All posts by victor

A Policymaker’s Guide to Social Media

By Ana Beatriz Cholo

For an elected official, reaching out and engaging with constituents is one of the most important aspects of the job and social media can be an almost perfect tool. But with all the various platforms that exist and with new ones cropping periodically, it can get overwhelming.

What is the best way to go about it?

The first step is to think about who your target audience is, says Liliana Monge, a social media expert and co-founder of Sabio.LA, which works to increase the number of women and people of color in tech. It’s best to pick one or two social media channels and focus on making them a success.

Generally speaking, Facebook is a great way to reach out to constituents, but if you want to reach journalists or thought leaders, head to Twitter, Monge says. Women typically flock to Pinterest and Instagram and Snapchat is where you can find the younger crowd. YouTube is still ever popular and posting occasional videos should be a part of any social media plan for an elected official. Linkedin, on the other hand, is not the best way to reach constituents. Rather, it’s effective for partnering with business stakeholders and academic institutions. Monge says people often fail to see its potential, however, and don’t use it as much as they should.

“Linkedin a great way to develop your professional brand, talk about major initiatives and find support for your legislative agenda,” Monge said. “There are a lot of LinkedIn groups that you could connect with – small businesses, commerce, regional groups, chambers of commerce, educational partners like community colleges, universities.”

Facebook Live is the “cooler and funner” of what now exists in the social media world and is a way to engage with audiences in real time. It also casts a larger net than traditional Facebook posts. She suggests elected officials use Facebook Live prior to a public meeting as a method of previewing the event and to drive engagement. After the meeting, officials can use it to give updates and even answer questions. After all, not everyone can get to a physical location and this method is especially handy because the video is stored. Constituents can add comments even after the live feed has concluded, which gives the elected an opportunity to gather feedback.

“Social media is extremely important in running an election campaign and in engaging with one’s constituents,” says Laura Casas, President of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. ” The Internet is the first place people look to obtain information about a candidate’s work experience.”

Casas, who has served as a college trustee since 2005, says social media is an essential part of a policymaker’s outreach toolkit. She relies on it to provide updates regarding “topical community issues.”

Downey Mayor Fernando Vasquez uses Facebook Live at a variety of events in Downey. He plays “reporter” and asks his constituents questions about their city while recording the interaction. In a city where the average age is 32, he knew he had to think outside the box and engage the community in a more productive way. For that, he hired a social media person so he could get more “millennial street cred,” he said laughing.

“I only had Facebook, but then I was criticized that I wasn’t “millennial enough” so I got Instagram, too.“

His social media hire, a recent college grad, does analytics that shows how their social media channels are performing. Vasquez is also presented with the latest hash tags each month. He said social media is also overtaking traditional advertising. In the past, his communications department would spend $2,000 for an ad in the weekly newspaper, but with that same amount of money he can receive 200,000 impressions from his two social media channels, Facebook and Instagram. He says he has a Twitter and Snapchat account, but doesn’t use them.

“I could barely keep up with Facebook and Instagram,” he said. “God bless anyone who’s doing all four of them.”

His pro tip for social media outings? Bring an extra charger or battery for your cell phone.

Monge says the younger demographic loves Snapchat, but that particular medium, in which photos stay up for 24 hours, can seem more daunting to elected officials. She advises they work with an intern familiar with Snapchat or look up demo videos on YouTube. “If you want to reach out and engage with a younger demographic you have to meet them where they are at.” One suggestion is to post a series of photos showing a day in the life of an elected official.

The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words proves why Instagram is a fantastic tool for communicating with the community. A quality photo of a job or street fair or some type of dedication ceremony with descriptive hashtags can capture the feeling of an event. For instance, posing with the owner of your town’s newest wine shop can capture a town’s business and civic pride.

Los Angeles councilmember Gil Cedillo has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, along with his own website. He regularly uses e-blasts to communicate general information to his constituents. For breaking news and daily information, he mostly uses Facebook and Twitter.

Cedillo values social media and says that it provides individuals instant information, and “allows us to remain relevant.” As a fulltime policymaker, he also has the resources to hire a social media manager.

It’s useful to keep social media accounts current, he said. Information changes quickly, and if one waits to post something, it might become old news. As a councilmember, Cedillo said constituents expect him to make statements when tragedies happen and expect him have an opinion on current events.

“The rate at which information changes is also a pitfall,” Cedillo said. “This requires constant updating of information and a certain degree of fact checking. Stories are often catapulted into the spotlight, without thorough vetting of information. It requires investigative journalism.”

