By Adriana Maestas
Every year the Young Elected Officials Network (YEO) and Young People For (YP4) offer the Front Line Leaders Academy (FLLA), a leadership development program that provides 20 talented young people who are interested in greater civic participation an opportunity to learn what it takes to run political campaigns or even run for office. This six-month fellowship has existed for the past ten years, but only offered in LA County for the past two years.
During the course of those six months, FLLA participants meet during four weekends and are trained on political skills useful in campaigns. The program starts with what it means to be a candidate and then works through the roles of campaign manager, finance director, communications director, and a field organizer.
“We look for applicants who are 18-35 and who have an interest in civic engagement,” said Karen Schillinger, Coordinator of Advanced Leadership for the Young Elected Officials Network. “We are particularly looking for young people who want to create a new political system that is more truly representative of the population and that gives a voice to marginalized communities.”
Two of the FLLA alumni shared their experiences with the program with the Latino Policy Connection.
Elizabeth Alcantar is a 23-year-old recent graduate of California State University, Long Beach. She had been working for Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis before as a field deputy when she entered the FLLA program in the fall. She just completed the program this spring.
“I am a field rep in an area where I have lived my whole life. My family and friends are here, and working in this area is important for me. My mom and my neighbors can go to the events that I help organize, and so working in this area and for the Supervisor is very personal for me,” said Alcantar, a resident of Cudahy.
Alcantar said that the FLLA program was instrumental to her understanding how to approach her field assignment for Supervisor Solis.
Alcantar says an incident involving her father before she started working for Solis, helped her understand the impact a policymaker can have on people’s lives. She says her father was involved in a wage theft claim with his employer – a claim the family struggled to resolve. When Supervisor Solis was serving as the Secretary of Labor in President Obama’s first term, wage theft was a critical issue Solis confronted. Alcantar says because of that, her father eventually received payment for his labor.
“I like to share this story about my boss and my father’s work because it shows how impactful union members can be when they have advocates like Supervisor Solis,” Alcantar said.
“The FLLA program was a good six month process where you are meeting people who you know will be future elected officials. So part of being in this program was networking and learning the language of politics. This was key for me because by training, I’m a social worker, so I wasn’t completely fluent in the language of politics,” Karaccusian explained.
Karaccusian says she transitioned into politics from being a social worker so she could advocate on behalf of children in the foster care system. She witnessed up close how public policy impacts children and decided that she would like to have a greater impact on a macro level.
Karaccusian said that Congresswoman Bass has always been a champion for foster youth, so she found a mentor. She started working for the Congresswoman as a case manager and was promoted to deputy district director and then district director over the course of three and a half years.
“I have not ruled out running for office, but I want to do the work in the community and have the community get to know me for my work before throwing myself out there,” Karaccusian said.
To learn more about the program, visit http://youngpeoplefor.org/.
We wanted to identify a case study for our readers that provides a very specific example how to effectively make an impact on the affordable housing shortage in their community. The El Monte Veterans Village, which opened in March of 2014, provides 40 units built at a cost of $12 million.
By: Elissa J. Granger
Mercy Housing’s mission, according to its website is: “To create stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.”
New Directions for Veterans (NDVets) was founded by two formerly homeless Vietnam veterans and a local advocate for homeless persons and has provided comprehensive services to thousands of veterans in Los Angeles County since 1992.
This project has changed and enriched the lives of veterans by developing the first veterans housing in the El Monte area. There is considerable evidence this project provides a model for other affordable housing efforts.
Our sincere thanks to Mercy Housing’s Vice President of Real Estate Development Ed Holder who provided a step-by-step guide to the project.
Step 1: Strong City Backing: A supportive City Council and city staff was critical for success.
Step 2: Supportive Community & Support of Veterans Group: We made sure the local community was on board. They should be a part of the process from the beginning to ensure buy-in and support. Veterans groups were invited to provide specific input in planning process.
Step 3: County Funding: HUD’s L.A. County Housing Allocation Committee has funds available to assist in the development of housing. Federal and state financing sources include: low income housing tax credits and bank loans. In some cities, local programs provide the developers with market rate projects or local housing trust funds or bonds.
