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
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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
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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.

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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 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

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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.

 


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

 

 

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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 that 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 students' 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, 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 make up for the learning loss our students suffered. UTLA's leadership immediately rejected the proposition even when LAUSD's officials offered full paid 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 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 currently searching for a new superintendent, and they 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 they 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 an appointed position, 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 the 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 play this power game with skill 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 of the policies adopted by the District.

Nonetheless, when the District makes actual policy decisions, parents are expunged from the process. 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 banks centers. Many families and their children picked up meals at many at 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 students, primarily poor, never engaged in these classes online. The District also did what it could in providing computers and access to the internet for all online classes.

We still do not know the academic and emotional harm that 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 accelerate 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 they need to 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.

 

 


Was the Recall the Final Nail in the Coffin of the Republican Party Here in California?

The numbers for the recall election of this past Tuesday are in, 9.5 million ballots counted so far. California's Secretary of State reported that 2.9 million ballots still need to be counted. Approximately 55% of registered voters voted, a smaller turnout than in 2018 when 64% voted for the regular gubernatorial election.

Political experts have already begun slicing and dicing the election results and what it means for the Republican Party. The GOP has been fighting against their extinction since the late 1990s. Of all registered voters in California, 47% are Democrats, 24% are Republicans, and 23% want no association with neither party.

Republicans, after many tries, succeeded in making the recall a reality. Nonetheless, they lacked the resources, and the candidate who rose to the top was the best thing that had happened to Governor Newsom since hair gel was invented. Elder made it easier for Democrats to create a narrative of fear about "Trumpism" and those right-wing activists against COVID-19 vaccination and masks.

Once Larry Elder emerged among the forty-six candidates. So did his background. Elder's outlandish claims and his provocative on-air commentaries he had made over the years were scrutinized—moderate voters who were entertaining new leadership checked out.

Larry elder's controversial candidacy undermined the needed conversation about all the problems facing the people in California. Yes, those unemployed individuals who call daily to the unemployment office and never get an answer; the lack of affordable housing, the problems of education, and the profound inequalities never took center stage during this recall.

What is next for Republicans in California?

In mid-August, most republicans thought that people in California had started awaking to this one-party rule in the state and wanted to throw the bums out. Polls showed that voters in the state wanted a new leader.

One might have thought that this recall election was an opportunity for Republicans here in California. They needed to coalesce around a candidate and raise the money to succeed. They did neither.

It is a big predicament for Republicans who want to bring the GOP back to competitiveness in electoral politics here in this state. What makes the GOP's "populist" base excited or enthusiastic is what turns off moderate voters in this state. Controversial Larry Elder utterly encapsulated this GOP's problem in this past recall.

The challenge for Republicans in California if they want to stay competitive is to find a way to excite their base and then reach out to moderate voters. If they cannot go beyond their base, then this party will eventually perish. Coalition building needed to win election escapes California's GOP's leadership.

The most moderate wing of California's GOP, the ones who are more interested in business-friendly policies, have so much work to do. They should go to work, take over the party and change the mainstream image. They should also make the efforts to be more inclusive and make this party the party of Reagan again. Former San Diego Mayor, Kevin Faulconer a moderate with actual political experience, might persuade the independents in the state and democrats who are not satisfied with the status quo.

Who are these so-called "populists" or "right-wing conservatives" Republicans?

They are cultural war warriors who have no respect for government institutions, do not care about the "truth," and suspect the electoral system; they are anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-abortion rights. They are primarily whites who feel left out and under attack. Furthermore, they also believe in conspiracy theories. They see government institutions being used against them. They feel threatened by the relentless demographic and cultural changes.

There is so much work to do for California Republicans if they want to get back in the game. For a coherent and clearly articulated strategy, serious Republican leadership is needed. Otherwise, they will not be able to pull from the brink of absolute irrelevance. Voters in California will never vote for Republican candidates who dislike gays, immigrants, see women as lacking intelligence, and would like to stop abortion rights.

For starters, California's GOP should look into what has been done in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont. These are blue states who have elected Republican governors. A common theme among these Republicans governing these three states is that they have spoken against Trump and rejected Trump's supporters' "ethnonationalism."