Monge says it’s important to be mindful of what you post. Post and tweet as if your grandmother and 15-year-old are paying attention.

“No alcohol, smoking, reckless activities,” she said. “Be cognizant of details that may be perceived negatively. Keep it PC.”

Riverside Community College District trustee Mary Figueroa learned this firsthand when she witnessed a fellow board member losing his reelection bid last fall for his indiscretion.

He sent out a tweet of a hooded hangman with the phrase “I’m Ready for Hillary.” He had been on the board for four years, but his ill-informed tweet ended up harming him politically.

“His tweet lost him the election,” she said. “Otherwise, he would still be sitting on the board.”

 

Ana Beatriz Cholo is a freelance journalist, photographer and activist based in Los Angeles.

Policymaker Profile: Lena Gonzalez – Long Beach City Council

Lena Gonzalez was elected in June of 2014 to represent the First Council District in the City of Long Beach. She grew up in a working class family where her father was a truck driver and her mother worked in aerospace. Gonzalez chairs the Harbor and Tidelands Committee which oversees the over $100 million Tidelands Fund, the Long Beach Unified Joint Use Committee and the I-710 Project Committee. Councilmember Gonzalez lives in downtown Long Beach with her partner Adam and their three sons; Zorion, Ethan and Luca. Gonzalez graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from California State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University.

Who was your political mentor – someone who guided and supported you – someone who prepared you for public service.  What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you?

My mother is my political mentor as she is an immigrant, a strong-willed woman who is well-versed in politics, but extremely worldly and self-aware. In this respect, my mother has always taught me to lead by looking well beyond myself. It was always about serving others and doing what is right in the end, without thinking about personal gain.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

I knew quite a bit, having worked for a very active elected official. However, perhaps what I did not know was how complex the art of negotiation and collaboration is during important issues. It can be challenging coming to common ground, but it is vitally important to leave with 50% vs. losing to gain 100%. Collaborating with others is extremely key in maintaining long-term relationships.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful (what did it do for residents) and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker. 

My priority projects really extend in so many directions: Parking, local job creation, sound development, environmental issues, open government, etc. However, one of the first policies I pursued was the Project Labor Agreement, ensuring that city-wide development above $500K, ignites a PLA, whereas 40% of the hiring is local and whereas 10% of the hiring must be focused for disadvantaged communities. As I represent one of the highest unemployment zip codes in the city (90813), local work is extremely important for my residents.

As an elected official, you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? 

Feeling ok with saying “no” and setting boundaries for yourself, without guilt. Family and self-care/personal health is extremely important. I am able to work on council emails in the evening after my full-time job, but more importantly, I have an incredible staff that works full time in my city office, they work hard and support our residents day in and out, weekends and evenings – I cannot do this very important job without them.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

The day I graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 2009. It took me 10 years as I had worked and taken care of my son (who I had at 19 years old), I was determined to finish although it took me so long!

Ethics Advisor

“¿Qué es un ‘bot’?” Fair Elections in California

 By: Ruben Duran

I can hear my suegros now, if they were alive, asking, “¿Qué es un ‘bot’?” if they were subjected to the frequent stories on the nightly news about Russian meddling in our national elections.  Who knew even a few years ago that politicians, and, more importantly, voters, would have to worry about nameless, faceless provocateurs writing and disseminating lies and fake news through social media to influence elections, maybe even from distant lands?

While this development is occupying a lot of time on the national news and falls under the purview of the FEC – the Federal Election Commission – it raises important questions in the local context, as well.  Questions like, “Are there any rules applicable to the use of social media for campaigning in California?” And, “What are the ethical implications of social media campaign activities?”

Unfortunately, the regulations of social media technology and election campaigning are still rather lax.

Although traditional forms of media, such as radio, television, mass mailings, fliers, and newspapers are regulated for communications by candidate committees for their own election, electronic media is not regulated in regards to the physical advertisement itself. While traditional forms of media must contain a disclosure such as “Paid for by Juan Gonzalez,” there is no such requirement for electronic media. Disclosure is merely recommended but not legally required for communications via electronic media, which includes websites, blogs, Twitter feeds, and other social media pages such as Facebook.

What is required at times is disclosure of payments made by a candidate or candidate’s committee to persons providing positive or negative social media content about a candidate or ballot measure on an Internet website other than the candidate’s or committee’s own Internet website. The disclosures have to be made on California Form 460 “Recipient Committee Campaign Statement.” If a person was not paid for the content then there is no disclosure requirement. If a person was paid for producing content solely to be published on the candidate’s website and other social media (as opposed to some unrelated third party’s) there is no disclosure requirement. The applicable Fair Political Practices Commission regulations are here.

