Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Despite the highly partisan nature of California politics, during 6 years in the Legislature, Lori repeatedly built coalitions of Democrats and Republicans to pass critical legislation and get it signed by a Republican Governor.
Lori is a San Diego native. She grew up in Clairemont, the third of four daughters. After her father retired from a 20-year career in the Marine Corps, Lori’s parents moved the family back to San Diego to settle in Clairemont in the 1960s. Her experience as the daughter of a career Marine would later influence Saldaña’s legislative work on behalf of active-duty service members, veterans and military families
Lori’s father Frank became a reporter for the San Diego Evening Tribune in 1966, after retiring from the Marine Corps; 26 years later he retired again when the Tribune merged with the San Diego Union in 1992. Lori’s mother, Virginia, was an active school and community volunteer who encouraged Lori to be involved in public causes from an early age.
Lori co-authored California’s landmark Global Warming legislation, wrote numerous other landmark bills. She served in the Environmental Caucus and was considered one of the state’s most influential environmental voices. In 6 years in the Assembly, Lori emerged proved her commitment to conserving and protecting California’s natural resources, earning a 100% Sierra Club environmental voting record.
Serving on the Veterans Committee, Lori wrote several pioneering pieces of legislation for veterans and military families. Ms. Saldaña is particularly proud of AB 599, a law that ensures California’s veterans have increased access to mental health services. In 2006, the Governor signed Saldaña’s “California School-Age Military Dependants Act,” to ease the difficulty military dependents face when transferring between school districts within California. This was followed in 2009 by the “Military Families Educational Opportunities Act” that will relieve the bureaucratic roadblocks military children face when transferring into California schools from states with different academic, placement, testing and graduation requirements.
In 1969, when the proposed alignment of Highway 52 threatened to wipe out many of the native oaks and sycamore trees in San Clemente canyon, Lori and her family joined a neighborhood movement that resulted in a CalTrans agreement to build the freeway slightly north of the original location, and preserve the canyon’s native vegetation and wildlife. The result is Marion Bear Community Park, located between North Clairemont and University City.
Lori had experienced the power of community activism. She saw ordinary people- armed only with a cause and persistence-succeed in making a difference in the future of their community by preserving a scenic open space forever.
She attended San Diego’s public schools, beginning with Whitman elementary and Einstein Jr. High (now Kroc Middle School), graduating in the top 5% of her class from Clairemont’s Madison High School in 1976. She also attended Clairemont high school during the summer of 1974. Many of the friendships she forged at these schools were rekindled years later when she began knocking on doors in Clairemont to run for State Assembly.
Lori attended Mesa College for one year, then went on to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree (1980) and a Master of Arts Degree (1990) from San Diego State University.
When teaching jobs were scarce after graduation, Lori spent a year supporting herself as a union carpenter’s apprentice and helped build the Pacific Beach Post Office. This experience taught her the value of technical-vocational training, and reinforced her commitment to workforce development and San Diego’s working families.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT EDUCATOR
Lori began her career in education by coaching field hockey at Clairemont and Madison high schools, and basketball at Hoover high school and San Diego City College. She later moved from the sports field to the classroom as a popular instructor of Business Information Technology for the San Diego Community College District.
Lori knew firsthand the critical link between education and career development and jobs. She committed much of her 20-years career in education to teaching writing, business communication, information technology and workforce development programs. These classes provided opportunities for skilled employment, self-sufficiency, educational advancement and public service for low-income and at-risk youth.
She developed and managed several educational and technical job skills programs, including a $1.5 million Technology Workforce Development grant from the US Department of Labor, for the San Diego Community College district.
In 2002, Saldaña was promoted to Associate Dean, Director of Service Learning Program, at San Diego Mesa College. This successful program provided students with experience working in local volunteer organizations while earning college credit.
She applied her expertise in vocational and technical education to her work in the Legislature’s California Technical Education Coalition (CTE), a bi-partisan group of legislators dedicated to the advancement, promotion and expansion of Career Technical Education.
PRESERVING SAN DIEGO’S NATURAL RESOURCES
Lori continued working on environmental issues. She co-founded San Diego’s first Earth Day celebration in 1990, and served as Chair of the San Diego and Imperials Counties Chapter of the Sierra Club from 1994-1997.
