Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas Warming Up for The Mayoral Race

Last weekend, I stopped by the Fairfax, where an Ethiopian club held a candidate forum for the Council District 10.  The following candidates were in attendance, Grace Yoo, Channing Martinez, Aura Vasquez, Melvin Snell, Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas. This piece will focus on three candidates.

There was a palpable energy in the room.  The forum began, and questions started rolling in, candidate Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas answered them with so much ease.  He has been in politics for the last three decades, he joined the city council in L.A in 1991 and then served in both houses of the California State Legislature.  Currently, Mark-Ridley Thomas is a supervisor representing District 2 in the County of Los Angeles.

As other candidates in this forum spoke about their understanding of the problems, it was not hard to extrapolate why Supervisor Thomas is the shoo-in for this race.

Grace Yoo might be the only competition for Mark-Ridley Thomas. She was calm, collected, and passively aggressive. She answered questions thoughtfully.  Grace Yoo comes from the vibrant Korean community,  a community that has gained a lot of economic and political power in the last decade. According to her website, Grace Yoo is a lawyer who does work with wills and trusts. And she was also a candidate for this very same office in 2015. If elected, she will be the third Korean American councilmember serving in the L.A. city government.

Aura Vasquez displayed so much energy, but her responses lacked substance.  She kept blurting out many cliches such as " the boys club" and "revolving door" that were out of place and appeared to have been directed to Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas.   According to her website, candidate Aura Vasquez is an immigrant from Colombia and a former commissioner in the city of Los Angeles. She was appointed by Mayor Garcetti to the DWP commission.

Aura Vasquez's background on her website lists an impressive history of activism.  Nonetheless, I did not see those well-thought-out responses that organizers, with that much organizing experience, tend to give when they are given the microphone.  Also, she came across as a candidate who is against the establishment. That would be a tough case to make.  Since she has been an extension of the paralysis taking place in city hall, she could not have been appointed to any commission, wasn't she part of the Garcetti's cult.   

Supervisor Thomas was elected to the L.A. City Council, a couple of years before legendary Mayor Tom Bradley, stepped down. He represented the Eighth District in the 1990s and used the office to build civic organizations, The Empowerment Congress and the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation (AAVREP) being two of those.

The last time Supervisor Thomas was on the ballot for a contentious race, the country was on the brink of electing the first African American President in this country's history.  Supervisor Thomas was in a tough race running against Bernard Park for the board of supervisors.  The African community was divided, and Thomas was able to get the labor support that came with a lot of resources.  This race was dubbed the most expensive race in L.A County history.

City Council District 10 is comprised of communities in the south and west parts of downtown Los Angeles.  District 10 is the smallest in the City of Los Angeles; There are roughly 250,000 residents. Moreover, 52 neighborhood councils have been certified, which include diverse communities such as Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, and Leimert Park.

This district has been changing in the last decade; African American candidates have to reach out to a broader audience. There is also a large segment of Latinos in this district, "Forty-seven percent of the district’s residents are Latino, compared to the city-wide average of 49%, while 24% of the district’s residents are African American compared to a city-wide average of 9%."

Supervisor Thomas is leading in both fundraising and endorsements from major groups and politicians in this city's civic landscape.  He has managed to get endorsements from major labor unions in this city. From powerful United Firefighters of L.A. to L.A. County Federation of Labor to SEIU 721.  Newly installed L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez, as well as Governor Newson support Supervisor Thomas. Furthermore, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission's website, Supervisor Thomas has raised a cumulative amount of $565,402.99 as of today.

Aura Vasquez has raised $85,412.80 and has gotten endorsements from the National Union Healthcare Workers-NUHW, Sunrise Movement, and a couple of others.  Grace Yoo, on the other hand, got support from the influential Teachers' union-UTLA and East Area Progressive Democrats-EAPD. She has also raised $165,781.00.

The pundits who like to slice-and-dice elections in this city believe that Thomas is just warming for the mayoral race in two years.  And so is Kevin De Leon, who is also running for the 14th district.  Los Angeles is a city where politicians blatantly deny to be interested in another office while running for one, and then once elected, they began campaigning for the office they deny to be interested in.

