Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Truth and Justice

Back to the grind!

I took a hiatus from writing pieces because of my candidacy for the LAUSD Board of Education.  I was finally able to catch up, and I am ready to start writing again.  I relish having my own voice of what takes place in the political firmament.  I want to write opinions that will decipher,  critique, and even praise those who act against the prevailing political thinking.

In the interest of promoting citizenship and its responsibilities,  I am interested in starting conversations, not ending them, exploring questions, not dictating answers. I genuinely mean this.

I welcome all contentious but civilized conversations.  I will endeavor to follow the truth; of course, this will be my truth.  Since I do not own it, said truth would be subject to be examined and challenged.  In the words of Alexander Hamilton, “My motives must remain in the depository of my breast.  My arguments will be open to all and maybe judged of by all.  They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of the truth.”  Yes, I will greatly appreciate it if people take their time to read my thoughts and engage me.  However, when you do, please do not question my motives or attack me personally.

When it comes to politics, I usually take the path that is more pragmatic and less ideological.  I utterly despise being pigeonholed with the ideological labels used in the conventional spectrum of political choice. Yes, I am relentlessly analytical, and I distrust all institutions and individuals that accumulate unaccountable power.

I also believe in the gospel that "truth matters." Hence we should all strive to speak truth to power not just to folks on the other side of the aisle but also to our so-called- "friends." It is also vital that we ask the questions of justice regardless of who it is for or against.”  There is this notion in Los Angeles in which most people believe that speaking truth to power is solely about giving the finger to Trump or standing up to conservative forces. Speaking truth to Trump is easy, speaking truth to our friends who exploit or abuse folks in our community requires strength.  Anyone in the public space advocating for the public interest is fair game for me.

"Liberal politicians"  have governed Los Angeles for the last thirty years. We have had the same pressing issues in this city year in and year out. It is insane! Same politicians, they started at the Assembly, then moved to the city council and then either became a county supervisor or a congressional representative.  This game of musical chairs is currently being played out as both Kevin De Leon and Mark Ridley Thomas are trying to win a seat in the city council.  Our politicians are not interested in solving problems.  The day after these politicians get elected to a particular office, they begin campaigning for the next one.

To make matters worse, it seems that many non-profit organizations have joined the political class.  These organizations have become subservient to political power. The interest of the people, who these organizations are supposed to represent, has become an afterthought. I will surely be looking into these organizations and praise those who are helping and giving hope and hold accountable those who are just using or exploiting our people. 

The 2020 year is around the corner, and it will be a profound year in politics.  We will not only be electing the next president, but we will also be voting for very important propositions here in California. One of the lessons we painfully learned after Trump won in 2016 is that we are a very polarized and divided country.  The inability of the two major parties to work together makes it difficult for all of us.  It will be nothing but gridlock and radical swings in the creation of public policies when those who govern us cannot reach consensus.   It is challenging to address the daunting issues of poverty, climate change, and education if there is no bipartisan consensus.

Pundits know that many more voters in California cast their votes during presidential elections.  Therefore, political strategists advise powerful political forces in the state to mount vital statewide ballot measure campaigns during presidential years.  Indeed,  liberal groups have joined labor unions and have set themselves on a collision course with well-founded corporate entities.  It is about that property tax fight that has been brewing for decades.  Progressive groups in the state want corporate entities to pay property taxes based on the current market value of said properties.  These new tax collections will provide more funding for education and government services to the poor; these liberal groups argue.  The fight to amend Prop. 13 will surely be expensive and might potentially change the power structure of California’s political firmament.

Furthermore, Assembly Bill 5, the law that limits companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash to use workers as independent contractors, appears that it will be challenged.  Each company has committed $30 million for a campaign in 2020 that seeks to alter AB 5.  It is known as the “$90 million mystery ballot measure.” It is not clear whether there is still hope for renegotiating this law legislatively or whether they will have a proposition on the ballot.  It will be difficult for labor groups to engage in these two fights at the same time.  They will have some implications in trying to amend Prop. 13 as labor groups will have to make choices as to how to use their resources. 

Moreover, in the county of Los Angeles, voters will be deciding who will be the next L.A. County District Attorney.  The race for the District Attorney is consequential, this office is this country's biggest prosecutorial office.  Other D.A's offices in the nation seek the L.A. County District Attorney office for guidance when it comes to policies dealing with the justice system.  The current Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey has angered progressives in this city.  Lacey's prosecutorial decisions are too close to those who like  harsh policies connected to "law and order."

Finally, I have unwavering compassion for the disenfranchised, support common-sense humanly immigration reform, and loathe the current grotesque inequities in the distribution of resources.


Let's roll! 

Thank you for reading.

No to Measure EE

Of course, we need more investment in public education. It is public education that structures our children to become skilled citizens. Education is the tool we use to integrate our children into the logic of a larger society. Education helps individuals to assess to either embrace the current realities or engage creatively or critically in transforming said reality into a better world. This is what is known as the practice of freedom in democratic societies.

In the 1940s and 1950s, California was the state to emulate, leaders from other states would come to California to see what California was doing. So they could replicate back home. California had political leaders who made decisions based on what was best for the next generation, not what was best for them in the next election. California led the nation when it came to investments from K-12 and gave the country the best public universities on the planet.

Then came Proposition 13 in 1978,  property’s sale price was capped at 1% and capped increases at 2% annually. It also forced the legislature to have a two-thirds vote on any future tax hikes. Proposition 13 has had profound implications on the essential services provided by local governments. From public safety to housing to education, Proposition 13 regressive taxation has lessened the quality of life of many communities of color. Capping local property taxes forced public schools to heavily rely on the State Legislature for funding.

Funding for school districts in California comes from statewide tax revenues. They also receive money from the local and federal governments. There has been a significant increase in public education in the last five years. It went from $66 billion in 2014 to $101 billion in 2019. Also, the number of children with special needs has exponentially increased. Furthermore, there are the healthcare and pension benefits that many districts bargain locally that add additional financial constraints.

California, the wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation on the planet, needs to invest more in public education. The state spends around $16,000.00 per pupil and ranks 41st in the nation. According to the Los Angeles Times, the State of New York spends $24,000.00 per pupil, and schools in Boston spend around $22,000.00.

After the district cut a deal with the teachers’ union in January, leaders from LAUSD decided to place Measure EE on the ballot. $400 million are needed annually to pay for the agreement reached. This is a parcel tax that will increase L.A. school funding. The measure will raise about $500 million a year, and the tax will be imposed on both residential and commercial property to all those communities within the LAUSD.

Gas tax for the infrastructure, sales tax for the homeless, and now Measure EE is another property tax that will also affect renters in LA.  The cost of living and taxes keep rising while wages have stagnated. Taxing people to death while the state has record surpluses makes no sense. We are still paying the LAUSD’s $20.6 billion construction bond placed on the ballot back in 1997. LAUSD and UTLA should go to Sacramento and make the case to the legislature and the governor for more investment in our public education. This year, California has a $22 billion surplus and a $16 billion rainy day fund. Yes, our state’s economy is humming, and there are projections that these surpluses will keep coming in.

We all know of the housing crisis and how many people in this city are just a paycheck away from going homeless. The high housing cost in this city has created many challenges for many people; there are real concerns that this Measure will affect renters since property owners owning rental units will pass this cost to them.

Furthermore, those who oppose this measure argue that it does not matter what folks from UTLA and the district claim, the $500 million a year that this measure will raise will go to the district’s general fund. The limitations as to how money from this measure can be spent are unclear.

Clarity has also been a problem for the district, the language used in the measure confuses many people. Moreover, opponents argue, why should taxpayers trust the district, remember the I-Pad’s fiasco? They alluded to the $500 million contracts awarded to Apple and its subcontractor, Pearson. Yes, that was an utter travesty.

There are interesting dynamics among those supporting the measure. UTLA, Local 99, and the so-called biggest enemy of public education: Eli Broad joined forces trying to persuade voters to say yes on this measure. They all argue that the sky will fall if Measure EE fails. They claim that the projected $500 million that the measure will raise yearly for schools will be used on decreasing class sizes, hiring new librarians, nurses, teachers, and counselors.

