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Alhambra Councilmember Sasha Renée Pérez wants to succeed Anthony Portantino as California State Senator for the 25th District. We wanted to know her views on the biggest issues imaginable: homelessness, gun violence and community cohesion. She’s put some thought into these topics.
Q. What are some of the ways that the unhoused issue can be resolved?
A. We’re seeing a lot of folks fall into homelessness right now, unfortunately, because we’re seeing a rise in evictions happening throughout the state. And so it’s definitely a big cause for concern.
I serve on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which is a county-wide commission that works on coordinating relief services for folks that are experiencing homelessness. I think that there’s a number of things that need to be done.
That includes, first and foremost, building more affordable housing. We have a number of people that are chronically unhoused and need not just regular housing but also supportive services.
We do not have enough housing currently to house those folks permanently. And frankly, it’s very hard for local cities to build that sort of housing. So there needs to be more intention by cities to get that built.
There are shelters, but they’re the kind of shelters where you can stay in bunk beds in a very large room with other folks. But if you are a single parent with maybe two or three children, staying in a shelter is definitely not a permanent situation. You would want to be somewhere where you can be in your own space with your children, a place that is private that feels more safe. That’s the direction I think that we need to start moving.
“If you are a single parent with maybe two or three children, staying in a shelter is definitely not a permanent situation.”
Q. What can you help do about it at the State Senate level?
A. What we can do is make sure that the funding and the resources are there when local cities decide that they want to pursue building this kind of housing.
I also think that there can be streamlining of requirements for some of these housing providers as well, making it easier for for them especially when they’re building housing for low income families.
In the undocumented community we’ve seen a huge rise in homelessness among folks that are immigrants. And we have very few places where those folks can be housed because you need to ensure that any housing built for them does not involve federal money. Because if it does they can’t be housed there. So their options are even fewer, despite the fact that this population is growing very rapidly.
California’s had such a massive housing crisis that we’ve seen a lot of immigrants choose to go elsewhere, even if that means going to states that have policies that are more aggressively anti-immigrant.
This also means a loss of students in our schools. And we’ve seen the impact on school district funding. We’re losing our talent resources because we’re driving many of these folks away.
“We’ve seen a lot of immigrants choose to go elsewhere, even if that means going to states that have policies that are more aggressively anti-immigrant.”
Immigrants are making hard decisions, like whether or not they want to pay $2,000 a month or $3,000 a month for a one bedroom or look somewhere in the Midwest where they could be paying a third of that and basically live a more comfortable life.
Q. On another topic, this region was the site of a mass homicide, arson at the San Gabriel Mission and the fatal shooting of a beloved LA County Roman Catholic bishop. How do you think these events have impacted the area and what steps should be taken to further heal the impacted communities?
A. I think that it’s just further evidence that the San Gabriel Valley is not immune to rising crime that we’ve seen across the country. And also the rise of gun violence.
The state has been very intentional in trying to make sure that we’re tightening many of the laws and loopholes that currently exist, but we need to do more.
A lot of the challenges that exist are basically the fact that we’re surrounded by a number of states that have very weak gun laws. California can have the strictest gun laws in the world, but at some some point you have to contend with the fact that many folks that are buying firearms are doing so across state lines in Arizona, in Nevada and in Texas. It’s created a real problem for us.
“California can have the strictest gun laws in the world, but at some some point you have to contend with the fact that many folks that are buying firearms are doing so across state lines.”
I also think we’re going to have to continue to do more to crack down on much of the crime that’s happening locally, I think there’s been a rise in petty crimes that we hear a lot about. For example, catalytic converters being stolen. Senator Portantino pursued some legislation to hold folks accountable, and we are looking further into that.
There’s more desperation because we’ve seen, frankly, a rise in poverty. Many folks lost their jobs during COVID and they obviously needed those jobs. And so it’s a real crisis, and it’s having a real impact on public safety.
Q. What effect do you think gun violence has had on small business owners, for example, after the Monterey Park ballroom shootings?
A. There are very specific small business loans that have been offered to businesses in Monterey Park because of the mass shooting.
I mean, let’s be very honest. Before the shooting even happened, in Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, Rosemead and Temple City that have large Asian American populations, businesses were already being negatively impacted by COVID. Because frankly, due to racism, there was this false belief that those in the AAPI community had some sort of connection to COVID-19. It had an incredibly negative impact on businesses here.
“There’s more desperation because we’ve seen, frankly, a rise in poverty.”
To then have a mass shooting occur, that had another huge impact. We’ve heard directly from small businesses saying Lunar New Year was usually the busiest time of the year and this year it’s like a ghost town.
For us as local leaders, we tried to do what we could to connect those folks to resources to make sure people were shopping and eating locally. But it was very, very difficult.
Q. What do you think about the importance of local news keeping people informed?
A. I think local news is absolutely critical.
I shared the real impact that the local Monterey Park restaurant community was seeing as a result of what happened after the mass shooting. If it wasn’t for the LA Times telling some of the personal stories from restaurant owners, I don’t know if they would have ever been told.
In terms of legislation, what I’ve seen, and what’s particularly concerning to me, is that many residents have turned to digital media for their news and are not necessarily looking at legitimate sources. It’s much harder for folks to be able to tell the difference between a news agency with journalists doing research versus a blog. Especially with the rise of social media, everything looks pretty pretty much the same.
I know that legislators are having conversations about how to make it much easier to tell the difference between news sources that are and are not fact based.
Q. What would you’d like to tell voters about your campaign or the issues?
A. Education is a top priority for me and always has been. Higher education access is going to be something that continues to be very critical and making sure that the cost of a college education continues to be affordable.
“What I’ve seen, and what’s particularly concerning to me, is that many residents have turned to digital media for their news and are not necessarily looking at legitimate sources.”
Folks are realizing just how competitive the economy has become and how much it’s changing too. Many of our educational institutions are going to need to respond to that to better educate our students for the workforce and get them prepared.
It’s gonna be my priority to make sure that those conversations are happening, that curriculum continues to stay updated and relevant. And that the cost of a college education continues to be accessible for our families. Because the future of California is going to depend on that.