• Special Report: Should You Be A Sanctuary City?
MAIN STORY - JULY 2017

OPINION

Pepperdine Offers Intensive Workshop on Public Engagement for Local Government

By:  Ashley Trim

In these times of endemic mistrust of government (and all institutions for that matter), local governments are finding that well planned and executed public engagement helps communities come together for civic improvement. Public engagement is not a fad, buzz phrase or government jargon. It is a movement that is gaining momentum from experiences throughout California and beyond.

But there is often a gap between how today’s local leaders were prepared in their undergraduate and graduate programs and what they actually need to lead in this “new normal.”

At a Pepperdine conference several years ago, a former Los Angeles-area planning director noted, “We (in the planning department) always put people up in front of the public who are the least prepared to be there.”

She was not suggesting that her planners had not been well trained in their policy or planning schools; rather, she was acknowledging that in some ways their very immersion in the field of planning had left them unprepared to explain technical issues in a nontechnical way or to collaborate with residents who may have priorities beyond that field of expertise.

That is why this summer the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership are teaming this summer to offer a first-of-its-kind Professional Certificate in Advanced Public Engagement for Local Government.

From July 28-30, mid-career professionals will be prepared to lead a publicly-engaged organization by gaining a deep understanding of the context, purpose, and best practices for engaging residents in the decisions that affect their lives and communities.

In workshops led by former city managers, thought leaders in civic engagement, and School of Public Policy faculty, this inaugural cohort will explore questions like:

  • How has public engagement been practiced in the past, and why is it so important in this moment in history?
  • What are the roles of local government, residents, community groups and the media in good engagement?
  • What are the state-of-the-art public engagement techniques and when where and how to use them?
  • How do leaders identify pitfalls, common errors and warning signs?
  • How can leaders reach out to traditionally disengaged members of the community?
  • What role does technology play in public engagement? Are there limits?

You can find out more here: publicpolicy.pepperdine.edu/certificate-public engagement

 

Ashley Trim is the executive director for the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. She overseas the Institute’s annual public engagement grant program, administers Davenport Institute trainings in civic engagement for local government officials, and writes and speaks on public engagement and transparency throughout California as well as at national conferences and convenings. ashley.trim@pepperdine.edu

From the Editor

Where do you get your news from?

By:  Victor Abalos

Policymakers need to rely on accurate and timely information to make good policy. Whether or not that policy addresses the challenge, creates the opportunity or does whatever it is intended to do rests heavily on the quality of that information.

So where do you, as an elected official, get your news and information? Now that we know all about fake news, how carefully do you screen your news sources?

It’s challenging, but not impossible, to find out whether you can trust what you read online. We all know the NY & LA Times but what about CalMatters, EdSource or The Hechinger Report? Do you use Huff Post news articles to back up your policy decisions? These are all news sources that I read regularly but only after I screened them. I went on their websites and looked for their Board members, staff and funders. These are all nonprofit news sites that regularly cover important policy issues.

To be honest, I still read their articles and posts with a skeptical eye. As as former journalist I’m not a believer that news is unbiased or objective. Human beings write these articles and while they may try to be fair and balanced everyone has a perspective – a slant. These news sites claim they want to “explain how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.” Or to “uncover the real problems facing our education system.” But someone there decides not only what to cover, or uncover, and they also decide how they’re going to do it. And they choose what to ignore.

Who are they? When I look at their websites and read about their staff or their boards – I don’t often see the California I live in.  That matters to me and it should matter to you. Where did they grow up? Where did they go to school? Where do they live? I’m going to guess that not many of them live in the Southeast Cities or Boyle Heights or Pacoima or El Monte or any of your cities.

So as you do your Google research or read the article someone emailed you today – check out who wrote it, who they work for and who funds their effort. There can be something worse than fake news and that’s news that’s “legitimate” but still makes us and what we care about invisible.

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: Belen Bernal – City of South Gate

Bernal participates in the 2015 Latino Policy Forum at Cal State-LA.

