California State Controller Betty Yee: A Career in Public Service
California State Controller Betty Yee: A Career in Public Service
In this episode, California State Controller Betty Yee talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about her career in public office.
FEATURING Betty Yee
November 5th, 2021
40 MINUTES AND 53 SECONDS
In this episode, California State Controller Betty Yee talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about her career in public office.
About Betty Yee: State Controller Betty T. Yee was elected in November 2014, following two terms of service on the California Board of Equalization. As Controller, she continues to serve the Board as its fifth voting member. Reelected for a second term as Controller in 2018, Ms. Yee is only the tenth woman in California history to be elected to statewide office.
Learn more about Betty Yee via https://www.sco.ca.gov/eo_about_bio.html
“The other frustrating part, I have to say, is being a woman. We are still not taken seriously. I know I had an opponent who specifically ran against me because he thought that he could beat a woman.”
- Betty Yee on the disadvantages of running as a woman.
“I'm convinced today, that this is the case, (and the government has to do a better job making the connection) that any challenge being faced anywhere in California can be solved in California.”
- Betty Yee on the challenges of public office.
“Do it in an informed way and the most informed way is to know yourself first.”
- Betty Yee's advice to students interested in running for office.
Betty Yee (California State Controller)
Kevin Karami (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Chief Ambassador)
Johanna Arias (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Ambassador)
Upbeat Emotive by Fretbound
Video Link: https://youtu.be/F_8EMeRnd40
Commercial Links: https://spp.ucr.edu/ba-mpp
Commercial Credits: Eboni Odior, Johanna Arias, Raiyan Kalam
This is a production of the UCR School of Public Policy: https://spp.ucr.edu/
Subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Learn more about the series and other episodes via https://spp.ucr.edu/podcast.
California State Controller Betty Yee: A Career in Public Service
Introduction: Welcome to policy chats, the official podcast of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. I'm your host, Kevin Karami. Join me and my classmates as we learn about potential policy solutions for today's biggest societal challenges. Joining us today is California State Controller Betty Yee, my fellow classmate, Johanna Arias, and I, chatted with her about her career in public service.
Kevin Karami: California State Controller, Betty Yee, was first elected into office in 2014, and then reelected in 2018. She has a long career in public service and an experience through her endeavors in state and local government, her positions on multiple boards and commissions, and the multiple projects and initiatives she has started and it's currently involved in. Controller Yee, it is an honor to have you here today.
Controller Betty Yee: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to join you.
Kevin Karmi: I'm sure our audience wants to hear answers to all of our questions. So I'm going to jump straight into it with a very broad first question. How did you get involved in public service and politics?
Controller Betty Yee: It is, I think, a story that is not unique to me, that I certainly had some unique circumstances of my family and myself. My first foray into public service really was to be an advocate. I was an advocate for my immigrant Chinese parents who own a laundry and dry cleaning business in San Francisco and really had to be their advocate when interfacing with government agencies. I actually took care of the books for the family business. I realized that, you know, being an advocate met just really being their voice. They were not fluent in English. And when I was 13 years old, I was their voice, in addition to the other three Chinese-American families in the neighborhood in San Francisco. And to be a voice to oppose the school busing program, that the San Francisco Unified School District would be pursuing that would affect my little sister. And I remember going and speaking on behalf of these four Chinese-American families who wanted to designate me to speak at a local town hall meeting at the local elementary school, just two blocks away from my family business. And the statement I made at the age of 13, the parents had drafted pretty much went to say that they were not opposed to the goals of the busing program, but really wanted to have the school district realized that it would pose a hardship for parents who were in small business who could not close up their business should an emergency arise with any of their children. None of the families had a car or drove and it would take them well over two hours on public transportation to bring their child home, should emergency arise. I made that statement, and I also remember they particularly wanted me to state that they wanted funding for the school busing program to be used to improve the quality of the schools throughout the city. I made that statement, I went back to my seat in the school auditorium and those school busing program then basically took place over the better part of the next 30 plus years, and everything was fine. Nothing happened to my little sister. That impression, that one experience. left an impression on me, really for the rest of my life, that I was a voice for someone. And what I think about public service and politics, it is exactly that, you know, how do we serve the greater public good? How do we be sure that any challenges that we face as a community, as a society are informed by the voices of those who are closest to the problems. And in the world of politics, which I still do with something very positive and not what you read about in the newspaper and all the contentions, contentiousness as the sum of the negative aspects of politics is really about people. It's about being sure that people will have a voice, that people have input into the decisions are going to be affecting their lives. So then I decided I would take my experience and background in finance, home, running the family business finances. I was always good at numbers, and through my education and certainly in my public service life, I've always dealt with fiscal and financial issues. It's space-time comfortable and mainly because money drives everything; we know that in our professional lives, in our personal lives, and certainly in public policy, that is the case. So I just became very, very interested in how to marry my love for advocacy and being sure that people's voices were included in decision-making, along with the decisions around the allocation of resources.
