Dawn Ortiz-Legg’s election story
October 27, 2016
Special to CCN by Kaylee Bingham Zaccone
Dawn Ortiz-Legg, the Democratic candidate for the 35th District Assembly, says that the biggest issues San Luis Obispo County is facing right now are water, infrastructure and education.
There has been some rivalry between Ortiz-Legg and her Republican opponent Jordan Cunningham. They have very different stances on most social and political issues, ranging from women’s reproductive rights to immigration. The election has been full of attacks on either side. Cunningham’s campaign says that Ortiz-Legg’s involvement with Code Pink, an activist group that protests the war in the Middle East, makes her unfit to be in office as she doesn’t respect veterans.
Ortiz-Legg says that is simply untrue and her involvement in Code Pink has been blown out of proportion. She says that Code Pink is not anti-veteran, it is anti-war. Code Pink started
as a group of women who were concerned about their loved ones going into a violent war. Code Pink wanted peace and they believed the United States needed a softer, “more feminine” response
than going to the Middle East and seeking revenge. She denies that she or the local chapter of Code Pink have engaged in any disrespectful protests against veterans.
Ortiz-Legg has always been active in the political world. She moved to the area in 1992 and has been knocking on doors for other candidates to help spread awareness before elections. She then decided to take a hiatus from her job in the solar industry and go back to school to get her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins in international public policy.
“I started to shift to policy from politics because I wanted to do something on a professional level. So, I got my masters and have been working on utility scale solar, which is a power plant made up of solar panels,” Ortiz-Legg said.
However, that still wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to make bigger changes. Last year, a group called Close the Gap California came to the area. They were looking for viable women candidates to fill open seats in the assembly and the 35th District happens to be an open seat this year.
“The reason they look for female candidates is because there is a lack of women in legislature, so while we females make up 60 percent of the population, we have less than 25 percent of the representation,” Ortiz-Legg said.
Her name ended up coming back as a viable option and she decided that now that her children were grown, this was the time to take a shot and run. She says she knows she is the candidate that will get things done.
With Lopez Lake, the water storage lake for San Luis Obispo County being at 23.4 percent capacity and continuing to decline rapidly, water is the main concern for most SLO County residents. Lopez Lake supplies drinking water to thousands of residents in the county and if the area doesn’t receive significant rainfall soon, it could be completely depleted in the next couple of years.
Ortiz-Legg will fall back on her skills that she gained working in the solar industry to bring solutions to the table to solve the water issue.
“There are many facets to solving the water problem. But in that subject matter, one of my skill sets comes into place, and that is collaboration. It takes collaboration to work together and find solutions, as well as to bring home resources to build the kind of storage and other water saving/generating solutions we may have available to us,” Ortiz-Legg said.
She plans to also work on infrastructure, which is entwined with the drought issue. Investing in infrastructure is a big deal to her because it will help build more water storage that this county so desperately needs.
Education is the other hot topic in the 35th District. California school systems need more money to attract better teachers and professors and stop pricing out the middle class students from their education.
Proposition 55, an extension of Proposition 30, would extend the personal income tax on people with incomes over $250,000. The extra income would be put towards healthcare and education. About 89 percent of the revenue from the tax increase would be put into K-12 schools and the remaining 11 percent would be put into state community colleges. An additional $2 billion would be set aside for certain years to be given to Medi-Cal, as well as other health programs. It is on the ballot this November and according to Ortiz-Legg, it will offer a steady stream of money into schools.
“What I know about education is this, the educators know what to do, they don’t need to be told how to teach anymore. What they need is a consistent revenue source. In regards to
Cal Poly, I think the professors work very hard and their compensation needs to be addressed and in order for students to graduate on time, we need more professors,” Ortiz-Legg said.
She said that schools at every level need to support and value their teachers to keep teachers, especially in the technological fields. If they are not valued enough here, they will be snagged away to other schools that will value them more.
All of these issues in the district, the largest is jobs. With the drought and without proper infrastructure, farmers and other professions that rely on water are struggling. With the high cost of education and the professors not being valued enough, SLO County may be losing out on skilled professionals that could create more jobs in the area.
After the closure of Diablo Canyon in the next eight to nine years, the area will lose about 1,500 jobs. This is a university area that should have the ability to push out highly trained and skilled professionals, but they need a job to go to. This may cause a lot of skilled professionals to leave the area leading to a loss of local revenue.
Ortiz-Legg has a history in creating jobs in the solar power industry and is credited with helping to create over 400 jobs, add over $425 million in benefits to local businesses and provide enough energy to power 180,000 California homes annually with Topaz Solar Farms, she said.
Ortiz-Legg says if she were to be elected, creating jobs will be her main focus. She will push for what the voters want and she will stand by her slogan.
“Working together, creating jobs.”