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IECF 2023 Policy & Engagement Forum Starts with CA Legislators

Left to Right: Moderator and IECF Board Member Jacob Mejia; District 23 CA State Senator Rosalicie Ochoa Bogh (R); District 58 Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D); District 45 Assemblymember James Ramos (D); District 60 Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson (D)
Left to Right: Moderator and IECF Board Member Jacob Mejia; District 23 CA State Senator Rosalicie Ochoa Bogh (R); District 58 Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D); District 45 Assemblymember James Ramos (D); District 60 Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson (D)

The Inland Empire Community Foundation’s mission of Strengthening the Inland Empire through Philanthropy was evident when IECF kicked off their Third Annual Policy & Engagement Forum at the Riverside Convention Center on Wednesday morning.

After noting that the two-day event would celebrate wins, but knowing that there is much more work to do, Foundation President and CEO, Michelle Decker welcomed a room full of guests before handing things off to IECF Board Member, Jacob Mejia who led a discussion on policy with elected officials who make up the Inland Empire Legislative Caucus. Mejia began with this question, “What are the most pressing issues that the legislature should address to support the growth and prosperity of the Inland Empire? And what are your priorities in this legislative session?”

Assemplymember Sabrina Cervantes cited the need to prepare for a projected seven-million residents who will move into our two-county region in the next 30 years and her intention to focus on transformational change including, among other things: workforce development, education and equity.

Assemblymember James Ramos cited homelessness as the number one issue in our region and throughout the state along with inflationary costs. He also mentioned home ownership, mental health and public safety as priorities.

Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson began his answer by noting that the last approved state budget was short on money to fight homelessness, and that California is also facing a mental health crisis, especially among young people. He noted that we don’t currently have a workforce sufficient to meet the needs in our region. He also noted cost of living and the growing population of seniors with the issues they’ll soon be facing. He finished by saying that we cannot ignore - and must do something - about rising movements of white supremacy and Christian nationalism.

State Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh had this to say about her focus, “We have to focus on infrastructure in transportation because we are growing, and the impact that has on the quality of life for many of our families – who are compelled to commute for work.“

She continued, “We welcome the families and the individuals coming into the Inland Empire because of the affordability. But we need help building that infrastructure to accommodate them.”

She also mentioned the doctor shortage.

Collaboration soon became the topic of discussion. Here are some high points from Assemblymember Jackson, who came from the nonprofit world, “I believe that one of the greatest things that happening during the pandemic was the times when nonprofits got together to assess what’s really happening on the ground. And what are the critical resources that are necessary to ensure that we are meeting the biopsychosocial needs of the people that we serve. And then, how can we retool our organizations to meet the needs of the day… I think that created strong relationships and trust that brought unprecedented resources for the nonprofit sector. I think it became clear - equity cannot be achieved without nonprofits… And so, I think we can’t lose the culture that was built out of necessity. I think as always, the things that are going to hinder us the most is the idea that if I win someone else has to lose. How do we make sure that can create collaborations and apply for grants together, and leverage each other’s resources and expertise so that we can all win together?“

IECF Board Member Mejia asked Assemblymember Ramos to share about legislation he worked on specific to native people and issues. Here are some points from what he said, “I have AB1703 that worked with the school systems and tribal communities to create an American Indian task force to look at curriculum that’s being taught in the school systems. We found that some curriculum has been drastically offensive to Native Americans. So, now we’re trying to make sure that that is being looked at by Indian People themselves… Currently, a lot of issues center around missing and murdered indigenous persons. People that go missing from Indian reservations and are not being investigated as murders. Authoring bills as the first California Indian ever elected in the State Legislature, starts to tackle these inssues. Feather Alert, we got implemented with the support of my colleagues. Now, if someone goes missing there’s a tool for law enforcement that issues a Feather Alert that identifies the missing individual, from a tribal community, tribal reservation. It was activated a couple of months ago for the first time and I’m happy to report because of that activation, that individual was safely brought home up north.“

Later in the discussion, Assemblymember Cervantes mentioned a major change in leadership and answered a question about the final four weeks of the legislative session:
“Recently we elected a new Speaker of the Assembly, Speaker Rivas who comes from the Central Valley… Speaker Rivas comes from a farmworker family, farmworker housing. And so, he has toured parts of the Inland Empire already… Really wanting to understand the issues and challenges that are facing Inland Empire Communities. And so I’m grateful for his leadership in really elevating the work that we’re doing collectively for the people of California. It’s also great to have another member from the Latino Caucus as Speaker of the Assembly… And so there are many policy issues that we are pushing within the Latino Legislative Caucus. Many of them are still moving through the process. We get back to Sacramento next week. We are ending our one month recess in our districts and we have a four week stretch where we are in just bill mode, hearing hundreds and hundreds of bills in a four week period before we end our first year of a two year legislative session on September 14.”

Another ‘electeds panel’ took place late yesterday (Wednesday) which included the mayors of Riverside and San Bernardino, along with county and city officials.

Josh Fryday, California Chief Service Officer is scheduled to give today’s keynote this morning.

The IECF 2023 Policy & Engagement Forum concludes today (Thursday) at 1:00 PM.

For KVCR News, I’m Rick Dulock