Johanna Arias: I love that, and thanks for sharing how you got involved into public service. And I'm sure that our audience is very thankful to hear that story. My next question for you, how do you run for public office, being that you've been a State Controller for several years here. How did you go about that?
Controller Betty Yee: Sure. So prior to being elected controller, I actually served on the California Board of Equalization, which is the nation's only elected tax commission. I represented a district along the California coast from the Oregon border down to Santa Barbara. There were four seats that are elected by district and then the fifth member is the State Controller. So I still serve on that board today. Running for office was not something I dreamed about doing, definitely was not a teenage dream of mine. And it was a way to continue doing the work that I love, which is the whole fiscal financial arena. And also kept me in the tax policy arena, which I just find fascinating. How to run for office is something that I think you will speak to political consultants and they will have very different approaches for how to run and how to win. For me, it was really about doing the work and really having my background, really, hopefully be, considered meritorious and hopefully deserving of being elected to public office. When I ran, my experience really was at that point, you know what, 25 plus years of experience where I've worked for other elected officials. And so I really kind of had a good sense of the inside, you know, behind the scenes, inner workings of government and just felt that I was really qualified to run. So I think for, and why I say it's personal, is that we each have to know when we're ready to run. And I can tell you when I was younger, I don’t think that I ever would have thought that I was ready, but having served so many elected officials, worked on so many policy issues, I did feel very equipped to run. And then a lot of it really has to do with, how do you run a campaign? And I think for anyone who's interested in running for office, the first thing to do is to work on a campaign. Really get an inside look at, what's demanded of a campaign, what's demanded, excuse me, what's demanded of a candidate. But time commitment and just being really eyes wide open about what it's going to take to run for office. And then not only that, but really understanding of the job that you're running for, a position that you're running for. I do see a lot of people who have a business to run for office, but once they're elected, are a little lost about how to pursue serving an office. And I would say, that's probably not a good thing. That exudes confidence with the voters. So really knowing that, you know why you want to run, knowing the position that you're running for, well, and also knowing what you intentionally want to do while you're serving and some of that will unfold while you're in office. But I think what motivates all of us to run is that we always wanted; we want to, we want to serve, and we want to always see if we can provide for the common good. And I think that's an intention that is shared regardless of your party affiliation. But things do become partisan once you're in office. And so I'm happy to stay today that for anyone who's interested in running, unlike when I first was interested in running or even when I was helping out other people's campaigns, there are many, many training programs that prepare candidates to run for office at all levels of government. So I'm happy to see those. I do think that they are good programs that really prepare any candidate for what's to come. And I think the last thing I do want to say about this is that, you know, being a candidate, you have a lot of demands on you. You will have people try to mold you into a person that you probably aren't. You're going to have people who are going to want to know what your positions are on a whole myriad of issues. And I would say that the biggest takeaway for me, having run for state office, run for a state-level office like the Tax Board, is to just stay true to yourself. Yeah.I think it's just one of the things that I've learned a lot about myself in this process. And I think that's just one of the things that often times gets lost as we pursue these public offices.
Commercial: Should the federal government phase out the use of private prisons? Two teams of UC Riverside students face off about this issue at a policy debate hosted by the UCR School of Public Policy on November 16 at 5:00PM PST. Special guest judge is former county of San Bernardino district attorney, Michael Rounds. Learn more by going to spp.ucr.edu. You can also find the RSVP link below in our show notes.
Johanna Arias: Thank you Controller Yee, and just a follow up question to what you mentioned, What do you believe is the most challenging part of running for public office and what has been the most fulfilling part of it for you?