As one looks around, this city faces the same daunting challenges year in and year out.  Deservedly so, one might argue. What can voters expect when they keep electing the same people for different offices?

There must be a way in which we can develop a new generation of leaders in our city's politics. This is a problem in Los Angeles; most voters would like to see new people with a new vision and voice. Many of the new candidates currently emerging have not crossed the threshold of being leaders in their communities.  Some of them are just fixated on their personal histories, and many have a thin resume doing community work.  Hence voters keep electing career politicians.

The fundamental problems facing Los Angeles can no longer be solved on a superficial level.  A deeper level of thinking is desperately needed.  This city needs a new generation of leaders with a progressive vision and imagination to tackle the problems at hand.

Thank you for reading.
Photo Credit:  Picture was taken during the candidate forum


The Politics of Socialism

In light of the profound challenges facing the poor,  Americans have begun to talk about poverty in a more meaningful way than before.  The glaring unequal distribution of wealth in this country is so grotesque. Right after 2008's recession, the "Occupied Wall Street Movement in 2010" took off.   Bernie Sanders picked up some of the grievances made by people in this movement and added them to the daily pronouncements he would deliver on the U.S. Senate's floor against capitalism.

Bernie Sanders joined the Democratic Party as he ran for president in 2016.  Sanders then started calling himself a "Democratic Socialist."  He was dismissed and laughed at in 2016.  Nevertheless, four years later, in this new presidential election, more moderate and so-called "corporate democrats" have embraced some of the programs that he vehemently and forcefully proposed in 2016.

The Democratic Party has moved to the left in a significant way when it comes to access to medical care, the environment, gun control, and the minimum wage.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are currently polling within the top four leading candidates.  These two candidates, at least one of them, publicly stated that they find private health plans problematic, and they would like to see them terminated and replaced with a national plan.

Of course, there are differences between Sanders and Warren that go beyond style.  Sanders is further to the left of Warren.  He has even argued that it is about time for economic rights to be elevated next to "traditional constitutional rights."  This sort of proposal concerns many moderate and corporate democrats.

When democratic candidates were asked while debating if they were "socialists," all of them said "no."  Sanders qualified it and called himself  a "democratic socialist."  Moreover, when they were asked if they were "capitalists," Sanders was the only one who said  "no."  Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, provided a more comprehensive definition, "I am a capitalist to my bones,” I believe in markets. What I do not believe in is theft... markets without rules are about the rich take it all,"  she assertively stated.

Warren finds the profound lack of regulations in the financial markets troublesome.  She has cut her teeth going after financial institutions during her tenure as Senator and as a professor at Harvard.  She blames the crash of 2008 to the deregulation of banks and Wall Sreet. In her town hall meetings, Warren spends time clarifying that unlike Sanders, she is attacking not capitalism but the "abuses of capitalist principles."  By addressing these abuses, Americans will have a level playing field in their economic system, and more opportunities will open up.

It seems that democratic leadership in the last three decades has become the "vanguard of neoliberalism"- embracing free-market capitalism.  Bill Clinton was very close to the corporate elites.  Hence he repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, gutted the welfare system, and did not care for displaying his deep love for the wealthy bankers from Goldman Sachs during his tenure as president.

For the last 100 years, progressives and socialists in this country have endeavored to finish "Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, Truman's Fair deal ad Kennedy's national health insurance, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s."

John Dewey, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Eugene V. Debs, and Gloria Steinem were all  "socialists" that sought meaningful changes in the political and economic systems. Socialists have a rich history in demanding justice for the poor, from leading the women's suffrage movement to forcefully demanding protection labor laws for children, to organizing for pensions for the old.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not wake up one morning and decided to implement social programs for the poor.  All these safety-net social programs were being demanded in the streets by socialists, labor leaders, and radicals in this country.  They were consequential forces of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The term "Socialism" is interchangeably used with "communism," and both terms are viewed as pejoratives. Lenin, Stalin, and  Chairman Mao's atrocities are connected to communism when capitalists talk about communism.