Pundits argue that there is hope for the GOP here in California if they cannot identify leaders with the ability to seize opportunities. They point out the progressive propositions rejected in 2020. Yes, voters rejected affirmative action, Rent Control, and a proposition that would force Uber-Lyft, and other companies to treat workers as employees rather than independent contractors. Even when all democratic leaders and organized labor folks spent millions, voters said no.

Some history here, California started changing demographically in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In addition, the state was going through a very painful recession. Republican voters did not like the massive newcomers mostly coming from civil war conflicts in Central America. The end of the cold war had also left many Californians unemployed. The future looked bleak for many Californians. Soon, Republican leaders began proposing harsh anti-immigrant policy proposals.

Democrats, too, joined the choir of those blaming immigrants for all California's problems. They took driver's licenses away from undocumented immigrants. In 1993 Senate Bill 976 was introduced by State Democrat Senator Al Alquist. The bill demanded that all driver license applicants provide proof of citizenship. In fighting for his political life, Governor Wilson signed the bill and ended undocumented people's ability to get a driver's license.

Democracies work a lot better when there is competition. The Democratic Party controls both houses in the state legislature, the governor's mansion, and all constitutional offices. There is no accountability. We have seen how our institutions have started deteriorating everywhere we look.

We often heard during the recall Democratic leaders crying foul for the $270 million spent on the election. However, these very same leaders did not say much about the $30 billion that the unemployment office paid to fraudulent claims. What insurmountable incompetence. That was serious money that could have been invested in our roads and freeways that are crumbling up.

When one party controls all sectors of government, there is no impetus for the ruling party to solve problems. They know that voters have no place to go. They will never vote for the "white supremacist republicans."

Voters can continue using a direct democracy-recall tool against the excesses of the ruling party. Voters can also "vote with their feet." Meaning moving out of California, which some of them have done. Yes, population has gone down, and the state is losing a congressional seat.

Thank you for reading,

Chamba Sanchez
________________________________________________________________________________________

Photo Credit: The picture was purchased from Bigstock

Sources consulted.
"Some lessons for the right in California."Editorial.  Los Angeles Daily News 16 Sept. 2021.
Christopher, Ben. "And the winner in the California recall is?  None of the above."  CalMatters 16 Sept. 2021.
Golberg, Jonah. "I’m opposed to recalls. But what choice do voters have when there’s one-party rule?."  Los Angeles Times 6 July 2021.
"How The California Recall Election Will Affect The Republican Party." Morning Edition. NPR 16 Sept. 2021. Radio.
Willon, Phil, Taryn Luna, and Julia Wick.  "Race was seen as battle against far-right."  Los Angeles Times 15 Sept. 2021.


Reinventing "Single-Family Zoning"

California, a state with a $3.2 trillion economy, has a $215 billion annual budget is mired in a housing affordability crisis. Its leaders cant' figure out how to build more housing for everyone. Cities throughout the state face homelessness crises of biblical proportions. In Los Angeles, tents on sidewalks are everywhere. They have become a permanent fixture of this city.

According to a 2016 study by McKinsey Global Institute, California needs to build 3.5 million new homes by 2025. That was five years ago; California probably needs five million housing units today. Governor Newsom promised to build 180,000 a year. His administration just built a fraction of what was promised and needed.

Sacramento politicians have been paying lip service to this housing crisis for the last two decades. This year, the call for action in the state capitol has been louder and more urgent.

This past Friday-Sept. 10, the legislature in Sacramento finished their work for the year. The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed hundreds of bills. These bills are now on their way to the Governor's desk. SB 9, SB 10, SB 478, and AB 215, bills addressing the housing crisis, were among these bills. If the Governor signs them, density will increase and environmental rules will be relaxed.

Today, a day before the recall election, the Governor has yet to weigh in on whether or not he will sign them. It is safe to say that Governor will wait after the recall election to decide on these crucial bills. Even if he lost tomorrow-Tuesday, the Governor would still be able to sign these housing bills.

