Local Government

An Interview with State Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva

Sharon Quirk-Silva, who has previously served as Mayor of Fullerton, is today a member of the California State Assembly, representing the 65th District, which includes portions of north Orange County, including Fullerton.

Sharon Quirk-Silva introduced Assembly Bill 420, the Safe Theme Parks Bill, on Feb. 4. The bill is currently in committee.

What additional role do you see the State taking in preserving Coyote Hills? Does the State plan to buy more property there?

At this time the State does not intend to purchase more of the Coyote Hills land. I understand that north Orange County deserves its fair share of parks, and my Assembly Bill 510 helped save [portions of] the largest remaining open space in a highly urbanized area of Orange County and Los Angeles County to be enjoyed by over 1 million people as a natural preserve.  Along with securing over $15 million in the State Budget, these funds will ensure that we are able to purchase and use many acres as open land.

What is your priority for this legislative session as a member of the Housing and Community Development committee? Are you introducing any bills to promote affordable housing?

My top priority has remained the same, to develop affordable housing and to address the growing concerns of homelessness in California. This legislative session I am introducing a number of Housing Bills such as, AB 345: Accessory dwelling units: separate conveyance. This bill authorizes Additional Dwelling Units to be sold or conveyed separately from the primary residence to a qualified buyer. I am also introducing AB 362 that would improve conditions of shelters by requiring certain safety and health standards to be adopted by shelter operators. I also have AB 978, my Mobile Home Rent Stabilization bill that would prohibit management of a mobile home park from increasing the rental rate for a tenancy more than 5% plus CPI or 10%, whichever is lower.  Certainly, housing remains a concern in my district and throughout California and I am working hard on addressing these issues.

Can you give us an update on the progress of the bill you cosponsored that would reopen Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland at the same time as other, smaller theme parks?

Assembly Bill 420, Safe Theme Park Reopening, which I authored and introduced on the Assembly floor in early February, is currently being reviewed in committee.  Upon approval by the committees it will likely be voted on by September. I, along with my co-author, am optimistic that this bill will also help the many small businesses surrounding the theme parks by offering a safe pathway to recovery.

You are now chair of the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media committee, which sponsored a bill during the last legislative session to build a museum honoring Korean culture. Do you plan to revive this bill, or take other steps to support your Korean constituents?

As Chair of the Assembly Committee of Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media I have taken an active role in addressing the growing interest in all Sports and Event venues, Museums, and California’s Art and Tourist attractions that allow California to remain the fifth largest economy in the world.  As for the bill you are referencing, it was introduced by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. I do support his legislation and stated that museums are educational gateways for Americans and the world to see the United States’ rich history. With the $4 million the California State Budget awarded for the Korean American National Museum, we are all able to recognize the rich narrative of the Korean American culture. As my Assembly District is home to many Korean Americans, I have seen directly the wonderful contributions they have offered in all facets of our community and I am excited for that to be reflected in this Museum.

You took the lead in securing the $2.5 million grant that’s driving the repurposing of the Hunt Library. What are you most excited about seeing happen there when it reopens?

I am very proud to have worked with the State to secure $2.5 million for a future renovated Hunt Branch Library.  As a classroom teacher and former City Council Member, I have always prioritized community spaces, literacy, and the arts. I cannot wait to see the Hunt Library open to the public again and allow our families to have a safe place to have their children go and explore a passion in literature and education.  The Hunt Library is a staple to the city of Fullerton and I am optimistic for the final outcome.

As a new member of the Education Committee, you have said that you want to extend career and technical education and to close the digital divide. What specific programs will you support to achieve those goals?

I have taught in the Fullerton School District for nearly thirty years and had first-hand experiences with the needs of our students in our district.  With my new role as a member of the Education Committee, I plan on utilizing my experience by introducing legislation such as Assembly Bill 498, Teachers: Computer Science Access Initiative. This bill establishes the Computer Science Access Initiative to increase the number of teachers authorized to teach computer science.

By having our students learning practical skills, we can support their next steps for future careers.  Furthermore, I have introduced Assembly Bill 552, which would create the Integrated School-Based Behavioral Health Partnership Program, encouraging local educational agencies and County behavioral health agencies to collaborate on providing on-school campus services for all students at the earliest onset of a behavioral health condition. The need for us to ensure that our students are able to take on the challenges in the workforce is vital and I am working towards having legislation that supports our school districts and students.

You supported Governor Newsom’s proposed budget on January 8 that includes “$2 billion targeted specifically to support and accelerate safe returns to in-person instruction starting in February.” What counts as safe? All teachers and support staff receiving vaccines? All students testing every week?

Schools have had to adapt and change to accommodate teaching in a COVID-19 environment. Currently the Governor has stated that vaccine prioritization for school staff will begin March 1. The State will require consistent prioritization for vaccines across the State for our teachers and support staff. The State will allocate 10% of first doses statewide to education workers—approximately 75K doses per week, based on current allocation projections.  Certainly, this is the first of many steps to ensure the safe return of our students to in-class learning.

The same State budget proposal allocates $4.6 billion for extended learning time. Will summer school be mandated for students who have suffered learning loss? If so, does that erode the local control funding template?

I have introduced legislation that would address the Local Control Funding Template with my Assembly Bills 531 and 533 that would address the California State Auditor’s Report by requiring Local Education Agencies to annually identify and report unspent supplemental and concentration grant funds provided to close the educational gap for specific vulnerable students and requires that the unspent funds must continue to be used for those students in subsequent years. I do not believe this budget allocation should have to affect our students or our school districts funding.

Fullerton has a large population of older residents who are at a disadvantage signing up for the vaccine because signups are mainly online. Are you taking any other measures to speed vaccinations to seniors here in Fullerton?

At this time, my office has continued to encourage residents to utilize the Othena App provided by the County and myturn.com to check on their availability to receive the Vaccine.  Currently, we are working with the county of Orange and our local officials to find ways to have the vaccines accessible to our entire community, especially our seniors. The vaccines that St. Jude (Providence) is administering to seniors at the Fullerton Senior Center is already underway.

You have suggested a few ways to get vaccines to local communities hit hard by COVID-19: licensing CVS pharmacies in north OC to distribute vaccines, and opening up the Richman Community Center or other similar locations for vaccine distribution. What progress is the state making on these or other efforts to distribute vaccines to vulnerable communities?

We are seeing the County establish Medium-sized and Mobil PODS in our underrepresented communities in Santa Ana and Anaheim, and ensuring that there are mobile vaccines that can get to our lower-income communities so they can continue to be protected from COVID-19. With the State receiving an additional 2 million vaccines, we should be able to ensure more distribution in the months to come.

To contact Sharon Quirk-Silva’s office, visit https://a65.asmdc.org or call (714) 525-6515.