Rick Caruso Might Win this Thing, Here is Why

When career politicians were unable to solve problems in 1993, voters in L.A. voted for a white, wealthy, and Republican candidate. Investment Banker Richard Riordan replaced legendary Tom Bradley and became mayor of democratic Los Angeles.

"Tough Enough to Turn La Around" was mayoral candidate Richard Riodan's slogan in 1993. It was a fitting slogan at that particular time in Los Angeles. The city was a dangerous place to live. The aftermath of the L.A. riots was still being felt, and crime was high as notorious violent gangs terrorized many neighborhoods in L.A. People wanted a sense of security and a tough leader. Mayoral candidate Riordan told people, "I will protect you."

Los Angeles has a strong mayor-council form of government. The position of a mayor is a full-time job, and voters, unlike small cities, get to vote for them. A mayor in Los Angeles can select general managers and commissioners and propose budgets. L.A. mayors are also responsible for directing the city's bureaucratic structure and have veto power.

Voters in Los Angeles want to see progress.  The current chaotic status of this city is not sustainable. Crime and homelessness have become permanent fixtures of this city.

Wealthy businessman Rick Caruso decided to put his name on the ballot for the mayoral race and changed the dynamics of the race. He will make this election competitive, exciting, and the conversation about the profound challenges facing Los Angeles might become more robust. Rick Caruso has the professional folks and the resources; now, he has to make his case to all the communities that are part of Los Angeles that he can house people, bring law and order, and clean house at city hall.

Furthermore, Rick Caruso entering the race made this mayoral race is a two-candidate race. This was good news for Karen Bass and bad news for Kevin De Leon. The establishment and the progressives have already started rallying behind Rep. Karen Bass. Latino "leaders" behind Bass will press De Leon to stop his campaign. I will give De Leon a month to end it. Karen Bass will indeed have the establishment support and other progressive activists in the city. Although BLM's folks are anxious and perplexed that she recently promised more cops if she is elected.

Caruso's team also needs to factor in that one out of two Angelenos is Latino; hence, he needs to allocate resources for our community if he wants to win this thing. He is not well known among Latinos. I also have to say that we are not monolithic, and we have stopped following our so-called civic leaders. Latinos are fatigued. We have marched, voted, and stood with Latino politicians who never delivered. Caruso might have a chance in light of this pronounced apathy toward Latino politicians.

Candidate Caruso has been very successful in business, and he has built a real estate empire. He couldn't have done it without being organized, structured, and focused. He knows that execution is everything. Translating his business skills into running the city of Los Angeles, a city of four million people, will be a challenge.

Most business individuals have skills that might come in handy when running bloated and unproductive government bureaucracies. Successful business people can articulate a vision and persuade and inspire people. Of course, the task of running a business and running a government is very different; the "objectives, structure, obstacles, and stakeholders" are not the same.

Rick Caruso has served on boards in the City of Los Angeles. He was a board member of the Department of Water and Power, led the police commission, and chaired the Board of Trustees at USC. He has also donated to many Democratic candidates, including his opponent Representative Karen Bass. Caruso is a devout catholic and is accused of being anti-abortion.

The central theme for this race will be leadership, who is the one who can make difficult choices—the one who will tell us, not what we want to hear but we need to hear. We don't need position papers on policies anymore. We all know the problems, and we have listened to promising policy proposals, and they were never carried out for lack of leadership. Mayor Garcetti gave us well-thought-out proposals, and he articulated them reasonably well in public. But, he couldn't translate his ideas into action.

Many people, including myself, were seeking more ideas and better candidates in this mayoral race. All these establishment people running for mayor, from Kevin De Leon to Mike Fuer, to Karen Bass, if one of them gets elected, that will be a nod to continuity at a time when continuity is not warranted or acceptable.

Voters don't want to hear more speeches. They want action and an acknowledgment that the principal institutions of this city have massively failed.  We, voters, want a leader who provides a feasible plan to take on homelessness, crime, and corruption at city hall. We don't want politicians making decisions based on what is good for them for the next election rather than what is for the best interest of Los Angeles.

Rare is the day that I don't see a mentally-ill homeless person running naked or yelling profanities in the streets of Los Angeles. The human degradation that takes place day in and day out in L.A. multiplies by the hour.

During my time in labor, I walked, called, and mobilized people for Karen Bass when she first ran for the Assembly.  I did the same for Kevin De Leon too.

I am a progressive, but I am not blind to this city's pressing problems. I can not keep voting for the same people who have been presiding over the paralysis that has made this incredible city a third-world country. We need a new vision, new ideas, and a leader who can bring us together. One who tells us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear. One who is not controlled by the same political machines that keep giving us incompetent civic leaders.

The sniping started an hour after Mr. Caruso had filed the needed paperwork to join the mayoral race.  The forces of the status quo were connecting him to Trump and talking about all the money he has. I found that ridiculous, but I was not surprised. Come on, let the man litigate his case.

The political class in this city has proven in significant ways that they lack the independence needed to make the tough decisions to turn L.A. around.  They are overly beholden to powerful groups.

I am exhausted and frustrated being governed by the same people and seeing our communities decaying. This is not the time for that manipulative tool that establishment politicians constantly use; yes, that silly novelty of the first woman, the first Latino, the first black, etc.

Rhetoric that makes us feel good does not solve problems.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
Photo Credit: Stockphoto used

Resources consulted.
Cowan, Jill. "Rick Caruso, Billionaire Developer, Jumps Into Los Angeles Mayor’s Race." The New York Times 11 Feb. 2022.
Simon, Richard and rich Connell.  "LOCAL ELECTIONS / L.A. MAYOR: Wachs Raps Riordan on Gifts to Democrats." Los Angeles Times 1st April 1993.
Wick, Julia and Benjamin Oreskes.  "Rick Caruso has entered the mayor’s race. Will L.A. elect a billionaire?" Los Angeles Times 11 Feb. 2022.
---.  "Does L.A. want a billionaire mayor? Rick Caruso is trying to find out." Los Angeles Times 23 Jan. 2022.



Stop Supporting Racist NFL !

A  substantive structural change is desperately needed at the NFL league.  The current profound lack of diversity in the league is outrageous. 70% of NFL players are black, out of the 32 NFL teams' owners, not one is black, and among the head coaches, Mike Tomlin is the only black head coach in the league. He coaches the Pittsburgh Steelers. Also, the offensive coordinators, a position that is a springboard to becoming a head coach in the league, only four are black.

Sundays and Mondays, NFL teams' white owners watch games from their luxurious boxes, sipping expensive wine and top-notch vodka.  While on the field, black players risk their lives in this dangerous game.  They endure painful hits to their bodies and heads.  We all know what happens to these players when they retire.

Progress in this league has indeed been painfully slow. It looks like the activists' reservoir of ideas to force the needed structural change at this NFL league has dried up.

With the recent ordeal involving Coach Flores and the New York Giant, this NFL league reached a new low of racism. I concur with Coach Flores equating the NFL organization with a "plantation."

The so-called Rooney Rule is a joke.  The NFL tried to appease some voices demanding more diversity in the league and implemented this rule back in 2003.  This is what this rule does, NFL teams just need to interview minorities for head coach positions.  And that is precisely what the NFL teams' owners do. They just check that box that a minority individual has been interviewed. Blacks candidates who applied for head coach positions do not have to be given full consideration.