Social scientists tell us that both terms are economic approaches that aim at making a more equitable society.  A society where workers would not be exploited as they are in a capitalist free-market system.  Also, both socialism and communism advocate for "public" instead of economic systems that allow "private" ownership.   The state will have control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of goods. Indeed, socialist thinkers develop new paradigms of reorganizing civil societies that would center  on "cooperation and community."  The cut-throat competition inherent in free markets is evil and destructive, they claim.

Germany's socialism flourished forcefully than in any other place within Europe. German fellows by the names of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels started writing and organizing workers outside Germany. In 1847, they were able to organize the convention of socialists in England.  In the second convention in the same year, they presented a program that became known as a "Communist Manifesto." A document that called to all workers of the world to unite and take over the economic and political systems.

Marx then wrote the first volume of Das Kapital.  Two more volumes were completed and published by Engels after Marx died. The thesis of these volumes centered on  the economic interpretation of history and what the capitalists kept after workers had been paid-"subsistence."

A window of opportunity has opened for the left progressives of this country.  Seizing on this opportunity will depend on their ability to develop a persuasive and comprehensive narrative, one that addresses legitimate grievances with such clarity that will be difficult to resist. The left should also be keenly aware of the ideological diversity in this country.   Roughly 35% of the voters identify themselves as conservatives, another 35% who use the label of being moderates, and about 30% who call themselves very liberals or left-wing progressives.

In this presidential election, Trump and his team will endeavor to weaponize the term "socialism."  Moreover, he will focus on unifying the party even more and take credit, well-deserved or not, for the strong economy.  He will also continue hammering on the issues dealing with race, ethnicity, and national identity.  Yes, he will tell his supporters,  "you want the party of socialism, late-term abortions, open borders and crime, then you have to vote for the other candidate."

Thank you for reading -


Photo Credit: Stockphotos

Sources Consulted:
"Bernie Sets the Record Straight on Socialism." Youtube, Uploaded by Real-Time with Bill Maher (HBO), 16 Oct. 2015.
Hiltzik, Michael. "The Democrats’ Wall Street wing hates Elizabeth Warren. They hated the New Deal too." Los Angeles Times 27 Sept. 2019.
McManus, Doyle.  "Most 2020 Democrats say capitalism is a system that needs fixing." Los Angeles Times  20 March 2010.
Pruitt, Sarah. "How Are Socialism and Communism Different"? 22 Oct. 2019.

Packing the Courts With Right Wing-Ideologues. Trump Is Winning "Bigly." Why Aren't We in the Streets?

Progressive voters should endeavor to focus on substantive endeavors.  People should not waste time following Trump's tweets and posting memes ridiculing him.  As some of us celebrate Trump's impeachment, the courts are being packed with pro-life,  pro-guns, anti-workers, and xenophobic judges. They are also very young and lack legal experience; many of these new judges have never litigated a case.

Why aren't progressives in the streets denouncing these judicial appointments?

Trump and U.S. Senate Republican-Leader Mitch McConnel have cemented a conservative legacy on this country's judicial branch for decades to come.  All this radical change took place in Trump's first term; one can only extrapolate what will happen if Trump wins re-election in November 2020.  The progressive social change that has been made might be jeopardized as judges have the power to strike down laws passed by Congress.  It is true that "approving legislation, a legislator/president plays for the next election, putting a judge on the courts a legislator/president plays for the next generation."

Case in point, The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for gay and transgender rights, immigration, abortion, guns, and religion this past fall. Justices will rule on these cases during the summer of 2020.  These cases are in jeopardy if we take into account the newly appointed justices, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, both appointed by Trump.   It is difficult to see these justices not sticking to their biases rather than using the Constitution for guidance to rule.

So far on his first term, President Trump has 158 judicial nominees and they all were confirmed by the Republican-led U.S. Senate. Here is the breakdown of these judges, two of them are Supreme Court Justices, 44 Circuit Court Judges, and 112 District Court Judges.  There are currently "870 authorized Article III judgeships: nine on the Supreme Court, 179 on the courts of appeals, 673 for the district courts and nine on the Court of International Trade."  President Trump has appointed more circuit judges than any other president. According to the White House's website, "1 out of 4 active judges on the court of appeals are Trump's appointees."  The Judiciary is being transformed by the day by this administration. Where is the outrage?