South Gate Council Member Maria Belen Bernal started her career as a representative for Assemblyman Marco A. Firebaugh, who represented South Gate in the state legislature. As she learned more about Southeast Los Angeles communities, her commitment and enthusiasm to be of service to others grew.
A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Council Member Bernal also holds a Master of Business Administration from California State University, Long Beach.
Council Woman Bernal was born in East Los Angeles and has been a resident of South Gate for 29 years. She was raised on the West side of the City and attended Stanford and Montara Avenue Elementary schools, South Gate Middle and South Gate High School. She resides in South Gate with her husband Juan and their two children.

Who was your political mentor?

I decided to run for elected office in March of 2009 when a co-worker, and South Gate resident at the time asked me to consider running for City Treasurer. She stated that it would be great to have someone who was raised in our community, earned a degree, and had decided to stay local; run for office. After thinking about this for a few weeks I decided to meet with Council Members who I met during my time as a field representative for Assembly Member Marco A. Firebaugh years prior. I was fortunate to have the support of four, out of the five council members, and decided to pursue this opportunity to serve and learn more about my community and local government.

I soon reached out to an old work colleague, Edgar Aranda, who worked as a political consultant. During this early stage of my political involvement, Edgar provided a much needed introduction to what a campaign process entailed, and explained how voter history and patterns were important to consider. I sincerely appreciate his support, and honest guidance very early on.

After serving as Treasurer for six years, I was asked by an outgoing Council Member to consider running for a seat on the City Council. At the time, Mayor Henry Gonzalez extended his full support, and held various conversations about how the campaign process for this position would be much more extensive. Given Mr. Gonzalez’s 25+ years of service as a local City Council Member, I trusted his intentions as a public servant, and enjoyed listening to his stories about how the City of South Gate came to be what it is today. In retrospect, I see how my conversations with Mr. Gonzalez remind me of the annual visits I had with my grandparents, and where I learned that there is much wisdom in those who have lived much longer than us, and who speak from experience.

Lastly, my parents have been my strongest mentors, it is they who instilled the core values of integrity, and a strong and humble work ethic that have provided me with the will power to make tough, and even unpopular, decisions when needed.

 

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

Believe it or not, because I didn’t run for a Council seat early on, I was shocked to learn about how much money goes to running a campaign. I come from a non-profit sector background and think, “Imagine what $20-30,000 can do to help provide additional services to our communities?”

I always knew that there would be times when the public or others would not agree on every issue, but I never thought that being elected/appointed official meant that you had to allow others to create stories about you, and sometimes deal with criticism from strangers. I have always been someone who opts to explain processes, and provide a context to better understand situations, yet as an official you are not always given the opportunity to respond to every criticism. I have found it crucial to rely on my values of integrity and ethics, and have my actions align with the hope that the community will become informed before making statements.

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?

Maybe because I served as Treasurer prior to being on the Council, or because I like to understand the “numbers” that help measure an organization’s efficiency, I have asked staff to continue to present as much detail to my Council colleagues and I about our finances, and accounts on a regular basis. Reports on the status of our City’s General Fund are now provided on a Quarterly basis per my request.

In addition, I asked staff to present ways in which we can create a fiscal task force in order to involve residents in the budget, and contract review process. This is one goal that I would like to see come to fruition during my next two years on the City Council.

Lastly, our outgoing Mayor Bill DeWitt was kind enough to work on my request to invite our School District Superintendent Michelle King who will provide a “State of our Schools” address- specifically to learn more about the performance students and schools in South Gate, this Thursday. This is another project that I want to continue to host, and work closely on, with my colleagues and the school district in the next couple of years.

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?

I am blessed to share my life with my husband and our two children, and agree that balance is needed between these important priorities and obligations. During the last two years on Council, I had the opportunity to work as an operations management consultant which provided a flexible schedule, and the opportunity to become acquainted with my new role on Council.