Other options are available to the political leadership in Sacramento in dealing with this housing crisis. For starters, our leaders need to revisit the Costa-Hawkins law. Cities need to be given the tools to enact more rent control laws for the poor. And, while they are at it, the state legislature should also look into the Ellis Act, which gives free reigns to landlords to "evict tenants to remove housing units from the rental market." And that Article 34 in the California Constitution that requires a vote to approve public housing must be repealed.  It was added back in the 1950s.  It is alleged that whites used it to keep minorities out of their communities.

And yes, take a look at CEQA- the California Environmental Quality Act created to reduce the environmental effect on public projects. Groups that fiercely oppose development aiming at building multifamily or low-income housing use this act to derail them. If civic and other California leaders are serious about making significant progress in housing development, they must ensure that all affordable housing projects are exempt from CEQA.

Policy proposals to build affordable housing are always met with fear resistance. The point of contention has always been "single-family zoning." Homeowners and city government groups do not want to alter their qualities of life in their communities. They feel that modifying "single-family zoning" by encouraging property owners to subdivide their lots will negatively change their community's quality of life and character.

Politicians in Sacramento are very receptive to these suburban voters' demands. They see their single homes as "politically sacrosanct." These groups' opposition is fierce and bills introduced in committees seeking to alter "single-family homes" are rapidly killed in these committees led by spineless democrats who usually capitulate to these groups.

California's legislature should also explore policies that could provide subsidies to the poor. Market rate units are out of reach for many low-income families in the state. Of course, we need to build more housing, but mixed-income housing needs to be prioritized. In Los Angeles, most construction sites are building luxury housing. It is naive to think that we will be able to build our way out of the affordable housing crisis by building housing for the rich.

Senate Bill 9, introduced by the State Senate Leader, Tony Atkins, will bring needed changes. All the time-consuming and expensive bureaucratic hearings and approval from local governments will no longer be needed. If SB 9 and Governor signs it into law, homeowners will be able to build a duplex on single-family lots or split them." Housing for the poor and rental units will be exempt from the changes sought in this legislation.

The measure is modest enough to get the support needed. Homeowner groups and local government groups will never allow radical changes. As it is, they are already claiming that the measure will end "single-family zoning."

Many municipalities have already rung the alarm bells and are gearing up for this fight. They don' want this process to be centralized in Sacramento. Municipal leaders argue that they are close to housing problems; hence, they better understand what needs to be done locally. Municipalities that reject SB 9 would like to see real investments in public infrastructure and other services before dismantling "single-family zoning."

If SB 9 sees the light of day, it will significantly change whatever is in place for the city's single-family residential zoning districts. Many people claim that SB 9 is a successor of SB 50, that controversial bill killed by the "not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) activist." This proposed bill will allow development at a density and intensity of whatever is acceptable under the law today.  Of course, SB 9 is not perfect.

Moreover, SB 10, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, increases density near transit centers and job hubs. SB 10, as it is, will allow a maximum of 10 units per parcel. The selling point here is that when cities build housing near public transit, it will eventually result in people using public transportation rather than driving their cars, helping to reduce climate change.

Finally, one might think that in light of all the profound lack of housing and homelessness crisis here in Los Angeles, LA's representatives in the state legislature will be shepherding bills with aggressive efforts that would alleviate this housing crisis. Carrillo, Durazo, Santiago, and others just do the bare minimum in dealing with this crisis. SB 51 authored by Carrillo and Durazo was great, but more comprehensive legislation that will include more communities is needed.

Californians are tired of the usual platitudes about California's forward-thinking companies and the state being on the cutting edge of racial and economic justice. They want our leaders to stop the grandiose speeches and tackle this housing crisis head-on.

Thank you for reading.