Rooney Rule was grotesquely displayed recently with Coach Bryant Flores, who, after losing his job with the Miami Dolphins, landed an interview for a head coach position with the New York Giants.  Coach Flores was excited about the opportunity and looked forward to interviewing with the Giants.  Sadly, he inadvertently learned via a text message that the position he was getting ready to be interviewed for had been filled.  He knew this information way before his interview took place.  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had monumentally mistaken Bryan Flores for Bryan Daboll. He wanted to congratulate Daboll and texted Flores instead.  Bryan Flores still showed up for the interview, knowing that it was just a formality and that he never had a chance.

Understandably, Coach Flores has filed a lawsuit against the NFL league and made serious accusations against the owners.  He called them racist and stated that he sees no difference between "plantation" owners and the filthy wealthy white NFL teams owners.

As disgusting as the ordeal with the New Year Giants was, it was not the first time Coach Flores had experienced such discriminatory behavior from NFL teams' people toward him. In 2019, Mr. Flores interviewed with Denver Broncos, and it was the same thing.  Denver just wanted to comply with the Rooney Rule.  Interviewers showed up late, John Always being one of them, and it was apparent they were not interested in Coach Flores.  Another white man was hired as head coach to lead the Broncos.

Some people question the timing of this lawsuit and argue that Coach Flores is just a disgruntled former coach with limited talent. They further claim that Coach Flores figured it was better to play the "victim card." Since his prospects for coaching another team, given his talent, were very limited. These critics praised John Elway for his vigorous response to Flores' accusations. One thing is clear for these people: Coach Flores will never coach again.

What is the best way to move forward?

We need to go from the Rooney rule to the Biden rule, for starters. Yes, The NFL needs to pledge just like President Biden has done, pledging to appoint a black woman to the highest court in the land.  NFL folks will have to call a press conference and pledge that the next five head coaches will be "black" coaches.  Let's people call it affirmative action's coaches or whatever they want.  We need more black coaches. That critical mass has to start building.

Cosmetic change shouldn't be acceptable anymore. These NFL teams need structural change.  Policies need to be formulated with real teeth for enforcement. After teams interview candidates, an in-depth independent analysis must ensure all candidates were given the same consideration and opportunities.

Of course, we will hear accusations that sports are all about talent, and hiring people based on their skin color will destroy the game. "Talent" should drive decisions, not people's background, critics argue. These people do not tell you that affirmative action is already in place in this league. It has been reported that 1/3 of all white coaches in the league are related. It is hard to believe that the current Rams head coach would be a coach without assistance from his family that had a history with successful San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and 1990s.

Finally, I always have this thing against professional sports teams.  They practice the worst type of capitalism, and sports are always a profound distraction for many people who need to be more civically engaged.

Emperors in the Roman Empire methodically thought of an effective way to keep the masses happy.  So they wouldn't ask questions.  "Bread and Circuses" were it; they gave the poor cheap food and entertained them.  Those gladiator games and chariot races were exciting, and the poor flocked to arenas and, of course, to the Colosseum. It worked then, and it works today.

Here in L.A.is crazy, we have two soccer teams, two football teams, a baseball team, a hockey team, and we have concerts every other day.  It is insane.  Who cares about the demise of communities and civic life if the Rams win the Super Bowl.  People following games leave no time for engaging in decaying communities in Los Angels.

Furthermore, I have always been mystified about why we build stadiums with public money.  NFL teams owners are billionaires; no city should sacrifice the community interest for these billionaires.  These NFL folks can also be sneaky and manipulative. It was widely known in the league that the NFL had the "colossal L.A. media market vacant" so teams around the country could threaten cities where they were located to leave if they wouldn't build new stadiums.  That evil strategy worked; many stadiums were built as a result.

It has been proved that stadiums don't create the needed good-paying jobs that politicians tell us.   These state-of-the-art arenas and stadiums, after they are built, create low-paid seasonal jobs. Ticket sellers, vendors, janitorial staff, and others are not jobs where individuals can support families.

I am sure I will find better things to do than watching this game at this majestic "plantation" place known as Sofi stadium.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
A lecturer of Politics at L.A. Community Colleges
Photo Credit: Stockphoto used

Resources consulted.
Fenno, Nathan and Sam Farmer. "How Stan Kroenke and the NFL turned SoFi Stadium into a $5-billion reality." Los Angeles Times 4 Sept. 2020.
McCollough, Brady J. "Seven things you need to know about Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL." Los Angeles Times 1st Feb. 2022.
Paulas, Rick. "Sports Stadiums Are a Bad Deal for Cities." The Atlantic 21 Nov. 2018.



Latinos, Redeem Yourselves in 2022, Vote This Man Out!

Sheriff Villanueva has been such a disappointment for Latino voters.

Once elected L.A. County Sheriff, Villanueva proved to be incompetent, corrupt, and grotesquely contemptuous of criticism. He woefully lacks grace and civility when interacting with other elected officials. That Ph.D. from Laverne in public administration that he holds did not help.

Villanueva had no chance if Latinos had not supported him.

Two reasons why Villanueva beat incumbent Sherriff McDonell:  First, former Sherriff Mcdonell had no love for immigrants accused of a crime.  Latino voters wanted him out because he had embraced Trump's ruthless policies against immigrants in this city.  Second, Villanueva convinced the political strategist behind "Citizens PAC," Javier Gonzalez, that he could be a viable option in replacing Sherriff McDonell.

Villanueva never held a senior law enforcement leadership position under corrupted Sheriffs Lee Baca and Sherman Block.  He had no vision or message to run United States' largest Sheriff's Department, with approximately 20,000 employees with almost 11,000 sworn deputies, 9,000 unsworn members, and a budget of about $3.5 billion.  Villanueva was just resentful that he was never given an opportunity.

Consultant Javier Gonzalez is well connected to community-based organizations and labor groups with a lot of resources.  He was the primary force to line up all these community and labor groups for Villanueva.  Candidate Villanueva was politically naive with no message other than a message for those disgruntled sheriff deputies. Javier Gonzalez schooled him how to navigate L.A. politics.  He crafted a broader message for Villanueva and eventually convinced labor groups to invest in Villanueva.

What were we thinking? Those of us who voted for Villanueva thought that this man had the potential to grow in the job.  Seeing this man running the Sherriff's Department in the last three years, many of us had to come to grips with reality. Villanueva did not grow into the job because he just couldn't.

He had barely been sworn in when he reinstated Sherriff Deputy Carl Mandoyan, who had been fired by Sherriff McDonnell for "domestic abuse, stalking allegations, and breaking into a woman's home."  This was the man who drove him around while campaigning.   A video was produced showing Mendoyan breaking into the apartment.

Villanueva spent some serious cash pursuing graduate degrees, first through the extension program at CSUN and then at Laverne, both degrees in public administration. Villanueva disliked the Sheriff Department's leadership with a passion.  At both institutions, most of the papers he wrote were on the problems at the Sherriff Department. Yes, his dissertation was about the Sheriff's Department too.  Most academic advisors in major educational institutions make a case for students to explore the world and not just use this educational opportunity to assail their employers.

We all thought our challenges with the Sheriff's Department would go away if we had one of our own leading this department. No. Los Angeles Times and other news organizations reported that the sheriff deputies aggressively target Latino bicyclists for riding their bicycles on sidewalks. Deputies handcuffed them and put them in the back in patrol cars while they searched their belongings. No matter how these actions are sliced or diced, Sheriff Villanueva is racially profiling our community.

