Longtime Legislator Fields Questions From Membership on a Host of Issues Important to Venice
By Nick Antonicello
Ben Allen, now in his third and final term in the California Senate has represented this sprawling district of some 900,000 residents for nearly a decade.
A husband and father with a second child on the way, Allen addressed about 100 members of the Venice Chamber of Commerce at their membership mixer Tuesday evening held at the Jamaica Bay Inn located in Marina del Rey.
A strong supporter of the arts, Senator Allen noted that Venice Arts was named California’s non-profit of the year to the delight of those in attendance for Allen’s 24th Legislative District. Venice Arts is known to “ignite, expand, and transform the lives of LA’s low income youth.”
In a broad-ranging address, Allen touched on the issue of homelessness, state funding, the environment, crime, constituent services and overall effort to partner with the business community so they can prosper in a post pandemic economy.
Describing California as a “vital global force,” Allen recently attended Climate Week in New York and announced that emissions were leveling off, but there was plenty of room for improvement.
Allen reported that investment by the state of California to battle the homeless crisis is now $16 billion dollars and these funds will be directed to local city officials such as Mayor Karen Bass and Councilwoman Traci Park (CD-11) in the legislature’s effort to fully fund a solution to the crisis on the streets today statewide as well as here in Venice. Allen discussed the impending referendum that could appear on next year’s November ballot that would provide some $6 billion dollars for mental health and housing services.
Allen agreed that the status quo “is not working,” and balancing civil liberties with solutions was difficult policy equation. He spoke about a friend of his family who lost his life due to the lack of a security net and that the social services community needs more tools at their disposal.
Allen believed the depth of the homelessness crisis has the full attention of the legislature and that local government will see a bottom-up approach moving forward.
Allen touched upon an increase in the state’s minimum wage as well as reforms he seeks in ballot measures and legislative action.
The issue of street vendors also came into discussion and that regulation of such activities was probably warranted, but still supported these activities in the district.
On the issue of crime and in particular “smash and grab” actions in retail outlets, Allen indicated that some $16 million dollars was secured for LAPD as well as the LA County’s Sheriff’s Department to combat these actions moving forward.
For property crime, retail theft and loss prevention were at the top of his priorities.
On the issue of outdoor dining, Allen supports an easing of the permit process and strongly supports El Fresco opportunities for restaurants, especially within the coastal zone to the applause of those in attendance. Allen said he wants to work with the California Coastal Commission to relieve unnecessary restrictions that stifle outside eating opportunities for businesses in the coastal zone like Venice.
While the state has not dipped into it’s Rainy Day fund, he anticipates revenues to be an issue in formulating the new state budget. Overall, Allen’s message was bright and optimistic and urged all members of the VCC to reach out to his El Segundo office should they have a state related issue and Allen noted that his staff prides itself on constituent services and helping small business operators like the members gathered this evening.
Senator Allen thanked the leadership of the Venice Chamber for the opportunity to speak and wished all in attendance a happy holiday season.
Allen took questions and mingled with members after his off-the-cuff remarks.
According to his senate biography, California State Senator Ben Allen represents the 24th Senate District, covering the Westside, Hollywood, South Bay, and Santa Monica Mountains communities of Los Angeles County. Ben was first elected in 2014 and is now serving his third and final term in the State Senate.
Senator Allen chairs the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee and co-chairs the Legislature’s Environmental Caucus, is a member of the Legislative Jewish Caucus, chairs the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Arts, and the Senate Select Committee on Aerospace and Defense. He previously served as Chair of the Education Committee (2017-2019) and Chair of the Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee (2015-2016).
Allen has thrown himself into the important work of state government, focusing on wise decision-making and pushing for reforms that address systemic inadequacies in our state. He has authored nearly 60 new laws in various areas, from environmental protection to electoral reform.
During his first two terms in the Senate, fighting the climate crisis and protecting our state’s precious natural resources have been among Ben’s top priorities. Cal Matters recently recognized him as one of the Legislature’s foremost leaders in the field of environmental protection. He authored SB 54, groundbreaking legislation to address plastic pollution, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law to international acclaim. The New York Times called SB 54 “the most sweeping restrictions on plastics in the nation” and suggested the legislation is “another route for curbing carbon emissions and trying to sidestep the worst consequences of global warming” after the Supreme Court gutted the federal government’s power to regulate carbon emissions.
Nick Antonicello is a member of the VCC and thirty-year resident that covers all things Venice. Have a take or a tip on the neighborhood? Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org