Assemblyman Chris Holden steps right in to his busy role
While Claremont residents discuss water locally, Claremont’s Assemblyman Chris Holden is continuing the discussion at the state level.
On a rare day off from his duties up in Sacramento, Mr. Holden stopped by the COURIER recently to give an update on his plans for the 41st District, which now includes the city of Claremont. One of his top priorities is calling on the California Public Utilities Commission to hold a meeting in town. He confirmed his outreach to the government-elected utilities board last week.
“I’m trying to enable a deeper level of communication,” Mr. Holden said. “The first step is just opening the discussion.”
This isn’t the first step Mr. Holden has taken on the local water front. On February 25, the assemblyman wrote to CPUC President Michael Peevey imploring him and the rest of the CPUC board to make a thorough assessment of the water rates from every perspective. He asked Mr. Peevey to “examine both the benefits and the detriments of this requested rate increase in the context of [Golden State Water Company’s] ability to deliver water resources and the economic impact this increase will have on homeowners and businesses.”
“My goal is to ensure that the interests of ratepayers are protected, and I believe that a higher level of scrutiny is necessary to ensure this. It is imperative that the PUC fulfill this oversight role,” he continued.
On Friday, in a follow-up to his letter, the assemblyman asked the CPUC to host a meeting in Claremont for both parties involved: ratepayers and the Golden State Water Company.
“It’s about accountability and transparency…and they have to make themselves available to the community,” Mr. Holden said. “That’s part of their constituency.”
Taking part in the water discussion is not the only area of concern for Claremont residents that Mr. Holden is taking an interest in. Holding a meeting on regional activity in regards to transportation is also at the top of his agenda. Mr. Holden says he wants to keep the lines of communication open as locals look to issues like local control of the Ontario Airport and expansion of the Gold Line. One solution he offered is to speak with the assembly’s Transportation Committee Chair Bonnie Lowenthal about hosting a meeting in Claremont to explore regional transportation connectivity.
“Citizens aren’t getting integrated into the regional plan and what this all means,” he explained.
He hopes to get residents involved in those discussions.
“It’s important, understanding how local government works and gets things done,” Mr. Holden said. “And I think that’s what we can do, it’s just at another level.”
From council to assembly
Mr. Holden is no novice to the local sector. At age 28, he followed the footsteps of his father and ventured into politics at the local government level, becoming a Pasadena city councilman. Twenty-three years later, he holds the title as the Pasadena Council’s second longest-sitting member. Though now serving at the state level, he says he hasn’t forgotten his obligation to serve his constituents locally.
“It’s part of the job. You run on a campaign that’s designed to address issues in the community, some that are institutional—like education, getting people back to work, the Gold Line—and then other issues that sort of come spontaneously to the floor.”
Mr. Holden’s proposed bill on human trafficking came to be because of one such spontaneous conversation during his campaign. It was first sparked in a meeting with the Claremont Interfaith Group. He recalls the conversation on human trafficking was brought up because of its presence as a proposition on the November ballot.
“I didn’t lose sight of that conversation,” Mr. Holden said. “As [my legislative team and I] started to look at different bills we would pursue, the idea of a human trafficking bill was brought up. And it started to make sense, because human trafficking is not covered. You have drug trafficking laws and arms trafficking, but when it came to human trafficking there is nothing.”
As chance would have it, not long after that conversation, one of Mr. Holden’s team members attended a rally against violence on women on the steps of the Capitol and met a woman from Arizona who had been the victim of human trafficking. She was released because an Arizona law that allowed wiretapping helped expose her persecutor. Mr. Holden saw an opportunity. With AB156, he proposes granting a judge in the state of California permission to allow wiretapping during an investigation of sex trafficking a minor.
“We thought it gave an opportunity to get law enforcement an official tool in this capacity and at the same time fill a void,” Mr. Holden explained.
Mr. Holden is also spearheading a bill to help manage the current budget crisis in California schools, staying true to another issue discussed on the campaign trail. AB1064 presents a strategy to create better funding for public schools. Whereas the schools currently have budgets based on average daily attendance, Mr. Holden suggests switching to average enrollment as the way of determining a budget.
“If the budget is based on enrollment, then at least your budget isn’t moving around,” he said.
One foot in the 41st District
Mr. Holden certainly is busy, not only as a new assemblyman but also as the assembly’s designated majority whip, elected earlier this year. Though his schedule is certain to continue filling up, he is making strides to keep to his mission of open communication with his constituents. With that in mind, Mr. Holden is hosting monthly office hours throughout the 41st District. Mr. Holden’s staff is available to speak with Claremont residents the third Tuesday of every month from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Citrus Room above the City Council Chamber at 225 W. Second St.
He also plans to host an open house next Saturday, March 16, from 2 to 5 p.m., at his new district office, located at 600 N. Rosemead Blvd., Suite 117, in Pasadena. The event is free and open to the public and Mr. Holden hopes constituents will take him up on the opportunity to share their concerns about the 41st Assembly District.
“What I heard along the way [on the campaign trail] was accessibility,” Mr. Holden said. “And I’m trying to provide that.”
Mr. Holden’s district office is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 626-577-9944.