Controller Betty Yee: Sure, absolutely. The most challenging part is really just, you know, I did not come up through the ranks of local governments. So the first office I ran for was for the Tax Board and I represented 9 million Californians. So how do I get my message out to 9 million Californians?
I love people. I wish I could have knocked on the doors of every 9 million of those Californians to have a conversation; that would not be the most efficient way to run a campaign. So I think the hardest part is just knowing that you have a limited amount of time to really get your message out, to hopefully be able to persuade voters that you're the best candidates. The other frustrating part, I have to say, is being a woman. You know, we are not, I think, still, taken seriously. I know that I had an opponent who specifically ran against me because he thought that he could be at a woman. And so I think that being a woman is still a disadvantage. I actually consider it an asset. And then the political world, I think it's still considered a disadvantage for women who want to run, and I know many women who do, who have young children; they have to make those decisions about whether that's the right time for them, how to provide for childcare when you're on the campaign trail. I mean, just things like that that are real practical kinds of considerations. Women have to really be more mindful of running, and then obviously raising money. You know, the fundraising is a proven fact that women who run tend to have more difficulty raising money, as I said, because we're not taken seriously. I know with my own experience when I've done call time for money, when I've had in-person meetings to prospective donors, it's taken, you know, three, four, five times going back to those same people before they were convinced that this was something that they wanted to invest in. So I think those are some of the difficulties in running. The highlight about running, and I do have to say this, is that what else would thrust you into a position of meeting people that you otherwise may not be. And I've met some amazing people. We live in a great state. It is a beautifully diverse state. It is diverse perspectives. People and backgrounds are diverse, and to be able to go to every region of the state, and I did go to all of the 58 counties in the state when I ran for a controller in 2014. And I cannot say that I wish there were a way that I could have conical that experience, but just the share commonalities that we have across the different regions of California, all the way to the differences among us that I think really need to be showcased more. That for you, you know, you're at UC Riverside to know that the challenges and the Inland Empire share some commonality with challenges that maybe somebody in the, where I live in the San Francisco Bay area or in the Central Valley may experience. But yet we know that there are really strong attributes of each of our regions to wear. I'm convinced today that this is the case and government has to do a better job of making the connection, that any challenge being faced anywhere in California can be solved in California. And we just have to match up the talent, match up the ambition. No, match up just where we've got, you know, strengths and attributes and other parts of the state that can actually be deployed to help with challenges being met in some of our more remote areas.
Johanna Arias: Sorry, I just wanted to add, I really thought that what you mentioned about running as a female was very noteworthy and that it adds a lot of challenges to running a campaign and thank you for sharing.
Controller Betty Yee: Absolutely.
Kevin Karami: Yeah. And I'd like to echo what Joanna said. I'm really glad that you brought that up, something that moving forward, some people may start forgetting or may not consider as a factor when it comes to running for office. And it can affect other parts of, and it does affect other parts of our lives. So I'm really glad that you brought that up.
Controller Betty Yee: Yeah.
Kevin Karami: So we've spoken a lot about running for office and what you were interested in, but I'd also like to talk about the position you're currently in and what you do. So I understand you serve as the chair of the Franchise Tax Board, which is directly involved in collecting California’s taxes. So can you briefly explain how this agency functions and what elements you're specifically responsible for?