The saying goes that the Supreme Court has the last word and that whatever is decided by these justices becomes the law of the land.  Although the number of cases the U.S. Supreme Court hears is approximately 125 a year out of the 8,000 that are usually sent for consideration.  Since not all cases are heard by the Supreme Court, whatever these circuit courts decide stands.

The fact that the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold a hearing for Obama's lower court nominees in the last two years of his presidency made Trump's presidency more meaningful for conservatives in this country. There were so many vacancies to fill.  President Trump has been just a rubber stamp for conservatives in this country who want conservatives judges for decades to come.  Many conservatives do not care about silly tweets and his lack of civility.  They reason that they will always be better off with Trump in the Oval Office than any democrat currently battling it out in the Democratic primaries.

I still vividly remember how progressives and those on the left used to make fun of then-president George W.  Bush.  Every gaffe this man would make was magnified a thousand times.  We all laughed hysterically about Bush's lack of coherence and intellect.  While we were rolling on the floor in laughter, Bush was giving a tax break to the very rich. He also tried to privatize social security and he sent our kids to Afghanistan and Iraq while re-structuring the federal government.

Fast forward to 2019; It is evident that we have not learned.  Most progressives and people on the left are obsessed with Trump's tweets.  We seem to be oblivious to the political reality; the man is turning the clock on many progressive policies, from environmental reversal to tax breaks to the rich to the inhuman enforcement of immigration laws.

"Conservative culture warriors" appear to have found a way to keep progressives and liberals distracted.  It is all about "owning the libs" conservatives sarcastically claim.  "Conservatives love it earnestly, liberals love it ironically," the saying goes.  The meaning of "owning" someone essentially means humiliating manipulating a person online.  Moreover, "lib" are those so-called lefties or liberals who have enough time on their hands and spend endless hours reading political stuff online.

People on the right post-non-sense comments online so they can agitate these "libs," e.g., Trump tweeting or saying that he will change the constitution so he can run for a third term.  Conservatives know that this will never happen, but some "libs" still react ferociously. Reacting to stupidity, you read on the internet is a self-defeating act.

For example,  last week, The U.S Senate approved not one but two Trump nominees to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Yes, the one that is headquartered in San Francisco, an essential court of appeal known to rule in favor of those without a voice in this country. This is the court that rules for "nine western states and its decisions affect 60 million people." Trump dislikes this court with a passion and he has the last laugh.  Here is what progressives need to focus on. I have yet to hear noises about these appointments.

No Democratic presidential candidate has said anything or acknowledged how these courts are being packed with young right-wing individuals and its consequences. The "Corporate" and "Socialist" Democrats are mired in fruitless infights.  Judges are critical in the political arrangement that we have in place.  Remember, that Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, in which the court gave us President Bush or Brown versus the Board of Education or Roe Versus Wade, these cases changed American society.

The Framers of the Constitution must be spinning in their graves.  They foresaw a Supreme Court with the sole responsibility of interpreting the Constitution when needed in the event of new societal changes.  They robustly debated about what that "interpretation" meant. They did not want judges to engage in the creation of public policy because that would usurp the democratic process.  The policy-making power resides in Congress, Hamilton asserted.

In Federalist Papers No. 78, he envisioned that having unelected and appointed individuals in the judiciary branch of government would insulate these judges from the politics of the day. He further argued that this branch of government would be "the weakest of the branches and it would have no influence over either the sword or the purse, may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor Will, but merely judgment." He argued in this essay.

Thank you for reading.

Photo Credit: Photo used in this essay came from Stock Photstock.

Sources consulted.
Graham, David A. "Trump Has Successfully Gamed the Courts."  The Atlantic 13, Dec.2019.

Hamilton, Alexander. Federalist No. 78. The Federalist, Ed. Clinton Rossiter. New York, 2003. 463-464

Liptak, Adam.  "As the Supreme Court Gets Back to Work, Five Big Cases to Watch." The New York Times 11 Nov. 2019.

Peyser, Eve. "The Summer’s Hottest Trend Is Owning the Libs." Rolling Stone 26 July 2018.