Step 4: Developing the Concept: The project must clearly identify the target communities specific needs – in this case it was veterans. What is their income level? What special services need to be offered?
Step 5: Securing Financing: This project required putting together a complex funding package combining federal, state, and local government resources as well as private funding.
Step 6: Locating the Proper Location: Suitable sites may be identified (and sometimes owned) by the local government. This makes the process much easier. Real estate professionals can indentify potential sites. Sometimes generous owners will donate property for your project.
Step 7: Local Government Review: Local government regulations require exhaustive reviews. Make sure the project meets the all local and regional government requirements and codes.
Step 8: Public Review: Engagement with community leaders, local groups and concerned individuals is vital. Inviting their participation will lead to revisions, often made when valid concerns are identified. Issues such as traffic and noise will generate their concerns and must be addressed.
What was a major contributing factor that allowed Mercy Housing to get this project off the ground?
“Having a very strong and committed city behind us was essential,” said Holder. “The City of El Monte was a fantastic partner. The El Monte City Council and staff knew and understood that every night that this [El Monte Veterans Village] was not built it meant that a homeless Veterans would sleeping on the streets.”
Elissa J. Granger is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
By Bill Britt
For the Latino Policy Connection
The City of Palmdale was honored earlier this month as the Most Business Friendly City with a population greater than 65,000 in L.A. County. The City of El Segundo grabbed that title for a city population under 65,000. Both honors, the Eddy Awards, are from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), which has been handing out these awards for the last twenty years as a way to encourage business-friendly local government policies.
Now, there’s another path to recognition for cities looking to boost their business-friendly profile: Assembly Bill 2 (AB2), signed into law by Governor Brown recently.
“Absolutely,” says South Gate City Manager Mike Flad. “AB2 has the potential to help cities be more business friendly. As we compete with other states and countries we need all the tools we can get.”
After Governor Brown dissolved California’s 400+ redevelopment agencies in 2011, and after years of adamantly refusing to bring them back, he signed legislation to do exactly that in the form of a new, but limited version of redevelopment.
Dan Carrigg, the Legislative Director for the League of California Cities who helped draft AB2, says the bill’s accountability factor is among the biggest changes. “In the old [system], you’d have a five member body of a city council sitting as a redevelopment agency. Under AB2, at least two of the individuals have to either live or work in the affected area.”
Also new: Provisions that allow voters to shut a redevelopment project down if they don’t like how it’s developing.
“There’s voter empowerment that’s part of this,” Carrigg explains. “If the community isn’t really onboard with what’s being proposed, there’s an opportunity for them to protest and if there’s a significant amount of protest it triggers an election. If the majority of those affected don’t want it, they’re not going to do it.”
Voters will also be able to stop the process after it starts. “Every ten years there’s an opportunity for those who are affected to have an election [to] evaluate how they feel things are going,” says Carigg. “They can shut off any new activity from going forward. We’re hoping those changes will result in developments and projects that are more in sync with what the communities actually want.”
If a community actually wants to take advantage of AB2, South Gate City Manager Mike Flad suggests council members take a hard look at whether it wants to use one of AB2’s more contentious provisions: imminent domain, the seizure of private property for public use.
“The council should have a discussion, sooner rather than later, on whether they’re interested in engaging powers like imminent domain because a lot of political bodies have no interest in exercising that right.”
If the prospect of engaging a controversial strategy like imminent domain is too much for city officials, they might want to consider another tool provided by AB2: the formation of an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD). It’s a similar tool with different benefits.
“They don’t come with the power of imminent domain,” Flad explains. “They also don’t require housing set-asides. A very technical bureaucratic analysis needs to take place before council says we’re going to create one of these zones.”
Reaction by the local Latino policymakers we contacted to AB2 is mixed. Westminster city council member Sergio Contreras points out AB2’s shortcomings. “While it is a good start, it doesn’t go far enough in providing cities with the tools they need to effectively address blighted and disadvantaged neighborhoods. I would like to see a more concentrated effort that can fill in some of the holes left by AB2.”
In the City of Moreno Valley, Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez is one of many city council members across the state who are disappointed with AB2.