Most recently I accepted a full-time position, and have definitely experience the difference, and make it a point to have my schedule reflect my priorities both with the City, my career, and my family.

Although there are residents who may want to see me at every-single event, I make it a point to do my due diligence and read Council agenda items first. I very much enjoy attending events that provide me with good feel for the pulse of the community, and will continue to attend outside of my regular full-time work hours, while keeping key family commitments as well.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

The days when my children were born. I began as an elected official, when still single, and no children. During my time in elected office, I got married, completed an MBA, and was blessed with two beautiful children. There have been many memorable days in my life, and now that I have my children, I honestly see how the parent perspective allows me to contribute in new ways on similar issues that stood before us in the past.

Ethics Advisor

It’s All About the Content – Communications on Private Devices May be Subject to Disclosure Under the Public Records Act

By: Ruben Duran

Open government and transparency have long been the standard in California. Laws like the Brown Act, the Political Reform Act and the Public Records Act grant the public rights to attend meetings, know about government officials’ financial interests and review and obtain copies of documents containing information relating to the business of the public, respectively, and help promote public trust and confidence in our local governments.

Last month, in the long-awaited case City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Smith), the California Supreme Court decided unequivocally and unanimously that electronic communications about public business on public employees’ and officials’ private devices and accounts are indeed public records subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act (PRA). The question had been unsettled under previous cases, and governmental officials and employees were unsure whether they would have to provide copies of communications like emails and text messages on their private devices like cell phones and private accounts like AOL, Hotmail and Gmail in response to records requests made to their public agencies.

Answering that question in the affirmative, the court laid out a four-part test to determine if any communication, even one on a private device, is a public record that must be disclosed in response to a records request:

(1) Is it a “writing?” The law has already established that emails and other electronic records are writings for PRA purposes.

(2) Does it contain content relating to the conduct of the public’s business? This is where the court spent most of its time and analysis, suggesting that context matters. For example, an email from a public employee to a spouse complaining “my coworker is an idiot” is likely not a public record. However, an employee’s email to a manager about a co-worker’s mismanagement of an agency project might be.

(3) Is it prepared by a state or local agency? The Court found that if the communication was prepared by a local official or employee, then this prong of the test was met. The fact that it was prepared on a private device or using a private account did not make it purely private if the subject of the communication was about public business.

(4) Is it owned, used, or retained by a state or local agency? The Court held that an agency is considered to own, use or retain such communications because it has constructive possession of them through its control over its own employees. “A writing retained by a public employee conducting agency business has been ‘retained by’ the agency…even if the writing is retained in the employee’s personal account.”

Although the court’s opinion essentially expanded the definition of what constitutes a public record subject to disclosure under the PRA, it still acknowledged the important public interest in maintaining personal privacy even when complying with records requests, noting that privacy concerns could and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, starting with the statutory exemptions from disclosure contained in the PRA (Government Code section 6254). Those exemptions include many familiar to readers of the Ethics Advisor: Personal and medical information, employee records, litigation records, for example.

Finally, the court touched on important practical and policy considerations for local agencies in complying with its ruling in the San Jose case. For example, how a public agency should search for agency-related communications on private devices while protecting officials’ and employees’ privacy. The Court stated that agencies should make a “reasonable effort” to locate records, but they are not required to launch “extraordinarily extensive or intrusive searches.” The Court suggested that public agencies should adopt internal policies for conducting such searches. When the request is for records in employees’ nongovernmental accounts, “an agency’s first step should be to communicate the request to the employees in question.” The Court concluded that the agency could then “reasonably rely on employees to search their own personal devices and accounts for responsive material.”

Thus, depending on the contours of any policy established by your local agency, it will be up to individual officials and/or employees to search for and provide to the agency records responsive to requests, even if those documents are stored on private devices or accounts. Finally, public agencies should consider adopting a policy that requires all officials and employees to use agency-owned accounts or devices when conducting public business to simplify the process of responding to records request after San Jose.