From 1992 to 1994 she was Chairwoman the City of San Diego Wetlands Advisory Board after being appointed my Mayor Maureen O’Connor.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Border Environment Cooperation Commission’s Advisory Council to review, plan and fund water quality improvement projects in the 10 US-Mexico border states. From 2000-2003 she served as United States Co-Chair of the Advisory Council and helped manage over $60 million in investments in the San Diego-Tijuana region, including water reclamation and sewage treatment projects. Since 1994, the Commission has invested billions to create cleaner water along the US-Mexico border. As a result of this work, Lori received an environmental policy research fellowship at the Center for US-Mexico Studies at UCSD.
In 2003, Lori decided she could do more for her community by running for the State Legislature.
She also decided that, if she planned to represent San Diegans in Sacramento, she needed to walk door-to-door and talk to neighbors from Clairemont to South Park and learn more about their day-to-day concerns. Lori attributes this personal touch for winning the election over well-funded and politically-connected rivals.
She served three terms, including in Assembly leadership as Assistant Majority Whip, Speaker Pro Tempore and Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.
She also served as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development where she successfully sought to expand access to affordable housing throughout California. She also chaired the Assembly Subcommittee on Base Closure and Redevelopment, where she worked to protect state tidelands near California’s bays, harbors, beaches and waterways.
IMPROVING THE LIVES OF MILITARY FAMILIES
After experiencing the challenges of military life in her own family, Ms. Saldaña has dedicated much of her legislative career to improving the lives of California’s veterans and military families.
Among her early legislative successes, Ms. Saldaña is particularly proud of AB 599, a law that ensures California’s veterans have increased access to mental health services. This is especially crucial in California, where thousands of service members are returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and are dealing with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 2006, the Governor signed Saldaña’s “California School-Age Military Dependants Act,” a law that aims at easing the difficulty military dependents face when transferring between school districts within the state.
This was followed in 2009 by her “Military Families Educational Opportunities Act” that will alleviate many of the roadblocks to academic success that military children face when transferring to California schools from states with differing academic, placement, testing and graduation requirements.
She also successfully championed re-opening the doors of the state’s preschools to military children after many were denied enrollment when an inaccurate accounting system counted housing allowances as part of a family’s income and disqualified them from programs for low income families. This prevented the closure of many local preschools near military housing.
For her work on behalf of veterans, she was named the 2006 “Legislator of the Year” in 2006 by the California Association of County Veterans Service Officers.
CAREGIVING and LONG TERM HEALTHCARE
Lori became aware of the health needs of seniors and the challenges of care giving while providing assistance to her mother and grandmother. Based on this experience, she formed the Legislative Caretakers Caucus and introduced laws to help seniors receive assisted living services in their homes, ensure accuracy in insurance claim reporting, and require more transparency from long term care insurance companies who drop their policy holders.
She has also been an outspoken advocate of health care reform and passed legislation with Senator Sheila Kuehl to provide medical coverage for all Californians.
Lori continued her life-long work on the protecting the environment in the Legislature and has championed developing the state’s green tech economy and workforce.
She co-authored AB 32, the state’s landmark global warming legislation, and SB 1, the California Solar Roofs Initiative aimed at increasing the state’s capacity for solar generation and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. She has also authored AB 1103 – a pioneering ‘energy benchmarking bill that has created jobs by encouraging retrofitting of existing commercial building with energy-efficient insulation, lighting and HVAC systems.
Lori’s also introduced bills to increase the use of green building methods and energy-efficiency features in new construction, to reduce hazardous materials in the state’s landfills, to provide tax incentives for the purchase of cars using alternative fuels, and to restrict the ability of non-compliant Coastal Act violators to acquire permits for building in California’s Coastal Zone.
Lori has balanced her work in Sacramento with community outreach events and town halls on the topics of identity theft, first-time home-ownership, senior healthcare, assistance for home owners associations, natural resource protection, hate crimes and preventing home foreclosure.
She also partnered with constituents and community groups to remove thousands of pounds of trash and hazardous materials from San Diego’s neighborhoods and open-spaces.
Lori was an athlete in high school and college, playing tennis, field hockey and basketball. She was an active outdoorswoman who served as a docent at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and lead outings for the Leisure Connection program at SDSU, and for Adventure 16 in Mission Gorge. In 1988 she helped open San Diego’s first REI store in North Park and coordinated their weekly educational events and programs, administered their annual service projects and managed grants to local outings organizations.
Today, Lori continues to be involved in activities that allow her to enjoy San Diego’s unique weather and topography. Among her interests are tennis, sailing, hiking, golfing, kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling. She is also an enthusiastic camper, enjoys fishing and whale watching and wrote a “how-to” book on backpacking based on her experience as an outdoor leader and teacher.