Stopping these bicyclists in Los Angeles is similar to what the Sheriff's Department was doing in 2018 on the five freeway. Sheriff deputies stopped cars for potential contraband.  The drivers who were constantly stopped were disproportionately Latinos.  After public outcry, the Sheriff at that time, McDonnell, stopped the searches. The 5 freeway stops resumed under Sheriff Villanueva.

Sheriff deputies also killed Latino men Samuel Herrera and Andres Guardado.  The inspector general for the county sheriff and probation, Max Huntsman, has gone public accusing Villanueva of blocking him from obtaining vital information when he investigates deputy shootings.

This is troubling. Villanueva sees demands for accountability as attacks on himself and the sheriff's department. He has also put together a group of deputies to target his critics.  And,  adding insult to injury, he calls this unit "Civil Rights and Public Integrity."

Furthermore, a new report produced by the Rand Corporation details how gangs exist in the Sherriff Department and how these deputies connected to these gangs actively recruit other members. Although Congresswoman Waters has asked the Justice Department to look into this department, it is not clear why there is no federal government probe yet.

Sheriff Villanueva knows he is up to re-election next year, and predictably he is now going after homeless people. He is not offering solutions other than criticizing what others are doing. He is catering to the rich liberals in the west part of the city who are frustrated with the lack of progress to homelessness.

Villanueva spent more than three decades in the Sheriff's Department and never held any position of influence. We should have known that running the largest sheriff's department in this job would be big for this man.

Latino Voters will have the opportunity to redeem themselves next year. The sheriff is up for re-election, and clearly, he is counting on us to be re-elected.  Forget about the mayoral or midterm elections. The election for Sheriff is the one we need to focus on and elect someone decent, ethical, and with the ability to work with the rest of Los Angeles County's elected officials.

Yes, police or sheriff departments must be given all the independence they need to provide safety to our communities.  Nonetheless, these departments must operate within an environment that protects citizens' rights. Villanueva has ignored Civilian Oversight Commission's subpoenas. The commission wants to look into deputies linked to internal gangs and the investigative unit that targeted Sheriff Villanueva's critics.

Sherriff Villanueva underlines the need for urgently exploring the possibility of making this sheriff position an appointed position. We need a constitutional amendment to appoint sheriffs for all 58 counties in this state.

Villanueva’s tenure has been nothing but unneeded scandals, political battles, and abuses of powers. It is a sad state of affairs when this level of malfeasance goes on in the country’s largest sheriff’s department. It is exhausting.

Sheriff  Villanueva must go!

He is such a distraction, and his behavior has added an extra layer of burden to the already chaotic county government.


Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
A lecturer of Politics at L.A. Community Colleges.

Photo Credit: The photograph above came from Wikipedia, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Coscgove, Jaclyn.  "L.A. County leaders request inquests into three fatal shootings by sheriff’s deputies." Los Angeles Times 28 Sept. 2021.

Dickenson, Tim.  "Executioners,’ ‘Reapers,’ and ‘Banditos’: Gangs of Sheriff’s Deputies Are Wreaking Havoc in L.A." Rolling Stone 14 Sept. 2021.
Lau, Maya, and Marisa Gerber.  "Alex Villanueva, the county’s new top cop, has been quietly fighting for a political win for decades." Los Angeles Times 5 Dec. 2018.
Tchekmedyian, Alene and Ben Poston.  "Inquiry ured into deputies' bicyclist stops." Los Angeles Times 9 Nov. 2021.

Why Can Dave Chapelle Not Be Canceled out?

Dave Chapelle tells insulting jokes about trans-people, and he does it with impunity.

"Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth; that is a fact." That was one of the jokes he told in "Closer," his special on Netflix. The game was on for efforts to cancel him out.

Most people who commit these cardinal sins apologize right away, then donate money to non-profit organizations advocating for minorities, and then apologize some more. Not Dave Chapelle. He has doubled down in mocking those who called him out or want to cancel him out. And, he is doing it laughing all the way to the bank. His popularity has gone to the roof. All his performances after his last Netflix special have been sold out. He has proved that he is too popular and too rich to be punished in any significant way.

Dave Chapelle is notorious for making his audiences feel uncomfortable. He draws laughter from anything that is considered divined or untouchable. He has no qualms about being targeted and canceled out.  He claims he is speaking up because his art will not survive in an environment constrained by political correctness. In his world, every group that occupies public space is fair game.

Dave Chapelle is pushing back what he believes is a rising tide of censorship sweeping the comedy industry.  Many comedians, including Chapelle, aim to be "equal opportunity offenders" and like to push the envelope. He argues that they should be able to say whatever they want. After all, they are driven by "a collective ethos of truth."

Chapelle reasons that in the comedy galaxy, stand-up comedy or any comedy for that matter is supposed to be funny, engaging, insulting, and yes, vulgar. Furthermore, anything that interferes with that artistic process of writing or telling edgy, risky, and offensive jokes is point blank, "artistic suppression,"

There are many definitions of "cancel culture." But its core meaning is essentially a public backlash that eventually pushes someone out of social or professional circles because said individual has committed a cardinal sin of saying something very offensive to a member/s of a marginalized group. Some people see it as taking accountability for one's actions. Others believe it is akin to "mob mentality." Moreover, others see it as unnecessary censorship and a significant obstacle to sincere and robust democratic dialogues.

“Gay people are minorities until they need to be white again,”  Chapelle asserts.  His critics point out that he is either profoundly or conveniently ignorant. They surmise that Chapelle sees trans people or gay people as being mostly whites.  Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin must be spinning in their graves, his critics contend.

Chapelle might have rekindled the tensions between Black Conservative Pastors and the gay community back in the 1990s.

Larry Kramer, a gay activist and founder of ACT-UP, was videotaped in 1993 at a rally misquoting Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech.  Kramer replaced the "skin color" part of the speech for "sexual desires."  The video was sent to many religious leaders throughout the country and used to mobilize black communities.

These black conservative pastors pushed back what they saw as a radical agenda coming from the gay rights movement.  They also saw them threatening the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They urgently made the call for action to stop this "indulgence group." Black Pastors vehemently rejected the comparison that sexual orientation was the same as the color of the skin. "Queer people had no clue of the viciousness and violence of slavery or Jim Crow segregation," these pastors claimed.   These are the very arguments Dave Chapelle is making today.

Chapelle might see the movement for trans equality as unfair to the status of women in this country. He illustrates his sentiment on this Joke:  “Caitlyn Jenner, whom I’ve met. A wonderful person. Caitlyn Jenner was voted the woman of the year. Her first year as a woman. Ain’t that something? Beat every b---- in Detroit, she’s better than all of you. Never even had a period, ain’t that something?”

He might be able to elude accountability because, as many argue, his views on the movement for trans-people are more aligned with public opinion.  Chapelle represents the voice of those in our communities who do not dare to say it publicly, some folks on the right claim.

Very intriguing, Caitlyn Jenner tweeted the following supporting Chapelle: "Chapelle is 100% right. This is not about the LGBTQ movement.  It is about woke cancel culture run amok, trying to silence free speech."

Dave Chapelle also appears to be bothered seeing how some comedians were canceled even when they begged for forgiveness. He sees these woke social justice warriors calling out offenders not providing room for genuine apologies or for opportunities to grow and learn. He sees them overplaying their hand.

Chapelle saw how in 2018, his friend, Kevin Hart, was on his way to host the 91st Academy Awards, a dream come true for the comedian, and then he had to step down after homophobic tweets that were written some years ago were published. And how Shane Gillis was fired from Saturday Night Live in 2019 after it was revealed that she had made racist and homophobic jokes.

