How an OC legislator mobilizes her work – Orange County Register

Editor’s note: Sacramento Snapshot is a weekly series during the legislative session detailing what Orange County’s representatives in the Assembly and Senate are working on — from committee work to bill passages and more.

It’s just before 6:30 a.m. on a cold February morning in Sacramento.

The forest of trees flanking the Capitol is still shrouded in the nighttime darkness. Temperatures hover just above freezing, and only a smattering of brave, coat-clad dogs are out for their morning routine.

And on a corner adjacent to the Capitol Park is Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, bundled up in a black buffy coat, green beanie and gloves — ready for her first meeting of the day.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, literally at the crack of dawn, Quirk-Silva meets with constituents, lobbyists, colleagues or anyone who makes the early bird appointment.

She listens and brainstorms and leads her guests on a brisk walk twice around the Capitol complex, bypassing construction projects and trees felled by recent storms and acknowledging people who have made the Capitol grounds their home. And there’s coffee after.

These are her “walk-and-talks,” a unique — and healthy — way for a legislator to meet with those she serves. And it began when Quirk-Silva was a member of the Fullerton City Council.

“I always found there were particular issues to the neighborhoods in my district that people really wanted to talk to me about, whether it was about lighting, graffiti, open space,” Quirk-Silva said after a recent two-mile jaunt around the Capitol. “It was always an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I’m available and accessible.’”

In Sacramento, Quirk-Silva initially started walking with other legislators, getting to know them. But as she documented her Capitol cantors, other people wanted to join, like county executives or Anheuser-Busch representatives.

“When you walk, it’s a different conversation than just sitting across the table. People get to know the neighborhood a bit, they see firsthand some of the issues that we talked about,” such as homelessness,” she said. “It’s a way to hear their issues, but it’s not so formal as an office.”

During a recent and chilly traipse around the Capitol with a journalist, Quirk-Silva brainstormed ways to help California’s growing unhoused population: Should we be exploring more transitional housing, maybe utilizing tiny homes? Are the counts local municipalities conduct of their homeless population as accurate as they could be?

She is incredibly passionate and spirited, particularly at such an early hour, about eradicating the increasing crisis. She is interested in all facets, how homelessness impacts a community and its finances — but mostly it’s the people she wants to help. In Sacramento, around the Capitol, it’s a community she’s gotten to know. She points out a colorful tent pitched near the World Peace Rose Garden and nods at a woman huddled on a bench in front of the statehouse, relaying their stories with care.

Quirk-Silva chairs the Orange County Homelessness and Mental Health Services Select Committee and sits on other groups related to housing and community development.

This year, through work on committees and legislatively, Quirk-Silva plans to look at increased access to restrooms for homeless people as well as review death counts.

“People are dying their way out of homelessness,” she said, expressing concern that some of California’s unhoused are simply overlooked until they die.

Quirk-Silva’s walk-and-talk slots are already booked through April, she said, but those interested can contact her office to schedule an appointment.

In other news

•In an effort to improve the safety of e-bikes, which became increasingly popular during the pandemic, Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, filed a bill to commission the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose University to study. His bill would request a report from the institute by 2026 that the legislature could use in developing future laws.

•Assemblymember Bill Essayli, a Republican whose district encompasses Riverside County along the border of OC, introduced legislation last week that would require a 72-hour public notice before a pet could be euthanized. Essayli was joined by his rescue Husky, Zoey, when he announced his bill in Corona.

•Westminster Republican Assemblymember Tri Ta is behind legislation to allocate funding for instructional materials to ensure financial literacy and professional development are taught in K-12 schools.

•Gov. Gavin Newsom is the new policy chair for the Democratic Governors Association, a political organization that supports and works to elect Democratic governors, for 2023. In his role, Newsom will be “helping to promote and further the priorities Democratic governors are championing, including protecting fundamental freedoms,” the group said.

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