It’s a moment he and the textbooks won’t forget.
Alex Lee, the first openly bisexual state legislator, California’s youngest-ever Asian American legislator and the first Gen Z assemblyman, was sworn in Dec. 7 as California’s new District 25 assemblymember at Golden 1 Center.
It was an historic oath of office for a history-making legislator. So he allowed himself a few minutes to drink it in.
“To know the hard work that led me to that point of being elected and sworn in was incredibly humbling and exciting,” he says.
Then, before the buzz died, Lee introduced his first bill, AB 20, which would build a publicly-financed election system and ban corporate campaign contributions.
That Lee is moving fast may not be altogether surprising. The fresh-faced legislator is staring down a mess in 2021, just like the rest of his colleagues. But whether he says it aloud or not, he’s also got something to prove as the youngest guy in the room and part of a generation that is equal parts highly informed, technologically savvy and idealistic. Lee may be the first sneak peek at what politics could look like in five, 10 or 20 years.
Assembly District 25 encompasses San Jose, Santa Clara, Fremont, Newark and Milpitas. Lee was recently appointed to serve on five committees for the 2021 legislative session, and he’s got ambitious New Years resolutions for his constituents.
Lee is working on a bill to ban evictions during the pandemic—the first of many initiatives he wants to bring to fruition in his inaugural year.
He also wants to create a rental relief program for those hit hardest by Covid-19, push for affordable housing, get more people access to health care and “defeat the virus.”
Bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of political will—or the gaping expanse between policy and legislation as well as between law and its implementation—will be a barrier, he says.
Even so, Lee is optimistic that there are enough other Assemblymembers with similar ideals to advance his goals.
He’s also staked his name in his push to eliminate corporate influence in politics. To that end, Lee says his constituents can expect policies that are “inclusive” from his office.
And in between all that, Lee, like many people, is eager to get his life back to normal in a post-pandemic world.
“I always told myself I would get back to my morning workout routine once the pandemic was over,” he says. “Of course, it’s gone on longer than anyone could’ve ever imagined. Either way, I’d like to start off the new year and establish a good routine to once again build my physical and mental health.”
And on Dec. 31, how will Lee judge success in 2021?
“If there is real, tangible change, improvement and a positive impact in people’s lives,” he says. “Not just a pat on the back which is prevalent in politics, but to have people feel like their lives are improving. I think all of these goals are within reason.”
New Year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone. But for Silicon Valley influencers looking to the other side of this pandemic, they’re a start.
South Bay thinkers from four sectors—arts, business, tech and politics—were asked to chart the road to an improved future over the next 12 months. It’s likely this group won’t RSVP to the same post-pandemic happy hour. And yet, their New Year’s resolutions all centered around a singular philosophy: 2021 is a year for equity.
That’s not a new idea in Silicon Valley, where advocates have long criticized how the region could featherbed some of the world’s richest people alongside a staggering homeless population and struggling service class. But 2021, the year of rebuilding, might be the best shot the region has had to fix some of those imbalances, our subjects say.