The woke social justice warriors have aggressively targeted rich and powerful individuals for offensive acts. Many extrapolate that this accountability mechanism of cancel culture no longer works when it is aimed at the rich. . Many see these woke social justice warriors targeting and destroying not too powerful individuals who could have been educated instead.

There have been reports where low-level employees have been fired for using the wrong pronoun when referring to a trans woman, using the N-word, or asking Latino employees to speak English. These transgressions should have been viewed as opportunities for educating offenders not to wreak havoc on these employees' livelihoods.

Chapelle has forced a conversation about the effectiveness of "cancel culture." Is cancel culture an effective social justice tool with measurable success, or is it just a new way of ruthless intimidation? Or has cancel culture become counterproductive, as those who claim to have been canceled attract more people to explore their art? These are important questions that need to explore as we endeavor to have a more welcoming and respectful community.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Photo Credit: Bigstock

Sources consulted.
Deggans, Eric.  "For Dave Chappelle, punchlines are dares. His new special, 'The Closer,' goes too far."  NPR Morning Edition 5 Oct. 2021.
Farrow, Keyon. "Too smart' Dave Chappelle has fallen for 'old right-wing political device." The Columbus Dispatch 14 Oct. 2021.
Granderson, Lz  "What I want Dave Chappelle to understand about the color of queerness." Los Angeles Times 9 Oct. 2021.
Grobar, Matt. "Kevin Hart On Cancel Culture’s “Bad Environment” And Defending Ellen & Nick Cannon: “I Know Who They Are.” Deadline.com 18 August 2020.
Romano, Aja. "Why we can’t stop fighting about cancel culture." Vox.com 25 Aug.2020.
Simon, Seth.  "The Comedy Industry Has a Big Alt-Right Problem." The New Republic 2 Feb. 2021.
Vogels Emily A., et al. "Americans and ‘Cancel Culture’: Where Some See Calls for Accountability, Others See Censorship, Punishment." Pew Research Center 19 May 2021.

Los Angeles Needs A Non-Partisan-Independent Redistricting Commission

This week, the redistricting commission approved the final map by a 15-6 vote. Now, the final map will go to the city council, and the council members will eventually have to vote on this map by year-end.

Council President Nury Martinez was not happy and called a press conference and aired her frustrations and disappointments with the final map drawn by the commissioners. She vowed to set up an ad-hoc committee to take another look at the commissioners' final product.

It was a display of hollow political theater for sure.

Council President Martines can not credibly claim ignorance here. She should know that this commission cannot carry out the primary responsibilities of making the needed adjustments for population changes and sincerely look out for the rights of "communities of interest.".

The process of redistricting has been politicized, and the appointed commissioners lack independence.  It truly is a partisan exercise in gamesmanship with no regard to what is in the city's best interest.

The way this process is set up, commissioners are given the mission to protect, advance, and enhance the interest of the politicians who appoint them.

Currently, redistricting commissioners are former elected officials, legislative aides who have worked for politicians, and many of them are political operatives. They serve at the pleasure of the politicians who appoint them.

Critics see the inherent "political self-interest" that comes when politicians appoint these redistricting commissioners.  What is best for  L.A. becomes an afterthought in this process.

The last time redistricting was conducted was in 2012; the process proved to be a tool used by then Council President Herb Wesson.  He used it to punish his enemies.

Districts 8th and 9th in South Central represented by Jan Perry and Bernard Parks respectively were punished by then Council President Herb Wesson. These two councilpersons had not supported Wesson's bid to become President of the council. When the final map was drawn, Jose Huizar, who represented District 14, ended up with a "large swath of asset-rich downtown." Downtown was under district 8th, represented by Jan Perry.

Jose Huizar was very loyal to Council President Herb Wesson.  Huizar was also rewarded with being the chair of the powerful Planning and Land Use Committee. Then, we all know what happened to Huizar.

Here is some background information on this redistricting process.  Every ten years, citizens and non-citizens are counted, the U.S Constitution mandates it.  State and local civic leaders use the results to redraw district boundaries. According to Los Angeles City Charter, "boundaries for the city's 15 districts and LAUSD's districts must be redrawn."  This process usually takes place the year after the census has been completed.

In this week's final map presented by the redistricting commission, Commissioners made significant changes to districts Nithya Raman, Paul Krekorian, and Bob Blumenfield represent.

Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Nithya Raman are stunned by the proposed radical changes in their districts.

An interesting interaction between Nithya Raman and former city council Mike Woo took place via emails.  The emails have been widely read and were published on this popular blog.  Councilman Ryu had appointed Mike Woo as his redistricting commissioner.  Nonetheless, Nithya Raman defeated Ryu last year.  Mike Woo resigned and asked the incoming councilwoman Raman to appoint someone she might trust to the commission.  Although he still made the case to her to appoint him. She did not, and she appointed Alexandra Suh, a friend who had done community work.

Councilwoman Nithya Rama should have paid heed to former councilman Woo.  Her friend was not an effective commissioner. She was bulldozed by the other relentless forces representing other districts.   Councilwoman Rama later replaced her with LAUSD's Board member, Jackie Golberg.  It was too late.

The substance of these emails was very revealing. Mike Woo had experiences with these city's redistricting commissioners when serving in the council in the 1980s and early 1990s. Mike Woo gives a well-thought-out analysis of what he believes this redistricting commission does and the guiding principle used in making decisions. He explains to the incoming councilwoman Raman about the "self-interest and treachery" in this redistricting process. It was a very insightful analysis.

The newly elected councilwoman Raman also told Mike Woo that she was driven by "justice and equity." Woo literally lectured her on raw politics 101 and told Raman, "wake the f**k up, you have been already elected, and you need to embrace the new reality.

Redistricting in Los Angeles is vitally important, but not many people follow this necessary process unless one is politically engaged or is a political operative. Los Angeles can do better. The current system in place discourages people from participating.

For starters, voters In Los Angels should demand a better selecting process for citizens to serve as commissioners.  Unlike California's commission redrawing state legislature and congressional districts, individuals in this LA redistricting commission lack independence.

Moreover, there might be some restrictions, but overall, politicians have no qualms about their communication with the persons they appoint to this commission.  To make this redistricting process more credible, at the very least, "ex parte communications," meaning communication between the politician and their designee, should be prohibited.

There can not be independence from the commission when some level of coordination occurs between the politician and the individual they have appointed to this commission.

Some of these commissioners swung and missed in trying to look independent.  They know that they have to embrace the desires of the councilperson who has appointed them.

Of course, these commissioners know that these self-interested endeavors have to be carried out in a way that does not interfere with civil rights statutes to protect certain groups in our communities.

There has also been harsh criticism to this redistricting commission for being indecisive. Citizens who were following this commission's work questioned their ability to make sound decisions.  They saw USC being placed under district 8, and the following went back to district 9. That is problematic.

Come on, Los Angeles, a city of four million people with many different ethnic, religious, and socio-economic groups, should have an independent redistricting commission that is fully powered to make the final decisions rooted in what is best for the entire city.

Conflicted commissioners should not be part of this redistricting process. The process itself is essential for adequate representation in our democracy. It is time to start collecting signatures to have a needed ballot measure to amend this city's charter.  So, L.A. can have an independent citizens redistricting commission.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Photo Credit: Bigstock

Sources consulted.
"In Los Angeles, political meddling poisons redistricting." Editorial.  Los Angeles Times 25 Oct. 2021.
Parks,  C. Bernard, and Jan Perry.  "How Jose Huizar’s alleged crimes may have been aided by redistricting." Los Angeles Times 10 Aug. 2020.
Zahniser, David. "L.A. council president slams redistricting map, saying it has ‘alienated thousands.’" Los Angeles Times 22 Oct. 2021.

