Our communities and our state need help. California is off track, and we simply can’t wait or hope for someone else to fix the problems.
Our failure to provide a clean environment, quality education, safe housing and adequate health care for all Californians is devastating on its own. But last month, the Alameda County Public Health Department released a study that actually quantifies the effects of these failures on many of our children:
A child born into poverty today in the flats of our East Bay community can expect to die 15 years before a child born to wealthier parents.
The child born in the flats is seven times more likely to be born into poverty, and 5.6 times more likely to drop out of school. As an adult, he or she will be five times more likely to be hospitalized for diabetes, twice as likely to die of heart disease, three times more likely to die of stroke, and twice as likely to die of cancer.
This data is appalling to say the least—but sadly, it shouldn’t be surprising.
I have lived and worked in this community for more than 15 years. In my position as the executive director of a local non-profit, Beyond Emancipation, I work with youth emancipated from foster care, helping them transition into safe and healthy adulthoods. Every day, I see what happens when kids fail out of school because our public education system failed them. I oversee our organization’s health center, and I see young, healthy people get sick because they lose their health insurance after they turn 18. I work with children every day who could turn to guns, gangs and drugs because they don’t see a path to college or a way out of poverty—and then lose their lives because of it.
I sit on the Richmond City Council, and every time someone in Richmond is killed by gun violence, I get a phone call at my home—I received more than 40 such calls last year.
Four years ago, I lost my brother Terry. When he lost his job and the insurance that came with it, he stopped going to the doctor and his health deteriorated. He was diagnosed with liver disease and taken from our family at the premature age of 35.
That’s why this report is more than a set of numbers on a page. It’s 15 years off the lives of the kids I work with, and the lives of my neighbors and friends and family. To me, it’s very real and very personal.
And that’s why we can’t wait for others to make the critical changes we need to improve our communities. I’m already making change in my position at Beyond Emancipation and on the Richmond City Council. And now, I’m running for the Assembly so that I can make even more of a difference for our neighborhoods.
Improving Our Schools
I know we can’t afford cuts to education. We need to close tax loopholes—not close off opportunities to youth by cutting public school funds. I led after-school and college preparation efforts for 300 West Oakland students and developed a paid internship program to help keep Richmond High School students in school. I’ll fight every day in Sacramento to improve our public schools and guarantee access to college or a technical school for every child in our district.
Protecting Our Youth
I raised more than $1 million and developed two transitional houses to support emancipated foster youth in Alameda County. I worked to allocate nearly $1 million in funding to support child abuse prevention efforts in Contra Costa County. And I developed a campaign that connected over a thousand at-risk youth in San Francisco to mentors and recreation services.
Creating High-Wage Jobs
I know that a good, high-paying job is much more than a paycheck—it’s the key to solving so many problems in our community. That’s why I’m working for greater access to internships, community college and other job training opportunities. I established a technical assistance training program to aid minority and women business contractors, and a construction job-training program for low skilled adults in Richmond. I supported establishing Richmond as a "Green Zone" for economic development, to bring new, green-tech jobs to our city.
Ending the Violence
I helped create a gang intervention task force in Richmond to find solutions for dealing with guns and drugs, and developed a volunteer-led graffiti abatement program that included a youth diversion program. I supported the development of the Richmond Office of Violence Prevention/Neighborhood Safety to protect our residents and I helped restore a program to keep 300 youth out of trouble by providing them with summer jobs.
Protecting Our Environment
I led efforts in Richmond to promote sustainability and lower greenhouse gases. As a City Councilman, I supported the Richmond ban on Styrofoam and worked to preserve our coastline and wetlands. And most of all, I’m not afraid to stand up to the refinery owners and others who pollute our air and water. I’m advocating for higher fees on those who emit the most pollution and using those fees to make our communities healthier.
In the Assembly, I’ll fight every day until every Californian has access to quality, affordable healthcare through an efficient single payer system.
Every day, people from every corner of our district are rolling up their sleeves and making the changes we need to ensure that all of our children have the chance to live long, healthy and productive lives.
I hope you will join Congressman George Miller, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, community leaders, local police and firefighters and a growing coalition of supporters in our campaign for change. Please visit www.TonyThurmond.com to learn more.
I would be honored to earn your vote for Assembly on June 3. Thank you.