Here are two examples to illustrate this disclosure requirement. First is an example where disclosure is needed. Camila is running for local office and she pays Julia to post a message on Julia’s blog supporting Camila’s candidacy. Camila’s committee must report the payment as an expenditure on California Form 460. The second example is one where no disclosure is needed. Juan is running for State Assembly and his neighbor Gonzalo posts his support for Juan’s candidacy on Facebook. In his Facebook post, Gonzalo includes a picture of Juan that he got from Juan’s campaign website. The communication is not reportable because Gonzalo was not paid by Juan for his Facebook post.

A candidate must also report payments to purchase e-mail addresses and any payment for general or public advertisement on Internet sites.

When reporting the payment expenditures, whether the payment is made directly or through a third party, campaign committees must include specific information of the amount of the payment, the payee, the name of the individual providing content, and the name of the website or URL on which the communication is first published.

One thing to always keep in mind when creating, or paying others to create, political advertisements is to stay away from absolute lies or things that you think is probably a lie because you can open up yourself to being sued for defamation, not to mention accused of usando bots. Sticking to the truth is not only ethical but also safer legally.

 

Ruben Duran serves as general and special counsel to public agencies throughout Southern California, including cities, special districts, school districts and special-purpose entities in health care, job training and development and air quality management. He is a member of the Cannabis Working Group at Best Best & Krieger, which advises the firm’s clients on all aspects of marijuana laws and regulations.

ruben.duran@bbklaw.com
@BBKRubenDuran
(213) 787-2569

Policymaker Profile: Laura Casas – Foothill-De Anza Community College District

Laura Casas is President of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees and has been a member of the board since 2005. Initially appointed and then subsequently re-elected in 2007 and 2012. Casas holds a law degree from Santa Clara University, and B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Northridge.

Casas, who immigrated with her family from Mexico at the age of one, has served on the boards of Children Now, a national children’s advocacy organization and ALearn, a Silicon Valley organization dedicated to college readiness of underrepresented students. For the past decade, she has been an official mentor to students under The Puente Project; an academic preparation program focused on college success. In addition, she co-founded a transitional home for domestic violence victims in Los Angeles.

Who was your political mentor – someone who guided and supported you – someone who prepared you for public service. What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you?

Many people supported me throughout my academic career. While I was in Middle School, my government teacher, Mr. Chernow said: “If you witness injustice and are silent, you become part of the problem.” I have never forgotten these words and have worked, to not be silent. The turning point to finally prepare and make the decision to go to college was my History professor, Mr. Howard Lapin, he asked me after class, “Laura have you ever thought of college?” He then told me to go to the Counseling Office and request a change of my curriculum for more advanced college preparatory classes. Once in the Counseling Office, my counselor remarked, “Laura, why make life hard on yourself? Why don’t you just take it easy?” The counselor did not want to change my classes. In other words, he did not care if I were to prepare for college or not. I went back to Mr. Lapin, my history professor, and informed him what was said. Mr. Lapin was visibly furious, and I followed him back to the counseling office. The door slammed, and they both started to yell at each other. Mr. Lapin succeeded in getting me enrolled in college preparatory classes. This single act changed my whole life. It was at this point that I saw that if you fight for what is right, you can obtain it!

Once in CSUN, my political mentor were professors in the Chicano Studies Department, which included Dr. Rudy Acuna, who wrote: “Occupied America.” Professors can change student lives. Members of the department enriched my political awakening.

Law School was a huge challenge. I moved far away from home with no transportation. My mother gave me her old clunky car. The few Chicanos and Chicanas got together with African Americans and formed study groups which helped us get through the rigorous law school material. Real bond and friendships developed which I still cherish today. Having an education has given me a voice at the table, that my voice counts and the confidence to communicate effectively.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

You are going to laugh at this one because my first election I decided not to use yard signs. I decided not to use them because I thought no one pays attention and they are a waste of paper. Well, the problem with that was people would say to me Laura, I would love to donate to your campaign, but I do not have any money. But, I will take a yard sign.” The lesson is, always have yard signs in a campaign for elected office.