Why Was Mark Ridley Thomas Shocked of the 20-count indictment? The man holds a Ph.D. in Ethics.

L.A. is a city of crises. The lack of true ethical and principled leadership in this city is a crisis of the first order.

In the last two years, three city councilmen have been indicted for serious crimes. Before Mark-Ridley Thomas was indicted, Councilman Mitchell Englander was sentenced to fourteen months in prison. Jose Huizar was indicted too, and he is awaiting trial on "racketeering, bribery, money laundering and other charges."

The charges leveled against Mark Ridley Thomas are serious. A total of 20-count indictment ranges from accusations of conspiracy to bribery to mail and wire fraud.

It is alleged that while he was a County Supervisor, he conspired with the dean of the school of social work at USC to direct county money to the university. All this school of social work had to do was to admit his disgraced son to graduate school with a "full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship."

It is not easy to rationalize how Mark Ridley Thomas could have done what is being alleged. He is a fixture of L.A. politics. He always came across as a thoughtful civic leader who has been on the front lines asking the questions of justice and demanding change for his community. Disappointment is broad and deep in this city.

Many were puzzled that Mark Ridley Thomas decided not to enter the mayoral race and instead recruited Congresswoman Karen Bass. It did not make any sense.  He likes the competition, debates and he has strong ties to labor. He knew that this indictment was coming.

Furthermore, Councilman Thomas had been the most sought-after civic leader by those seeking answers to the persistent homeless problem facing the city, county, and state. His expertise in homelessness would have put him ahead of the pack of candidates seeking the mayor's office.

There have been times when councilman Thomas had struggled with ethical challenges.

While Mark Ridley Thomas was a supervisor, he made questionable decisions with taxpayers' money.  In 2009, Supervisor Thomas spent $707,000 renovating his downtown office. What a waste of resources! That should have been criminal because it happened when unemployment was at a record high and hiring at the county had been frozen.

Then, in 2010, Mark-Ridley Thomas had no qualms in using $25,000.00 taxpayers' funds to get a place in "Who is Who in Black Los Angeles." What a cheap display of vanity!

Thomas's detractors and political enemies wasted no time pointing out that he has always been a corrupted public servant. Specifically, former LAPD Chief/L.A. City Councilmember Bernard Park posted a very harsh statement on Thomas' indictment on SCRIBD.

Mark Ridley Thomas' friends and colleagues tried to defend him when the council members met to deal with the indictment. Council members Price, Harris-Dawson and Bonin, swung and miserably failed. The three of them asked the entire city council to cut Thomas some slack. Nonetheless, they provided no rational basis or a principled reason for not suspending the embattled councilman.

Harris-Dawson drew a comparison of what Huizar and Englander had done. Councilman Harris-Dawson appeared to have had difficulties understanding that what truly matters was whether a crime was committed or not. The comparison of Thomas' accusations with the other two councilpersons was a matter of degree. What a futile exercise.

Then, Councilman Price argued that Councilman Thomas did not commit alleged crimes at the council. Hence he should not be suspended. Price's main point was not on whether Mark Ridley Thomas was innocent.
Councilman Price solely focused on the location of the crime. How can Current Price, an elected official, go on the record with such a silly statement like that? Councilmember Thomas's supporters at the council inadvertently justified the suspension.

Harris, Price, and Bonin's emotional reactions might have clouded their reasoning and limited their scope. In the end, Controller Ron Galperin suspended Thomas' pay shortly after the entire city council had voted.

The council came down hard on Jose Huizar and set a precedent for future members accused of crimes. We truly need to bring a moral compass to the city government. It is painfully obvious that right now, it is a ship lost in a storm.

It has been reported that Councilmember Mark Ridley was "shocked" by the federal allegations leveled against him. How could a well-read man with a Ph.D. in "Ethics" be shocked? If this is true, it is even more problematic. The man has lost his sense of mission. His arrogance and self-aggrandizement were such that he thought he could get away with his betrayal of the public trust. We should all be repulsed.

This happens when politicians have lived on the taxpayers' dime for too long. Vanity runs amok, and very rapidly, politicians see themselves above the law. They lose their sense of responsibility to the public, and they eventually end up on the road of perdition.

"Everyone is assumed innocent until proven guilty," Thomas's ardent supporters furiously argue. Yes, Mark Ridley Thomas should have his day in court where he can challenge the charges.  Nevertheless, he should do it in his own time.

Nobody can effectively lead under serious criminal allegations. It is neither fair for the rest of the council nor for the people he represents. Yes, his suspension was warranted. Thomas' ethical problems would have impugned the ability of the whole council to function.

It is important to note that these are not just mere accusations. These are "formal charges" by a grand jury after rigorous months of by-the-book investigations. Mark Ridley Thomas is a political institution in this city, and no law enforcement agency would file charges unless they feel they are standing on solid grounds.

Mark Ridley Thomas should resign.

He can no longer provide adequate representation for the communities he represents. His supporters argue that he should be given a pass for his poor judgment because of all the progressive work he has done for the city. That is destructive, and it should be ignored.

If proven, the allegations against Mark Ridley Thomas are a profound display of breathtaking levels of hubris and self-interest. He gives credence to the old political maxim in Los Angeles: Politicians in L.A. do not leave public office unless they die or are indicted.

If a man who holds a Ph.D. in "Ethics" has no problems being unethical, then there is no hope for the Wendy Carrilo and Kevin De Leon of the world.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Photo Credit: Bigstock

Sources consulted.
Carucci, Ron. "Why Ethical People Make Unethical Choices." Harvard Business Review 16 Dec. 2016.
Golberg, Nicholas.  "Column: Should we cut Mark Ridley-Thomas slack because the crimes he’s accused of were on behalf of his son?" Los Angeles Times 21 Oct. 2021.
Guilhem, Matt.  "LA City Hall politically kicked Mark Ridley-Thomas into suspension, says Marqueece Harris-Dawson." KCRW.com 21 Oct. 2021.
Lopez, Steve.  "Who’s Who with whose funds?" Los Angeles Times 21 April 2010.
Weintraub, Daniel. "Justice Dept. How-To Manual: FBI Went ‘by the Book’ in Sting on State Legislature." Los Angeles Times 22 Sept. 1988.


"United States Is a Nation of Cowards on Matters of Race."

The daunting challenge in the debate about racism is, how do we make the case to whites and others that this democracy is not sustainable if this society does not stop marginalizing blacks and other racial minorities? And that "racial economic equality" is not attainable with "non-racial means"? So, it is fair game to discriminate against whites.

In the current sphere of political discourse, where partisan polarization is deep and civility and respect no longer exist, talking about racism can be arduously difficult.

In 2009, African American, Attorney General Eric Holder told employees at the Justice Department in a speech that the "United States is a nation of cowards on matters of race." He denounced racism and found it appalling that many Americans avoid talking about racial problems.

Some conservatives and others contend that it is not safe to say anything about race. They do not feel comfortable speaking even about the most banal issues that will affect a black individual. They fear being attacked and labeled "racist." So they avoid talking about race altogether.

The consequences for avoiding conversations dealing with racism can be immense.