Ruben Duran is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Best Best & Krieger, LLP. He serves as the Southern California Latino Policy Center’s Ethics Advisor and represents cities, school districts and special districts throughout California. 
ruben.duran@bbklaw.com
@BBKRubenDuran
(213) 787-2569

OPINION

School Districts Entrusted with Taxpayer Money

By: Maribel Medina

An accomplished superintendent of a school district or college district is worth his/her weight in gold.

Skilled education administrators can pull troubled districts from the brink of fiscal and/or academic ruin or guide poor performing districts to dramatically improve their student’s academic success.

But what happens when the lead executive is inept, inexperienced, or worse, corrupt?

Many of you can probably name a school district or two that gained unwelcome notoriety because of mismanagement or malfeasance by these kinds of superintendents. Removing them often takes months, even years and then to add insult to injury, districts then face contract payoffs amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

School districts historically have been hamstrung and just had to pay. The state legislature has provided districts with some relief, although not enough school districts are utilizing these remedies.

Under AB215 severance payments to departing superintendents are capped at 12 months, down from the previously permitted 18 months. The legislation, authored by Assembly Member Luis Alejo, was passed in 2015 after a Bay area administrator reportedly received a payout of more than half a million dollars.

And under AB1344, those districts can now even recover severance or amounts paid while on administrative paid leave to superintendents later convicted of crimes involving their positions. That can often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars that can now find their way back into the classroom.

AB1344, better known as the “Abuse of Office” statute (and also authored by Alejo) was a direct response to the city of Bell scandal, where that community’s residents had little recourse in pursuing the millions corrupt officials there stole from them.

Why hasn’t a single school district in California used this provision? There have certainly been opportunities – one of which our firm is currently pursuing.

Not using this statutory authority simply amounts to leaving money in a wrong doers’ pocket that rightfully belongs in the classroom.

We understand that the process of investigating and removing a corrupt administrator is often traumatic for school districts. The financial cost is often daunting and the emotional toll it can take on a district’s staff and school board, not to mention its credibility, may be incalculable.

This is precisely why AB1344 was created. School district policymakers must do everything in their power to recover valuable resources. And perhaps more importantly, ensure future administrators clearly understand corruption will not be tolerated. It might be the most important lesson a school district can impart.

 

Maribel S. Medina is a partner in the law office of Leal & Trejo.  She is an education law expert who has represented school districts for two decades.

@maribelmlaw
Mmedina@Leal-Law.com; 213-628-0808

From the Editor

“What else are we supposed to do?”

By Victor Abalos

As we have noted here before, it’s simple (but not easy) to be in the opposition. Combating policies and programs you don’t agree with is the duty of any policymaker. Standing up for those under attack or in the crosshairs of dogmatic extremism is righteous regardless of which end of the spectrum we find ourselves.

But policymakers need to do more than oppose. They must offer solutions. They should have a vision.

That has many of our readers in a quandary particularly when it comes to the issue of immigration.  Our organization focuses on supporting local elected officials around local policy and immigration is a federal issue. But even federal policy has local implications, particularly when it impacts the day-to-day lives of thousands of families. While we as an organization will remain focused on supporting policy research and development that creates a path for our families into the middle class, we cannot avoid the current debate. And though we will not take any position regarding immigration policy, we hope to offer our policymakers some insight and support.

Many cities, school and college districts and other local bodies are responding to the immigration debate by declaring themselves a “sanctuary” or adopting policies that direct their staff to be non-compliant with any immigration policies that lead to arrest and deportation. Whether those declarations have any impact is unclear but many say they are compelled to take some kind of action. “What else are we supposed to do?” one frustrated policymaker asked me. Clearly, there is a desire to respond to growing anxiety in many communities. But how?

We are working on an upcoming report examining some of these efforts and identifying policy experts who offer local policymakers more options. A city council or school board member cannot create federal immigration policy. But perhaps they can develop local solutions that can allay some of the fear and anxiety that is only growing in many of our communities. The truth of the matter is, that when it comes to immigration and the policies that determine the rights and terms of families and individuals,  we as an organization will support policies that create a safe path for our families.