Once elected, no one told me that there would be a transformation of how people perceive you and the office you hold. You are an elected official. There is an aura of respect, and your words and actions matter a great deal.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

I was the lone board member against a major development in Silicon Valley. A partnership was formed among Foothill-De Anza Community College District, NASA and the University of California Santa Cruz. This partnership would build housing, an education and business center on Moffett Field, a former naval base. In the Silicon Valley, we have severe shortages of housing. That the site was over a toxic plume of water which leaked dangerous gases to the surface. These gases including trichloroethylene, when inhaled are proven to cause cancer and severe development problems especially among children and pregnant women. The proposed housing had some protections such as protective barriers between the ground surface and construction. What if there was a failure of these protection barriers? There were no remedies in place to protect the homeowner or occupants in case there was a confirmed leak. Who would buy the housing? It would have been uninformed working class Latinos, Whites, and African Americans. The site would take years to build. I was fighting for the children not yet born. I was completely against the development of housing on this site.

The partnership never developed the site. The developer agreed to build only if the Federal government secured matching funds. It will never be known if my raising a raucous had anything to do with not obtaining matching funds. The partnership dissolved. I am proud of my voice that gave voice to others not yet born.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? 

Keeping an intentional balance between work and family is key. My favorite phrase that I say to my children and students is “anything to an extreme is bad.” I do think that women can work and have a career and be good mothers. I feel It’s the quality of time with your kids, not the quantity of time.

 

Interviewed by Sergio Garcia Escobar, Political Science Major, California State University, Long Beach

Closing the Digital Divide in our Time

EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit founded in 2012 that is focused on creating social and economic opportunity by connecting everyone to the internet. With more than 75 million people in the United States not connected to the internet, 70% of teachers assigning homework that requires access to the internet, and 90% of people using online tools and resources to apply for jobs, the means of advancement are digital.

By employing a digital platform that facilitates access to low-cost internet service, discounted devices, and digital literacy training, EveryoneOn is working to connect one million people in the U.S. by 2020. EveryoneOn’s offer locator tool allow users to search for low-cost internet service, discounted devices such as computers and tablets, and digital literacy training by entering a zip code and answering an eligibility question. People and organizations can visit www.everyoneon.org, text “connect” to 215-45, call (877) 947-4321, or download the EveryoneOn app to find low-cost internet service and devices in their community.

To scale our work and reach our goal of connecting one million people by 2020, we are crafting innovative ways to reach low-income people, including engaging with professionals and paraprofessionals who work with them. The Digital Equity Champion Movement is one example of several initiatives EveryoneOn is undertaking.

Digital Equity Champions are organizations, agencies, and other groups that work directly with low-income people and have committed to provide information about low-cost Internet service, devices, and digital literacy resources as part of their service offerings. Since launching this initiative in 2016, EveryoneOn has enrolled 35 organizations across the as Digital Equity Champions. These champions include community colleges, public housing authorities, and school districts.

From the Editor

Could Attacks on DACA Finally Lead to Immigration Reform?

By:  Victor Abalos

We try to keep things local here but often lately news from Washington DC dominates local conversations. Now it’s DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – the meager but vital attempt at immigration reform.

We posted the letter CA Attorney General Javier Becerra and 19 other Attorneys General sent the president before he took action to overturn it. The July letter, only 3 pages, outlines the legal, moral and constitutional argments to support DACA. But it also includes the economic argument, which is probably intended to appeal to the businessman in the White House.

Some have argued the President’s action to repeal DACA may at last force Congress to do what former President Obama could not get out of Congress – real immigration reform. If that does start to happen, I would argue the most effective strategy may rely on those economic arguments.

Moral arguments don’t seem to carry much weight these days and with a possible 4-4 outcome from the Supreme Court, Congress is actually where this issue should end up. Before immigration reform fell off the radar, activists were making some headway using economics to support their case. Calling them “undocumented taxpayers” and relying on solid economic data made a much more compelling case than the arguments we’ve heard for decades. It would be satisfying to win an argument based on the high ideals our country represents but history teaches us to be more strategic.

Some other good reads about DACA and Dreamers:

 

Victor Abalos is Executive Director of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and Editor of the Latino Policy Connection.
victor@socalatinos.org
@SOCALatinos

Policymaker Profile: Jerry Velasco – City of El Monte

Jerry Velasco, Producer of “THE PITCH,” has been in the entertainment industry for over forty years, as an accomplished businessman, actor, producer, union organizer, personal manager, Art Advocate, and as head of his own multimedia entertainment company, Velasco & Associates. After serving the community in many aspects for over forty years, Velasco’s most recent venture has been to the political arena. After serving as a Planning Commissioner for the City of El Monte for two years, Velasco was elected as the EL Monte City Treasurer in 2015, and soon after was elected to the El Monte City Council and currently serves as the El Monte Mayor Pro Tem (Vice Mayor).

Who was your political mentor – someone who guided and supported you – someone who prepared you for public service. What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you?