Measure EE was rushed onto the ballot, although the looming threat of insolvency will become real in about two or three years. Also, a lawsuit has been filed because the language was radically changed after it was approved by the board. There have also been reports that seniors who do not live within the district have gotten letters asking for personal documentation. Indeed mind-bobbling incompetence was on full display here.

Whatever happens Tuesday, LAUSD and UTLA need to form a broader coalition and go to Sacramento to force California to invest more in public education. LAUSD's people and the teachers’ union leaders took the easiest path in confronting the future financial woes they might be facing. Putting Measure EE on the ballot was easy, going to Sacramento and persuading those conflicting democratic souls to invest more in public education requires strength. There is a need for a bold and well-thought-out plan to force our leaders in this state to invest more in public education. Our children deserve no less.

Thank you for reading.

Photo credit: pic was published by the Sacramento Bee


Give the finger to Trump and vote Sheriff McDonnell out this November !

Update on this post - I was duped on this candidate.  Sheriff Villanueva has proved to be corrupt, unethical and inefficient


Forget about the race for governor and all those races for assembly members and congressional representatives, progressives in this county should laser-focus on the race for Sheriff in November.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department, with a $3.2 billion budget, is "the nation's largest jail and consequently is also the nation's largest provider of mental health services. Also, this department has contracts with 42 cities, the courts and community colleges, while also dispatching deputies to patrol county parks and hospitals and to conduct search and rescue operations across 4,751 square miles."

Alex Villanueva, the son of a Puerto Rican father and polish American mother, historically forced current Sheriff McDonnell into a runoff.  He is a former sheriff deputy and an Air Force veteran with strong academic credentials.  He has articulated a compelling narrative that resonated well with progressives in this county [check out his website for his vision here].

Pundits are still speculating as to what happened in this race, taking into account that Villanueva just raised $27,000.00, and he was able to win the second spot with 33% of the vote. Having grabbed the second spot has raised the level of confidence in Alex Villanueva's camp.  Clearly, there was blood in the water, and Villanueva's campaign sensed that, and now they are moving for the kill in November. Moreover, the union that represents rank-and-file Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies recently endorsed Alex Villanueva.  That was not only a massive boost for Villanueva's campaign, but it was also a vote of no confidence for the current leadership in this Sheriff department.

It can be argued that the resistance against the draconian attacks against immigrants must somehow start at the local level.  Most of us here in Los Angeles dislike President Trump with a passion.  We do whatever we can to repudiate or ridicule this man.  We show up to marches; we get busy on Facebook to display our discontent against this president for his lack of civility, indecency, and blatant racism.  Nevertheless, when it comes to voting, we hardly find the time or the motivation to show up to the polling places.  Coming this November voting can harness some collective direct action that can do some real well against a president who preaches hate from the pulpit.

After unwarranted and disgraceful attacks on immigrants by the Trump's administration, it is truly mind-boggling seeing our Sheriff McDonnell in this county siding with anti-immigrant forces.  Sheriff McDonnell has been speaking out forcefully against basic protections for undocumented and documented immigrants in this county.  Progressive elected officials in Sacramento in an endeavor to protect immigrants from the attacks coming from Washington passed the California Values Act or SB 54.  It was also known as California's “Sanctuary Law.”   LA's Mayor Garcetti publicly supported the bill, as did the former Chief Charlie Beck. Sheriff McDonnell immediately opposed the bill and started parroting the usual bullet points used by xenophobic people here in California and the Trump Administration. Immigrant groups and progressive groups took it to the streets to protest Sheriff' McDonnell's opposition, which eventually led to a lawsuit filed by immigrant rights organizations.  His opposition significantly weakened SB-54 with hazy language that could easily be exploited by ICE to terrorize immigrant communities.

Furthermore, it should be a source of concern for progressives in this town seeing Sheriff McDonnell casually spending a morning with Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Session in Fresno. Sessions here unapologetically honored the “Anglo American tradition of Sheriffs.” [click here for the video]  And, if that was not enough, there have been reports that Sheriff McDonnell is not interested in reducing incarceration in our county.  He has asked for more resources to comprehensively expand the jail system in Los Angeles County.  Sheriff McDonnell must have truly conceptualized that slogan that making "America Great Again"  means to incarcerate the blacks, the browns, and to deport the foreigners.

Looking closer at this Jim McDonell's background, one will see that his opposition to protecting immigrants, makes sense.  Sheriff McDonnell is a conservative Republican who is a disciple of "get tough on crime" rhetoric and a cheerleader of "law and order" policies that have led to massive incarceration.  He spent more than twenty years as part of the top brass of  LAPD.  He then the Long Beach Police Department before being elected Sheriff for LA County.   His professional ambitions appeared to have conflicted with his political ideology and decided to seal his voter registration's record when applying for the top law enforcement job in Long Beach. He claimed that he had to do it for safety reasons.  The pretense that he is now an independent is laughable.

Voters will have to decide in November in Los Angeles County, do we want a Sheriff who appears to be utterly oblivious of the profound conversations taking place in this country as to how best policing our communities and who has no qualms in terrorizing our immigrant communities?  Moreover, we must be clear how much collaboration we want the Sheriff Department to have with ICE in dealing with non-violent offenders.  In light of  Los Angeles being a progressive community that protects and welcomes immigrants, the latter must be zero collaboration with ICE.  It was reported that last year that LA County Jails transferred way over 1,100 people to ICE and the Sheriff Department still allows ICE people to have access to inmates after they signed consent forms using convoluted language.  This is Los Angeles, how can our Sheriff McDonnell rationally justify these decisions?  These actions run counter to everything we believe.

Races for Sheriff in the County of Los Angeles, incumbents are usually evaluated in their ability to deal with the criminal justice reform, public safety, and jail management.  Not so, Alex Villanueva vigorously argues. None of these can take place if a leader of the Sheriff Department is unable to "lead and inspire the rank and file." If you want to see the radical changes needed, " I am your guy," Villanueva tells voters in this county.

Sheriff McDonnell and Challenger Villanueva offer starkly different visions,  we can either re-elect the incumbent Sheriff who has yet to see jails he doesn't like and who has no compassion for immigrant communities or we can vote for Alex Villanueva, the opponent who forced a runoff and who has shown a deeper understanding of the daunting challenges facing this department.

Thank you for reading.

The Insurmountable Crisis of Public Education In Los Angeles

There is no other honest and robust conversation that needs to be held in this city as the one dealing with public education. Anything we collectively want to achieve revolves around as to how well we educate our children.  Our self-governed political system is not sustainable if our schools fail to educate our children. Yes,  public education is the foundation or the thread that weaves together that social fabric that sustains our democracy.  And, economic vitality heavily relies on an educated work-force, indeed progress in itself is not attainable if our children are not well-educated.

Civic leaders, the business community, teachers, parents, and other civic groups have to elevate the conversation about the challenges facing our public education.  And, said conversation has to go beyond charter schools vs. traditional schools.

Millions of dollars are spent in school board races in these proxy wars between political action committees from charter schools folks and the teachers union. Teachers union screams privatization and charter school folks use the same buzzwords: "Accountability" and "Choice."  Debates in these school board races must structure a more productive conversation.  And it should go beyond the usual attacks between these two groups.

In this new globalized economic order, the ability to read, write, and think critically are vital in order for our kids to compete with Indian and Chinese kids. 60% to 70% of LAUSD's students get a high school diploma that they can't read. Now, what happens to the ones who dropped out. We are living a whole generation behind.

Los Angeles Unified School District-LAUSD has an annual budget of almost $8 billion dollars, with 2,400 administrators, 26, 000 teachers and 31,000 other employees. This truly is a massive educational institution.  The district is responsible to educate approximately 521,890 students. 75% of them are Latinos and about 10% are African-Americans. The number of enrolled students has been going down in the last years.  The district has been losing students by the hour due to the proliferation of charter schools and the profound lack of affordable housing for the poor parents whose children attend this district.