“The loss of Redevelopment devastated cities that relied upon its provisions to enhance community livability, promote jobs and spur economic development.”
Even so, the dissenters are optimistic. “I would have liked to see AB2 be more comprehensive,” says Riverside city council member Andy Melendrez, “but given the political climate I think it was the best we could have asked for.”
Dr. Gutierrez agrees. “While AB2 offers fewer benefits than available through [the previous Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs)], I believe that it will provide another tool to help cities address aging infrastructure and promote affordable housing.”
While several city council members say their communities are still weighing the pros and cons of AB2 (“We’ll proactively consider opportunities on a case-by-case basis,” says Gutierrez) Melendrez says Riverside plans to take advantage of it. “When past redevelopment funds were issued and allocated appropriately, we were able to significantly enhance many of our low income communities.”
In the years leading up to the limited renewal of redevelopment agencies, many cities were already touting business-friendly policies.
“In Moreno Valley,” Gutierrez says, “we work at the speed of business! Proof of our success lies in the results: More than 4,000 new jobs since 2013 and major new projects” involving Amazon and Proctor & Gamble to name a few, and, “the largest single industrial development project in California’s history – the World Logistics Center, a world class business park.”
Contreras from suggests taking a drive around Westminster “to see some of our recent successes. We are weeks away from opening a brand new Costco Business Center. We have three large-scale housing developments under construction. We have attached, relocated, or seen the complete remodeling of three automotive dealerships in the last two years. The private sector doesn’t invest that type of money in a city if it isn’t business-friendly.”
Even the City of Chino Hills, where an above-average population growth includes many residents with an above-average income, maintains an all-out effort to build on a reputation of being business-friendly. “We actually have a consultant that reaches out to the business community,” says City Council Member Ray Marquez. “We conduct surveys via our great Chamber of Commerce, so when we get feedback, positive or negative, they share that with the city but they also share that with me. If it’s a derogatory comment I try to rectify it.”
Riverside’s Melendrez and other city council members from this region are just as determined to take their business-friendly efforts up more than a few notches, with or without the help of AB2. “We are consistently looking to solicit feedback from our businesses that will enhance our services as a city and [we are] always looking to assist and promote the local business community,” he says.
Even El Segundo, with its newly awarded Most Business Friendly City award, is taking steps to keep its title by maintaining a very long To Do list, according to Mayor Suzanne Fuentes. “We have discussed restructuring the business license tax, increasing outreach and communication with the business community, planning a business appreciation and recognition event, improving IT architecture and hiring additional employees in Planning and Building Safety.”
It sounds like a full plate for any city, but as Fuentes claims, “El Segundo IS the city where big ideas take off!”
By Shirley Aldana
For the Latino Policy Connection
To support our Feature Article, “The Rebirth of Redevelopment?” I recently interviewed Professor of Political Science, Morris Levy, at the University of Southern California who provided me with five measures Southern California local Latino elected officials, particularly city council members and mayor, could consider to gauge the business-friendly environments of their communities.
- Business Tax
- Regulartory Policies
- Licensing and New Business Registration
Does your city offer temporary tax breaks? According to Professor Levy “some municipalities are willing to make allowances and offer businesses a lower tax break or sometimes even give multiple year breaks on taxes altogether. Why? Because by attracting a robust employer base, by offering tax credit/breaks, it will be worth the lost tax-revenue in the short run.”
One conclusion is that cities try to attract companies with low or no-tax privileges, which in turn draw workers who pay income tax on their earnings, and contribute to the economy. A caveat he said “is to also look at tax rates on the individuals who are likely to be working at high-income jobs is important too.” Why? Highly paid athletes sometimes make determinations of where they will go based on how much of their earnings they actually get to keep as in an example.
In 2011, when I worked for the Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association (GLANCDA), Los Angeles City Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, called to end business taxes to attract franchised new car dealers, stating new car dealers left the Figueroa Corridor to surrounding cites that offered lower business tax incentives. GLANCDA worked with then-LA City Council members Garcetti, Perry and Englander on this effort, and in 2012 the business-tax exemption was offered to the car dealers. In 2014, newly elected LA City Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed an expansion of that exemption and phasing out business tax all together for Los Angeles City.