From Trayvon Martin to Breonna Taylor to Eric Garner to George Floyd, Americans have witnessed a level of grotesque killings of unarmed black men killed by police officers. Many disturbing videos that went viral showed the savagery of racism. Many people of all walks of life joined the collective choir of outrage.  They also marched and protested. These tragedies shook our collective consciousness.

Critical Race Theory's central premise is that race is a "social construct" and that racism is not just concentrated among white supremacist groups, but racism is deeply embedded in American institutions. It is argued that "America is not the land of opportunity for all. People's race, ethnicity, and background are determining factors in getting ahead in this country."

Critical Race Theory endeavors to create knowledge about power and inequality.  It is an interdisciplinary field that helps students to have a deeper understanding of how American society is culturally and institutionally structured by ideas of race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Its fundamental goal is to look at the culture of power and domination using "race," "ethnicity," and "indigeneity" ideological frameworks. So, marginalized groups can start thinking about their struggles for "liberation and self-determination."

Critical Race Theory developed out of a framework for legal analysis in the 1970s. Those making this argument provide examples of blatant racism in the enactment of public policies. They point out times in 1930 when the government drew lines in neighborhoods deemed "financial risks" where people of color lived. Financial institutions eventually were reluctant to offer mortgages to black residents of this area.

Not much progress has been made as we still create racist policies that target poor individuals of color. They also examine policies like "single-family zoning" that would not allow affordable buildings in predominantly white neighborhoods. Hence it mocks the desegregation efforts that were fought in the 1940s.

Nonetheless, Critical Race Theory's critics see "Marxists" being behind this movement. It is the 1960s all over again, and the "Marxist scholars" just reshuffled their "revolutionary theory." Now, it is a new revolution being waged. It is no longer about "Marx's economic dialectic of capitalist and workers." Marxists have now replaced class for race and are forming a new revolutionary coalition of new proletarians based on racial and ethnic categories.

Conservatives categorically defend this country's history. They see Critical Race Theory's narrative as destructive and have vowed to do whatever they can to stop it. They contend that it is utterly counterproductive to make white people feel guilty and minorities feel "disempowered" by their race.

They insist that it makes no sense to discriminate against whites to achieve racial equality.  They note that folks behind Critical Race Theory paradoxically advocate for discrimination which is the evil they abhor. Chief Justice Roberts infamously said that "if we want to end discrimination based on race, we should stop discriminating people based on race."

Critics vigorously argue that America was not founded on racism but rather on the "possibility of creating a society governed by ordinary citizens that gives full expression to the ideals of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all. "They detest what they see as "massive indoctrination" is taking place in American classrooms with the nonsense that this country was founded on racism and that all whites are racists.

Progressives in this country, led by Justice Ginsburg while she was in the Supreme Court, forcefully argue that achieving a specific racial outcome in our society can not be done with "non-racial means," These progressives succinctly assert that it is not about discriminating against anybody but about "power."   And white men have it in abundance.

Critical Race Theory is gaining traction at the local level. School boards and superintendents are busy addressing pedagogical approaches dealing with racism to concerned parents and other stakeholders. At the same time, blatant racial inequalities persist in K-12 education in racially segregated schools.

Finally, a recent survey shows that "46% of whites think that giving increased attention to slavery and racism is a good thing, compared to 75% of Blacks, 59% of Hispanics, and 64% of Asians." Racial and ideological differences structure perceptions.

Critical Race Theory is not perfect, but it may help many engage, empower, structure, and change this community for the better.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Photo Credit: Bigstock

Sources consulted.
"Attorney general says the U.S. a nation of 'cowards' when it comes to race."  Editorial. The New York Times 8 Nov. 2009.
Booth, Willaim. "One Nation, Indivisible: Is It History? The Washington Post 22 Feb. 1998.
Galston, William A. "How should we address the US’s history of slavery and racism? Here’s what Americans think."  Brookings.edu 17 August 2021.
Gilpin, C. Caroline. "Why Is Race So Hard to Talk About?" The New York Times 27 Sept. 2017.
Korten, David. "Renewing the American Experiment." DavidKorten.org 31 Jan. 2004.
Sawchuk, Stephen. May 18, 2021 "What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack?"  Edweek.org 18 May 2021.
Vasilogambros, Matt.  "Why Is It So Hard to Talk About Race?" The Atlantic 10 April 2015.
"What critical race theory is — and isn’t — and why it belongs in schools."  Editorial. Los Angeles Times 8 August 2021.

The Oligarchs Who Own The Dodgers Must Apologize and Pay!

On opening day in 1981, a chubby twenty-year-old kid from Sonora, Mexico, made his first major league game debut. Dodgers beat the Astros 2-0 that day, Fernando Valenzuela became an overnight sensation, and the rest is history.

Valenzuela was a player of humble beginnings and with hard work, he was now playing for the Dodgers. He was a source of pride among immigrants and Chicanas/os.  

The 80s was one of the most successful decades for the Dodgers organization.  They won two World Championships and four National League Western Division titles.

Even Pope John Paul II came to Chavez Ravine in 1987 and held mass at the Dodgers' Stadium. Sixty-three thousand pilgrims showed up to hear the Holy Father's message. Standing on the ground where Chavez Ravine's three barrios had been buried in the 1950s, Your Holiness centered his speech on the injustices in the world and immigration.

Newly arrived immigrants loved Valenzuela.  Los Angeles had become the new Ellis Island for a new wave of immigrants from Latin American who were scaping civil wars. Salvadorans came in force and called Los Angeles their new home. In the absence of a professional soccer league, many immigrants became "Doyers" fans.  They packed the stadium often.

Professional teams are corporations that practice the worst form of capitalism.  "Fernandomania" was nothing but corporate exploitation of the talented Mexican pitcher.  Fernando Valenzuela made millions if not billions of dollars for the Dodgers in the 1980s. Latinos could not get enough baseball cards, jerseys, buttons. They would buy anything the Dodgers organization would make with Fernando Valenzuela on it.

These professional teams use and abuse players as much as they can for profits. At the end of Spring training in 1991, the Dodgers concluded that Fernando Valenzuela was past his prime, and the Dodgers organization let him go. Unbelievably, after all, Valenzuela did for the Dodgers' franchise, Valenzuela's No. 34 has not yet been officially retired.

Let us delve into the history of the Dodgers' organization when they moved to Los Angeles.

When the Brooklyn Dodgers announced their plans to come West of the Mississippi River, the City of Los Angeles had used the powers of eminent domain in the early 1950s and acquired Chavez Revin in Elysian Park. It was a community comprised of three barrios where Mexican American families lived. Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop, these barrios had been labeled "slum" by the city. So the city could take these properties away and build public housing.

The Mexican American families living in these barrios were perplexed.  They did not understand why the city wanted to put them on public housing units when they owned their homes with yards and other benefits.

Owning land was such a big deal for these Mexican American families. These barrios had allowed them the opportunity to be property owners at the time.  These families were all hoping to build wealth so they could provide a better future for their children. In the 1940s and 1950s, those racist "covenants" made it difficult for people of color to own land.

In 1953, Norris Paulson was elected mayor of Los Angeles. The new mayor was a conservative politician with an agenda to stop public housing.  The new mayor ridiculed and rejected the housing project.  He viewed it as a "socialist" project.  Many families had left the barrios in Chavez Ravine, but some were still living there and were happy to learn that the public housing project had been abandoned.

Nothing was done to Chavez Ravine's land for some years. In late 1950, Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley looking for land, took a helicopter ride in Los Angeles and liked the land he saw on the hills of Elysian Park. City civic leaders were eager to bring the Dodgers to Los Angeles.  They told Dodgers' owner that the land he saw from the air was his and the stadium was going to be built there. They just needed to remove some Mexican families who never left.