The problems at LAUSD are profound and have been this way for at least the last decade.  Success in graduating more students have proved tenuous. Yes, "low expectations from our children in our public schools" should be the civil rights issue of our time.  It is a tremendous disservice to communities of color to allow Latino and Back students to graduates with Ds. It is a false sense of accomplishment that doesn't help anybody.  And there are those intractable fiscal problems with both pensions and unfunded health benefits as well as staff and faculty demanding salaries increases.

In Los Angeles, everyone who cares for the education of our children agrees that the structural and systemic problems facing LAUSD can be unmanageable.  But, we passionately disagree on how to fix these problems.  The conversation basically driving the debate about public education is divided into two prominent groups: One that believes that charter schools are the panacea for all these problems. The other group is the United Teachers Union, Los Angeles-UTLA is the one pushing back here in Los Angeles.  The teachers union rejects the charter schools model.  They see it as a corporate business model and inadequate for educating children.   And, charter schools blatantly blame the teachers union for rejecting even the most incremental change in public education.  These charter schools folks have also successfully convinced wealthy individuals and powerful foundations that the best way to improve public education is by replacing all public schools with charter schools.

Here is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that we all overlook when we talk about the problems with education: Poverty.  If we look deeper into the problems facing public education, we will soon find out that the root of the problem facing public education is poverty.  Yes, poverty and the profound lack of good jobs force parents to work from eighty to one hundred hours a week to support their families.  The immense social cost that takes place when these parents hardly ever see their children let alone helping them guide with homework.  An honest conversation about fixing our schools can start neither by attacking teachers nor by talking about the evils of privatization of our public education.  Those who do just that truly don't want to explore real solutions.

But what are Charter schools?  These schools started proliferating back in the early 1990s they are publicly funded and independently run.  The authorizations for setting up charter schools vary from state to state, some states delegate this responsibility to local school boards.  "Today, they enroll about 3.1 million students in 43 states." Here in Los Angeles at LAUSD, there are approximate "224 independent charters plus 23 affiliated ones for a total of 277 charter schools.  The majority of them located in the poorest school districts of Los Angeles. LA Unified has more charter schools than any other school district in the nation."  LA Unified District also has unaffiliated charters which are run by the district. These charter schools don't enjoy all the freedom that regular charter schools do.  There is a "total of 154,000 students from both regular and unaffiliated charter schools within LAUSD." Almost a $500 million dollar privately funded plan is in the works in Los Angeles to open more charter schools. Teachers' union sees this as an aggressive plan to utterly dismantled LAUSD and replace it with all these unregulated schools.

In the summer of 2016, the civil rights organization NAACP concerned about issues of accountability and transparency publicly called for a "nationwide moratorium on charter school expansion."   This organization pointed out that charter schools get public funding and yet they resist accountability. Charter schools are being alleged pick and choose the best students hence they tend to do better on tests.  There is also alleged that students who have been enrolled in these schools and they start falling behind these are immediately sent back to the traditional schools.  They have no programs for these students, critics point out.   Students who have a network of support don't need charter schools they can easily succeed in any school.

Most teachers at some point have heard that famous line from Bernard Shaw's play Man and Superman: “He who can does; he who cannot, teaches.”   This line has been used to put teachers down or to demonize them. Although what those who blame teachers might not know is that the most creative and greatest minds this world has produced were teachers.  Yes, from Aristotle to Galileo to Mozart to Sir Isaac Newton, they all were teachers. Even some of the civil rights leaders who were the force behind the social changes that took place in this country in 1950 and 1960s were teachers.

Yes, we must have some sort of basic benchmarks to evaluate teachers.  But, using test scores to solely punish teacher is counterproductive.  These scores should be used as a reference to make improvements in our educational system.  We have an educational system in place right now where the teachers have become the workers and students are the product.  Experts argue that students should be "the workers and the knowledge should be the product."  The responsibility for the creation of knowledge should be given to the students.  Since the process will give students the tools needed to deal with real problems in life.  Yes, no more "test and punish" but rather "assess and improve."

Those behind charter schools must somehow understand that these schools can't be the elixir for every ill.  And the teachers at traditional schools also need to embrace change and try to engage parents and other stakeholders in our communities.  The narrative about the problems facing public education is being controlled by the folks behind these schools.   "Accountability," "choice," are strategically chosen words that have resonated well with those who want to see our kids do well in schools. Yes, there must be room for charter schools in our public education but I think that even the most optimistic cheerleader for charter schools is skeptical about replacing all traditional schools in the second-largest school district in the nation with charter schools.

Yes, nobody will seriously deny the problems facing our public school systems.  The problems are broad and deep. And they require serious competent leaders to solve them.  The problems should be taken on in a collective effort across this country.  Public schools shouldn't be abandoned.  Public schools have a rich history of helping everyone.  Yes like any other profession, there are some teachers who really don’t belong in the classroom and they should be removed.

Finally, Austin Beutner, the former Los Angeles Times' CEO has been officially given the job for the next three years to run LAUSD.  The newly appointed superintendent co-chaired a task force that examined the serious problems facing the district.  Although charter school supporters view Austin Beutner as an allied.   But, many argue that he is a  deep thinker who knows this city well; a creative problem solver; and he will surely structure solutions for the best interest of students.

Support and excitement have come from the business community and leaders in the philanthropic community such as Robert Ross, president, and CEO from the California Endowment as well as from prominent Latina Leader in this city, Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation.  "Austin is a proven leader, who is committed to expanding access to opportunities for underserved communities of color, particularly children." Hernandez wrote.  Even journalists and filmmakers, Antonio Vargas released a statement,  "Austin has the vision to create pathways to opportunity for all communities, which is what L.A. Unified needs now." I searched for any public statement from leaders from the public education community and couldn't find one.  They are probably figuring out how it could possibly be that only two board members voted against Mr. Beutner as the vote was 5-2.  Board members, Scott Schmerelson and George McKenna were the ones who voted against Beutner.

Thank you for reading

Chamba Sanchez


Sources Used.

Blume, Howard and Joy Resmovits.  "LAUSD chief Michelle King won't return from medical leave for cancer plans to retire."  Los Angeles Times 5 Jan. 2018.  Web.

Blume. Howard.  "Showdown looming between L.A. Unified and charter schools." Los Angeles Times 2 Nov. 2018. Web. 20th April 2018.

Frontline.  "The Education of Michelle Rhee" 2013. WGBH-PBS. Web. 10, Nov. 2017.

Merrow, John.  "Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education."  New York: New Press, 2017. Print.

Meyerson, Harold. "Why do billionaires care so much about charter schools?" Los Angeles Times 26 May 2017. Web. 26 April 2018.

Pechthalt, Joshua.  "The public deserves transparency and accountability from charter schools." Daily Breeze 3 Nov. 2017. Web. April 19, 2018.

Sanchez, Claudio.  "Just What IS A Charter School, Anyway? NPR-How Learning Happens 1st, March 2017. Web. 11 Nov. 2017.

Schneider, Jack. "Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality." Boston: Harvard University Press, 2017. Print.

Stevens, Matt. "California Today: The Latino Education Crisis."  New York Times 8 Nov. 2017. Web.

Stokes, Kyle. "Sources: LAUSD board expected to name Austin Beutner as next superintendent." 89.3 KPCC 1st, May 2017. Web. 1st May 2017.

Szymanski, Mike. "New Data: Where are the charter schools in LAUSD?. LA School Report 5th Oct. 2017. Web. 10 Nov. 2017.

Waiting for Superman. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Perf. Geoffrey Canada, Bill Strickland, Michelle Rhee, Randi Weingarten. Paramount, 2010. Film.

Picture Credit:  I took this picture at a high school where I am currently teaching a class

The homeless crisis in LA is grotesque, unfair and it underscores lack of political imagination

No hyperbole here, but Los Angeles is teetering on the brink.  The quality of life in this city is not sustainable when in every other block in Los Angeles we find homeless people living in tents.  The lack of progress is so pronounced that many Angelinos are so disgusted and frustrated.  The blight and misery in the streets of Los Angeles are of biblical proportions.  At this point,  they might be worse than one might see in Tijuana when crossing the border or even worse than the ones in the barrios of Honduras.