Controller Betty Yee: Sure. No, absolutely. And maybe Kevin, if I could, maybe back up a little bit, just talk about just what a controller does. It does vary from state to state. Some state controllers are not elected, they're appointed, but by enlarge, they are elected. Here in California, I do serve as the independent fiscal watchdog over our state's finances. So from that perspective, any payment. So as controller, I pay the bills for California, so I am responsible for all the disbursements to pay our bills. I do handle payroll for over two-hundred and eighty thousand state employees and employees in the California State University system. We are responsible for all of the financial reporting for California, so my office issues the annual comprehensive financial report for the state of California just to talk about the state's fiscal condition and certainly looking at how we have the independent auditor for the State of California. Every payment that leaves the stage is audited before it does get paid. So we are pretty much a watchdog. And if I could make just a little bit of a plug. In most states, it's either the controller or the treasurer that has the responsibility of administering the unclaimed property program. This is a program where companies have to turn over properties that they've been holding onto and for which they've not been able to find and locate the rightful owners. So it could be an abandoned savings account, maybe you've moved and forgotten you had a savings account. Could be an uncashed refund check, could be a utility deposits that I'm just going to ask those who are listening to this podcast, if you believe that you have property that you may have lost or maybe you don't just do a search under claimit.ca.gov, that claimit.ca.gov. This is the public database that my office maintains of all the properties that are turned over to my office from various companies, banks, insurance companies and the like. And search under your name, all the different names that you've had during your lifetime, search for your friends or family members. And I see for holding any property for you, we would like to return it. You know, I do have policy responsibilities as well. So as you've mentioned, Kevin, I do serve on a number of different boards and commissions, the Franchise Tax Board being one of them. So as chair of the Franchise Tax Board, obviously this is the tax board that administers the income tax, both personal and corporate income tax. And much of my responsibilities as chair of the board is a three member board that also includes the governance director of finance, as well as the chair of the State Board of Equalization. We are essentially a rulemaking board, but we also hear on occasion appeals as well, tax Appeals. And this particular board at agency is essentially really focused on, how do we make the taxpayer experience one that is easy to make tasks compliance, you know, just something that is not going to pose a hardship for any Californian. We have had a lot of programs that have been new, that have been added to the Franchise Tax Board set of responsibilities. Most recently, the Golden State stimulus payments that the government legislature has enacted for low-income working families. So to be able to identify who that money should go to, to be sure that we have systems in place to have that happen. My office does issue the checks, but in terms of identifying what group receives them, that is the work of the Franchise Tax Board staff. So we're essentially overseeing the operations, not the day-to-day operations, but certainly the strategic direction about tax administration than the whole income tax area, as well as hearing appeals. Part of why I like to say that we'd like to always improve on the taxpayer experiences, we actually have a pretty good rate of tax compliance. So it's voluntary compliance. And when you think about Californians and their interaction with the state of California, there probably are two, maybe three places where they directly interact with the state of California. Now that would be the DMV, the Franchise Tax Board, and probably most recently the Employment Development Department. So we definitely want to make this the best experience that they can have.
Commercial: Social justice, health disparities, climate change. Are you interested in solving pressing challenges like these currently facing our region and the world? They consider joining the next cohort of future policy leaders like me, by applying for the UCR Master of Public Policy program. Learn more at mpp.ucr.edu. You can also find the link in our show notes.
Johanna Arias: Yeah, and it sounds like you got your hands in a lot of different things there, lot of moving parts. If I can jump to another question here, we understand that you're involved in multiple issues and causes, including climate change, economic development, and affordable housing among others. How can Californians get involved with other issues that affect us?
Controller Betty Yee: Yeah, Californians’ can always always be involved with issues that affect us. And I will say, you know, at the state level, because we are the fifth largest economy in the world. I think a lot of the mindset for those of us serving in State service is, we think globally, but act locally, and locally as the big state of California, but also acting locally means that many Californians and I always say, pay attention to what your local governments are doing. They are the closest to what you're experiencing in your daily lives and their decisions are going to probably matter the most in your daily lives. So following the public meetings of your elected City Council's report to supervisors, your water district or school districts. Really taking the opportunity of the public comments, sections of their agendas to be sure that you are providing input on the various issues on the agenda, or maybe even items not on the agenda, they will take public comment. And then more importantly, I will say that anything that is happening at the state level, you have legislators that represent districts who are always willing to hear from their constituents. And a lot of them do have outreach events in their communities. And so I'd try and make that connection if you want to express an opinion to also reach out to your local elected legislators. For me, I get a lot of constituent mail, we have a very, very robust constituent operations, where we do respond on a whole host of issues affecting the state. I will say I'm very proud of my office because we are probably one of the few state offices where we have people actually answering the phones from the public calls, and so we tend to get a lot of calls intended for other state agencies and departments, but we're happy to be a navigator in that regard. I think for me, you know, I got involved, as I said, in my early life as a child, helping my parents laundry and dry-cleaning business, and it was really that interface with government agencies that really have me thinking a lot about, you know, just what does that's experience look like for an immigrant family trying to be successful to small business. If I were older at that time, I probably would have had more input about how they could have made it easier. For example, maybe some language resources. But at the time, we were still considered a minority, and that part of San Francisco where I grew up. So there are always opportunities to wait, but using our local elected officials, our public meetings, are really the tools to provide input.