Professor Levy encourages city policymakers and managers to evaluate both the rules on the books and the enforcement of certain regulatory policies. Sometimes Professor Levy says those policies may add undo burdens to doing everyday business. Regulations such as pollution control and employee safety provide important benefits to those communities, but a local economy yoked with unnecessary regulations stifles growth, he says. A review and removal of these regulations could ease the burden of doing business according to Professor Levy.
Licensing and Registration of New Businesses
How long and what exactly does it take to get a business license? Professor Levy has found that the length of time it takes for an individual or corporation to register or get a business license could be a key indicator if they will come to a specific city or region. He also notes that a “business healthy municipality will likely be one that has attracted an immigrant base as entrepreneurs and workforce and consumers.” With several cities in this region boasting significant immigrant communities, it’s worth asking local policymakers if their local economies provide opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses.
While a city’s policies are a major component to measure business friendly environments, it is not always the only influence. Other factors like agglomerations could be at play, says Professor Levy. Silicon Valley is a great example. High tech companies were drawn to those places where similar companies had already established a workforce and a vibrant tech “community” was in full swing. When this happens there is a synergy that fuels information sharing as well as a competitive environment that stimulate further innovation. In addition, companies seek environments where they can draw from and recruit a similarly skilled workforce.
Finally, Professor Levy says another critical area to assess is business “friendliness,” which is often difficult to gauge using other indicators like taxes, regulatory policy, licensing delays or agglomeration. Cities should consider conducting surveys, not only of businesses from their region, but also of businesses considering coming to the region. Why? “Because figuring out both the level of satisfaction of those in the region, but also taking the considerations of those businesses you would like to attract could shed light on those objective indicators like taxes and regulatory policy that may be need to be revised.”
Shirley Aldana has over ten years of business and non profit management experience. She is a senior at the University of Southern California where she is finishing her degree in Urban Applied Anthropology with a focus in Race, Ethnicity and Politics. She is currently the Membership Coordinator for the Southern California Latino Policy Center.
SoCa Latino Policymakers Respond to Candidate’s Inflammatory Comments
As our Board President explained in his blog this month, our feature article for October focuses on what we’re calling the Trump Effect – the impact the millionaire presidential candidate has had not only on the national campaign but also in re-framing the national debate about immigration, and inevitably, about Latinos.
We’re focusing on Trump’s comments because they go beyond presidential campaign politics and party issues. They speak to a persistent theme in presidential campaigns – the scapegoat – this time around it’s us – again. How this will impact his campaign and the race itself is a dynamic we are all watching closely, as evidenced by the comments we are publishing.
Writer Bill Britt posed a series of questions to a broad cross section of Latino policymakers from this region. We reached out men, women, Democrats, Republicans, council members, school board members, community college trustees and even a couple of members of Congress. Not everyone responded but we are grateful to those who did.
Our panel (in alphabetical order):
- Luis Ayala, Mayor, City of Alhambra
- Sylvia Ballin, Vice-Mayor, City of San Fernando
- Miguel Canales, Mayor, City of Artesia
- Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias, Board Vice President, Santa Ana Unified SD
- Cristian Markovich, Mayor, City of Cudahy
- Michele Martinez, Council Member, City of Santa Ana
- Manuel Perez, Council Member, City of Coachella
- Linda T. Sanchez, U.S. Representative (CA-38)
- Tony Vazquez, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Santa Monica
- Aurora R. Villon, Ed.D., Board President, El Rancho Unified SD
Donald Trump is one of the most prominent newsmakers in the race for the White House. What impact has his campaign had on the Latino community?
Aurora Villon, Ed.D.
President, El Rancho Unified SD
He’s great for the working people who are making money selling Donald Trump piñatas. On a serious note, [he’s] done something that has never been done before. Through his racist messages he has captured the attentions of all Latinos as well as mainstream America. He is the ‘ugly’ American everyone wants to ignore but cannot stop listening to. Trump has done wonders in uniting Latinos. The thing Latinos don’t seem to realize is that what [he’s] saying is no different [from] what politicians have been doing throughout history – treating our people as second class citizens and a burden to society. The difference between other politicians and Trump is that Trump is dumb enough to say what he thinks while others are masters in hiding their true feelings and intentions.