Los Angeles Times devoted an entire week of editorial pieces to unload its harsh criticism of this problem.  The paper actually called it "a national disgrace." You know our city has hit rock-bottom when it is in on the United Nations radar for failing to help those living in extreme poverty.  In December last year,  a United Nations Special official who focuses on extreme poverty descended on the streets of Skid Row. The official walked through the place filled with misery and despair.  It was part of an endeavor of a-fact-finding tour on poverty.   The ultimate irony here, California the richest state in the wealthiest nation on the planet is unable to deal with extreme poverty.

This homeless crisis has spun out of control in Los Angeles.  That call for urgency has been made but the actions taken are evidently not substantive enough.  Progress has either been too slow or ridiculously incremental.  Moreover, this crisis has not only revealed a profound lack of imagination and political courage among our civic leaders. But it has also, it can be argued, demonstrated a crisis of competence and credibility.

A couple of months ago, it was reported that, at any night, there were 1,800 homeless people at Skid Row with nine working toilets. This is so outrageous! It shouldn't be that hard for our city's leaders to provide more toilets for poor homeless people.  It is also a potential public sanitation problem. Providing more working toilets for these unfortunate people should be the sort of short-term solutions that our civic leaders should be able to do with no sweat.

The conversation as to how deal with the homeless problem usually centers on moral grounds or civic responsibility.  The former focuses on helping them in finding housing and do whatever is possible to help them to reincorporate back into their communities. The latter see homeless people as public nuisance and city's leaders marshal public safety resources to remove them from the streets.  This is a disgrace and should be rejected. Jailing homeless people is not only inhumane but it also takes away resources that could be utilized more productively for some sort of housing and services that could include mental health.  It has been widely reported that out of the $100 million spent last year helping homeless people, shamefully $87 million went to law enforcement.

Experts have categorized the homeless population into three categories: The derail, the disabled,  and the dysfunctional.   Those under the derail categories:  People who were economically struggling and were living paycheck to paycheck. They either became sick or lost their jobs.   The disabled:  People with mental problems and physical challenges that need help surviving.  These individuals might need help even by just taking daily medication. And then we have the dysfunctional, these are very difficult to help.  They are chronic drug users and might reject stable housing as they have become comfortable with the "chaos in the streets."

Here is some statistic information about this crisis: Currently, there are 34,000 homeless in Los Angeles and 58,000 in the entire county.  And, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, "more than 5,000 of LA county’s 58,000 homeless people are children and more than 4,000 are elderly.  About one-third of these individuals have major problems with mental illness. Some 40% of them are African-American. Also heavily represented: Veterans. The disabled. Young people from the county’s overwhelmed juvenile justice system and its foster care programs. Men and women just released from jail, without the tools or skills needed for reentering society. Patients released from public hospitals."

Dr. King told us, "we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." If we internalize that then we will realize that we are connected together and that one's misery in our community will threaten our liberty, undermine our democracy and will disrupt the marketplace.  Los Angeles is a progressive community and most people living in LA don't want to feel that they are turning their back on their fellow man's misery. "The mad, the afflicted" and those who are sleeping in the streets because they are unable to pay for their rent must be helped.

There are some of us who believe that homeless people deserve compassion and must be helped.  And there those who want safe, clean and free streets.  It is not easy for many cities facing this problem trying to strike a delicate balance between the needs and rights of homeless people and the needs and rights of everyone else leaving in these cities.  In the end, it boils down to the quality of life in communities, which is unattainable when homeless people are living in tents in the streets.

How did it get this bad?  In the last decades, homeless people were being viewed as an inconvenience and as an eyesore to the new urbanization taking place in Los Angeles.  Developers used their power in city hall and demanded these homeless people be removed from places where very expensive lofts and condominiums had been built.  Public safety resources were spent on attacking the poor and homeless people. It is fair to say that our civic leaders viewed this homeless problem as a problem of visibility and not an intractable social problem that needed to be solved.

Of course, this homeless problem is a community problem.  Therefore, it will require a community response.  That means that everyone in Los Angeles has to play a role in finding solutions to this problem.  Having said this, citizens in Los Angeles want to see more visionary and bold leadership when dealing with this problem.  A mayor actively campaigning for president and city councilmembers caving into the forces of NIMBYs is not helpful.

Voters in the city are not oblivious to the problem.   They have seen the misery and want to help out.  They have agreed to two measures, Proposition HHH which authorized  "$1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 units of housing for homeless and low-income people." And Measure H that raised the sales tax within the city.  Money raised from this measure will be utilized to provide services to the thousands of homeless people in the city.

The time for timidity and political expediency is over.  We need our civic leaders to step up and grow some backbones. Having each council member to pledge to build 222 units for the next two years is a step in the right direction.  In light of the profundity of such a crisis, our civic leaders need to do more. We have also heard from councilmembers who passionately tell us that they are willing to do whatever it takes to end homeless in this city.  And yet it was recently reported that these very same councilmembers are actively rejecting projects that would alleviate homelessness in their own districts.  They refuse to provide a letter of approval needed for such a project to move forward.

This is another situation in which a silent majority shouldn't allow a loud minority of selfish homeowners, and spineless politicians to dictate where to build housing for these homeless people.  Let's stand up to these people so we can see progress in this crisis.  Yes, let's tackle this homeless crisis with vigor, boldness, and compassion.  This great city deserves no less.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Sources consulted.
Chiland, Elijah. "LA sanitation needs $17M to keep up with homeless encampments."  Curbed Los Angeles 22 Feb. 2018. Web. 27 March 2018.

Do, Anh. Carcamo, Cindy. "Orange County supervisors scrap emergency homeless plan after cities push back." Los Angeles Times 27 March 2018. Web. 28 March 2018.

Jeff, General.  "United Nations Investigation Visits LA’s Skid Row … the World Needs to Know! CityWatch 14 Dec. 2018.  Web. 28 March 2018.

"L.A. has a long history of failure on homelessness. It needs leaders who will take responsibility."  Editorial.  Los Angeles Times 2 March 2018.  Web. 27 March 2018.

Medina, Jennifer. "Los Angeles Puts $100 Million Into Helping Homeless." New York Times 22 Sept. 2015.  Web. 27 March 2018.

"The gentrification of Skid Row - a story that will decide the future of Los Angeles." Guardian 5 March 2015. Web. 27 March 2018. 



Pictures Credit.  I personally took one and the other pic was obtained from Bigstock.

Trump came, he spoke and he didn't charm !

Finally, President Trump decides to come to California, the state has become the epicenter of the resistance.  When he declared his candidacy for the presidency, most people here in the state laughed. He was never taken seriously and Californians didn't see him beyond being a star from a reality show.  It took more than a year for President to make it to the state that totally repudiated his candidacy.  Hillary Clinton badly beat him by 4.3 million votes that eventually made him lose the popular vote in the presidential election in 2016.  His visit is being interpreted as some sort of giving California the finger.  After all, he came to inspect the eight prototypes of what could be "a beautiful wall," that the majority of people in the state vehemently oppose.  He stopped by in Beverly Hill for some cash and spent the night in one of the luxurious hotels in downtown Los Angeles.

Nobody has united more progressives in this country than President Trump.  The man is a uniter after all.  Progressives here in California have been saving their venom for this president.  And they were ready to let him have it on his first visit to the state. Trump represents everything that progressives in this states claim to stand for: he sees immigrants as a burden and a threat to the values of his America; he has utter disregard for the environment; he doesn't care for the civility in the public space and he mistreats and attacks those who disagree with him.

Immigrant groups, labor groups, and socialists were protesting in Beverly Gardens Park in Beverly Hill.  The crowds were not as large as many in the media speculated over the weekend and the overall message being sent to the President was not unified.  And of course, elected Democratic officials who wanted to raise their profiles held events attacking the man's policies and his late legal confrontations with California.  From gubernatorial candidates, US Senate candidate-Kevin Deleon to LA mayor, they all held press conferences, released videos or held fundraising activities using Trump.