 

Chamba Sanchez

 


Photo Credit: The picture used intros piece was purchased from Bigstock

Sources Consulted.
Evans, Pat "16 mind-blowing facts about California's economy." Market Insiders 26 April 2019.
Dougherty, Conor. "After Years of Failure, California Lawmakers Pave the Way for More Housing." The New York Times 26 August 2021.
Duara, Nigel. ".  Could these bills help California build more affordable housing?" Cal Matters 23 March 2021.
Gross, Larry. "2019: Another Year of Displacement of Displacement & Demolitions Due to the Ellis Act." City Watch 20 January 2020.
Healey Jon and Matthew Ballinger.  "Housing laws revamped - The state aims to increase density.  Here is what you should know." Los Angeles Times 21 Sept. 2021.
Rosalsky, Greg. "How California Homelessness Became A Crisis." NPR.org 8 June, 2021.
Woetzel, Jonathan and Jan Mischke, Shennon Peloquin, and Daniel Weisfield. "A Tool Kit to Close California's Housing Gap:  3.5 Million Homes by 2025. McKinsey Global Institute October 2016.


The End of Roe

From L.A. to Boston to New York, the pro-choice folks are up in arms denouncing the Texas legislature's assault on women's rights. However, abortion is still legal in Texas if it is performed within six weeks of a woman's pregnancy. The so-called "Texas Heartbeat Act" was a victory for the pro-life groups in this country who want to end abortions. These pro-life groups see the Texas legislation and the denial of the Supreme Court to stop it as the beginning of the end of Roe vs. Wade.

Texas has provoked an uproar that even President Biden joined the chorus of those denouncing the law.  He denounced the Texas law as an utter constitutional violation of women's Constitutional rights. The President called it "extreme." Furthermore, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises swift action on the House of Representatives. The speaker intends to "codify" Roe v. Wade so that states cannot modify it or touch it.

Roe v. Wade Landmark case of 1973 gave the Constitutional right to women to have abortions until a fetus is viable, which usually takes place at the 23rd or 24th week of pregnancy.

Viability is the central point of contention after the Texas legislature cut the number of weeks of pregnancy to six. It is simply the question of where life begins. Human embryologists, philosophers, bioethicists, and theologians are getting ready to revisit the unending debate of when a fetus becomes a person, "does that take place at fertilization, at birth, or somewhere in between?"

The pundits and Constitutional Scholars argue that the Texas law is just about procedures and not a wholesale elimination of rights for women seeking to have an abortion. That might be true, but progressives fret about the collateral effect of this law. The law provides impetus to other states to enact something similar or more extreme.

Let us dive into what happened in Texas this week: In May, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 8. The Act went into effect at midnight on September 1, 2021.

In the early hours of Sept. 2-Thursday morning, the US Supreme Court gave a low blow to pro-choice groups by denying an appeal that would have put a hold on the legislation enacted into law. Many read this Supreme Court's action as a strong signal that the demise of Roe v. Wade is near. It is argued that at least 80% of all abortion clinics in Texas will have to close soon if this law is fully implemented.

Texas' "Heartbeat Act" encourages anyone to sue doctors who violate the law, even if individuals have no connections to the woman having the abortion. A thoughtful and dangerous approach used, as government representatives will not enforce the law but solely "through civil lawsuits filed by private individuals." In other words, it is residents who will be enforcing this new law. "A doctrine that is known as "sovereign immunity." It is not clear how this maneuvering makes this Texas law less unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts, who joined the liberal justices in the court, denounced the approach used by Texas. The US Supreme Court will have another chance this fall.  They will hear a big abortion case from Mississippi, which bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Religion is at the core of this abortion debate. The concept that life begins at conception comes straight from the scriptures. We also have that Sixth Commandment, "You shall not murder." Deeply religious individuals take this commandment as an obligation to protect all human life. They believe that stopping abortions will accomplish that endeavor.

Some history here, in 1620, English settlers who intended to lay anchor in northern Virginia ended up in "Massachusetts instead, near Cape Cod, outside of Virginia's jurisdiction." They immediately endeavored to organize a community that "could ensure a functioning social structure." They came up with "the Mayflower Pact." The very first line of the said document reads, "In the name of God, amen." In 1787, the colonies agreed to embrace the Consitution to provide the colonies with a centralized government. Nevertheless, there was no mention of God in this Constitution. The first three words of the Constitution: "We the people." What happened to God?

