Why are you running for State Assembly?
I am running to represent the people of our community and to be a part of the solution to a number of financial, environmental and social challenges that our state faces. The solutions to 21st-century challenges will require innovative leadership, collaboration across ideological lines, and disciplined commitment – qualities I have honed as a local elected official, a PTA mom and president, and an attorney representing the vulnerable. The economic divide in the Bay Area has increased rapidly and we must make sound decisions that move us in a direction that will afford all residents a better quality of life and a future of promise and opportunity. The Bay Area is the wealthiest region of the wealthiest state of the wealthiest country on the planet, and there is no reason why we cannot make room for everyone who is willing to work hard to contribute to our region.
What do you love most about District 25?
In two words, its people. I have lived in the Bay Area for 45 years and have enjoyed meeting and getting to know people of diverse backgrounds as my friends, neighbors, and colleagues. The spirit of innovation and optimism that this region is known for has been a source of inspiration for me and has encouraged me to strive for excellence in my profession and to find ways to give back to my community. As a volunteer with the Rotary Club of San Jose North, Central YMCA, Friends of Wilson Preschool, Washington Open Parent Faculty Group, Buchser Middle School PTA, and the Mission City Community Fund, I have been fortunate to share my love for our community and make a difference in the lives of others.
If elected, what would your legislative priorities be?
My top priorities will be to address the housing crisis, improve public transportation, provide services to the marginalized, and to increase support for our public schools. The opportunities for quality education are unfortunately becoming available to fewer and fewer people given the escalating costs of living and of education. The solutions are not simple or easy, but I am committed to working to reverse the trend that is leaving so many behind.
What are some things you see that are happening in local government right now that inspire you?
I see an increase in community engagement, greater interest and desire to find regional solutions, and a push towards more equitable solutions that will improve the quality of life for all of us in the Bay Area. The Bay Area has a tradition of being a welcoming place to all, and our local governments are beginning to have conversations about how to keep it that way. It’s an effort I’d be honored to lead in Sacramento.
Where should the state’s priorities be in terms of K-12 education? Do you have any proposals/ideas for increasing funding in education?
I am a product of public schools from kindergarten to law school. To me, supporting our public education system is crucial. Quality primary education must serve two equally important purposes: preparing our students for post-secondary education and to be productive members of society, whether through trade school or college, and raising informed citizens critical to democratic government. K-12 education that encompasses not only critically important math and science, but also arts and civics, is essential to the protection of our democracy. For decades the responsibility of funding our public education system has been shifting towards residential property owners, which exacerbates the resource gap between wealthy districts and poorer ones disproportionately populated by immigrant and minority children. We must find ways to balance that responsibility more fairly between residential and commercial property owners. We all benefit from an educated citizenry and we all must contribute towards ensuring we adequately support our public schools. We have an opportunity to improve the success of children throughout our educational system by providing universal preschool and providing additional support services that they and their families need.
Any proposals for bringing more affordable housing to our region?
Right now, we build just one housing unit for every eight jobs that are added to our economy. Our region needs a lot more housing; we simply do not have enough housing options for the number of people working in the region and for those wanting to live here. A regional approach is required. Building more dense housing along transit lines will not only help address the housing shortage but it will also increase use of public transportation, reduce traffic congestion, and improve sustainability. We must build housing to address the needs of all residents regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Do you have any ideas that would help our state government function more effectively?
Too much of our decision-making happens in silos, and there are too few incentives for disparate parts of the state government – as well as local governments – to work with each other. In order to achieve greater effectiveness, we must plan and work more collaboratively and address issues from a broader, more regional perspective. I support efforts such as the Governor’s recent Task Force on Housing and Homelessness. Broader conversations that include people from all areas and experiences in California will help us identify more effective solutions to our greatest challenges.
What do you think the biggest issue is that’s impacting residents in our district, and how do you intend to help fix it?
The cost of housing and transportation are having the greatest impact on our residents. Families are being pushed out of the area, young people are having to live with their parents and wait longer to start their own families; and as more and more people commute farther and farther for work, traffic congestion is eating into precious time and energy. Building more housing is crucial, and expanding our public transportation system is essential. Housing is a basic human right and as a community, we must make the necessary decisions and commitments to ensure that all residents have access to housing. In addition, we must improve upon our public transportation system so that it effectively serves people throughout the Bay Area.
What is something unique that you bring to the table?
My experience as an elected official, attorney and community leader for the past 25 years has prepared me to be an effective state legislator. As an attorney, I advocate for people who would not otherwise have a voice in our judicial system. As a mediator, I work with parties to resolve disputes and find solutions. As a community leader, I have inspired others to contribute their time, talent, and treasure to bring about needed change in our community. As a college trustee for the past five years, I have advocated for increased investment in our students. In addition to my years of experience, my love and commitment to the people of this District will motivate me to work hard and advocate for the changes we need.
Last but not least and at the risk of sounding self-serving, I want to point out that there is not a single woman serving in our legislature from the entire Bay Area – from San Francisco to San Jose to Fremont. I want to change that.
What is something that not everyone might know about you?
Before I became a mom, I appeared in a few television shows in small background roles. I have sipped a cup of coffee at Perks on the television show Friends and I have appeared as a paparazzi on CSI Miami episode “Stalkarazi.” My favorite ice cream flavor is ube and once in a while, I convince my family to go with me to San Francisco so we can have an ice cream cone at Mitchell’s Ice Cream; in my opinion, their ube ice cream is the best!
What do you love to do in your spare time?
I enjoy working in my garden, walking my standard poodle Chloe, and traveling with my family. When I was 13 years old, my dad took my sister and me on a 6-week long road trip around the United States. That experience instilled in me a sense of curiosity for the world around me. I attempt to share that same sense of adventure and excitement with my children. Recently, we took a day trip to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and discovered Bird Island. Our region, our state, and our world provide incredible beauty and I always try to make sure to slow down enough to appreciate the gifts around us.
Anything else you’d like to share?
After my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time, she and I became active supporters of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, formerly the Breast Cancer Fund. We believed in their mission to identify and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. While Mom and I were training to climb Mt. Shasta with a team of BCPP volunteers to raise awareness and funds for the organization, she was diagnosed a second time. Our activism was an effective way to combat the fear and overwhelm we both were experiencing. That experience also deepened my appreciation of how critically intertwined we are to the environment. It’s one reason I believe a clean environment and addressing climate change have to be high priorities. There is no Planet B.
Where can people go to learn more about you? www.annekepner.com
And finally, why should people vote for you?
I am prepared to serve in the state legislature. I am ready to advocate for the residents of Assembly District 25. I am a disciplined problem-solver. I will work hard to address the significant challenges we are facing, and I will always listen to all constructive voices, including dissenting ones. I believe that if you want to go somewhere fast it’s best to go alone, but if you want to go far you must go together. I am asking for your vote because I believe that together, we can make Assembly District 25 a better place for all of us.