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez
38th Congressional District
The Latino community is engaged and we are ready to make sure our voices are heard on Election Day. We’re tired of the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric coming out of the Republican Party. In Los Angeles, and in other cities across the country, you see Donald Trump piñatas selling out. Every young child who takes a whack at a Trump piñata is another future voter in a generation of Latino voters that the Republican Party has alienated, and potentially lost for life.
But, the challenge for the Latino community is to turn our numbers into real political influence. We have already seen a big push by many groups to increase Latino voter registration – especially by helping those eligible for citizenship to become U.S. citizens. Of the 8.8 million legal immigrants eligible to become citizens, about 5.4 million are Latino. I am on a personal vendetta to get every Latino I know fired up, registered to vote and ready to cast a ballot in every election. We can’t sit on the sidelines just hoping things will get better.
Mayor Pro Tem, City of Santa Monica
I think he’s going to have a positive effect, but not for himself. I’m hoping he’ll turn out the Latino vote for us like Governor Pete Wilson did for us here in California. Wilson was the champion of Proposition 187, which basically tried to take rights away from immigrants both documented and undocumented. It turned out the Latino vote in huge numbers, but not for him. I think Trump is headed in the same direction with his really ridiculous statements.
Mayor Pro Tem, City of Coachella
I look at this as an opportunity for Latinos to seize the moment. It’s time that the sleepy brown giant awakens. I think this will galvanize Latinos to educate themselves, register themselves, organize themselves, mobilize and eventually go out and vote and / or run for office.
Councilmember, City of Santa Ana
In many respects it’s creating a positive effect for getting the Latino community to come out to vote and voice their opinion on how someone like Trump can be so disrespectful towards Mexicans. I think people now are awake and observing and paying attention to politics.
Mayor, City of Alhambra
It’s sort of an awakening in a political sense to not get Trump elected, but it’s also creating an incentive for more political activism in the Latino community. He’s creating some good discussions as to what is important to us in a Presidential candidate.
Mayor, City of Artesia
What surprises me more than anything is the hatefulness. [He] keeps saying he’s not politically correct. No he’s not, but he’s just not nice. He’s a jerk. He’s being a bully in a society where we’re trying to teach our kids not to be bullies. You don’t have to be politically correct, but be kind. I guarantee you the words he’s using won’t be forgotten. Once people are motivated, they do show up for elections.
Mayor Pro Tem, City of San Fernando
He is uniting our community. We will not empower/elect an egotistical, prejudiced, self-absorbed man who clearly lacks education on the importance of holding the office of President. He is divisive, verbally abusive, and clearly too comfortable attacking women. He does not understand one of the most important words in the Latino community, ‘respect.’ The majority of the Latino community I’ve spoken to consider him a loser and loose cannon capable of launching World War III because of his lack of knowledge of the real important issues and diplomacy. I want to see his birth certificate. Is he really a citizen?
Mayor, City of Cudahy
Donald Trump’s campaign I believe has really mobilized the Latino community on both sides of the aisle. The vitriol he spouts offers no substance or solutions to the issues that this country faces nor does he make an effort to have a civilized conversation with well- respected members of the Latino community. So much so that ‘Donald Trump’ has become a personal insult that some use.
Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias
Board Vice President, Santa Ana Unified SD
Donald trump is energizing Latinos to become citizens and register to vote. He is also making the uninformed voter resent the Republican Party.
What must any Presidential candidate do to win the Latino vote?
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez
I have said for a long time now – Latino voters care about more than just immigration. Immigration is an important issue to our community but we also care about jobs and economic opportunities, college affordability and vocational training, a clean environment, affordable health care, retirement security – things that all working Americans care about. Our community is looking for a Presidential candidate who respects us and lays out a vision to help hardworking families and grow the middle class. And I think there is a clear contrast in the message you hear coming from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Cecelia “Ceci” Iglesias
In order to get the Latino vote a candidate needs to speak to the heart. [Their] tone has to be humble [and they should be] compassionate in their speech. Focus on the American Dream.