Trump is suing California over policies on immigration.  And an elected official-Oakland Mayor is being looked at for potential obstruction of justice for having alerted her city's residents about ICE raids. The President has also accused California of being out of control and of being too close to "illegal immigrants."  He sees this as problematic as he surmises that the needs of American citizens are being utterly ignored.  When the political leadership in California declared the entire state as a "sanctuary state," it was viewed as a defying move against the federal government.  The President's anti-immigrant advisors who counsel him are equally amused as to how California went to extraordinary lengths to protect "criminal immigrants," or gang members who are a destructive force to communities in America.  Specifically, he believes members from the criminal and notorious gang MS-13 are taking advantage of all these weak-immigration laws.  These baseless accusations that have been proven factually wrong.

Most presidents see the importance of the most populous and richest state in the nation and endeavored to make it to the state within a year. President Franklin D. Roosevelt waited long before he came to visit California once elected president.  It was understandable since planes then were not the first thing people would think when they would go far away.  President Roosevelt in the 1930s came by train.

Some history here, California joined the union in 1850 and the state has given the nation two presidents, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Throughout its short history, California has been viewed as the "ultimate melting pot."  Historians have argued that the discovery of gold in California contributed to the success of the state.  Since it attracted the best and the brightest in the world. California became a land of immigrants, they came from all over the world to the golden state looking for opportunities.   Asian railroad workers, high-tech entrepreneurs and Mexican laborers, even "Dust Bowl emigres, all came to California and built it.

Currently, there are about 2.8 million more Democratic registered voters than Republican registered voters.  At one point, public intellectuals and people in academia used to tell us that California was going to be the template for the nation. But the state started chartering a new path when it comes to politics and culture. Now the conversation has flipped and it is being argued that maybe it is time for California to start proceeding with the articles of secession.

The Republican Party in the state has become an endangered species. Republicans hold no statewide offices and nothing is looming in the near future that this will change.  A candidate running for a diverse California for statewide public offices will have no chance if said candidates oppose the right to choose for women, have a cozy relationship with the NRA, and has no qualms for the environment. It is interesting to see that no Republican in California joined President Trump for a photo-op.  Those who have political ambitions for a higher office see the man as being too toxic.

It is not clear how this an all-out war on this president launched by the Democratic leadership, that governs that state, will serve well the interest of California.  California is facing tremendous challenges, investments in the state's infrastructure being exhibit A. Many people in the state who dislike this man, me included, argue that our leaders should try to find common ground with this man. When that is not possible then we should stick to our values that make California a great place and stand our own ground. It will be stupid or dereliction of duty for any leader in this state to reject anything that would benefit California just because it came from this man.

President Trump has become such a menace to California, the political class that governs the state uses him in every speech. Literally, all elected officials both local and state every sentence in their speeches have three things:  A noun, a verb, and Trump. Now that in itself demand another resistance movement from voters in this state.  We shouldn't let our leaders distract us from the real problems using this president.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
Photo credit -
pic above was taken by author at the event 


Antonio is back on the ballot, will Latinos give him another chance?

The contours of the gubernatorial race have begun to sharpen.  This is an important race, California has become the focal point of leadership for the resistance.  California also is the richest and largest state in the nation with a $2.3 trillion dollars economy.  The state is not only "the forefront of most of the modern-day innovations. but it also leads the nation in social policies and political discourse." Two Republicans and many well-known Democrats are vying to replace termed-out Governor Brown.  In California's top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the general election that will be held in November.

"25% or 5.2 million of all voters in California live in Los Angeles County.  A  47.5% plurality of this county is Latino voters."  This might be the reason why former Mayor Villaraigosa is polling better than he did three or six months ago. Latinos might have started flocking to him.

In the last poll, it appeared that Mayor Villaraigosa might be heading for the general election as he is behind by two or three points from Lt. Governor Newsom, the leading candidate. It is within the margin of error and people in Newsom's camp must be concerned.

California Democratic Party held its convention this past weekend and a consensus for an endorsement couldn't be reached for a candidate in the governor's race.  Although this gubernatorial race looks like it is neck and neck, Villaraigosa only got 9% of the delegates' support.   Nevertheless, if Newsom and Villaraigosa eventually make it to the general election, it would be an interesting election. Candidates have faced problems with ethics and fidelity in the past.  With a couple of exceptions, so far, all candidates have been cordial to one another.  But comes the fall, it is expected that the gloves will come off and mud will start flying.

First time I heard Antonio Villaraigosa speak,  I said wow, this man clearly is once in a generation leader. Charisma in abundance, a great speaker, a compelling life story and sterling-fighting-for-justice credentials.  He also used to be a former union organizer and ACLU president. He spoke from the heart and he passionately made the case for progressive policies and closing the gap of the profound inequities that existed in the distribution of resources.  His charisma and enticing and capturing smile substituted the lack of erudition and poetry in his speeches. Subsequently, he inspired hope in many people, me included.

Some history here for context, the former mayor emerged in the political firmament in the 1990s.  The time when Latinos in Los Angeles were demanding more inclusivity in the conversations of power.  Los Angeles was becoming browner and those in positions of power in the different institutions that comprised LA were not being receptive to the new demographics. A turning point in LA's civic landscape took place when a Latino by the name of Miguel Contreras was elected to lead the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. This house of labor had been resisting change and was oblivion of the new immigrant workers.  Contreras not only shook off labor and provided a new vision but he also made the house of labor a political powerhouse.  Former Mayor Villaraigosa was very close to this labor leader.

A Latino winning the mayoral race in 2005 was a radical change in the city's civic landscape.  Villaraigosa marched into city hall waving a flag of diversity that demanded more voices to be included in this city's leadership. These demands were rooted in the realities on the ground, Latinos have reached a critical mass in the city and their needs were often being neglected.  The passage of Prop. 187  in the 1990s made our community realized that we could no longer stay on the sidelines-we needed to agitate and organize our community in order to acquire political power.  It was a new day in L.A. We started becoming citizens and started registering to vote and radically changed our civic institutions.

Mayor Villaraigosa has cheerleaders who love him to death and he also has detractors who dislike him with the same passion that his supporters love him.

His detractors see him as a finger-to-the-wind politician who blatantly chooses his own self-interest at the expense of the collective interest of the community. "Yes, the man didn't do much for Latinos, he sold-out," his detractors vehemently argue.  Those progressives on the left were utterly disappointed because Mayor Villaraigosa didn't use the power of the offices he had held to advance more substantive progressive policies for the poor. Specifically, policies on housing, where he was expected to do more.

After Mayor Villaraigosa left city hall in 2013, he revealed during a recent gubernatorial debate hosted by Univision that when he was broke. Hence he needed to work.  He immediately went to work for the corporate capitalists and became a millionaire. While consulting for corporate people, Mayor Villaraigosa accepted shady gigs like the one for Herbalife which he publicly defended as being a good ethical company after it was reported that the company had been fined $200 million dollars by federal regulators for using pyramid scheme business fraudulent models that targeted and bilked humble Latino immigrants.

His supporters, on the other hand, argue that man is not perfect and he did what he could within the circumstances.  This group of supporters focuses on the policies that the former Mayor shepherded while being a mayor and Speaker of the Assembly. And they point out some of the following achievements:  Proposition R which raised $40 billion to improve public transit would not have been possible without Mayor Villaraigosa's leadership.  He was also instrumental in bringing crime down in the city that eventually attracted billions of dollars for new developments.  And when it came to the environment, the man rolled up his sleeves and dealt with environmental problems head-on.  He spent some political capital took on business groups that saw "clean trucks" as an unnecessary expense needed to carry out business in Los Angeles.  He demanded these trucks to be used by Los Angeles Port know for being a major source of pollution in LA and other cities located nearby.

It is true his supporters claim, Mayor Villaraigosa might have given the finger to teachers' union.  And, deservedly so, teachers have lost perspective of their mission which is to educate our children.  They have failed the most needed students in our communities of color.  Any change to our schools was rejected by waving the "privatization" flag and accusing those proposing the change of working for charter schools, these supporters claim without blinking.  These supporters see a display of leadership when Mayor Villaraigosa stood up to the teachers' union.