Victor Abalos is Executive Director of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and Editor of the Latino Policy Connection.

victor@socalatinos.org
@SOCALatinos

Ethics Advisor

Officials’ Top Ten Things to Remember About Public Participation in Local Government

Do I Have to Let Them Say/Do That?

By Ruben Duran

As the national political climate heated up recently, some local governments are facing spillover effects, with local and sometimes even out-of-town activists and provocateurs attending city council, school board and other meetings to let their voices be heard. While representative democracy usually benefits from a free flow of information and public input, unfortunately some recent incidents have made clear that the rancor and divisiveness that ensures high ratings on cable TV news programs can interfere with the work of local government.

Here are the top ten things to remember about public involvement in local government meetings in California:

  1. The basic rule in California under the Brown Act is that the work we do as public officials is the “people’s business.” As such, the public has broad rights to attend meetings of the legislative body (anytime a majority or more of your council or board is gathered to hear, discuss, deliberate or act on an item of agency business). Those meetings, of course, must be conducted after proper notice and posting of an agenda. Additionally, the public has the right to comment on the items we discuss and act on prior to our taking any actions on the items.
  1. The public also has the right to comment on any other issue “within the subject matter jurisdiction” of your agency during any regular meeting of the body. This can sometimes be tricky, and may require some deft handling of meetings. For example, most city councils in California have no control over schools within their jurisdiction; locally elected school boards have that authority. Thus, it would be acceptable to stop someone from commenting on school-related issues at a city council meeting. The converse is also true: a school board does not have to allow comments that should be directed at city officials at a school board meeting.

Does that mean a city council can stop public comment on national immigration policy issues, for example? Strictly speaking, local governments have no policy control over federal immigration decisions. To the extent public input is focused on issues or decisions over which the local governing body has no input, decision-making authority or control, there is a strong argument that commentary on such issues need not be allowed.

The reality in 2017, however, is that some local governments are taking public and policy-related stands on immigration issues, usually in the context of “sanctuary city” questions or local law enforcement stances vis-à-vis federal immigration enforcement. As some of us have experienced recently, those issues and debates can quickly devolve into shouting, catcalls, whistles and other disruptive activity.

  1. Which leads to the third point to remember: while the law protects speech rights for members of the public to address the legislative body, those rights are not without limits. The agency has a right to halt speech that disrupts the body’s ability to complete its business on the posted agenda.
  1. Here, it is critical to remember that the agency’s rights to limit or prohibit speech cannot be based on the content of that speech only. Content-based restrictions on speech have long been held unconstitutional by courts across the U.S. Instead, the local agency’s right to stop speech at a public meeting arises only when that speech becomes disruptive – interfering with the agency’s ability to do business. There must be actual disruption resulting from the speech, not merely the potential for disruption or discomfort, anger or disbelief for the audience, the body or the staff.
  1. Examples of disruptive speech (as found by courts) include:
  • Speech that is too long
  • Speech that is unduly repetitious
  • Speech that includes extended discussion of irrelevancies
  • Yelling
  • Interrupting
  • Personal, slanderous, or profane remarks that are also disruptive (personal, slanderous, or profane remarks on their own are not necessarily disruptive)

This means that you can legally remove from the meeting room individuals who engage in speech that disrupts your meeting.

  1. Your options when your meeting is disrupted by members of the public are laid out in the Brown Act. You can eject the disruptive person(s) from the room or clear the entire room, except for non-disruptive press, if necessary.
  1. You must allow criticism of the “policies, procedures, programs or services of the agency [and] of the acts or omissions of the legislative body,” so long as that criticism does not result in a disruption of the meeting.
  1. For cities, there are also options for when the disruption is caused by a member of your own city council. The California Government Code authorizes a city council to “punish a member or other person for disorderly behavior at a meeting.”
  1. Although not legally required, it makes policy sense to consider adopting a policy that lays out the rules so everyone knows what to expect and what to do when things get out of hand. The policy should include notice and warnings if necessary so that the people involved are given fair opportunity to conform their behavior to the rules.
  1. Finally, remember that the main reason you hold regular and special meetings of your city council, school board or other legislative body is to get the business of your agency done and serve the public. The law allows and expects that your meetings can and should be run effectively and efficiently in an environment of respectful decorum and transparency.

