Grand Terrace Councilwoman Robles Seeks 20th District State Senate Post

(April 3)   Grand Terrace City Councilwoman Sylvia Robles said this week she had moved her personal political timetable forward to enter the race to succeed Norma Torres as state senator in the 20th District.
Robles, who has been on the Grand Terrace City Council just 16 months, said she was interested in higher office but was prepared to wait until term limits created a logical jumping point into the state legislature further down the road.
Torres, the former Pomona mayor who had gone on to the Assembly and then moved up into California’s upper legislative house when Gloria Negrete-McLeod departed the California Senate to claim her current position in Congress after her 2012 victory over former Congressman Joe Baca, is now set to depart the state Senate to run for Negrete-McLeod seat..
“Because of the domino effect with Gloria McLeod leaving Congress and Norma running for her spot, that left an opening for me,” Robles said. “I felt the East Valley has been underepresented in the past and the emergence of this open position and the demographics are favorable for me at this point. I believe I can better represent the community by stepping into the state senate seat. [Assemblywoman] Cheryl Brown did not step up and I think 12 years is too long for me to wait until there is another opening like this. I might not get another chance soon.”
Competing with Robles for the post, which represents Pomona, Ontario, Chino, Fontana, Rialto, Colton, West San Bernardino, Grand Terrace, Muscoy and Bloomington, are Connie Leyva, Matthew Munson, Shannon O’Brien, and Alfonso Sanchez.
Robles said the major issues facing the district are “job creation and retention, looking at pension reform, and budget stabilization at the state level.”
Upon getting into office, Robles said, “My first job would be to make sure all of our finances are in order. In the Inland Empire we are still suffering from a lack of recovery in the housing market. We are still having a difficult time attracting high paying and intensive skill jobs. The only other parts of the economy that remain healthy here are companies involved in the service industry and warehousing. I would address and make sure our labor is adequately compensated and there is no abuse in those industries. In warehousing in particular there is abuse where employers are giving employees half shifts, in some cases seven full days of half shifts. These are people who are paid an average of $22,000 per year. They are having their shifts split and that way the employers are making it so the employees are not getting benefits. I believe I have to focus on the work environment and pay equity and other issues as far as having a fair working environment.”
Beyond that, Robles said, there is a need for the legislature to ensure that tax money expended as incentives to corporations is utilized for the purposes intended and outlined in the programs through which the subsidies were granted.
“A more global part of what I would do as state senator is work on tax money being expended as subsidies,” she said. “Right now, there is little or no transparency in subsidizing businesses. I will look at that and see how we can reconfigure subsidies to corporations so there is some kind of contract there. We provided a significant amount of money to Tesla Motors and now they are moving on to another state. This is the same paradigm that existed with redevelopment abuse. Instead of bringing in businesses, we have those businesses shopping states for the best subsidies.”
Robles said the legislature has to be mindful of how the latest windfall the state received is utilized.
“Another issue is that as of last month, state controller John Chang got almost 1 billion dollars in unanticipated revenue from Proposition 30. So between Proposition 30 and tax expenditures, we have $7 billion the legislature needs to look at to stabilize California. Counties and cities are subunits of the state and they should get what is due to them. In San Bernardino employees are being asked to pick up seven percent of the pension costs. I am concerned if we are paying sales tax, that is contributing to the $1 billion. Perhaps now is the time to help local governments stabilize their budgets and make them whole, unfreeze the money the state has collected in the last several years and rebate it to the cities based on how much they contributed. “
With regard to pension reform, Robles said. “I don’t think we need to do this through a ballot measure. I think we can do it through the collective bargaining process. With our final budgets, we need to rein in compensation statewide. We  should not create any new programs until we stabilize local government and pensions.”
She said she detected a disparity in the ebb and flow of money in the state educational system, particularly at the university level. Administrators were being overcompensated, she said, while “The public with lower pay scales are paying high tuition and fees. We are  basically talking about employment pay equity. People are going to college to better themselves and increase their earning potential but the cost is prohibitive. Colleges exist to rebuild our middle class. The universities have too much administration. We should freeze tuition now.”
Some private schools that are now beyond the regulation of the state should be examined closely, she said.
“We have predatory career colleges that fail to provide meaningful education,” she said. “The state should provide oversight and move to close those that are not providing what they say they will give students. The Inland Empire is constantly being ridiculed as full of poor and unmotivated people. Well, there are young people who work hard and are trying to get out of this economic trap and pull themselves into the middle class. There are trade schools and career colleges which promise a meaningful vocational education and then just walk out on them. They take the tuition and just shut down, leaving them without skills or a certificate. There have been three waves of this. We need an accreditation system for these schools.”
Robles said she believes she is the best choice among those vying for state senator in the 20th District.
“I am 61 years old, with 25 years of work experience in the public sector. I have a graduate degree augmented with consistent study. I have kept current on policy work and  research. I am beholden to no special interest group. Connie [Leyva] can offer the community nothing without going to her union for guidance. Shannon O’Brien is someone who has been on a school board for a short while.  Alfonzo Sanchez is new and just not as time tested in the workplace or the policy world. He is an emerging but unproven person in that arena. I am ready. This is something I am prepared for. I have been involved in the community and government for a long time.  Because of my maturity and work experience and education, I will not need to depend on staff and lobbyists to  get to work. I do not need to be tutored to hit the ground running. I am more grounded in the policy arena than any of my opponents.”
Born and raised in San Bernardino, Robles attended San Gorgonio High School and San Bernardino Valley College before going to the University of Redlands, where she received a bachelor’s degree in business management. She subsequently obtained a master’s degree in public administration from San Bernardino State University. She retired from the county of San Bernardino where she had been a social worker, field representative for former Third District Supervisor Barbara Cram Riordan and later a special districts budget analyst. She is married with three children.

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