The framers of the Constitution understood that their newly assembled “civil body politic” must believe in the God of reason. Religion had to be left to people living in the colonies. They had to decide whether to believe or not to believe in God. Hamilton and Madison did not want religion to be part of the civic conversations leading to public policies. These framers understood that when religion injects into public policy dialogues, it will make the process of governing very difficult.

Thomas Jefferson conceptualized it better when he wrote a "letter to the Danbury Baptist Association."  In this letter, Jefferson argued that  when the American people adopted the establishment clause in the Constitution, they built a "wall of separation between the church and state."

The rallying cry from the pro-choice folks is that the government should not decide about a woman's body. It is an utter violation of woman's rights and equal protection under the law-both are protected under the fourth and the fourteen amendments, respectively. Women's groups relentlessly argue that women cannot exercise full citizenship if they do not control their reproductive system. Indeed, throughout history, women were just mothers and could not become professors, lawyers, or any other profession they would choose; these women's groups insist.

Conservative-pro-life groups in this country are telling pro-choice groups, "you want to talk about constitutional rights. Bring it on!" They immediately point out the ultrasound that shows a fetus with a heartbeat and ask what about this fetus with a heartbeat's Constitutional rights? From that point on, tensions start to rise, and the conversation becomes destructive and apoplectic.

Social groups have been waging culture wars against one another in the last twenty years.  Societal disagreement about homosexuality, multiculturism, racism, and abortion has become more pronounced since Trump won the presidency. Indeed, the struggle for values and practices has been a fierce all-out war among these groups. It is a struggle for the soul of this nation.

Yes, these meaningful conversations must take place but as long as we do not overlook other essential societal problems. We can not forget that we are still not out of the woods with the COVD-19 virus and that we have 45 million people living in poverty, education is on life support, and inequities in the allocation of resources is profound.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

________________________________________________________________________________________

Photo Credit: The picture was purchased from Bigstock

Sources consulted.

Diaz, Jaclyn. "Texas Law That Bans Abortion Before Many Women Know They're Pregnant Takes Effect."  NPR 1 Sept. 2021.
McKenzie, Robert Tracy. "Five myths about the Pilgrims." The Washington Post 22 Nov. 2013.
Savage, David, and Molly Hennessy. "Texas abortion ban goes into effect." Los Angeles Times 2 Sept. 2021
Serwer, Adam.  "Five Justices Did This Because They Could." The Atlantic 2 Sept. 2021.
Schwartzman, Micah, Richard Schragger, and Nelson Tebbe. "The Separation of Church and State Is Breaking Down Under Trump." The Atlantic 29 June 2020.
Strauss, Elissa.  "When Does Life Begin? It’s Not So Simple." Slate.com 4 April 2017.
Zhan, Sarah. "Why Science Can't Say When a Baby's Life Begins."  WIRED 2 October 2015.


In The Next year's Mayoral Election, City Hall's Politicians Need Not Apply

Voters in LA will have a chance to vote for a new mayor next year.  Whoever wins must be courageous enough to confront the rich liberals who oppose housing for the poor in their communities and environmental groups. The latter makes it difficult to build housing. All developments dealing with housing for the poor should be exempt from California Environmental Quality Act.

According to LAHSA, there are 66,436 homeless people in Los Angeles County and 41,290 in Los Angeles. The 50-block area in Downtown Los Angeles known as Skid Row has been branching out through many neighborhoods in Los Angeles. It is not unusual to see sidewalks crammed with tents of homeless people throughout many communities in Los Angeles.  We also need to shed light on large swaths of Angelenos who are one paycheck away from becoming homeless. Some of them lost their jobs during the pandemic and were lucky and grateful for the eviction protections that will end soon.

It is no hyperbole to say that the Los Angeles government is corrupt and broken and that paralysis rules city hall. City politicians have betrayed the public trust. Not too long ago, two councilmen resigned because they were charged with serious crimes by the FBI.

In mayoral candidates' forums next year, these mayoral candidates need to be asked one central question: How will you solve the homeless problem? That is it! Then, they should debate the question for the next two hours. Any politician who has been presiding over the paralysis at city hall need not apply. Yes, City Attorney Mike Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino, Council President Nury Martinez, and Councilman Kevin de Leon have been spectators of this city's decline and decay.