Well, I have several mentors. First of all, the non-political, my parents, brothers, and sisters who taught me the same thing that most mentors taught me, respect. Secondly, the great actor icon, Ricardo Montalban that most of you remember him as the star of the TV series, Fantasy Island. He was a very prominent, respected, loved super star that originated from Mexico who made positive changes for our people in the United States through the entertainment industry. Thirdly, Congressman Estaban Torres, who was also a former U.S. Ambassador to U.N.E.S.C.O. Fourthly, Julian Nava, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Finally, Congressman Edward Roybal, he was the U.S. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard father among others. These are/were all pioneers who fought for these positions not only for themselves but for all of us. They and my parents taught me; respect, honesty, the value of life, and to work very hard to reach my dreams. What they mainly emphasized was to always treat people with respect and dignity.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

There are two things I would have wished they told me:

  1.  How to break into the Political World:

Even though our colleges and Universities offer Political Science courses and other political classes, these courses do not teach you how to be an elected official.  That is why it is important that everyone has mentors, like the ones I mentioned above that know the ins and outs of how to be an elected official, so that we can be able to govern the best we can. Basically, what I always recommend pray and go with your instincts and what your heart dictates to you. Because if it’s not good for me, it will not be good for you.

  1.   How to be a Council Member:

Even though I have had a lot of experience in life because of my age; for example, working in the entertainment industry, I have been able to take on and work with the entertainment industry trying to make positive changes and a difference by trying to diversify it. Again, I would say that there should be some kind of training program when an individual runs for office or gets elected so that they could know their responsibilities and obligations so that they can know the things they can do and the things not to do. Because by not doing the right thing, those are the things no matter how small they are is what puts politicians careers in jeopardy.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful (what did it do for residents or students) and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

Well, as I said, I have only been elected as a Council Member for a year and a half, it is too early to talk about my accomplishments, I rather hold off to talk about them next time you interview me again. Maybe in six months or a year. But, as a newly elected official, I feel this is the beauty of having someone new in the Council enter the political structure that shares new ideas with other colleagues. Just as I am sharing my ideas with my fellow members to bring more businesses into our city to continue improving the city’s infrastructure, safety, health, after school programs, art programs, senior among other programs. Like I have always said, the businesses in our city are very important because they generate the taxes that we need to be able to accomplish all the programs that I have been talking about (we must always remember to continue being business friendly). Something that is very dear to my heart because that is where I come from is the arts, and I feel that our city is lacking tremendously in the arts and the lack of recreational parks. Even though we have theater programs in our school Districts, I am working towards building and having our own Performance Art Center in our city. I Iook forward in establishing our own Performing Art Center and be known once again as a city that has the best art programs in the nation as we were known once before back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s when the famous Legion Stadium was around. I feel that art is essential to a community as my dear friend the actor, Ricardo Montalban said: “a city or a home without art, is a dark city or dark home.”

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? Is there a secret to doing this well can you share?

Well, it’s not easy if you think about it too much. If you just let it happen, it works. However, you do have to balance your time because we only have twenty-four hours a day, but more importantly, pace yourself. When it comes to family, family comes first. Your family should always know what you are always into whether it be your brother, sister, husband, or wife to be able to accept your decision.

Interviewed by Sergio Garcia Escobar, Political Science Major, California State University – Long Beach

OPINION

Latino Community Can’t Afford To Be Left Out Of Cannabis Industry Opportunities

By:  Phil Reyes

After a slow start, the momentum is now building for the medical cannabis industry to emerge from the shadows.  After decades of demonizing our communities’ natural remedy, a series of measures (most recently the passage of SB94, comprehensive cannabis regulations) are a game changer that will provide good jobs, and substantial revenue.  This is a generational opportunity that Latino communities cannot afford to slip by.

The law now provides substantial public safety safeguards, such as making it a felony to supply cannabis to minors.  It allows patients access to a safe and more effective alternative to opioids.  And it provides business opportunities, jobs, and a stream of revenue for our communities.

Compliance with local laws is required for businesses to acquire a state license in 2018.  Latino communities in front are taking steps to identify green zones, adopt ordinances, and screen for responsible businesses to provide jobs for their communities and to capture their market share of revenue!  Municipalities that do not act NOW will be left behind.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for communities of color to move up in the economic ladder and to create wealth. Let’s not let down our Latino communities!! 

 

Phil Reyes has over thirty years of professional and public affairs experience with a proven record of strong leadership.  Phil recently launched a new LLC, Professional Organic Solutions / POS, which specializes in assisting municipalities and the cannabis industry in facilitating through the entitlement process.