Tuesday, May 21

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas

The board endorses Sebastian Ridley-Thomas to continue representing the 54th district in the California State Assembly.

Ridley-Thomas has served as the representative for the district since December 2013, when he was voted into office during a special election.

Since then, Ridley-Thomas has focused on a number of issues, most notably public health. His primary concern seems to be improving state-funded mental health care, particularly targeting communities with little to adequate care or those who are at high risk for chronic homelessness.

Ridley-Thomas said he has been particularly concerned with the way the state handles the mentally ill homeless. In the wake of an incident where a California Highway Patrol officer beat a mentally ill homeless woman who wandered onto the 10 Freeway, Ridley-Thomas held a special joint committee hearing with law enforcement officials to discuss their policies regarding the mentally ill.

When asked about higher education, Ridley-Thomas discussed the importance of funding and investing in the University of California system. When pushed for details on how that investment should be made, Ridley-Thomas asserted that the most effective way to invest in the UC was to invest in students, notably through stronger financial aid packages for in-state undergraduates.

In his short term, Ridley-Thomas has already proven his chops in Sacramento, demonstrating concrete success as a legislator. One measure he proposed, which allows the California Department of Justice to cross-reference databases to determine whether confiscated firearms are legally owned, was recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. Ridley-Thomas was also involved with the passing of the affirmative consent or “Yes Means Yes” bill earlier this year.

Moreover, Ridley-Thomas is a strong proponent for the repeal of Proposition 209.

While he noted that the measure is most associated with higher education admissions, Ridley-Thomas added that in order to help the repeal effort, advocates will need to focus on demonstrating the other costs Proposition 209 has, particularly in terms of how it affects business-sector job opportunities for women and minorities, stifling economic mobility.

While Republican challenger Glen Ratcliff brings an important focus on small-business issues and a desire to reform the California tax code to the table, his statements on most issues were fairly vague and lacked concrete ideas for how to affect change in higher office.

Ratcliff’s ideas about how to change K-12 education lacked both specifics and a practical understanding of how the state curriculum is set, and in particular, his statements regarding abolishing the minimum wage were particularly troubling to the board.

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