Dr. Aurora Villon
Have big ears, a tender heart, and a humble spirit: Big ears to listen to the many issues impacting and marginalizing Latinos. Politicians claim to understand the Latino community but how can they understand us when we only become visible when they want our vote? A tender heart to understand the hardships our people have endured and are still enduring. We are a proud people who have migrated to this country to give our best and not to take away from anyone. The economy of this country would not survive without the Latino market and the Latino workforce. A humble spirit of servitude and compassion. How can a leader lead if he/she does not have an understanding of the people who have placed him/her in a leadership position? The same Latinos who carried flags and protested injustices in the 60’s and 70’s are now doctors, educators, businessmen/women, lawyers and still fighting for the same things that were important back then…equality, social justice, humane treatment, and the right to be treated with respect, dignity, and as equal citizens of this beautiful country.
Policy is critical, but when we think about policy and the Latino vote, we usually only discuss immigration policy. We also care about jobs, about making sure they can pay our bills, about manufacturing going away to other countries. And they need to have compassion. It’s not just about them. It’s not just about selfish power. It’s about empowering others. Those are pieces of an essential puzzle that needs to be considered. I’ve had to [remember that] a few times. Not as a Presidential candidate but in my own way.
I think Latinos across the country are realizing it’s not about being Republican or Democrat. This is a perfect opportunity for the Latino community to unite and not talk about partisan politics, but instead making sure that what we stand for, our values, our family, our work, that we find a candidate will to put that at the forefront and respect the Latino community with integrity. That’s the kind of candidate we’re looking for.
We all care about moving this country forward and creating opportunities for everyone. Just because we’re becoming a majority doesn’t mean that we care about issues that are different from anyone else’s. And because we tend to be at a lower income, we tend to be in college significantly less than the mainstream. I think a candidate would be successful by talking about those realities and paving a path that would create opportunities and policies that will get us there.
The Latino vote isn’t ‘won,’ it is earned.
Is there a Presidential candidate who best represents the interests of Latino voters?
I know the names that pop up are [Ted] Cruz and [Marco] Rubio because of their Latino surnames. Jeb Bush because he’s married to a Mexican American. But honestly I haven’t felt that there’s been a genuine effort yet from any one of these candidates. Of the Democrats, I’m leaning towards Bernie [Sanders] because I like the fact that he’s talking about [economic and social] inequities. Individuals usually don’t [talk about those issues] when they’re running for office. It’s tougher to speak to those truths. I love Hillary but she’s got a battle right now because of her email problems.
Among the Republicans? No. I don’t think there’s anyone that fits all the qualifications to lead us, based on my convictions. If I were to vote today, Hillary Clinton fits that bill, and to an extent, Bernie Sanders.
Dr. Aurora Villon
Republicans? Bush and Rubio. Democrats? None.
Cecelia “Ceci” Iglesias
Republicans: Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.
We have the same values and interests as everyone else. I think Jeb Bush understands that. As does Bernie Saunders and Hillary Clinton. Those three, in my opinion, understand that the Latino issues are the American issues and the need to bring 55-million people into the fabric of America and not exclude them or label them. My ideal Presidential dream ticket would be Hillary Clinton and Bernie Saunders, but I love Jeb Bush! That’s my problem! I like all three equally. Now that I think more about it, I’ll go with Hillary and Elizabeth Warren. That’s never gonna happen!
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez
I think President Tom Perez and Vice President Linda Sánchez has a nice ring to it. In all seriousness, I would love to see the day when we have our first Latino or Latina President of the United States.
If anything was proven in the last few elections it is the fact that the Latino vote can decide it all. And even though the official 2016 race for the Presidency hasn’t started yet, we are watching many candidates try to gain favor with Latinos through a variety of strategies. In the case of Donald Trump, connecting with Latinos doesn’t appear be a priority, but most of the other candidates are using immigration, jobs, education and even foreign policy to engage Latinos.