Ruben Duran is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Best Best & Krieger, LLP. He serves as the Southern California Latino Policy Center’s Ethics Advisor and represents cities, school districts and special districts throughout California. 
ruben.duran@bbklaw.com
@BBKRubenDuran
(213) 787-2569

 

Candidates for City Seats Campaign for their Communities In the Tumultuous Trump Era

By Abelardo de la Peña, Jr.

Even though some would rather forget what happened the last time we had an election, in less than one week voters across Los Angeles County will head to the polls to vote on key seats. On March 6, the Consolidated Municipal and Special Elections take place, the results determining who will sit on city councils and take mayoral seats, or who will have to campaign in a runoff if nobody receives the majority of votes. This is democracy at work.

But since we’re living in Trump’s America now, has the tumult and disruption of national politics filtered down to the municipal level? Are candidates changing tactics or messaging due to the meanness and acrimony we are being subjected to on an almost daily basis? What kind of citizens are putting themselves on the line, convincing voters that they have what it takes to lead?

We reached out to several candidates, all who have never held office before, to give us insight on why they are running, what kind of policy-makers they hope to be, how the most recent election impacted their own campaigns, and how that election has affected the community they are fighting to represent.

Emma Ramirez, San Dimas CC Candidate

Emma Ramirez is a candidate for San Dimas City Council, running for one of two open seats. It’s the retired LAPD sergeant’s first run for office, one she attributes directly to the last election. “I think the November election was a big eye opener. It showed that one person can make a difference; one person’s quest to do it against all odds. That gave me the courage to run,” she says.

 

 

Al Rios, South Gate CC Candidate

For South Gate City Council candidate Alfonso Rios, presently an administrator at East LA City College, the trigger for his campaign was the fact that no one ran for a seat in the South Gate’s municipal election in 2015. “With a city of almost 100,000, that’s just not right,” he says. Now, he’s one of nine candidates running for two seats.

 

Monica Rodriguez, LA CC Dist. 7 Candidate

Monica Rodriguez, council candidate for the City of L.A.’s District 7, located in Northeast San Fernando Valley, ran for that same seat in 2007. Her reasoning for running again is direct: “I’ve lived in the district my entire life. I was raised here, went to all the schools. I’ve worked here. And I am best prepared to lead the community.”

Susana Lopez, Bell CC Candidate

 

 

An also-ran in last year’s Presidential election inspired Susana Lopez to run for one of two city council seats in Bell. Says the immigration advocate, “I’m running after witnessing Bernie Sanders’ progressive movement. It was my biggest motivation.”

 

Jorge Nuño, LA CC Dist. 9 Candidate

Jorge Nuño’s blunt assessment for his decision to represent L.A. City Council District 9, which stretches from downtown to just north of Watts, is personal: “I cannot allow my two young boys to live under the same conditions of crime, neglect, and poverty like I have for the past 40 years.”

 

 

As to what style of policymakers they envision themselves to be, there’s almost complete unanimity: They aim to ensure that their constituents have a voice. Nuño plans on creating a body of committees, asserting, “I want those committees to incubate their ideas of the vision for south L.A. and I will be there to lead them.” Lopez, too, envisions constant contact with the people in her community: “I want to have an open door policy. I want to be known as a team player that bring results.” And Rodriguez, who previously worked in L.A. City Councilmember Mike Hernandez’s staff, agrees, “We need to go back to being accessible, to be on-the-street local leaders.”

