Political Landscape: Costa Mesa Councilwoman Foley joins trip to D.C. to address sober-living issues

Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Katrina Foley and other leaders from communities in Orange and Los Angeles counties traveled to Washington, D.C., recently to meet with federal officials about issues with sober-living homes.

The trip, organized by the Assn. of California Cities — Orange County and the California Contract Cities Assn., was meant to raise awareness of problems cities are facing and to push for reforms that would empower municipalities to regulate such facilities.

Sober-living homes typically house recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, who are considered disabled under state and federal law. As a result, cities are limited in the restrictions they can place on the facilities, even if they’re in residential areas.

“Right now, even though they are acting as a business in our neighborhoods, they are treated like a family,” Foley said Wednesday. “The very laws that are intended to protect disabled persons are being used to exploit them. We can’t continue with that approach.”

Residents in Costa Mesa — and other cities throughout the region — have complained that the proliferation of sober-living homes in recent years is changing the character of their neighborhoods and harming their quality of life.

Foley said similar issues are emerging in other states.

“I think what people are now realizing is that this is a public health crisis that’s directly connected to the opioid crisis and this business model is exploiting a public health crisis,” she said. “So it’s no longer a NIMBY [“not in my back yard”] issue; it’s a public health issue.”

Tech executive is latest challenger to Rohrabacher

As 2018 approaches, the roster of challengers looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is already at a dozen candidates.

Democrat Rachel Payne, a former Google executive who now heads two Southern California-based technology firms, announced Monday that she’s running against the 15-term Republican from Costa Mesa in the 48th Congressional District race.

In a video posted to her website shortly after she announced her candidacy, Payne focused on job security and stagnant wages, saying it was important to ensure “everyone has an opportunity to play the game” in a rapidly changing economy.

“We need to think about where are those jobs coming from in the future and how we’re arming people in America for them,” Payne said in an interview. If elected, she said, she would fight for policies that would give corporations incentives to invest more in training American workers for skills that will still be relevant as automation and artificial intelligence begin to play a larger role in business.

Payne, 42, was born in San Bernardino, grew up Southern California and Las Vegas and has a master’s of business administration from Stanford University. She spent several years as an executive for Google, living and working in Uganda for a time before moving to Aliso Viejo eight years ago to be closer to family.

She is now chief executive of FEM Inc., a media research firm, and Prizma, a video platform that uses artificial intelligence to serve up content recommendations on the web.

Payne said she isn’t fazed by the crowded field in the 48th District and that her success as a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated world of technology has given her the tools to win.

Rohrabacher is considered one of the most vulnerable congressional incumbents, and the race for his seat has been rated a “toss-up” by some election handicappers.

— Christine Mai-Duc / Los Angeles Times

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