MEL ASSAGAI: Allen Warren’s Unwavering Commitment

Allen Warren.rgbOn a quiet Sunday afternoon two days before the November Election, Allen Warren was sitting in his campaign headquarters moving his fork through exquisite, fragrant cuisine from the several cultures of his supporters.

Spicy southern chicken dishes, Mexican delicacies and the unique dishes of Hmong volunteers made up yet another campaign meal in his headquarters on Del Paso Boulevard.

The election was very close, the outcome uncertain, and his opponent seemed tobe gaining momentum.

“The outcome of this election will not determine my commitment to this community,” he said, “My commitment is unwavering, regardless of the outcome.”

His calm contemplative delivery seemed a blending of resignation and resolve, of hope and realism, the assessment of someone who knew how to weigh a range of possibilities.

But really, for those who know Allen Wayne Warren, the comment was his typical level-headed reference to why he was running for City Council and what would still need to be done in Del Paso Heights and the rest of North Sacramento after the election, regardless of whether he emerged as a city council member.

“We have done everything we needed to do to win this thing, and I think we will” he said. “I could not be prouder of the way this community — particularly Del Paso Heights and Strawberry Manor, communities that have not traditionally had high voter turnout. — have rallied to this cause. We have volunteers from every culture and part of this community. They have come together to win this election.”

He was right, of course, but over the next 30 days post-election ballot counting raised and dashed hopes in both candidates’ camps as weekly updates were reported. But Warren was always certain of winning and even more certain that he would finally gain the lever of power that would help him transform the neighborhood of birth.

Despite the being behind for weeks, when asked how things were going he’d always say “we’ll be alright.”

Now, Council Member Allen Wayne Warren has an office in City Hall for the next four years, and the power to bring change to Del Paso Heights and the entire 2nd Council District. He says he feels “alright” about that.

At his victory party, rather than leaping into air, fist pumping and exploding with joy like his supporters, he smiled that measured thoughtful smile of his and thanked everyone who had anything do to with his victory, beginning with his wife and family.

While others cheered, clapped and back-slapped, Warren seemed to be surveying the room for the people he would need to move his agenda forward. He looked almost amused at the high-fiving and riotous laughter that accompanied his acceptance speech.

But that demeanor reflects the unflappable nature of now-Councilmember Warren — a man of deep convictions, strong faith and unwavering commitment to his priorities.

He believes he now has a hard-won opportunity to serve the community he loves and that loves him. And he’s eager to get started.

“We have a lot of work to do. From improving city services, protecting our children and making improvements that will transform Del Paso Heights and the Del Paso Boulevard Business District. We have challenges,” he says.

An Education Improvement Opportunity

While his election made him a city councilman, his own experiences as a child, a parent and resident of a low-income community have driven a passion for better schools. Early on, he helped found school-district-supported Charter Schools in the old Grant Joint Union High School District, where his own education began.

He believes the early care and education of children and quality schools are the key to his community’s future and that of the state and nation, something he had always planned to pursue once in office.

But Governor Jerry Brown’s recently announced educational funding proposal in this year’s State Budget has given new impetus to that desire; accelerated the drive.

“I don’t know that everyone recognizes how momentous the Governor’s new school funding proposal is to districts like those I represent; it’s a game changer.” Warren sees tremendous opportunities in the element of the Governor’s education finance plan that impacts language learners and low-income student funding.

“This proposal gives us the opportunity to substantially improve the quality of education and the ability of students in this community to matriculate through the system,” he said. “It is extraordinarily important to have this effort made in the public schools because that, in the final analysis is where children of color and poor Caucasian with the most needs are and can be reached.”

“What I know,” he added “is that the number of prisons that will be needed in 20 years is often based on the reading scores of kids in first or second grade. That’s a travesty and it’s something we can do something about,” he said.

The proposed formula provides supplemental funding to districts based on the proportion of English language learners and free and reduced-price meal eligible students they serve. Supplemental funding for them is equal to 35 percent of the base grant.

It provides that when the proportion of English language learners and economically disadvantaged students exceeds 50 percent of its total student population, the school district will receive an additional concentration grant equal to 35 percent of the base grant for each English language learner and economically disadvantaged student above the 50 percent threshold.

“This is a proposal I intend to support as a councilman and will work to generate support from among the school districts, boards of trustees, parents and teachers we serve,” he said.

“This is an opportunity to make dramatic improvements in educational opportunities that did not exist before,” he said. It is one in which I want to be immediately engaged. These opportunities don’t come along every day and we need to take advantage.”

He also plans to be an advocate for improving standards for early care and education, to ensure that from zero to five year-olds and children from Kindergarten through the community colleges have the best education opportunities possible.

“While being an elected official has many benefits, one of its greatest opportunities is to be able to ensure the future of our community, and that future begins with early care and education and the public schools,” he said.

Warren is as confident that he can help improve the schools throughout the 2nd District as he was of his election victory. How successful does he expect to be?
“We’ll be alright,” he said, “We’ll get this done.”

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By Mel Assagai

Special To THE OBSERVER

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mel Assagai is Director of Government Affairs at Strategic Counsel PLC, represents Compton Unified School District and sits on the Board of Directors of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.