The Homeless problem in this city is frustrating, pervasive, and expensive. Rare is the Angelino who has not seen homeless people walking around naked screaming obscenities, shooting up, or having sex in broad daylight.  This human degradation taking place in many communities in Los Angeles is grotesquely sad.

Business people tell us that their bottom lines hinge on clean, unoccupied, and safe streets. These small business owners fret that these homeless people might destroy their ability to make a living. Also, residents who live near homeless people with their children don't want to hear about compassion or the collective moral obligation this city might have with homeless people. They want the city to exercise its civic duty and remove these people from their communities' sidewalks.

Residents agreed to pay more taxes so the city could have resources to at the very least make some progress. In March 2017, voters approved Measure H, a 1/4 percent increase to the County's sales tax provides $355 million per year for ten years. In 2016, In Los Angeles, voters approved another Proposition HHH, $1.2 billion, that would subsidize some 10,000 units.

Mayor Garcetti has been such of disappointment. He promised, people waited, and swift and decisive actions never came. Now he is being promoted, and he will probably become the next Ambassador to India. Garcetti wasted many of the city's resources, hired incompetent people in his administration, and lacked ideas to solve this homeless problem.

Los Angeles is in desperate need of strong, clear-eyed leaders. The new candidates running for office lack wisdom and a basic understanding of the complexity of residents' problems. The political machine that controls Los Angeles today is not interested in electing thoughtful leaders.

We have structural problems that require structural solutions.  Local newspapers reported that approximately 1,400 homeless people died in 2020, translating to four to five homeless individuals dying every day through many neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Residents have been asked to make sacrifices, and they have approved measures and propositions that provided resources to use in dealing with this homeless problem.

So much money has been spent, and the progress is either slim or none. We need a deeper level of thinking in tackling this issue. That is unlikely to happen with leaders who lack independence or clear thinking.

City Controller Ron Galperin audited the city's progress and concluded that the city was building small studios or large studios that cost over half a million dollars. The cost of these units "exceeded the median sale price of a market-rate condominium in the City of Los Angeles and a single-family home in Los Angeles County," the controller's audit argues. And then there were articles published in various papers that reported that a restroom for homeless people, yes those you see in Echo park or McArthur Park, cost $339,000.00. What a waste!

There are different types of homeless people with various challenges.  It is also vital to realize that solely focusing on building housing will only relieve some homeless individuals. A significant number of homeless people need not only housing but hey also need medical care. The poor, sleeping in their cars or on the sidewalks because they cannot pay rent-housing and job training will solve all their problems. These people should be housed immediately.  Nevertheless, for the mentally ill or even the drug addicts, things get complicated. Housing for these people dealing with these challenges will not do much if such housing is not connected to comprehensive medical services.

It might be time to reach out to the private sector to help us with this homeless problem. The innovation in the private sector might find a better and cheaper solution to this dispiriting problem.

For all the platitudes that Garcetti and other politicians like to eloquently say in speeches about Los Angeles being on the cutting edge of social justice, the facts on the ground are far grimmer. Power and money are in the hands of very selected few individuals in this city. And poverty and inequality are the byproducts of low-wage jobs and expensive housing.

Our leaders dragged their feet on this crisis for too long that it might now be impossible to find feasible solutions. It is very challenging to revive neighborhoods with abject poverty. LA needs bold and innovative civic leaders who can imagine a better future. This city's current status is not sustainable.

Mayoral candidates take note.

Thank you for reading.,

 

Chamba Sanchez

 

________________________________________________________________________________________

Photo Credit: The picture was purchased from Bigstock

Sources consulted.
Chou, Elizabeth.  "Bass, though undecided, still generating mayoral race buzz."  Los Angeles Daily News 29 Aug. 2021.
Galperin, Ron.  "High Cost of Homeless Housing: Review of Proposition HHH." lacontroller.org  8 October 2019.
"Handout #4: History of the Presidential Debates." PBS NewsHour, 2021. Web.29 Aug. 2021.
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