Q&A: Jed Leano. Social Change, at Scale

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This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Candidates

Jed Leano is a candidate to represent the 41st Assembly District in Sacramento. Leano is a City Councilmember in Claremont and an immigration attorney.


Q – What are your thoughts about how to improve community policing?

A– In 2019, our Claremont police department made 3,000 calls for service for people who were unhoused and facing behavioral health crises. We believed that would best be addressed by psychiatric professionals.

We developed a first responder psychiatric team program that started in 2020. The call first comes into the station. The team is housed at the station. CPD ensures that there is not an active, ongoing crime scene.

As long as there’s not an ongoing crime happening, the psychiatric assessment care team handles it. We have a psychiatric nurse, a licensed therapist, and a psychiatric aide. We have staff that are medically equipped to deal with this medical problem.

When we started the program, we thought that it was going to be a challenge. But it was totally utilized, and we found we needed more of it. My long-term goal is to expand the program to make it a regional model of smart community response to common issues in the community, such as mental health, homelessness and safety.

I don’t like using plain labels about “Where are you on this or that?” I believe in smart policies. I believe what we did and accomplished in Claremont constitutes a smart policy, and I’m proud of that.

Q – With Claremont’s success, do you think this model is replicable across the district then?

A– Not only is it replicable, but it’s also badly needed.

Law enforcement are not clinical behavioral health professionals and shouldn’t be asked to do that. They should be asked to work on safety and crime. Being unwell is not a crime, and being poor is not a crime. We should have professionals to handle mental health and homelessness issues who are tailored and trained in that. When we don’t properly think these issues through and don’t make adequate policy responses, we put all that on law enforcement, and we get unsurprisingly mediocre results.

These programs have unquestionably helped homelessness. One of the first things that I ran on when I first got elected in 2018 was I wanted to fund a homeless services delivery plan in Claremont that was comprehensive from top to bottom. I spent the first half of the year in 2019 fighting to bring an award of Measure H money to Claremont. We brought back a very successful Measure H award for Pomona, LaVerne and Claremont, and we created a three-city response to homelessness where every city had responsibilities. We shared information and resources, and because of the implementation of those funds and the homeless services delivery plan I secured, by my second year in office in 2020, we had reduced homelessness by 41%.

“Everybody’s circumstances are different, and not everyone will accept the same type of help.”

Jed Leano

I believe that you have to have a robust system for homeless services delivery that shares information with regional neighbors. You also have to offer multiple pathways out of homelessness.

Everybody’s circumstances are different, and not everyone will accept the same type of help. When people are not yet ready to receive a placement, you have to meet them where they are.

Our homeless services plan funded the shower program, hospitality program, and laundry program. We offered basic and immediate assistance, and what does that do? It accomplishes the gaining of trust.

When you gain trust and you show people that you can provide basic needs right now, at some point, they’ll accept help. That was a critical point for us to understand that it was going to be a long road with some of our unhoused neighbors.

QPeople who live there, who have to deal with the unhoused, don’t feel safe. How do you think your program helped them feel safer?

A– The program we implemented in Claremont has had clear success, but there are safety challenges in all communities. When homelessness continues to go unabated, we have to expand programming to go upstream. We have to fight and create programs that prevent new and more people from entering homelessness.

The number of people we’ve housed in the last five years is extremely high. But there have also been a lot of new people entering the homeless services pipeline, and the system is frankly inundated.

Obviously, safety is a critical issue. We have to be smart about how we approach the question of delivering health because if we focus only on the housing of folks and not on the prevention of homelessness, then we’re just bailing water out of a boat, and the hole is bigger than the bucket. We’re going to have to look at some larger comprehensive plans.

A lot is happening right now. Two huge mental health service plans are coming down the pike next year.

Number one is a total reform of the way that the Mental Health Services Act is funded. Number two is a brand-new bond that is going to revamp and revitalize mental health services.

“It is fundamentally useless for a judge to say you are required to go to mental health counseling and treatment if there are not enough resources to provide that treatment.”

Jed Leano

We’re also rolling out Care Court, the new program that will provide a court-ordered system to monitor treatment for people with chronic mental health issues. That system will only work if the public mental health service delivery capacity meets what the court requires. It is fundamentally useless for a judge to say you are required to go to mental health counseling and treatment if there are not enough resources to provide that treatment.

When people ask me, “Will Care Court work?” my answer is that it has to work. It better work because we can’t keep going doing what we’re doing. But it will only work if there are enough treatment opportunities for everybody who’s mandated.

QIs there something new or innovative that you look forward to implementing?

A– I’ve got a lot of exciting ideas. One of the difficult things is building affordable housing. I’ve done it, put together the financing, partnerships, etc. We have developments that are coming to Claremont that are going to house the poorest of the poor.