On Friday, May 9, 1959, also known as "Black Friday," Sheriff's deputies showed up ready to do whatever it took to remove these Mexican residents. Some revolutionary Mexican souls resisted the displacement until the very last minute. These women eventually were forcibly carried out of their homes while they were kicking and screaming. Once they had been removed, their homes were immediately bulldozed in front of reporters.

In the summer of 1958, 315 acres of Chavez Ravine land via a referendum was approved by voters, and the land was given Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley.  In 1962, the 56,000 Dodger Stadium opened.

It is true that the displacement of these Mexican American families started with a public housing project in the early 1950s.  It is also true that when Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley decided to build on Chavez Ravine, there were still families living in these neighborhoods.  Many families who had left earlier were hopeful of returning to their beloved barrios.

Where is the disgust, anger, and outrage over the vicious injustice done to these Mexican American Families? It is the height of cognitive dissonance displayed here by Latino/Chicano fans worshiping a team's triumphs while ignoring a well-documented injustice done to Mexican American families. They do not want their Dodgers game to be interrupted for some silly demands for justice.

Case in point, on September 15, 2021, at Dodgers Stadium on the Fernando Valenzuela Bobblehead Night, Three protesters ran onto the field holding signs. The signs read, Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop. They were demanding justice and raising awareness.  The vast majority of Latino fans did not know how to react and eventually started booing the protesters. It was a profound display of what philosophers called "organized culture of forgetting" and worship of "celebrity culture."

The stories of Palo Alto, La Paloma, and Bishop barrios need to be told. Seeing the pictures of women being carried out of their homes bring reactions of indignation and pride. These women decided to stand up for justice in the face of daunting chaos and a sense of powerlessness.

The writer of this blog joins the choir of those voices demanding an apology and restitution from the oligarchs who own Dodgers corporation.  The Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop's families whose barrios are "buried under the blue" stadium deserve some justice.  After all, Los Angeles is known as a bastion of liberalism.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Photo Credit: Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection.

Sources consulted.
Arellano, Gustavo. "They ran out into Dodger Stadium to remind L.A. of a dark moment in Latino history. But fans booed."  The Los Angeles Times 23 Sept. 2021.
Castillo, Jorge, and Bill Shaikin. "Dodgers TV blackout is over; Spectrum deal puts SportsNet LA on DirecTV, AT&T TV." Los Angeles Times 1 April 2020.
Dazio, Stefanie.  "Reparations milestone: California returns land to Black family." The Christian Science Monitor 1 Oct. 2021.
Leiva, Priscilla. "The Complicated Relationship Between Latinos and the Los Angeles Dodgers." Smithsonian Magazine 22 Oct. 2020.
Roger, Nate. "‘Stealing Home’ revisits Dodger Stadium’s nefarious origins." Review of Stealing Home, by Eric Nusbaum. The Los Angeles Times 31 March 2020. ---Author Eric Nusbaum
Shatkin, Elina.  "The Ugly, Violent Clearing Of Chavez Ravine Before It Was Home To The Dodgers."   LAist.com 17Oct. 2018.
Silverton, Peter. "Los Angeles 1980s overview". Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 Jan. 2001.
Rutten, Tim.  "Phil Jackson’s wrongheaded view of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law." Los Angeles Times 19 May 2010.


Immigrants in LA Should Be Allowed Vote in City and School Board Elections!

Los Angeles has a large immigrant community. Nearly forty percent of our residents are immigrants, and almost fifty percent of our workers in this city were born in a foreign country. If we conceptualize this, then we have to recognize that the future of Los Angeles hinges on its ability to integrate these immigrants into every facet of the cultural, social, and political life of Los Angeles.

Immigrants in Los Angeles are business owners, nurses, professors, lawyers, religious leaders, pay their taxes, have children in public schools, and even fight wars for this country. Yes, immigrants should be part of the political community. Let us start the process of stitching them into the social fabric of this city.

Allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections can be beneficial to our communities. That sense of being part of the decision-making process will undoubtedly provide non-citizens a sense of belonging. It will indeed begin the process of making them citizens. Immigrants with green cards, work authorization, and DACA recipients should participate in this city and school boards elections.

Immigrants should also be summoned for jury duty. People who have been accused of criminal crimes in this country have the constitutional right to have "a jury of their peers" at trial. Many immigrants are often accused of crimes that they might not have committed. Of course, that does not mean an immigrant from Nigerian accused of a crime should have Nigerian Jurors.

The City of Los Angels is facing a civic crisis. Voters do not see the value in participating in their city government's elections—only ten percent of registered voters participated in the last mayoral elections when voters re-elected Mayor Garcetti. In light of such a crisis, civic leaders led by then Council President Herb Wesson and the Los Angeles Ethics Commission members held town-hall meetings at city hall. They invited experts and the public for conversations that could lead to changes in improving civic engagement.

Many ideas, some of them silly, were considered. One of them was going to provide financial motivation to voters with cash lottery prizes. Another idea was to change the city of Los Angeles' elections to even-numbered years; turnout is significantly high when governors and presidents are elected, it was claimed. They adopted the latter, but the jury is still out on whether civic participation has significantly increased.

A movement to expand non-citizens’ voting rights is getting traction in many cities throughout the nation.

The city of Chicago lets immigrants vote in school board elections. Moreover, in Vermont, cities Montpelier and Winooski now allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. San Francisco started allowing immigrants to vote in 2018. Furthermore, New York is on the verge of making it a reality. Massachusetts and Portland have toyed with the idea, and nine cities in Maryland allow non-citizens to vote in local and school board elections.

In the City of Los Angeles, non-citizens have been voting in neighborhood councils' elections in their communities since the early 2000s. Los Angeles now needs to expand these voting rights to city council races, mayoral and school board elections. That should not be hard.

At least some civic leaders appear to be receptive to the idea to empower non-citizens civically. In Nov. 2019, the LAUSD Board Members passed a resolution that authorized a study that would allow immigrants to vote in school board races. The pandemic came with force, and everything was shelved. It is not clear what happened to this study. However, it should be noted that expanding voting rights to immigrants might ultimately require a ballot initiative.

The U.S immigration system is broken. Legalizing immigrants and providing a path to citizenship has become an unending cultural war. The conversation about immigration reform has become madly irrational. Still, the fight for legalization for the eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows should continue with vigor.

"Immigrants' integration," some might argue, is a process that takes time. Immigrants need to learn the language and make an effort to understand this country's culture and the values laid out in the Constitution.

These naysayers are not just right-wing and xenophobic folks. The sentiment is the same among white liberals in the state. Not long ago, Governor Brown vetoed a bill that would allow immigrants to serve on juries. "Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship," Governor Brown argued after vetoing the bill.

Those people who resist giving civic empowerment to immigrants must live in a bubble as they conveniently ignored how much immigrants love this country and how much they know about the basic concept and ideals embedded in historical documents such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Research shows that most immigrants tend to assimilate. They also keep themselves abreast of the public affairs of their communities.

At one point in this country's history, immigrants were allowed to vote, but anti-immigrant forces stopped it in the 1920s.

From day one, it can be argued, immigrants have always been an integral part of the American experiment. After all, the driving force before the Constitutional Convention in 1787 in Philadelphia was an immigrant. The Constitution and the economic system we have in place are the labor of love of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant.