They also claim that, while being a mayor, Villaraigosa was a powerful ally for other labor unions that were organizing poor people in this city.  They alluded to the role he played in helping poor people working as security guards to join a union.  He is credited with making the case to building owners to allow security guards to join a union. He also led the charge to expand "living wage" for hotel workers working close to the Airport, his supporters said.

Latino elected officials call themselves "progressives," But they also like to win elections and know that poor folks are politically unorganized and don't vote. Consequently, they see their self-preservation linked to corporate interest.  They need these powerful corporations ' political contributions to stay in power.  Of course, occasionally these corporate democrats would drift into progressive land and pursue progressive policies, e.g., free first-year community college education, "The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)," driver licenses for "illegal" immigrants, mandatory Chicano Studies for high school students, etc.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

Sources Consulted.
Cadelago, Christopher. "The truth behind Villaraigosa’s Herbalife gig and Newsom’s precious metals." Sacramento Bee 26 Jan. 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Drier, Peter "LA Magazine's Failure: Irresponsible Journalism." Huffington Post: Media 27 June 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.

California Democratic Party shocks Dianne Feinstein by not endorsing her." 

Lacabe, Margarita. "The Reports of the Death of Chiang’s Campaign are greatly exaggerated."  California Super-progressive anti-Corporate Political Activists 13 Feb. 2018. Web. 24 Feb. 2018

Leibowitz, Ed. "Villaraigosa’s Lasting Legacy: You Fail Sometimes." Los Angeles Magazine 10 April 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2018.

Marinucci, Carla. "Poll: California governor’s race a toss-up." Politico 8 Feb. 2018. Web. 22 Feb. 2018.

Mehta, Seema. Phil Willion. "Former aide to Gavin Newsom speaks out about their affair while he was San Francisco mayor."  Los Angeles Times 7 Feb. 2018. Web. 23 Feb. 2018.

Menezes, Ryan. Maloy Moore. "In the race to become California’s next governor, fundraising favors one candidate." Los Angeles Times 5 Jan. 2018. Web. 24 Feb. 2018.

Skeels, Robert D. " Villaraigosa: The Myth of The Progressive Mayor." LA Progressive 5 July 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2018.

Photo credit: Paula Abdul and Antonio Villaraigosa at the Ceremony Honoring Los Angeles Lakers' Owner Jerry Buss with the 2,323rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA. 10-30-06.  Pic was obtained from Bigstock. The former mayor was on top of his game here.

"Hollywood not Brown Enough" Do Latinos Care?

That time of the year, the 90th Annual Academy Awards is about to happen again. There is also that usual annual conversation about Hollywood not broadening the circle of opportunities in the acting categories for minorities. So much for Hollywood being a bastion of liberalism.

There are those who argue that "competition" is not only in the best interest of the arts but said "competition" makes actors and actresses better.  Additionally, these defenders of the status quo assertively claim that "talent," not ethnicity should be the primary consideration in awarding Oscars. Furthermore, they claim that it is silly to protest about Hollywood lacking diversity. Hollywood is driven by money and it shouldn't engage in any exercise of affirmative action, they further argue.  They also stated that giving awards based on one's color of the skin will utterly destroy excellence.   Why professional basketball a sport where players are overwhelmingly male and black is not being called out? They ask.

Of course, the counter-argument for the opinion above is that diversity is profoundly important for the stability of any pluralistic society.   It is not only consequential for making democratic institutions stronger but diversity also validates said institutions. Pluralistic societies enjoy stability as people respect and feel more represented seeing people like them running institutions that serve them

When it comes to the acting categories, Latinos actors and actresses are overlooked in this town.  We should use our economic power to demand more opportunities for our talented actors and actresses.  Yes, 23% of the moviegoers are Latinos.  That is, almost in 1 in 4 of these filling those movie theaters is a Latino.

Comedian Chris Rock wrote an essay back in 2013 for the Hollywood Reporter, in which he courageously wrote: "Forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in L.A, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans." Yes, this is sadly true.  And when Latinos are hired they play characters usually reinforcing offensive stereotypes.

Those running Hollywood studios unbelievably think that having Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, and Sofia Vergara presenting at the Oscars is enough for Latinos. This is so offensive. Latinos, in this industry, desperately need more opportunities.  Sofia Vergara has literally humiliated Latinos with all her idiotic comments whenever she is on stage. This woman appears to sadly believe that the only way to survive in Hollywood is to humiliate herself and mocks our community {click here to watch her presenting on stage}.

Another attempt to give Latinos a false sense of representation in Hollywood was this recent film, "Coco."  Lee Unkrich, a movie director who came up with this well-through-out idea about an animated film on an important cultural day among Latinos: "El Dia de Los Muertos."  He knew, without Latinos, the studio was not going to be able to sell the film to Latinos.  Hence he recruited a Latino co-director, largely all voice Latino cast, and a whole bunch of sell-out Latino consultants.  It is not clear how animated characters can be equated with real Latino beings.  Yes, this movie about recognizing a Latino's story while laughing all the way to the bank.  What is truly needed is the recognition of our talented Latino actors and actresses by giving them more opportunities. Viola Davis got it right, "The only thing that separates people of color from anyone else is an opportunity.”

Some statistics here in order to get some perspective of what is the issue at hand; there are about 54 million Latinos here in the United States, approximately 18% of the US population.  Any study shows that Latinos have been making great strides in politics.  Yes, Latinos have accumulated some political powers.  And economically speaking, Latinos' purchasing power has gone up significantly.  We went from having a purchasing power of  $495 billion in 200o to almost $1,6 trillion last year. Have some strides been made? Yes. But in light of the 54 million Latinos living in this country, we are still grotesquely underrepresented in many institutions. A recent study done in the school of communication at USC shows that Latino characters in Hollywood is a meager 3.1% despite us being 18% of the population.  Whenever conversations take place about race in Hollywood, the substance of said conversations is usually about opportunities for African-Americans.  Deservedly so, African-Americans are more organized for filing grievances for black actors and actresses.  Unlike Latinos in this country, African-Americans have national leaders that coordinate protests throughout the nation.  Many times these protests have forced those in positions of power to come to the table and negotiate. Latinos need to borrow a page from this playbook and demand more opportunities from those who run studios in Hollywood.

According to the Census, the population of African-Americans is about 13.4 or approximately 39 million. And the number of Black characters in Hollywood is about 13.6.  Evidently, African-Americans have done a very good job of forcing the elites from Hollywood to provide more opportunities to blacks actors and actresses.  Latinos don't have national leaders that could unite the different factions among Latinos.  Indeed, Latinos neither have a Jessie Jackson, Cornel West, or Al Sharpton to mention a few nor Latinos have robust civil rights organizations to militantly ask the question justice.

In 2015 and 2016 African-Americans accused Hollywood of not being "Black enough."  Rightfully so, After two years of harsh and well-deserved criticism over "back-to-back slates of all-whites nominees" for the Oscars.  Things radically changed in 2017, this year was a year that people of color in Hollywood celebrated.  Seven minority actors got nominated and six of them were blacks.  Did that fall from the sky? Of course not. Leaders in the African-American community were successful in organizing and agitating their members in their community. They were in the streets protesting and calling out racist Hollywood.

There is that saying that we, Latinos, just care for immigration.  And that this is the only issue that we get us animated to hit the streets. Yes, it appears so.  We don't have movements such as "Brown lives matter," or "Hollywood is not brown enough." Even when many Latinos are killed yearly in the hands of law enforcement people and Hollywood utterly ignored brown people. There is so much need for agitating and organizing our community.  L.A. County, coroner's data shows that in the last eight years half of all people killed by police were Latinos.  In 2015, Gardena police department was forced by a judge to release a video where Ricardo Diaz Zeferino who was unarmed was killed by officers from this city.  The media covered it but there was literally no protest other than family members demanding justice.

The struggle is real, Latinos are very complex and difficult to unite. We are the fastest minority group growing in this country. And we are facing profound challenges dealing with poverty, education, housing and lack of opportunities in Hollywood. We clearly need to re-align our mainstream image that we just march and protest for immigration reform.  We have to do the hard work of organizing and agitating our community.  We have the economic and political power that can be utilized to advance a broader Latino agenda.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

Sources consulted.
Barnes. Brooks. "After #OscarsSoWhite, Hispanics Seek Their Hollywood Moment." New York Times 21 Jan. 2018. Web. 25 Jan. 2018.