Kevin Karami: Thank you for that and it's really great to hear that, especially from someone in a really important position to state that there are ways for Californians and really anyone to actually be involved and help, no matter how big or little, any issues that affect them or affect their communities in general. And it's just really great to hear that having usings exist for them.
Controller Betty Yee: Absolutely.
Kevin Karami: So I'd like to transition a little bit into another topic. So I understand that you co-founded the Asian-Pacific Youth Leadership Project, which is basically involved in exposing high-school students to public policy and service. So what was one of the core reasons you started this initiative?
Controller Betty Yee: Thank you for the question, Kevin. The project is now just over 35 years old. So it was found that a while ago when I was working as staff in the California State legislature and I got involved with co-founding the project with a number of my staff colleagues because we did not see elected members of the legislature who were from the Asian-Pacific Islander community. And we felt that what really needed to happen was early exposure to the whole political public service, public policy arena for our youth so that we were kinda planting a seed, if you will. So the project is essentially a three-day conference that brings 50 high school students from throughout California to participate in mock legislative sessions, and really understanding, kind of the cultural identity as a benefit and as a barrier to service, to public service, to really understanding that public service comes in all shapes ,forms, andsizes. So for my youth in the API community, it didn't matter if you were driven to pursue a prevet degree, or if you were driven to go to law school, if you are driven into engineering, that there's always room for public service. In fact, we welcome a lot of backgrounds and different expertise in public service. And so this was really a great way to just plant that seed. And I'm happy to say that over the course of the 30 years, we've had some alumni from the project run for local office. We have some that are serving in high-level administrative positions. And I think that when you just watch and witness young people, and this is something that I think there's really something that we need to do better. And that is we need to incorporate the voices of young people more in our public policy arena. And one for them to actually understand how public policy is made. It is a process. And it's a process that I actually respect a lot, and particularly if we can have it be more inclusive. And secondly, I do think that when we do involve young people, they can see themselves actually being the decision-makers at some point. And so now have it be some mysterious about what it is to be a legislator, what it is to be a state controller. So that was really the gist of the project and the impetus for the project. And I'm happy to say that today, we actually have a robust API legislative caucus. So we do have members elected from both sides of the aisle who, both Democratic, Republicans who are serving our constituents and all parts of California.
Kevin Karami: It's really great to hear and as a brief follow up in a kind of more general sense. What more can we do both, like both as a state in the nation and I guess as individuals as well, to ensure that our public servants are diverse and accurately represent their constituents like you were mentioning. Is there anything else that we could do?
Controller Betty Yee: Absolutely. So I think we have to be very intentional about it. So, you know, one of the things that really has struck me with this COVID pandemic is, obviously, the disproportionate numbers of cases in our communities of color, particularly at the Latinx community. And certainly the way that information was being disseminated in our ethnic communities. And I just think, you know, government needs to do better. And part of doing better is knowing that we have that kind of representation from those communities who are, like I said, in decision-making roles and roles that actually have responsibilities for disseminating information and so on. You know, for me it's more than just about having that representation. It is also more about understanding what works in these communities. So for example, you know, my first foray into government and particularly why I decided to stay in public service. I started out in public service pretty quickly out of graduate school. I served on a public accounting, public health condition, right where the HIV/AIDS crisis was breaking. And I was tasked by my colleagues on the commission to go to Sacramento and bring home some additional public health dollars so that we can deal with this crisis. We need to provide outreach and education. There weren't even any signs of promises for treatment yet in those early days. And so it was just really a crisis. I went to Sacramento on a fellowship, and this is something that I do want to put in a plug for. We do have a Capital Fellows program that is administered under the auspices of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento. And for those who are fellows, you can earn a master's degree credits during your fellowship. That's a 10 month program. And both the California State Senate, the California State Assembly, as well as the Executive Branch of California look for fellows every year to serve in different capacities. I started out as a fellow. I did apply for a fellowship at the urging of my colleagues and got into the fellowship program, and I was placed with a Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, where I learned the state budget process, where I worked on a number of issues that today I look back on and think, well, that was obvious. But I'll talk about some of the first bills that I worked on in a moment. But what was telling about my time in Sacramento was that there were, I quickly observed and learned that there were not a lot of women