The elephant in the room in all these campaigns, of course is the shocking presidential election that resulted in near constant tumult since Inauguration Day. San Dimas City Council candidate Ramirez senses the strong message sent by millions of disaffected citizens: “People want change; they’re tired of the status quo. Voters want to take a chance on candidates who are willing to take a chance.” South Gate Council Candidate Rios also senses the frustration, but aims to ease the tension. “So much divides us in our society. We’re not listening to each other. We need to break through that. We need to bridge differences,” he says.

If anything, Trump’s election gave these candidates more of a reason to run. Says Rodriguez, the candidate for L.A.’s 7th District seat, “My decision to run came long in advance of that outcome, but I’ll tell you, it’s amazing to me to see how people are willing to consider people who have no concept of how government runs. Look at last 31 days! It feels that we are going backwards.”

The executive orders, tweets, and policy proposals put forth since January have had a palpable effect on the residents of the communities these candidates hope to serve. Says Rodriguez, “People are fearful. There is anxiety of families being split up. It’s important to reassure people on a local level, to make sure we provide the security of local government.” “Trump’s Executive Order has brought a lot of fear, and nobody knows where we are going. That’s why I hope my message of bridging differences is resonating,” says Rios. Adds Nuño, “There’s definitely uncertainty within families of voters that include undocumented immigrants. If anything, it has shown the younger generation that elections do matter.”

A key takeaway from the last election, and possibly for races moving forward, is that politics isn’t for the faint of heart, but the one sure way to affect change.

“Some people are talking about hit pieces. I say, let’s stay focused. The key is that what I say I am going to do, I’ve been doing all along,” says Rios of South Gate. Adds Ramirez of San Dimas, “I mentally prepared myself that not everybody is going be glad that I am running. I am like an ant in the world of politics, but like Emiliano Zapata said, ‘It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.’”

Find out more about these candidates at:

Emma Ramirez
https://www.facebook.com/emmasandimas/

Alfonso Rios
https://www.facebook.com/al.rios.79

Monica Rodriguez
https://monicaforcitycouncil.com/

Susana Lopez, Council Candidate, city of Bell
https://www.facebook.com/lopezforbellcitycouncil2017/

Jorge Nuño
http://www.nunoforcouncil.com/

Abelardo de la Peña, Jr. documents, analyzes and provides insights on U.S. Latino issues and culture.

@abelardodlp
abelardodlp@gmail.com

From the Editor

Who Will Lead?

By: Victor Abalos

We salute those marching in the streets and protesting at airports. We also commend those of you busy organizing “The Resistence.” Political expression and engagement in this time of our history is vital.

But as an organization dedicated to supporting elected officials, we want to pay particular attention to those who have chosen to channel their anger/outrage/anxiety into public service.

There are dozens of political candidates lined up for the March 7 primary election – as well the growing list of candidates jumping into the CD34 special election. Many are first timers. We wanted to get their take on this election – what motivated them to run and find out whether the results from last November impacted their decision.

If we have indeed entered a new political era – what will define it? We have been following with considerable interest, particularly on social media, what many of you are against. But what are we for? “The Resistence” may become an important political force in this country and in California, but as that force works to oppose the new president’s policies, what agenda will it advance?

Our interviews with the candidates just started – we will share them in our March 1 edition of the Latino Policy Connection newsletter. If you know of (or are) a political newcomer running for office and want to share your thoughts, please contact me. My email is below.

This month we feature an exclusive preview of gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa’s economic proposals – a plan he will be outlining in a speech in Sacramento today (Feb. 1).

Villaraigosa has made no secret of his position – shared strongly by the SCLPC – that our state’s economic future is closely tied to our ability to get more Latinos into the middle class. He expands on that idea in his latest address:

“At precisely the moment Latinos have become the largest ethnic group in California, the promise of a better life is growing farther and farther out of reach for a growing segment of our society… California must lead. And because Latinos will soon to be the majority of this state, we must lead.”

We agree with Villaraigosa. We as Latino advocates must work to ensure Latinos have access to – and are ready for – 21st Century jobs. We need to lead the way to make sure our families have access to affordable housing.