Buckley, Cara. "The Oscars and Race: A Stir Over Rules to Change the Academy." New York Times 27 Jan. 2017. Web. 26 Jan. 2018.

Moreno, Carolina. "The Oscars Are Happy To Recognize Latino Stories, But Not Latino Actors." HuffPost-Latino Voices 18 Jan. 2018. Web. 1 Feb. 2018.

Santa Cruz, Nicole. Ruben Vives. Marisa Gerber. "Why the deaths of Latinos at the hands of police haven't drawn as much attention." Los Angeles Times 18 July 2015.  Web. 31 Jan.  2018.

Smith, Stacy L, Marc Choi, et al. "Inequality in 900 Popular Films: Examing Portrayals of Gender, Race,/Ethnicity, LGBT, and Disability from 2007-20016." USC School for Communication and Journalism July 2017. Web. 1 Feb. 2018.

Riley, Janelle.  "Oscars: Record Six Black Actors Nominated, Diversity Improves After Controversy." Variety 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 27 Jan. 27 2018.

Rock, Chris. "Chris Rock Pens Blistering Essay on Hollywood's Race Problem: "It's a White Industry." Hollywood Reporter 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

Photo Credit:  Photos above came from Bigstock

Will weed take us to the promised land?

"We can't have a civil society if everyone is smoking pot." Governor Brown told a group of journalists last year.  The governor might have been somewhat sarcastic with that statement.  But it is worth to explore the complexities of legalizing this drug. The passage of Proposition 64 in 2016 made the growing and selling of marijuana legal for recreational purposes. California has been right, front and center trying to decriminalize marijuana for many years. It became the first state in the country to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

This pot legalization has been introduced with great fanfare and many people optimistically expect to see the same success that took place in Colorado where millions were collected in taxes in the first year voters approved it. Evidently, there are many complex issues that need to be tackled.  But most conversations appear to solely be focused on the new revenues that will be collected.

Yes, conversations on the social costs as well as how communities will be impacted are literally non-existent. For starters, there are still no clear guidelines to be followed by those who provide public safety in cities on what to do when people drive high. And there is confusion as to how to define when one is impaired because he or she has smoked marijuana. Evidently, balancing of all interests and concerns has been a challenge in the legalization of marijuana.  It appears that those who want to see dispensaries at every street corner have a bigger microphone.  People voicing concerns as to how this process is evolving are quickly accused of fear-mongering or they're lumped together with crazy conservative people who want this drug to be criminalized.

It is being predicted that there will be a $5 to $6 billion cannabis market and taxes collected here in California might even surpass $1 billion in the first year. It will be the biggest legal pot market in the nation.  The legalization of pot is being sold as a cash cow to many municipalities.  There are concerns that the vast majority of these dispensaries will be opening in communities where the majority of people are African-Americans and Latinos.  These people fret seeing pot shops in shopping centers or at every other street corner.

Furthermore, those in the industry are working hard to realign the image of marijuana.  They want "Cannabis" as the term to be used when referencing marijuana. They  want smokers to stop using "pot," "grass," "blunt," "weed," and "dope." Since these terms are associated with the stigma of being stupid, with laziness and that those who smoke it are just puffing their productive lives away.

Many cities in California are working around the clock to meet the high demand for permits for those who want to open dispensaries.  All these cities want a piece of the pie.  They are also making claims that legal dispensaries will not only root out black markets from their cities but also the new revenue will be used to improve the quality of life of people living in these cities.  It is not clear how black markets will disappear if prices for legalized marijuana at dispensaries are ridiculously high. Indeed, high taxes both from the state and the cities might make it more complicated for the legalization to take root.  Those who buy marijuana will have to pay taxes anywhere from 22% to 25% that will include a state excise tax of 15%.  Those who grow and those who sell the plant will also have to pay taxes. Unable to pay these high prices many who smoke pot recreationally might have to go back to the black market.

In our very own city of Los Angeles, civic leaders will be using some sort of "social equity" as guidelines in deciding who will be licensed first with these pot dispensaries.  That is, those who were adversely affected by the "war on drugs" will be the first ones to get these licenses.  If one's life was destroyed by being charged with either smoking or selling marijuana, this individual will be given priority over all others.  It is sort of a wealth distribution mechanism being used by leaders in this city.  It is still somewhat unclear as to how this process will work.

Let's review some history about the criminalization of marijuana, it should have never been criminalized.  Tragically, marijuana was likened to heroin and both were criminalized heavily.  The "War on Drugs" was irrational and immoral.  It was tragic how many people's lives were utterly destroyed. This "War on Drugs" started in the Nixon Administration and continued well into the 1980s and 1990s. Voters who identified with the "public safety" mantra relentlessly lobbied Congress for tough policies for those who used drugs.  This "War on Drugs" policies were not only mean-spirited and short-sighted but they also disproportionately affected people of color.  It was Nixon the one who dubbed drug abuse "public enemy number one" in 1971.

Many people in the state are still puzzled after hearing recent reports that the Trump Administration through his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions might be targeting California.  The Attorney General is telegraphing that he might disrupt the operation of the cannabis industry that has been booming in the state. How can that be, they ask? We, the people, in the state of California, exercised our democratic rights and voted so we can legally buy pot for recreation and medical purposes. The federal government still designates marijuana as a "Schedule 1" drug.  Placing it here means that the drug is still considered extremely dangerous as heroin is and it repudiates claims that the drug helps sick individuals seeking medical benefits.  It is worth noting that according to these designations, cocaine is less harmful than Marijuana. Since cocaine is on Schedule 2. For some progressive states, this flew in the face of common sense.

As the usage of marijuana became democratized many Americans started supporting the movement for legalizing it.  A recent Gallup poll showed that "over 60% of voters supported legalization nationwide and among the law-and-order-Republican, the percentage is 51%. "  The profound lack of action from Congress in decriminalizing marijuana forced states to act hoping that eventually, Congress will react. Many states have started taking action, through their initiative process,  for the decriminalization of this drug. It is argued that these actions will eventually force the federal government to finally take action.

No one wants to go back and see marijuana being criminalized, It is great that marijuana is being legalized in many states and it is hoped that Congress takes action soon so a better-uniformed process can be implemented nationwide.  Although many questions still remain unanswered about all this pot legalization. High taxes might not make the black markets vanished, people are still being educated as to where they can light up, and whether or not they can drive high.

As the feds are scrapping all the accommodations the Obama Administration provided for this legalization to flourish. Most banks will not allow those running dispensaries to open bank accounts.   This means that most transactions will be in cash hence bundles of cash and pounds of pots will be laying around at shops and warehouses. That should be a source of concern for those of us who care for communities of color.

Thank you for reading

Chamba Sanchez


Sources consulted

Aiello, Chloe. "Jeff Sessions just made it even harder for California's legal marijuana businesses to find a place to put their cash." CNBC 10 Jan. 2018. Web. 14 Jan. 2018.

Gerber, Marisa.  "A new future for pot begins." Los Angeles Times 2nd Jan. 2018. Web. 9 Jan. 2018.

Lee, Kurtis. "Next up in pot debate:  Public use."  Los Angeles Times 13 Jan. 2018. Web. 14 Jan. 2018.

Ludwig, Mike. "What Jeff Sessions' Latest Attack Means for the Future of Legal Marijuana." Truthout 8 Jan. 2018. Web. 11 Jan. 2018

Smith, Aaron.  'California to tax pot as much as 45%." CCN Money 31 Oct. 2018. Web. 10th Jan. 2018.

Rahmani, Neama. "Get real about security at marijuana dispensaries." The Sun 27 Dec. 2017. Web. 23 Jan. 2018.

Robbins. Gary.  "Weeding out the slang pot terms." Los Angeles Times 21 Jan. 2018. Web. 22 Jan. 2018

If you smoke click on this link below for some responses to basic questions you might have.
Masunaga, Samantha.  "Recreational marijuana is legal in California but you still can't smoke it at work or in your car." Los Angeles Times 4 Jan. 2018. Web. 18 Jan. 2018. 