or people of color advising our legislators around fiscal policy. And I thought, this has to change. And so after my 10 month fellowship, I decided to stay and try to change that. And I'm glad to say today that there is much more diversity among the legislative staff, but certainly among legislative staff leaders who are key policy advisors. And I think that has a lot to do with how we're able to hopefully be better at serving our diverse communities in California. And also understanding how these communities work. And so I just want to go back to this point. I think government has to be a little bit more nimble about what does work. We know that, for example, what works in the API community, the Latinx community is that a lot of people get their information in those communities from very informal sources. You're not going to get it through traditional, maybe health clinics or health organizations. Maybe it's the news, maybe it's, you know, through news on the radio. The most is going to be through trusted sources. So whether it's to a church, whether it's through the Latinx community. I know we see a lot of people who serve as informal sources of information. The promo daughters who are in these communities who are just trusted sources of information. And I think as a government we have to recognize that. We know that if we want to really touch these communities, if we want to be sure that they can access services, we're going to have to go to where they're at. Which means that we lift up, you know, these probabilities. We lift up communications through radio and other media that people rely on. So I think this is really a big lesson that I've learned coming out of the COVID pandemic. That is kinda what I've done in my gut, just being from the API community, but certainly substantiated during the COVID crisis.
Commercial: The UC Riverside School of Public Policy is excited to announce the launch in Fall 2022, of its new combined BA and Master of Public Policy program, as the only such program offered exclusively within a public policy school and the entire UC system. The UCR BA/MPP, will allow public policy students to complete both their public policy major and graduate studies in five-years. Learn more at spp.ucr.edu/BA-MPP. For more information, you can also find the link in our show notes.
Johanna Arias: Thank you for that, I wanted to just ask one more question as we start to close out here. You are the state controller for one of the world's largest economies. What goals do you have, both your current position and beyond?
Controller Betty Yee: Absolutely. I'm a first-generation Californian and first-generation American. California as a state, has been very kind to me. I mean, by all accounts, I should not even be in this position. I grew up poor immigrant parents, six kids in our family. And I remember even helping my parents and their laundry dry cleaning business negotiate with vendors. And if I didn't get a good price on, like a gross of buttons, or a dozen zippers, we probably wouldn't be able to afford that carton and build up a table, you know, that week. And so I'm very mindful of that and how that's still an experience for many immigrant families in our state. You know, my goals really are this and it's really simple. I think, when you look at how diverse California is, it is not a surprise that we need to be sure that all of our policies are centered around racial and economic justice and equity. And I think, you know, the goals that I have for the remainder of my term as controller is to look at post-pandemic. Now how do we help build that equity and disproportionately affected communities, everything from climate impacts to economic impacts and using tools that government house, but also how do we partner with others to be sure that we are helping communities build resilience. Because the pandemic that we're experiencing, it's not going to be the last one that we're going to experience. And when you look at public health, it is really the foundation of all health care. We're going to have public health crises when it comes to climate change. Whether it's going to be from our unsafe drinking water, maybe an adequate food supply. Chronic health conditions exacerbated all of that, I think will continue to be issues that we're going to have to contend with. So really how do we build health committees, build resilience? And I think the way to do it is one, to be sure those voices at the table for decision-making. So I'm very much about going into those communities, identifying where the leadership is, being sure that their voices are being invited into our public policy arena as well as our democratic arena. And then secondly, to look at the direction of fiscal resources from the perspective that we're not leaving these communities behind. And I'm very happy with the fact that during the pandemic, we actually are doing well fiscally. And so there have been a lot of investments made in these various communities. I also just want to lift up our indigenous communities as well because they have always borne the brunt disproportionally of all of these impacts. And so to now be able to include them as hopefully some of the beneficiaries of what we're gonna do to combat climate change. We'll look at protecting our environment, to look at how we're going to overcome this COVID pandemic and prepare ourselves for more. So I have a concept that I like to call future-proofing. It's usually kind of an engineering term that is about, how do we have our structure all strengthened for future shocks, expected and unexpected. And I feel that way about future-proofing our communities and people. And I think we have a lot of work to do in that arena. It's what I've committed to do for the remainder of my term as controller. And also beyond that, at this point, I am looking at just how do we be sure that all of these communities are touched. And so that's my commitment in terms of just what makes a great democracy, but also what we'll continue to build, strengthen our California.
