Rick Chavez Zbur, who was elected last fall to represent California’s 51st District in the state capital, proudly shared his early successes with West Hollywood constituents in a town hall forum held Tuesday in City Council Chambers.
Zbur’s roots in WeHo run deep.
“I remember West Hollywood before it was a city,” Zbur said. “I lived around the corner from the 24-hour Fitness and Starbucks on Santa Monica Boulevard and Westbourne. Later, I lived for about eight years on Ashcroft right off of Robertson, and today I live just a few blocks outside of West Hollywood, near La Brea and Melrose. So, West Hollywood is my home. I believe it’s the heart of this new district and the place where my heart truly is. It’s a city that provides important leadership not only for the L.A area but for the entire state of California.”
BILLS IN THE ASSEMBLY
Zbur has authored 11 bills this year. Eight of his bills have successfully passed the State Assembly and are now making their way through the State Senate, aiming to reach the Governor’s desk. Notably, one of his bills, AB 1620, sponsored by West Hollywood and Santa Monica, seeks to aid individuals with physical mobility disabilities and elderly residents in rent-controlled apartments by allowing them to move to first-floor units if there are no elevators available. Zbur faced challenges in navigating the rent control law, Costa Hawkins, but worked with the California Apartment Association to find a balanced solution that considers smaller landlords. While the California Realtors still oppose the bill, Zbur remains optimistic about its chances of passing.
Zbur spoke about AB 5, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which he introduced to reinforce LGBTQ rights in the state. Demonstrations in Glendale by conservative social forces and a recent policy adopted by the Chino Valley School District, which requires teachers to disclose potential transgender students to their parents, highlight the present-day challenges faced by LGBTQ youth, he said.
“A lot of folks think of this as being an anti-bullying bill, and it is that, but I believe it’s so much more,” he said.
AB 5 requires teachers and certificated school staff in grades 7 through 12 to undergo annual LGBTQ cultural competency training, covering best practices in identifying at-risk students, handling conflicts, addressing bullying and providing resources. By breaking the cycle of bullying and lack of acceptance, Zbur believes schools can play a crucial role in improving the well-being and community health of LGBTQ individuals. Despite misconceptions, he said, the bill does not involve teachers encouraging gender transition without parental consent.
Two other bills Zbur introduced as part of his “social justice package” will expand business opportunities for the powerful labor unions that helped elect him.
The first bill would facilitate the process for individuals already working in schools, such as custodians, bus drivers, and school staff, to become teachers (and thus future union members). The program, sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the California Teachers Association (CTA), would cover tuition costs and pay salaries during the student teaching period.
The second bill would allow temporary workers in city and county governments to join collective bargaining units, granting them access to union pay and working conditions advocated by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — and expanding the unions’ due-paying membership.
The forum saw robust discussion on the subject of California’s textbook laws, with Zbur outlining the difficulties of implementing these laws amid pressures from major states like Texas and Florida. California, being the largest market for textbooks, often finds its educational standards at odds with those of other states. Despite the resistance from textbook publishers, Zbur emphasized the necessity for textbooks to adhere to California’s Fair Education Act.
“There’s school districts in Orange County and in Riverside County that are actually trying to ban books that actually have LGBTQ content in them from the library,” Zbur said.
He voiced his support for a bill that would protect school districts from such demands, highlighting the need for diverse representation and inclusivity in educational materials.
In addition, Zbur addressed the challenges and opportunities brought about by the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI). While acknowledging the potential benefits to American families, he also warned of the risks.
“Increased automation and AI hold the promise of a society where we embrace much more leisure time and more time to spend with our families,” he said. “But it also could be something where if we allow all the means of production to be owned by five or six billionaires, we could have many people living in poverty.”
A significant portion of the discussion revolved around public health, specifically the distribution of Narcan, a medication essential for reversing the effects of opioid overdoses. Zbur called for increased efforts to publicize the availability of Narcan, and outlined several legislative efforts aimed at ensuring its wider accessibility, including a bill that would require insurance companies to cover the cost of Narcan for low-income families.
Affordable housing was another topic of intense debate, with many constituents expressing concerns about the lack of affordable options and the state’s perceived focus on upscale housing at the expense of local neighborhoods. Zbur emphasized the importance of striking a balance between the urgent need for housing and preserving the character and environment of residential neighborhoods.
Water resource management, a pressing issue in California, was also highlighted during the forum. Zbur underscored the need for long-term planning, especially considering the dwindling allocations from the Colorado River, and emphasized the importance of focusing on water conservation and reuse.
THE LOG CABIN
— Lauren Meister (@meister4weho) July 19, 2023
Zbur also announced a significant windfall for the Log Cabin recovery center. The WeHo landmark has been a vital resource for individuals seeking help from addiction.
He thanked Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson, his fellow councilmembers, and city staff for their support in securing additional funding for the Log Cabin. Working together, he and state Sen. Ben Allen submitted separate successful funding requests resulting in a total of $1.15 million in new funding for the Log Cabin. Zbur presented a symbolic 20% check, amounting to at least $650,000, to the council members and the mayor at his town hall.