California Senate District 7 is home to suburban bedroom communities such as Dublin, Antioch and Walnut Creek. District 7 is also the beneficiary of over $8,000,000 in Safe Routes to School grants, as Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Senate Transportation Committee Chair, learned from advocates Thursday Aug 15. The meeting between DeSaulnier, Safe Routes Partnership Director Deb Hubsmith, and local advocates was one of 65 meetings with legislators and their staff as part of the first Safe Routes to School Advocay Day in California. Senator DeSaulnier, and nearly all of the members and staff that advocates met with on Advocacy Day, responded with resoundingly positive support of continued funding for Safe Routes to School!
Meeting with Senator DeSaulnier
The end of August is a particularly key time in the Legislature as the remaining bills and issues on the agenda this year move quickly toward passage to the Governor’s desk to be signed in September. Advocacy Day could not have been more strategically scheduled for education of lawmakers on the key issues affecting Safe Routes to School this year. The bill to enact a new Active Transportation Program is expected to be in print this week, and legislators are now freshly aware of what that bill must include to continue adequate funding for Safe Routes to School projects across the state.
For legislative members and staff who have been working hard to move bills since January, the smiling faces of their constituents invigorates their work to find compromise and get bills passed at the end of the session. For advocates, the Aug 15 visit to the Capitol was a whirlwind of meetings where they were able to share real-life experiences with their elected officials. Among the 40 Advocacy Day participants were Safe Routes to School, trails, and public health advocates, parents, bicyclists and transportation engineers. Many of the advocates took time at the end of a busy week at the Safe Routes to School Conference to attend.
The full group on the steps of the Capitol
Advocacy Day focused on two issues: the proposed Active Transportation Program and AB 1290. Participants encouraged legislators to support dedicated Safe Routes to School funding in the Active Transportation Program and urged members to support AB 1290, which will reform the important California Transportation Commission – the group charged with awarding state Safe Routes to School grants in the future through the Active Transportation Program.
Hoping to get more involved in policy, advocate Clare Gordon from the San Francisco Bay Area volunteered. Her group met with five offices, three in the state Senate and two in the state Assembly. “This is the first time I have ever done this and it was really fun!” said Gordon in her meeting report, “…it felt super successful!” Another participant summed it for everyone: “I feel empowered!”
Safe Routes to School Advocacy Day was a collaborative effort by TransForm, WalkSacramento and Safe Routes Partnership and was partially funded by a grant from the American Heart Association. To learn more or get involved with Safe Routes to School advocacy efforts in California please contact Jeanie Ward-Waller.