The average voters may not notice or care, but those of us who follow these campaigns closely are very curious about who is shaping Latino strategies for the national campaigns. There is one inescapable fact: Very few of those charged with connecting with Latino voters are Latino.
Mike Madrid is a veteran of national political campaigns and sits on the Board of the American Association of Political Consultants. “We believe that if you hire people that understand the community and the culture, the language, the issues, and can communicate and speak to people in the community, we can use that as a way to increase civic participation and turnout among Latino voters.” Madrid, and some of the handful of Latinos active in the AAPC, are launching an ambitious plan to increase the numbers of Latino political consultants by promoting regional forums in cities like Los Angeles. The AAPC is a “white boy’s club,” admits Madrid but that can, and has to, change.
With almost two decades of experience, Silissa Uriarte-Smith says that in the specialized business of political consulting, networking across the race and gender spectrum is necessary to survive. “I straddle both worlds really well, meaning the white world and the Latino world, so a lot of my mentors are white and they taught me the job,” Uriarte-Smith states. She is not an AAPC member, but in her opinion it is imperative to conduct research on the Latino presence in the consulting business in order to empower young people, especially women.
Madrid and Uriarte-Smith are proof of the success that Latinos can achieve as political consultants, and both agree that mentoring is essential; perhaps at its regional forums the AACP could offer training seminars for young Latinos so as to stimulate that greater grassroots political participation that their communities need.
Madrid is working with other Latino consultants to organize a gathering this fall or early next year to gather Southern California Latino political consultants together for panels and workshops focused on professional development and to generate conversations designed to get more Latino political consultants into mainstream political campaigns.
by Guadalupe Vicón
Latino tech leaders and policymakers speak out about the widening gap between the tech jobs available and the jobs we’re getting.
by Bill Britt
The Latino Policy Connection
Oscar Magaña – Mayor, City of Maywood
Self-proclaimed community activist Oscar Magaña didn’t expect to lose friends when he won a seat on the Maywood City Council in 2011, but that’s exactly what happened when some of the people who encouraged him to run realized he wasn’t going to deliver for them.
“My transition into office was probably more difficult for them than it was for me. There are people who knocked on doors for me who don’t talk to me today because they wanted a favor or something that I knew, morally, I wasn’t going to do.”
That’s the first splash of ice-cold reality that typically hits newly-elected policymakers. The second and far more harsh awakening is the realization that they’re now part of an organization that functions with a specific set of rules. They’re reluctant to admit they don’t know what those rules are, let alone understand them. Which is why they should take a few cues from predecessors like Magaña, who didn’t hesitate to ask for help the moment he achieved the status of Insider. “I formed a relationship with people I could trust, who’ve been in office much longer than I have,” he says. “I looked to people like Aide Castro for advice.”
Aide Castro – Councilmember, City of Lynwood
Aide Castro, elected to the Lynwood City Council in 2007, has been around long enough to recognize the pitfalls of former activists who are more accustomed to confrontation than compromise. “If you learn the rules for addressing your colleagues and understand protocol, you can still push an agenda but you can’t be on the dais protesting at city council meetings.”
“I can see where she’s going with this, regarding certain people who continue to be combative,” says Huntington Park Mayor Karina Macias, who’s been Mayor for the past two months and a City Council Member since 2012. “I always extended an olive branch and showed up with an open mind. But I wasn’t going to vote ‘yes’ on council matters for the sake of voting ‘yes.’ I stood my ground on issues that I knew were important to the community at that time.” In fact, she says her early years were mirror images of Magaña’s experiences. “I lost a few friends as well. I sat down with a constituent who actually did not want me to associate with another council member and I said, ‘Look. She’s my colleague. I have to talk to her!’”
“I always extended an olive branch…”
Karina Macias – Mayor, City of Huntington Park
Based on council member Castro’s observations over the years, Mayor Macias’ willingness to engage is a welcome exception to the norm. According to Castro, there’s “a trust issue among the elected and the staff,” but the first people newly-electeds should trust are city managers. She doesn’t mince words when asked to explain the importance of city mangers to new officer-holders.
“If you go to your city managers, or at least get them on the phone once a week and ask questions before the next city council meeting, you can avoid spending time on the dais asking those questions. You think you sound smart, but you don’t. You’re just frustrating the hell out of everyone else who’s there trying to get things done.”