Hamilton was born in 1757 on the Caribbean island of Nevis. He was an unaccompanied fifteen years old minor sent to colonies to study in 1772. He was also one of the sons of liberty who fought along with General Washington during the revolutionary war of 1776. Had Alexander Hamilton been excluded from these significant turning points in this country's history, that in itself "would have been considered the general misfortune of mankind."

As political theorists argue, the premise of representative democracy is that people are not only economic actors but also members of a self-governing community. This promise cannot be achieved when many people are excluded from the political process. Letting legal immigrants participate in municipal and school board elections should be viewed as a source of empowerment that will surely strengthen the civic fabric of Los Angeles. And of course, there is that old unfairness of "taxation without representation," as all immigrants also pay taxes.

The time has come for Los Angeles to continue honoring that grand tradition of providing an opportunity to those who contribute to this community's growth and who are destined to help define this great city's future.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez




Photo Credit:  Bigstock

Sources consulted.
Carcamo, Cindy.  "San Francisco will allow noncitizens to vote in a local election, creating a new immigration flashpoint."  Los Angeles Times 26 Oct. 2018.
"Statement by Board Member, Kelly Gomez, Empowering Parents to Choose Their Leaders." Los Angeles Unified School District 5 Nov. 2019. Press Release.
Golberg, Nicholas.  "Is it time to let noncitizens vote in local elections? Some Americans think that’s just nutty." Los Angeles Times 8 August 2021.
Griswold, Daniel. "Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World."  Cato Institute 18 Feb. 2002
McGreevy, Patrick and Melanie Mason. "Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes measure allowing non-citizens on juries." Los Angeles Times 7 Oct. 2013
Washington, John. "New York City’s Radical Proposal for Noncitizen Voting."  Thenation.com 30 July 2021.



At LAUSD, new leaders, more profound challenges, and this year an operating budget of $20 billion

LAUSD is the second-largest district in the nation, with over 73,000 employees, and is responsible for the education of 450,000 students. "80% of students live in poverty, and roughly 20% of students have special needs."

This year, LAUSD's operating budget, which began July 1, is a whopping $20 billion dollars. The District is in the process of hiring "930 psychologists and psychiatric social workers, 2,190 teachers, and 770 custodial workers."

Nevertheless, we should also explore how learning days might be extended and why not extend the school year too. Any stakeholder interested in advancing our student's interest should be able to make sacrifices on behalf of our students.

In light of the large-scale interruptions in the education of our children due to the pandemic, we should not be debating "learning loss." It is real. The district and other stakeholders should do whatever they can to address it. Of course, our students also lost family members and friends and were emotionally affected by all chaos in 2020. One might think that all education stakeholders will have no problem extending the school day and year to compensate for our students' learning loss. UTLA's leadership immediately rejected the proposition even when LAUSD's officials offered full pay, including pension benefits.

The tensions between the teachers' union, charter schools, and the District have always centered on resources and ideology. All the money that came to the LAUSD this year from the state and federal governments might motivate these groups to work collaboratively.

The educational and political landscape In Los Angeles has new players after L.A. Unified Supt. Austin Beutner stepped down in the summer; the District replaced him with an interim leader, Megan Reilly. They are searching for a new superintendent and hope to have one by January 2022.

Let us hope that the new incoming superintendent does his/her homework and does not make the same mistakes done in the past by former superintendents. They came in with bold ideas and wanted to make radical changes.

Nonetheless, they quickly found out that the LAUSD is a monstrous institution that can not be easily tamed. Former L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy wanted to provide fancy tablets to all students in the District. That idea was a monumental waste of resources. Then, the last L.A. Unified Supt. Austin Beutner wanted a meaningful administrative restructuring that would make the District more responsive to students' needs. The teachers' union stepped in and demanded inclusion and collaboration. The plan did not go anywhere.

But who might be interested in becoming the LAUSD's superintendent? A massive job with too many daunting challenges, powerful interest groups, and pedagogical approaches that are failing students. Nevertheless, what exactly does a superintendent do, and what are this position's powers and limitations? In a nutshell, LAUSD's superintendent is appointed, and the chosen individual is accountable to the seven elected board members, each serving different masters.

The incoming new superintendent has to examine the political landscape closely. Then, he or she has to deconstruct toxic politics. Charter schools' folks and UTLA's leaders are constantly fighting for the district's direction. They go into these all-out wars every time there is an election for board members. The new superintendent must skillfully play this power game by building consensus in support of policies.

Parents' groups are the most ignored constituents in the policy conversation of public education here in Los Angeles.  UTLA, charter school people, and the District blatantly use and abuse them. These parents have to figure out how to be relevant in the District's decision-making process. They have been given a false sense of empowerment for too long. On the surface, it looks like they are active participants in the policies adopted by the District.

Nonetheless, parents are expunged from the process when the District makes actual policy decisions. There is also this notion among educational leaders from the district and other groups that since parents are not native English speakers. They cannot think critically. Hence they cannot add anything of substance to the policy conversations of education.

The former Superintendent, Austin Beautner, spent half of his tenure dealing with the challenges of a historic pandemic. He was not an educator but was competent and strategic enough to manage all the resources and capabilities of the District effectively.

He turned schools throughout Los Angeles into food bank centers. Many families and their children picked up meals at many different locations throughout Los Angels during the most trying times in 2020.

The teachers' union also has a new leader. Teachers in LAUSD's District elected Cecily Myart-Cruz as their new leader for the next three years. New dynamics, new rules of engagements, and a lot more resources on the political battleground between UTLA and the District.

In 2020, the District found itself, like all institutions, in uncharted territory. The District started providing classes online. Many students were severely affected by the lack of access to technology and other challenges of poverty their families had to deal with—a large swath of primarily poor students never engaged in these classes online. The District also did what it could to provide computers and access to the internet for all online classes.

We still do not know the academic and emotional harm students of all ages suffered in 2020. The Rossier School of Education at USC has conducted research, and its report argues that the "learning and school closures have deepened and accelerated existing inequities." Although providing a safe environment is vital during this pandemic, it is also essential that LAUSD does whatever is necessary to help students who have fallen behind. The report also argues that "two in three students are falling behind in literacy and math."

These new resources coming to the District create immense opportunities that must be seized. Our students need these resources to learn critical thinking skills and develop a strong foundation in math and literacy.  This time, the public at large should hold LAUSD accountable.  Yes, accountability should no longer remain elusive at LAUSD.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, in 2019, I was a candidate for the LAUSD school board in District 5.





Photo Credit:  Bigstock

Sources consulted.
"Austin Beutner: His lasting legacy was feeding Los Angeles’ kids."  Editorial. Los Angele Times 30 June 2021.
Blume, Howard. "L.A. Unified board approves record $20-billion budget for pandemic education recovery." Los Angeles Times 23 June 2021.
---. "LAUSD students suffered ‘alarming’ academic harm during the pandemic, report says." Los Angeles Times 31 March 2021.
Noguera, Pedro A. "E educational Recovery Now:  LA’s Children and Schools Need a Comprehensive Plan." Great Public Schools Now 9 March 2021.
Krupnick, Matt. "What kind of leader should follow Austin Beutner at LA Unified?"  Edsource.org 3 Sept. 2021.
Tat. Linh.  "LAUSD board approves $13.8 billion budget, but a bid to further cut school police falls short." The Los Angeles Daily News 22 June 2021.
"Statement by Superintendent Austin Beutner On 2021-22 School Year Calendar." Los Angeles Unified School District 4 May 2021. Press Release.