United States, White House. FACT SHEETS, "President Donald J. Trump Is Appointing a Historic Number of Federal Judges to Uphold Our Constitution as Written." 6 Nov. 2019.

Wick, Julia. "Column: Trump having his revenge on California as he remakes once-liberal 9th Circuit court." Los Angeles Times 22 Dec. 2019.

Can "Socialist" Sanders Deliver and Why He Has not Fully Explained His "No" Vote on the Immigration Bill in 2007?

A vital maxim for those who make decisions for the rest of us in the public square, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” Indeed, it is not about what you want. Of course, if Senator Sanders has a red army ready to go into Washington and ready to shoot against those who do not see for a need to recalibrate America's society, then this vital maxim can be utterly ignored.

Bernie Sanders is a child of the 1960s, a decade of political turmoil and social change.  He has struggled all his life endeavoring to bring heaven to earth to working-class folks.  He would like to eradicate income inequality, to curb corporate power, and to provide access to healthcare to everyone.  If we could enact these proposals into laws, then we could have a perfect civil society, Sanders reasons.

Senator Sanders has been in government for the last forty years.  He has served in both houses of Congress, and significant legislative accomplishments have eluded him.  Bernie Sanders, in the 1970s, settled in Vermont. In 1981 he became mayor of the city of Burlington. In 1986, he ran for governor as an independent and lost to Peter Smith. In 1990, Sanders challenged Smith again, and with the NRA's support, he finally defeated Smith for a House of Representatives seat.  He descended in Washington, and he had no allies. He was viewed as a gadfly who just likes to read anti-corporate pronouncements on the floor.  In 2006 he won a seat in the United States Senate and had won re-election twice.

Senator Sanders deserves credit for presenting progressive policy platforms, in the 2016's presidential election. It would have been considered inconceivable back in 2016 that a self-described "democratic socialist (watch the video here)" be viewed in 2020 as a real contender for the Democratic nomination. Sanders ' vision sparked a national conversation, and four years later, we have seen how mainstream and moderate democratic candidates embraced Sanders' proposals.

I am on board with some of Sanders's policy proposals, and I would like them implemented.  However, the current political system requires a massive formation of coalitions.  Yes, Sanders will have to work with crazy Republicans, including "Moscow Mitch" in the Senate.  Based on Senator Sanders' thin legislative record,  I do not see how Sanders could do this, "compromising" is a word that never made it to his lexicon.

In 2016, one of the editorial boards of a major newspaper asked him how he was going to persuade and to work with Republicans once elected president.  Some supporters were flabbergasted by his inadequate response.  Here it is what he said verbatim of what he would have said to Republicans, “Hey, Mitch, look out the window. There's a million young people out there now. Moreover, they are following politics in a way they did not before. If you want to vote against this legislation, go for it. However, you and some of your friends will not have your seats next election.” What a silly and simplistic response! We do not have that type of robust democracy where people take it to the street. Mitch will probably laugh on his face.

The power to create public policy resides in Congress.  Any candidate running for the presidency knows that, and these individuals also understand that presidents do not have the ability to create policy.  They will have to work with the leadership of the two houses in  Congress.  If one of these two houses is controlled by the opposition, nothing will get done.  So when a candidate tells what you want to hear, "Free Tuition," "Universal Childcare," or $1000.00 a month-free cash,  they are playing you for a sucker.

Case in point, "Moscow Mitch," and Barack Obama, Senator Mitch McConnell, did not even hold hearings for Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Justice Scalia.  He nominated Merrick Garland, who was the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Those President Medals of Freedom came handy for Obama, once Republicans took over the Senate, Obama started giving Medals out.  He spent his last two years of his presidency in these ceremonial events.

President Obama had both houses of Congress being controlled by Democrats during his first year in office. He could not even get Obamacare right. Let that sink in for a moment. Even his detractors agree that Obama was highly intellectual and violently charming and persuasive and yet he could not get much done. A basic concept of separation of power at play here.