Mike Flad, the City Manager for South Gate, has an administrative career that dates back 30 years, mostly with the city of Burbank. “I’ve put in 50 to 60 hours a week for decades, and I’ve seen everyone benefit when newly-elected people meet with city managers on a regular basis. “Let’s say you want to reduce unemployment and you believe building an employment center in your community would be a huge step in that direction. It’s totally appropriate to go to your city manager and ask, ‘How do I get there as a council member? Where do I start?’”
Castro suggests they start with their own staff. “Discuss your idea with them and have them gather all the research. Then, go to your city manager and explain that you want to put it on the council’s agenda. Your staff’s recommendation will state that you’re either agreeing with it, or you’re asking for the council’s direction. This way, when you go to council meetings you’re presenting solutions rather than complaining about problems.”
“I saw all the arguing going on before I was elected and I didn’t like it,” says council member Magaña. “While some people were saying I was too young and inexperienced for office, they didn’t realize I planned on being the most mature person there. If I took office and started arguing with people and not listening to others, they would’ve said, ‘See! He’s too young and inexperienced!'”
That’s not to say he arrived with the air of a soothing diplomat. “At first it was a little difficult understanding there are certain things you can’t say as an elected official because you represent the entire community.” He also learned some of the rules and protocol during his activist years, but he admits “there was a lot of trial and error involved” when he got into office.
Ironically, Magaña’s first year was complicated by a compliment. “I was appointed Vice Mayor by my colleagues. My second and third year they appointed me Mayor.” City Manager Flad explains why that’s a complicated twist for new office-holders. “There’s a difference between attending a meeting and running a meeting. When you’re a council member you’re focused on the issue. When you’re the mayor you’re responsible for making sure the process that’s followed is going to be legally binding, and you’re trying to advocate your own position while you’re doing that.”
“Most newly-elected officials have never helped run an organization with a 100-million dollar budget and several hundred employees.” And as Flad points out, when that organization is a city, the smallest misstep can derail the best-laid plans. “You have to make sure the procedure is done right so that new law you’ve just created isn’t thrown out because you didn’t follow the rules.”
Says Flad, “city managers can explain those rules for you. Getting elected requires one set of skills. Governing requires another. There’s a lot of knowledge out there that needs to be shared.”
By Bill Britt
The Latino Policy Connection
There are more than 79-thousand computing jobs available in California right now, and just over 5-thousand computer science graduates in this state. Do the math, even if you’re not good at it. There’s a ton of technology jobs out there and it’s almost like no one’s going after them.
At least one person thinks our students are actually ignoring those jobs because they have the wrong idea of what it takes to be “good at it.”
I want school board members and superintendents to understand one thing. Not all computer industry jobs are math intensive and complicated. In fact, some of them are the most rewarding jobs out there because they involve lots of creativity.
Liliana Monge – Sabio.LA
Liliana Monge is talking mainly about coding; the act of writing a specific language that tells software exactly what you want it to do. If you can code, you can create the next app that teaches people how to play guitar, talk to political candidates, or help provide meals for hungry families.
In fact, those three apps are real; created by students and job seekers who learned to code thanks to Sabio.LA, a learning and training program co-founded by Monge and her husband. “We wanted to make a concerted effort to get more women and people of color into coding.”
An intensive, immersive experience modeled after a program called the Developer Boot Camp, SabioLA does a lot more than train people to code. “We help them prepare for interviews, we connect them with recruiters, we review their resumes and we get them jobs in the technology workforce.” And, long after they’re employed, SabioLA offers to help students gain professional development skills and find opportunities for leadership.
Next month, local elected officials attending the Summer 2015 Latino Policy Forum, “21st Century Cities and Schools,“ will hear a lot more about effective ways of using technology to help face a variety of challenges in education and municipal settings. Monge will be there for a workshop on getting more Latinos into the technology workforce pipeline. She’s hoping administrators will realize that coding is one of the most attractive ways to accomplish that.
“After all, we’re giving people the skills to create new opportunities that actually mean something to them.”