Photo Credit: Image used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock.

Yes, "Coco" is good but Disney/Pixar shouldn't be telling our story and Latino consultants need not to be selling out!

Disney-Pixar Animation Studios' new film "Coco" has been introduced with great fanfare on both sides of the border.  The movie has done well domestically. It made a little over $70 million on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  And it was an utter success in Mexico, and it made almost $50 million. Enough. I will leave to others to write more about how great this movie is.

I want to laser-focus on another story that has been utterly ignored.  Disney shouldn't be telling our story.  This corporation doesn't have a good history with Latinos in Calfornia, from refusing to pay its fair share in Anaheim, home in where the majority are Latinos,  to joining Pete Wilson back in the 1990s in attacking our communities. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I dislike Disney with a passion for the obvious reasons.

I dug up information, wanted to know how the Coco, the film was first conceived. It was in 2010 when a non-Latino filmmaker, Matthew Aldrich first thought about taking on this animated endeavor.  Most of the interviews and reviews that I have read give this director all the credit for the success of the film.  You wouldn't know that there is another Latino director there, Adrian Molina, unless it is a Latino network with a Latino audience.  It seems that most of the Latinos added to the crew are being used just to sell the movie to our community.

I also unearthed that Disney back in 2013 stupidly filed an application with the Patent and Trademark organization to have ownership of the phrase "Dia de Los Muertos." There is a lot that can be extrapolated about this stupidity, for starters it is clear that Latinos have yet to gain the needed power to protect their interest in this society.  No corporation will ever dare to do something like this against another group in this country.

Pushing back against Disney for trying to trademark our culture, Cartoonist Alcaraz published an iconic poster (the one below ).  It was widely published, and our community was agitated and forcefully demanded Disney to stop the stupidity in trying to have ownership of that phrase.  These disgusting corporate forces want to trademark “tu cultura,” he told all his followers who admire him and who are receptive to his messages display on his cartoons. Disney eventually realized its stupidity and withdrew the trademark application.

It was not the first time that Cartoonist Alcaraz sparred with Disney.  Back in the 1990s, when Disney supported Pete Wilson the most anti-Latinos/immigrants in California.  I vividly remember Mr. Alcaraz's "Migra Mouse" that he published to reject Disney's support for an anti-immigrant politician and governor for California,

After that fiasco, Disney/ Pixar wised up and wanted to avoid being accused of exploiting ethnic folklore out of willingly or unwillingly ignorance. So they started seeking Latino consultants who were willing to attach their names to the film and selling it to our community.

Now, I wish one could have told me to brace for this.  Disney reached out and asked Lalo Alcaraz, its biggest foe at one point to join the company for this Coco movie. Everyone extrapolated that Disney had no chance to persuade Mr. Alcaraz to join them in light of how ruthlessly disrespectful Disney had been toward Latinos. He couldn't resist and he joined them.

Everyone was speculating as to what Chicano writer in Orange County was going to say about this film and Alcaraz working for Disney.  It was common knowledge that both Arellano and Alcaraz are close and that both like to promote each other.  Gustavo Arellano finally wrote a piece (click here for link).  Arellano swung and missed. He pathetically ended up marketing the film for Disney. I was dumbfounded to read Arellano's piece.  Since Arellano knows firsthand how the happiest place on earth is bleeding dry the city of Anaheim.  Evidently, speaking truth to power to our oppressors is easy speaking truth to power to our friends requires strength

Really, how and why our community's artists and leaders have no qualms about selling out like that?  Alcaraz became the marketing mouth-piece for Disney/Pixar and he might have used his reputation to appease or silence other Chicanos who are usually skeptical of being too close to the corporate power.  The Chicano revolutionaries, anti-capitalism, and anti-corporate power are nowhere to be found.  Yes, how does one transform from being a firebrand Chicano activist fighting for the '"cause" with his art to become a servant to the plutocracy? This man should be a case study in the lecture halls at UC Santa Barbara's Chicano Studies Department.  A place that is known as the epicenter of Chicano/a Studies.

This was a major league sell-out.  It truly illuminates with startling clarity the status of our community.  Our leaders in non-profits, in elected offices and businesses they all appear to have a price.  A note on another sell-out, recently, Los Angeles Times published a piece in which highlighted all the greedy corporations that former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa works for (click here for link).  The former mayor is now a millionaire.  He consults for Herbalife, a corporation that bilks poor immigrants.  It has become the norm not the exception for our leaders to engage in this unethical and repulsive behavior.

It is vastly evident that corporate America is corrupting all ways of life in this society.  The Websters Dictionary defines Plutocracy as a government of the wealthy.  Indeed, It is difficult not to argue that for the last three decades this country has fallen into this system in which the levers of power have been hijacked by corporations.

Intellectuals and academics fret and warn us that our liberty is not sustainable when the captains of industry are in charge of our democratic institutions.   The abundance of resources that the corporate sectors enjoy gives them the power to control institutions of our democracy.  That control is vital for the protection of the corporate interest.  The game is rigged, and all those advocating for anything that would conflict with corporate power will have no chance. Our leaders are incapable of resisting to advance their economic interests and end up objectifying and commodifying our people's struggle.

There is that scene in It's a Wonderful Life where the film' protagonist, George Bailey rejects to be bought out by a  greedy pig banker who was continually seeking to enrich himself on the back of the poor in this town.  The aggressive slumlord and evil banker, Henry Porter failed to buy out the young idealist, George Bailey. The honest and dedicated family man who runs a small community bank from Bedford Falls, N.Y, refused to sell out.  Any individual who advocates for the masses must learn a thing or two from George Bailey.  Selling out must feel good in the short term but in the long run, it might not be sustainable.  Our community is hungry for more George Baileys with steely spines who reason that the collective interest should always exceed one's personal or financial interest.

Finally, I was surprised to learn that in the afterlife, as being presented in the 'Coco' film, it might very well be a class society.  Based on the images of the places shown in the movie, one might surmise that there is poverty there.  So, we now know why true progressives and socialists are in tears while watching this corporate film.  Or maybe our people cry because they are being forced to watch that stupid 21-minute Frozen short film at the beginning. Long live capitalism!

Thank you for reading.

Sources consulted.
Arellano, Gustavo. "How Disney Redeemed Itself With 'Coco' After the Dia De Los Muertos Trademark Fiasco." 16 Nov. 2017.  Web. Nov. 24 2017.
Crump, Andy.  "Why 'Coco' Feels Like an Act of Defiance."  The Hollywood Reporter 25 Nov. 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017.
De La Fuente, Anna Marie.  "Pixar's Coco Moves Morelia to Tears." Variety 21st Oct. 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017.
Garrity, Shaenon K. "Why Disney/Pixar Hired One of Its Biggest Critics to Work on Its New Movie. io9 gizmode 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.
It's a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore. Liberty Films, 1947 Film.
McNary, Dave. "Box Office: 'Coco' Topping 'Justice League' With $70 Million Over Thanksgiving Weekend." Variety 22nd Nov. 2017.
Miller, Daniel. " Is Disney paying its share in Anaheim."  Los Angeles Times 24 Sept. 2017. Web. 23 Nov. 2017
"Plutocracy."  Entry 1. Merrian-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 9th ed. 1988. Print.
Robison, Joanna. "Pixar's Coco is a ' Love Letter to Mexico' in the Age of Trump." Vanity Fair 6th Dec. 2016. Web. Nov. 23, 2017.
Scannell, Herb.  "Neglecting the Latino Community Is Hollywood's Multibillion-dollar Missed Opportunity." Addweek-Voice 16 Nov. 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017. Spiegel, Josh. "What Disney Finally Gets Right With Coco."  Hollywood Reporter 23rd November 2017. Web. Nov. 25th, 2017.
Tagliani, Herna. "6 Reasons Corporate America Misses Out On Trillions of Hispanics Dollars." Entrepreneur 1 June 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017.
Ugwu, Reggie. "How Pixar Made Sure ‘Coco’ Was Culturally Conscious." New York Times 19 Nov. 2017. Web. 23 Nov. 2017.