In 2015, Sanders understood that running as a third-party candidate; he would have no chance, hence in 2016, he joined the democratic party.  Yes, the "neo-liberal democratic party" that sold out the poor and the corporate political party that his supporters grotesquely disdain. Bernie Sanders always ran as an independent until 2016 when he switched and became a democrat. Once his presidential campaign ended in 2016, he went back to being an independent.  And in 2018, he won re-election for his US Senate seat as an independent. This is the very reason why democratic leadership in the democratic party has no love for the man. They would do whatever they can to hinder him from winning the nomination.

Moreover, there is that immigration reform still needed. As one who would like to see immigration reform for the million undocumented people in this country, I found this very troubling.  In 2007 Sanders opposed the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill.   I have problems seeing Sanders very casually telling a xenophobic and racist Lou Dobbs on this video (watch the video here), how immigrants hurt Americans for depressing wages and taking opportunities away from Americans. This was what Sanders roughly told him, I do not" know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now."  His lame excuse that it was all about "corporate greed" and concerns for guest workers programs was a facade.  He did not even stop Dobbs from attacking immigrants.  For those of you who do not know who Lou Dobbs is, Google him.

Regarding a single-payer system or "Medicare for All" and that since other countries are doing it, we should do it as well.  No arguments there, yes, we should do it, but Sanders' current simplistic plan of action will not pan out.  The challenge here is not how much it cost, but how do we persuade all power bases in Washington to do it differently.  If one wants to have some sense of this, carefully study the Obamacare. Insurance companies flexed their muscles and almost killed it.  Americans are way too busy to engage in this sort of civic engagement. Also, this vision of a single-payer system miserably failed in the Sanders' state of Vermont. Yes, if you want to help Americans, one should start in his own state.

Senator Sanders has a long way to go, for starters, his crowds need more people of color.  In 2016, he displayed a lack of ability to bring people of color to his "movement."  Bringing more Latinos under his tent doesn't mean to hire Latinos or Blacks as staffers. He has done a terrible job doing that with these Latino consultants both in 2016 and 2019 in Vegas and L.A. These consultants have given many corporate politicians to LA.

Finally, I am not sure if revolutions start at presidential elections and being led by a man who has been in government for way too long. Nonetheless, the man has to be given credit for animating millions of young and progressive people, and that was good for whatever is left of this democracy.

Thank you for reading.

P.S. I am neither part of the "democratic establishment" nor I am part of the "corporate democratic conspiracy" that Sanders' supporters accuse people of for disagreeing with the the Senator.  My piece about is analytical in nature and it is not intended to be anything more.


Photo Credit. Phote used in this piece came form photo stock.

Sources used.
"Becoming Bernie: The 6 Chapters Of Sanders' Life."NPR Politics, 3 Nov. 2015.
Cillizza, Chris. "5 reasons to be skeptical of Bernie Sanders' 2020 bid." CNN, 19 Feb. 2019.
"For all her faults, Hillary Clinton is vastly better prepared than Bernie Sanders for the presidency." Editorial.  Los  Angeles. Los Angeles Times 13 May 2016.
Goldstein, Amy.  "Why Vermont’s single-payer effort failed and what Democrats can learn from it." The Washington Post 29 April 20 19.
Krieg, Gregory and Ryan Nobles. "Bernie Sanders makes the case for democratic socialism as Trump attacks and moderate Democrats worry." CNN Politics 12 June 2019.
Yglesias, Matthew.  "What Bernie Sanders told Lou Dobbs in 2007 about why he opposed the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill."  Vox 12 Feb 2016.

Presidential Candidates Coming to L.A., but Will They Conquer?

Today-Thursday-12-19-19, Presidential Democratic candidates are descending in Los Angeles for a debate at Loyola Marymount University.  It will be a crime if these candidates spend a great deal of time talking about Trump's indecency, and the impeachment in Washington.  They should not overlook the challenges facing this city. These candidates should engage Californians in in-depth conversations that penetrate and reveal.

They need to tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Most of these candidates have mastered the craft of preaching to the choir.  I hope this is not what will take place in this debate.  This kind of political exercise is not how change happens.  These candidates need to present a vision for our problems and not just do the usual venting outrage against corporations and Trump. Candidates should do their homework.

