LocationAlhambra , CA United States
When Susan Rubio was running to represent California’s 22nd Senate District, which encompasses Alhambra and 19 other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, she put a lot of time and effort into the western part of the district.
Rubio made it a point to knock on as many doors as possible while campaigning in Alhambra. “That’s the one city I wanted to really get to know well, because not only is it one of the largest cities in the district, but also just the diversity and the dynamics — I really wanted to hear from folks there — what are their issues? What did they want me to focus on?”
Rubio, who defeated Mike Eng in the November election, has a long history in the eastern San Gabriel Valley. In addition to serving on the Baldwin Park City Council for nine years and Baldwin Park city clerk for four years, she’s been a school teacher in the Baldwin Park and Monrovia school districts for 17 years. Eng, who had served as mayor and city council member in Monterey Park, as well as state assembly member for the 49th District, likely had higher name recognition in the western San Gabriel Valley.
Representing the full 22nd Senate District gives Rubio the opportunity to broaden her focus to the entire state. “I really wanted to make a difference on a larger scale,” she said in an interview with the Alhambra Source. “It’s a privilege to represent this community and make sure we get what we deserve in the San Gabriel Valley.”
While teaching and engaging in public service, Rubio has also built connections with local leaders in the western SGV, including Sandra Armenta, a Rosemead City Council member, who is now one of her field representatives and Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler, when she was serving on Alhambra’s school board.
During her campaign, Rubio discovered a commonality of concern in the San Gabriel Valley on some key issues.
One issue she cited has been the increase in homelessness. “I can tell you as a Council member in Baldwin Park, I could remember a time when we didn’t see anyone in the streets and little by little, you’d start seeing a lot more,” she said. “So we were trying to, even as a council member, figure out what we can do to support that community and as I walked down to Alhambra and other communities, it’s the same perspective. They want to help people that are out on the streets.”
Rubio said she is making affordable housing legislation a priority, especially for low-income families. She has introduced SB 751, which targets the growing homelessness crisis in the San Gabriel Valley by authorizing cities to enter into a joint powers agreement that would create and operate the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust. By creating this trust, the use of public and private funds will finance affordable housing projects for homeless and low-income populations. She has also authored a bill to extend the low-cost car insurance program for drivers who can’t afford the premiums of regular car insurance.
She’s also prioritizing outreach to the San Gabriel Valley’s Asian Pacific Islander and Latino communities, the two largest racial groups in her district. Forty-six percent of the San Gabriel Valley’s population are Latino, while 28 percent are Asian, according to a demographic report from Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Rubio attended 16 Lunar New Year events this year and joined the Senate’s Select Committee on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs. “What we do at the select committee is we have hearings, not just about the API community in the San Gabriel Valley, but across the state, how we can support them with funding, education.”
Rubio also belongs to the Latino Caucus. “[This is] to ensure I move forward with information and really understand what our communities need,” she said.
Her outreach work so far has showed her that parents in both the API and Latino communities are concerned about education. “One of the biggest commonalities to me was the education factor in different levels. We have Latino parents who are focused on second language learners, making sure their kids get what they need,” she said. “But I’ve also met several parents in Arcadia and their concern is to make sure their kids are prepared for college, making sure classes are available, and once they graduate, they want to make sure there’s room for their children at the universities.”
During a roundtable she organized with all of the superintendents of the school districts in her district. Rubio learned that many administrators were struggling with a lack of funding for transitional kindergarten, which is essential for allowing younger students to start elementary school at an equal level as their peers who may be a year or so older. “What happens — if a child is four years old when they start, then schools don’t get enough funding to supplement that education, so I needed to be a partner in that venture,” she said. Her bill, SB 443, would provide funding for all transitional kindergarten students, regardless of birth date. Currently, school districts are cut off from funding if a student is born after a December cut-off date.
Rubio also wants to provide resources to teens who are dealing with domestic violence through SB 316, which requires schools to print a domestic violence hotline number, and may include a text option, on student identification cards. This stems from her personal experience as a domestic violence survivor, and from watching children and adults pushing each other into unhealthy behavioral habits.
“I want to ensure our middle school, high school and college students have access to the resources they need,” she said. “Through my bill, in combination with the new sex education curriculum requirements, students will have a better understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like.”
Above all, Rubio is committed to making decisions in the state senate that take all stakeholders’ views into account. A prominent example of this is the future of the I-710 stub, an issue of importance to her Alhambra and Monterey Park constituents. “I know this is one of those issues that are so personal to people that are in the area,” she said. “I have been doing my due diligence, at least trying to meet with community groups, trying to ensure again that before I make decisions, I want to make sure their voices are represented.”
Rubio also praised her colleague, Sen. Anthony Portantino and his leadership in trying to resolve the future of the I-710 stubs in Alhambra and Pasadena. “Mr. Portantino is not new to the Senate, as I am, and I’ve always known him to be a very thoughtful legislator,” she said, adding that she is scheduled to meet with him soon to discuss this and other issues.
Locally, Rubio’s goal is to meet with every council member in her district and she has met with more than half so far. She plans to do the same thing in Sacramento with members of the state senate and assembly.
In addition to the education roundtable she convened with school superintendents, she has met with every mayor and police chief as well. She plans on doing future roundtables with teachers and community groups.
To Rubio, doing this means getting the pulse of the communities she represents, and to also let them know that she’s here to serve them. She encourages all elected officials and constituents to communicate with her. “Reach out to me,” she said. “I’m here in whatever I can do to support funding for projects in your community.”
Constituents can reach Sen. Rubio at her West Covina field office at (626) 430-2499 or at 100 St. Vincent Ave, Ste. 401. More information can be found here.