As a public school teacher and social justice advocate, I believe children and families must always come first. I have spent my career helping children and families live safe and healthy lives and will continue to advocate for essential issues such as affordable housing, healthcare, social-emotional wellbeing, and more.
Taking into consideration the profound impact of COVID-19 and the expanded movement for racial justice and equity, what do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?
As the Vice-Chair of the Santa Clara County Human Rights Commission, I have worked closely on these issues impacting our county’s youth and families. According to a 2017 study, 294 families with children are unhoused in Santa Clara County, with 28% of those families having no shelter. Unfortunately, there is only one shelter in Santa Clara County that exclusively shelters families, and that shelter is located in San Jose. The Covid-19 pandemic will continue to make a bad situation worse as more people continue to lose their jobs due to the economic crisis. Access to quality affordable housing is priority number one. In addition, young people are feeling far greater isolation today as a result of the continuing shelter-in-place and distance learning, so providing young people access to mental health services is key. Finally, when this pandemic ends, we must provide greater attention to ensuring children and families have greater access to public amenities such as more inclusive playgrounds (such as Magical Bridge Playgrounds), skate parks, youth community spaces, etc. A community should be accessible to all, regardless of age.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
My simple mantra for anything in government is “people first”. I believe a city’s budget and policies are an expression of its values and we must do more to show that our values are people driven over profit. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, Palo Alto had a $40 million budget shortfall, caused mostly by a loss of revenue due to loss of hotel and sales taxes. I was disappointed this last spring when City Council began cutting essential city services that our residents rely on such as public safety and teen services. If I were on council, these services would be the very last thing to be cut. I would instead focus budget cuts on capital projects and other non-essential items that can be temporarily delayed for a couple of years without long term detrimental impacts on our city’s youth and families.
What steps will you take to address the high cost and lack of availability of quality child care and preschool programs in our communities, especially for low-income children and English language learners?
Lack of access to affordable and high-quality child care is a critical problem in the United States and here at home. Families should not have to decide between having children and keeping their jobs because child care costs more than what they make, but these are difficult decisions that couples, like my wife and I who are both teachers, struggle with every day. One way in which I would address this issue would be by offering child care services to city commissioners, board members, and councilmembers so that people of all ages and income levels can serve their community without having to worry about extra child care costs. The government can and should do more to ensure access to quality affordable childcare is accessible to anyone, despite their ability to pay.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
I would ensure inclusive and equitable access to all public parks and expand the universal access to playgrounds by partnering with Friends of the Magical Bridge playground to build additional inclusive playgrounds for children with special needs or disabilities. No child should ever have to feel excluded and made to feel different for merely wanting to play at a public park. I would work tirelessly to help provide for more inclusive spaces for all children to feel safe and welcomed in our community.
Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the "opportunity gap" that low-income children and children of color experience, including lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors and enrichment activities. If elected, what steps will you take to address this issue?
As a teacher in Palo Alto, I understand the critical need to address our district’s achievement gap. I serve on the board of directors for Rise Together Education, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help low-income students obtain a college education. As a City Councilmember, I would prioritize the funding of local nonprofit organizations that help tutor low-income students and provide opportunities for children and children of color to access mentors in our community and gain desirable experience by offering city internship programs designed for them. When I was chair of the Human Relations Commission, I advocated for increased funding to these organizations, as a councilmember, it would be a top priority to further support non-profit organizations who help our city’s youth and most at-risk residents.