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Olsen bemoans Sacramento leadership vacuum
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Ripon Rotary Club President Nancy Hall welcomed Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen to her groups noon meeting at the Barnwood Restaurant. - photo by GLENN KAHL

RIPON — It’s a “vacuum in leadership” in state government that Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen told Ripon Rotarians Wednesday noon is the ultimate concern to her as a first term state lawmaker.

The Modesto native and five-year veteran of the Modesto City Council is seeking her second term in the Assembly in the Nov. 6 election.  Redistricting will give her new geographic representation in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties including Ripon, Manteca and Lathrop.

Mammoth Lakes will soon be longer be included in her assembly district after November.  Traveling through her current 25th Assembly District takes her some six hours driving non-stop.

Olsen was adamant that state leaders need to focus on common sense and what every day people believe, reverse the lack of transparency in government and concentrate exactly on how the tax money is spent.

She criticized oversized government and upside down priorities in education and welfare that are troubling California.  Olsen noted the state has 12 percent of the nation’s population while welfare recipients represent 33 percent of all those receiving benefits across the country.

Olsen verbally took her peers in the legislature to task for funding road bills over education.

“Over the last few years education is declining and welfare has grown.  This year was a very clear example with the first thing on the chopping block being education – welfare has grown,” she said.

School bus availability to all children should always be a priority budget item to ensure children are getting to school, she noted.

Olsen recalled that earlier this week a report was released that the United States has more Americans living in poverty than any time in history.  So, clearly the way politicians have been investing in all the social services programs is not working, she remarked.

Olsen further stressed that the state has got to fix its priorities and begin to invest in the things that will restore greatness and bring opportunity back to California.

“I can think of many ways the Central Valley and the San Joaquin Valley have been under appreciated,” Olsen said. “We have unique needs but we also have unique strengths that are not duplicated in any other part of California. Part of my goal is to promote those strengths to bring more opportunity here.”

The assemblywoman told the Rotary luncheon group that in the year and a half that she has been in Sacramento she has seen a tremendous lack of leadership.

“People who are elected to serve in the legislature and state constitutional offices don’t want to take responsibility.  It’ easier and it’s safer for their reelection efforts to stand in their safe corner, continue their rhetoric and decide to continue to delay the problem until tomorrow,” she stressed.

Olsen said the institutional staff and special interest groups run the show because the people who are elected to lead just don’t lead.  That requires risk and it takes change – and that’s not comfortable, she added.

She pointed out that she has been trying to demonstrate what she hopes will be a new courageous type of leadership that is far more interested in problem-solving than grandstanding.

“We don’t have to compromise our core principles in order to roll up our sleeves and work in a spirit of cooperation to get things done,” Olsen stressed.  “I am encouraged that there are groups like California Forward and Friends of San Joaquin Valley and Economic Summit that are working for change at the grass roots level.  I think that is what it’s going to take.  It’s also going to take action from our local communities to hold the legislature and the state accountable to actually solve these problems to get regulatory reform and pension reform accomplished.”

Olsen said her biggest challenge is being a mom to three young children and a member of the Assembly at the same time.

“I have to think very carefully each day about priorities, about boundaries and making sure I am fulfilling all those responsibilities,” she said