Johanna Arias: As a daughter of immigrants myself, thank you controller for sharing your story. In addition to that, I'm sure our listeners will get a lot out of what you've shared today.
Controller Betty Yee: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.
Kevin Karami: I was actually going to do the same thing as Johanna. As a first-generation college student and as a son of immigrants, it is really great to hear that this is something that is being prioritized and being talked about and actually being mentioned so that it can, like you said, potentially be solved in the future through policy. And and and I think kind of going back to what we were talking about earlier, I think the solution is kind of within the problem itself where, you know, if we actually get more diversity in our in public office, in the people who actually represent us, then they can do a better job of actually helping us. Whether on a multitude of issues, possibility of issues. So for our last question, I just want to ask very broadly, you know, you're an expert in public service. You've been doing this for a really long time. So is there any specific advice you would give to students that are potentially listening, that are interested in running for public office in the future?
Controller Betty Yee: Yes. Do it. But do it in an informed way. Do it in a way where you are seeking out mentors. There are lots who are, myself included, colleagues in elected office who would be more than willing to serve as mentors. Work on a campaign. First and foremost, get a sense of what is about. You can start with just working on a local campaign. You can start maybe even working on a state level campaign or congressional campaign. But just get that first eye look at what the demands are of a campaign and of a candidate. And then I would say really do some work introspectively with yourself. Now, this was really important because as I said, Yeah, I'll just leave with this last bit and it will be a homework assignment. So I apologize, I know you've got enough homework so when I first decided to run for office, which as I said, there's not something I dreamed of doing. I had a kitchen cabinet of just colleagues and friends with whom I worked for decades with and just have their trust. And the trust was shared, and part of that trust is for them to be able to say things to me that I necessarily didn't want to hear. And it wouldn't offend me. I actually would really take it with great appreciation. And one of the first homework assignments that I received was to write a two-page bio about yourself. And this came out of the fact that, you know, I always felt like I had to be at the top of my game policy wise. I like really being analytical. I like problem-solving. And basically it was chill out. You don't have to be like the smartest person in the room all the time. But you need to make a connection with people. A two-page bio about yourself that is not your resume. So we're also tightly identified with our, you know, our work and our school. But really this took me about three months to write, and was essentially a bio that reflected my values, like how my values reshaped. Obviously from my immigrant parents who sacrificed so much to put six kids through college, have a lot to do with how I really have a great appreciation, and still I'm a big advocate for public education because that was a complete game changer for me. I didn't speak English until I entered Kindergarten. And to look and see where I am today because of the great teachers who really believed in me. I'm a great advocate for health care, for universal health care because my parents didn't have any. My father died at the young age of 63 years old because he didn't have health care and ran a family business and so really a big advocate for that. And then I'm a huge, huge believer about everything we do is centered around building community. My parents would not have been successful with their business, without the support that they had from their community. And I always used to say, we didn't have to be accountable to our parents for good grades. We have to be accountable for the hundreds of customers that my parents had good grades. And so just that community that everybody just felt like they were in it for everyone else too. So if anyone wasn't doing well, if the community was a stain on the heel coal community, I think that value has actually disappeared and I hope that it does return. And I think we each have something to do around that. So I would say do it, but doing it in an informed way, but the most informed way is to know yourself best. And just, you know, what motivates you, what drives you, what are your values? Where do they come from? And because of what now I'm able to do from that homework assignment is to almost speak like that's my foundations, right? And knowing also that when you're in public life, that not everyone's going to agree with you. That people can actually be very vicious and attack you. You know that you've got that core. And as long as you can project that and people know your sincerity and authenticity around that, [people really appreciate that, particularly now in politics. So do it, but really get to know yourself well first.
Kevin Karami: Thank you controller, and I think that's a great note to end on. And like I said earlier, it really was an honor to have you here today.
Controller Betty Yee: It's a pleasure to meet both of you. I really appreciate the conversation. Thank you so much.
Outro: This Podcast is a production of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy. Our theme music was produced by C Codaine. I'm Kevin Karami. Till next time.