Let me break it to you, Los Angeles County is not only "the homeless capital of America," but we also have many people living in a great state of distress because 80% of their incomes go to greedy landlords. There are about 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County and roughly about 140,000 in the state. Los Angeles is also a place of wildfires, earthquakes, profound problems in our education system, and human degradation taking place behind the thousands of tents set up on sidewalks.

Many voters in California, me included, are still shopping for a candidate. The race is still wide open among voters in this state. Californians will vote for the Democratic presidential nominee on March 3. This is what is known as "Super Tuesday," sixteen states will be holding elections that day.  Once the nominee is selected, this deep-blue state votes democratic in the major presidential election that is held in November.  Voters are still seeking for a candidate who has the potential of being intense, organized, and adamant like those supporting Trump. I am steering clear of those candidates who talk a good game.  And those who use the scriptures and talk about how the sky will open up and how the light will come out with celestial angels singing.  And all of a sudden,  Trump and all our problems will go away.

California is a democratic state. There are roughly 3 million more Democrats than there are Republicans.  Hillary Clinton crushed Trump in California in 2016. The state needs help and must figure out how we can play a more meaningful role in selecting presidents. In the last three decades, California is the place for candidates to go to collect serious cash; they see our state as an ATM.  Democratic candidates go to the rich liberals in Hollywood, and Republicans go to the conservative billionaires in Brentwood and Orange County.

Chamba Sanchez and presiidential candidate WarrenI have attended two presidential candidates' events here in Los Angeles, one with Elizabeth Warren and the other one with Tom Steyer.  The former was very skillful in using her personal story with policy proposals.  The latter miserably failed in trying to project himself as the people's candidate.  Warren spoke eloquently as to how she will root out corruption in Washington, and Steyer solely focused on the environment.  I was perplexed as to how these two presidential candidates did not say a word about the housing crisis and immigration reform needed here in Los Angeles. I told senator Warren to look into immigration while taking a selfie with her.  After all, this is Los Angeles with a vast immigrant community.  I could not get a chance to put my name down on the list to ask a question in Steyer's event. So, I just yelled it out to him: "Candidate talk about your ideas in fixing the housing crisis."  I was confused for getting a standing ovation for having asked that obvious question.

It is for the best interest of the nation that California remains the vibrant force it has been since it joined the Union in 1850. Presidents need to do whatever they can to keep the promise alive in this state.   Yes, we owe it to those who made California what it is today; from those who came to the "Golden State" escaping the Dust Bowl to the Asian railroad workers to the high tech innovators, to the Mexican laborers who came here through the "Bracero Program" and to the civil war refugees who came to the state in the 1980s.

It is not clear if the richest state in the wealthiest nation on the planet can still be the vanguard of change in this nation when thousands of its schoolchildren sleep in shelters and cars.

Thank you for reading.
Photos Credit: The one with the Hollywood sign was purchased online. And, the one with Senator Warren was taken with my cell phone.

Sources used.
Meyerson, Harold. "The Little Union That Could Shut Down This Week’s Democratic Debate."  The American Prospect 16 Dec. 2019.  Web. 18 Dec. 2019.

Skelton, George. DEC. 15, 2019 3:01 PM   "Presidential candidates rarely discuss California’s issues. They should at the next debate." Los Angeles Times 15 Dec. 2019. Web. 17. 2019.

Medina, Jennifer. "California and Nevada Ask: Iowa Who?" The New York Times 18 Nov. 2019. Web. 17 Dec. 2019.
Nov. 18, 2019  "California’s 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary." Web. 17 Dec. 2019.

Spakovsky, Hans A. von and Gian Carlo Canaparo.  "California Can’t Pick Who Runs for President. New Law Just an Attack on Trump." The Heritage Foundation 24 Sep. 2019. Web. 17 Dec. 2019.

Starr, Kevin. California: A History  (New York, Modern Library (2005). 13.

The Tanked Debate on Immigration Reform Exhibits the Leadership Deficit Among Latinos

In 2016, the passionate and vitriolic debate about immigration reform was front and center in the presidential election. Trump became president, and the political needle for immigration reform never moved.  This lack of progress sheds light on the need for an engaged, committed, and imaginative leadership.