It is remarkably complicated to finance that. You have to go to dozens of places and ask for money. If you don’t get one of them, then you have to wait another six to nine months to reapply again. We need to consolidate that.

“I don’t understand why we make the financing of badly needed affordable housing so complicated.”

Jed Leano

When your child applies to seven colleges, you fill out one application for financial aid. When you get accepted, the Department of Education sends you an award letter. I don’t understand why we make the financing of badly needed affordable housing so complicated. It has to be streamlined.

Claremont is an innovative city. I’m really excited we are the birthplace of CHERP Solar Works, the first in the nation nonprofit, local solar panel factory that produces renewable energy for communities.

This is a replicable model of incentivizing local communities to create local renewable energy that creates good-paying jobs and contributes to local economic development. Every single dollar that’s earned from a good-paying job at CHERP is spent seven times in the local community. That’s a replicable model throughout the state and especially throughout the district.

QDo you do you have any thoughts about net zero carbon utilities programs?

A– In Claremont, we made the default electrical rate for all residential homes 100% renewable in January of 2022. Now, over 97% of the residences in Claremont get their electrical power through renewable energy.

We should try to find more ways to enable other jurisdictions.

QWhat are your thoughts about the importance of saving local news?

A– The city of Claremont has been blessed with having a local newspaper for generations called the Claremont Courier. It has a robust level of public engagement.

I’ve been on the council here for five years. Every time I pick up my kids from school, every time I go to the grocery store, people approach me saying, “Hey Jed, I heard you voted for this or that. Let’s talk about it.” That’s only possible because of the Claremont Courier. People are informed and giving me their opinions.

We need to hear from folks, and the government can’t do it alone.

“We have to fight like hell to make sure that we save local news.”

Jed Leano

We want to believe that we have the solution to reach everybody, but we can’t by ourselves. We need partners, and local news has been the crucial partner in making that happen. It’s a reliable, honest, sincere, and credible news source that, without it, public engagement would be totally different.

My town is the direct beneficiary of having a generations-old local news source that knows our town and knows the issues. We have to fight like hell to make sure that we save local news.

QWhat do you want your constituency to know about? What are you working hard for?

A– I spent my time these last 17 years as a lawyer, fighting for immigrants facing deportation. That’s my career professionally. It is the only job I’ve ever done as an attorney.

When I entered public service, the focus of my work had been very clear – homelessness, making housing more affordable, expanding mental health services, and addressing climate change in a substantial and meaningful way. I believe that my track record speaks for itself.

“I have the receipts. I’m proud of my track record. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”

Jed Leano

I’m the only candidate in this race who has gotten affordable housing done in his town and created and funded a homeless services delivery system that has helped people improve their lives. I have the receipts. I’m proud of my track record. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Because of those accomplishments, I’m not here to tell voters what I think about things. I’m here to tell them what I’ve done in my town.

I believe that people are ready for leadership and results, not talk.

QWe talked about streamlining the housing process and the mental health process. Do you think there’s a path for streamlining immigration?

A– I became an immigration lawyer in 2006. In 2007, I was at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in Florida, my first immigration conference ever. We were absolutely convinced in 2007 that there was a deal for comprehensive immigration reform. Now, 16 years later, I am still practicing immigration law, and disappointed that we’re not there yet. We’re long overdue for comprehensive immigration reform. There are people in this community who are well deserving of the appropriate legal status and who contribute so much to our communities economically. I think that we’re just long overdue. It’s a shame that we’re not there. Until then, I’m going to keep fighting to protect my clients and my family and make sure that they can call America home.

“I’m going to keep fighting to protect my clients and my family and make sure that they can call America home.”

Jed Leano

I’m really proud of the focus, voice and leadership I’ve given to the issue of making housing affordable. It is the cause of my career in public service, and we’re reaching a breaking point now, where homelessness and housing affordability are so chronic that you don’t have to be homeless or unhoused or housing unstable for this to matter to you. Now, this is a major top priority for business. The lack of housing for the workforce is a major priority for continued economic growth in the future. Even if you are retired, financially well-off, or your house is paid off, you’re pissed because your grandkids live in Phoenix or Vegas now. What kind of future are we creating, where the next generation is just fundamentally left out? We’re not creating enough opportunities and chances for the next generation of Californians to have that little slice of home for themselves. We’re just making it harder and harder for them. I want to be their champion. I want to make sure that we provide for the next generation. And so that’s why I’m running for this seat.

Series Navigation<< Q&A: Jonathan Horton. All About CommunityQ&A: Phlunté Riddle. Perspective is Everything >>

Sheryl Turner

Sheryl is Local News Pasadena's Publisher and Pasadena Media Foundation's Founder. When not saving local news, she devotes her spare time to finding the best meatloaf in town.
Email: [email protected]

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