It is a new day. What’s not new is what we need to get done.

 

Victor Abalos: Editor's BlogVictor Abalos is Executive Director of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and Editor of the Latino Policy Connection.

victor@socalatinos.org
@SOCALatinos

Opinion

“We must lead”

By: Antonio R. Villaraigosa

As the threat of Donald Trump’s policies become all too real, Californians are uniting as never before. We have now seen millions marching to defend our health care, defend a woman’s reproductive freedoms and defend the very right of millions of Californians to stay with their families rather than face arrest and deportation.

As we fight against Trump, it is necessary to also pause and reflect on what we are fighting for. While it is appropriate that we defend our progressive values, it is equally necessary that we work even harder to make progress for the many Californians who are still being left behind. We must make progress on improving our schools, improving access to an affordable college and lifelong learning and improving our infrastructure so it will spur and allow our economy to grow.

Because we need to do more than stop Trump, we need to keep California moving forward.

We should be proud of our progress, but the last thing we can be is complacent. We must act now, and we must act boldly.

As a former mayor, I know that action at the local government level – the closest government to the people – can have the quickest and longest lasting impact.

For the first time in many generations, our middle class is shrinking. We have more wealth as a state – but also more poverty – than any state in the nation. More often than not, those in poverty are Latino. We do not need to look very far to realize that many of the communities being left behind are Latino neighborhoods and many of our most challenged schools have students who are predominantly Latino.

This growing inequality is threatening the very fabric of our society.

Economic inequality has grown because our policies have not kept pace with our economy. As in other states, California has lost many good-paying jobs and replaced them with jobs that pay low wages.

The truth is, in today’s economy, having a job is often not enough to ensure those things all Californians want for our families – an affordable place to live in a safe neighborhood, basic health care, child care and good schools for our children and the chance for a secure retirement for every family.

At precisely the moment Latinos have become the largest ethnic group in California, the promise of a better life is growing farther and farther out of reach for a growing segment of our society.

If the recent election taught us anything, it is that where there is no hope, people will act on their fears. The erosion of economic opportunity gives space for the politics of fear.

So now, California must lead. And because Latinos will soon be the majority of this state, we must lead. We must help this state to become a national example of how to build a successful 21st Century Economy that creates middle-class jobs. We must work to preserve the fundamental notion that anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules can meet the basic needs for themselves and their family.

Californians remember that voters lashing out amid economic anxiety is nothing new. As a state, we have gone through this before.

I was first elected to the Assembly in 1994 on the heels of a deep recession that plunged our state billions of dollars into debt and sent unemployment sky high.

That economic upheaval helped give rise to a politics of demagoguery, division and the scapegoating of immigrants. That culminated with Proposition 187 and the elimination of bilingual education and affirmative action.

But during my six years in Sacramento, including three as Speaker of the Assembly, I worked with leaders from both parties to find common ground to find solutions to the problems facing our state.

We created a children’s health care program, which extended coverage to three quarters of a million kids across the state. When the federal government stripped public support for legal immigrants, I helped bring people together to ensure those benefits were covered here in California.

At that time, Latinos were a minority – fighting to protect our families from very Trump-like attacks. We should all remember that we were not alone then. Asians, African Americans, Filipinos, the LGBT community, progressive and liberal whites and even conservative whites stood with us because they understood that we embraced and embodied the American dream.

Now that we are soon to be the majority, let’s always remember that moment. We endured because we were not alone.

We stand at a moment of great change and a time of great anxiety. But we have been here before and have persevered and prospered. As a leader in our community, your voice is needed like never before in our history. I look forward to standing beside you as we fight together, community by community, to defend our communities and make sure that no voice in California goes unheard.

Antonio R. Villaraigosa served as a Member of CA State Assembly, Speaker of the Assembly, and then served on the LA City Council before becoming the 41st Mayor of Los Angeles. He is now a candidate for Governor of California.