by my opponent. I was the first council member to take it upon myself to build a shelter in their council district outside of downtown. That was in 2002 and I could see the tsunami wave of homelessness coming. At that time In the CIty of Sacramento, all the shelters were downtown. I decided that each of the council districts ought to add to shelter capacity. I identified a site and developed what is now a two hundred-bed shelter in Council District 6. There was opposition from neighbors and businesses in the community but we worked through that and that shelter has been there for over a decade now.
Unfortunately, no other council member including my opponent did that and until very recently, the Mayor twisted everybody’s arm and came up with a city-wide plan, there hasn’t been leadership by individual council members other than Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang to develop shelters or safe camping or mini homes in each of the council districts. My opponent has fought to have shelters in her district in her ten years on the council and there still isn’t a shelter. There is a hotel that’s being converted into permanent supportive housing and that’s a good thing but it’s not a shelter. Part of the problem is that local elected officials, like my opponent, are not leading to develop the necessary additional shelters to house the homeless. The consequence is we have all these people living on the streets.
Q: What year did the ordinance you authored get gutted?
A: That vote occurred in 2015. The affordable housing advocacy community was rightly dismayed and it was a big loss. One of the things the State needs to do is be more insistent that local governments build more housing generally, more affordable housing, and more shelter spaces. We need to strengthen our laws to make sure that happens because left to their own devices, it’s not happening at the local level.
Q: Is there something that the State could do to make Sacramento and other counties more engaged with the cities under their jurisdiction?
A: Yes, I include counties with the term local governments. We need to see the county do more too and when I say the State ought to be more insistent that local governments build more housing and shelters I include counties.
Q: What do you think about possible tenant screening laws and tenant protection laws focusing on credit scores and income requirements?
A: Some so many people are going to have issues with their rental history in the wake of the pandemic. A lot of people either lost their job or left work because they were afraid they would get sick. There were state and federal programs to assist in paying back rent due to Covid and landlords having to opt-in to those programs and some chose not to. I think landlords are going to have to make some adjustments for that. A law was passed recently that I support that prevents landlords from taking into account the fact that someone has a public subsidy that they’re using to cover their rent, like Section 8. I think that’s a positive development. We’ll have to look at whether there need to be other changes as well. We have a bunch of people competing for a scarce resource so we must have rules that make that fair but at the same time, we need to dramatically increase the supply so that you don’t have a situation where you have desperate people competing for a scarce resource and landlords in a position to make decisions based on a variety of criteria. If we increase the supply there would be less competition and their ability to impose rules that limit the ability of people with challenged credit or challenged rental history from getting into housing. Also, more supply will have an impact on price. Just increasing the supply is not going to be enough. Very low-income people are going to have a hard time with rent let alone purchasing a home. We need to increase the supply of permanently affordable housing and that’s where I think the State can play a role by assisting the counties and cities develop more of that and hold them accountable in doing so.
Q: When it comes to those who rely on social security or are on disability and presumably will never make enough to afford to rent a place to live, could that be an area of improvement to have subsidized housing for those individuals?
A: Yes. I began my public service as a legal aid lawyer representing very poor families including those on social security disability or SSI and you don’t get a big enough payment on SSI to afford a market-rate apartment. We need more permanently affordable units that are targeted to the very low income including those on SSI so that their rent is no more than 30 percent of their income. The rent level should be based on their income even if it is as low as it is for SSI recipients. So absolutely we need more affordable housing targeted to very low-income households. Of course, another component of this crisis is those who suffer from mental health issues and substance abuse or both. We need to make more investments in those two areas as well. More funding for mental health treatment and substance abuse disorder treatment and more facilities to treat people. We don’t have enough residential treatment facilities for either.
Q: What is your take on the “defund the police” rhetoric and your thoughts on police accountability?
A: I support both criminal justice reform and policing reform. The New Jim Crow laid out in excruciating detail how the war on drugs has led to mass incarceration primarily of people of color and caused enormous harm in those communities across this State and the nation. As a result of the war on drugs we ended up with a prison population which the US Supreme Court concluded was unconstitutional because the conditions were so poor and were overcrowded.
On policing reform I support the package of bills that were passed last year including Senator Bradford’s bill on making sure that officers who engage in misconduct in one jurisdiction don’t get to hop into another jurisdiction. I don’t support defunding the police if it’s meant to end policing but I do think we need to support other response systems like calls for assistance by individuals that are having mental health issues or substance abuse issues that are nonviolent and instead of sending armed police out, send trained mental health and substance abuse professionals to help people. In too many of these cases, these interactions have resulted in civilians getting shot. So I support creating these alternatives and I think the State can play a role in helping to fund and pilot some of this work. I don’t support abolishing police but I do think we reform how we undertake law enforcement.
Q: Are you familiar with Berkeley’s proposal to remove armed police from traffic enforcement?
A: I’ve heard of that. I think it’s worth exploring. It’s useful for Berkeley to be exploring this and I would support a pilot project that would look at and see to what extent that reduces the incidents of injuries and fatalities in encounters with police. It’s useful to do these things as a pilot program to see what the results are then drawn from that to see if any state legislation is required.
Q: Your thoughts on single-payer healthcare?
A: I’ve long supported a single-payer healthcare system. I co-authored bills when I was in the State Assembly and I support AB 1400.
AB 1400 recently failed and was not brought to the floor for a vote.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon -
"Dave Jones is one of the most effective and progressive legislators and policy leaders in California. His 20 years of leadership on climate change, affordable housing, early childhood education, and consumer protection have helped improve the lives of millions of Californians. As a former Sacramento City Councilmember, State Assemblymember, and California State Insurance Commissioner, Dave has the experience to tackle tough problems and a track record of delivering change. Please join me in supporting Dave Jones for State Senate!”
Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin -
“Climate change is at a crisis point, and the legislature would benefit from his unique expertise on environmental protection now more than ever. Dave Jones has the experience and unique policy knowledge necessary to tackle the most urgent issues Californians face. From increasing access to high-quality healthcare, defending democracy and the right to vote, and protecting clean air and water, Dave Jones is ready to represent and fight for Californians in the State Senate,” Mullin said.
Kim Carter Martinez, Political Director for AFSCME Council -
"Dave Jones has always stood on the side of workers and has fought for the rights of all working people. Our members work for the public in schools and community colleges, transit agencies, cities, counties and other agencies, and clinics and hospitals, and Dave understands that these public services and the workers who provide them are critical to our communities. We trust Dave to fight for a more just, progressive, and prosperous California, and we are proud to support his campaign for State Senate.”
SEIU 1021 President Joseph Bryant -
“At every opportunity, Dave Jones has sided with workers over special interests, with families over corporations, and with the most vulnerable over the most powerful. Our over 60,000 members work for local governments, non-profit agencies, and schools throughout Northern California. We are united by our belief that workers deserve a living wage and a fair shot at the American Dream. Dave Jones shares our values, and we are proud to support his campaign for State Senate."
Jeff Freitas, President, California Federation of Teachers -
"Dave Jones is a lifelong champion for public education and education equity. Dave authored legislation creating the largest early childhood education program in the country, and has time and again stood with teachers, parents, and students fighting to fund our schools and community colleges. Teachers, community college professors, university lecturers, and classified professionals are proud to stand with Dave Jones for State Senate.”