Reactive leadership has not been helpful. Activists and community organizations in the immigrant community have been playing defense.  The relentless assaults on multiple fronts on undocumented immigrants don't let up.  The attacks range from inhuman treatment of immigrant children at the border to constant raids to the dismantling of Obama's executive actions that provided relief to the DREAMers.

In less than two months, voters in Iowa will begin casting their votes for the Democratic nominee who will face Trump in November 2020.  None of the leading Democratic candidates has put forward a coherent legislative proposal that will deal with the inhumane immigration system we have in place. Of course, they still engage in "Hispandering" uttering the usual platitudes for Latino audiences.

Latinos are going to be the largest minority ethnic group voting next year, with 32 million eligible voters.  Democratic presidential candidates should be courting us aggressively with policy proposals beneficial to our community.  Neither party appears to be interested in earning our votes. Democrats know that the majority of us have no place to go, and we will always vote for them. Republicans do not even look at us since they know they have no chance.  We have no leverage.

The DREAMers are about to lose their protections.  The Supreme Court heard arguments last month whether President Trump has the right to shut down the temporary protection President Obama provided to 700,000 young people.   Constitutional scholars who are watching the hearings closely are predicting that the conservative court will side with Trump.  A real travesty, these young people have done everything they have been told to do, and this country is telling them that they are not wanted.

Also, last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will provide legalization or some amnesty to "illegal" immigrant farmworkers.  A “Certified Agricultural Worker,” as it is called, is a designation "lasting five-and-a-half years if they have worked for at least six months on farms within the past two years." It is excellent that these hardworking Campesinos are getting some help.  Nevertheless, this piecemeal approach underlines the well-thought-out leadership needed for a comprehensive immigration bill that could include the eleven million undocumented immigrants in this country.

Activists who advocate for immigrant rights have lost control of the dominant narrative about immigration reform.  Conservative and nativist forces are now in control and have constructed a new venomous and debased narrative that changed from family-based to a merit-based system. Their solution solely focuses on enforcement, they clearly are disconnected from the reality on the ground. These anti-immigrant forces have internalized the fiction that eleven million people can be expunged from communities across America with the ICE's wand.

Republicans also tell us that the immigration debate is not about giving "illegal" immigrants what they want or what activists tell them what they deserve.  Immigration should be about what is best for this country. Nativists argue they must make a concerted effort to "assimilate." What they mean by that, is that we, immigrants, need to learn the language, be a productive citizen and get an education, and learn how the institutions of democracy work.  These nativists are oblivious to the fact that many of us have done all that and more.  Furthermore, all we want is just an opportunity so we can contribute more.

Our "liberal" or "progressive" political friends, on the other hand, on the campaign trail, they all are after our support the day before the election.  Then, they are after our throat the day after the election.   And, all of this happens with no consequences.

President Obama is a good case in point.  Our community worked hard to make sure he got elected.  Once in office, he gave us comprehensive enforcement and not the reform he promised us.  He also hired many activists and leaders in our community.  They all became his mouthpieces.  Cecilia Munoz spent eight years blaming Republicans for the lack of legislative action in Congress. Notwithstanding, Munoz conveniently overlooked the fact that in Obama's first year as President, Democrats controlled both Houses in Congress.

Obama also hired Hilda Solis for a high profile cabinet position-Secretary of Labor.  Obama used Solis for immigration rallies. Janet Mungia, who led the "National Council of La Raza," now known as "UnidosUS" and labor leaders, Eliseo Medina, and Dolores Huerta, frequently descended at the White House for superficial events. Obama wined and dined these leaders while he was massively deporting hardworking undocumented immigrants.  Dolores Huerta even got the Medal of Freedom from him. True sell-outs!

California needs immigration reform,  our state is the home of one in five undocumented immigrants.  It truly is difficult to fathom to see this large number of hardworking undocumented immigrants living in the shadows and seeing our congressional representatives not leading the effort for legislative action.  I see them taking trips to the border and call for press conferences to tell us what we already know. Cardenas, Gomez, Linda Sanchez, Barragan, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Ted Liu, etc. should be leading the charge in the House.  The immigrant community must miss former representative Gutierrez, who relentlessly and consistently advocated for the immigrant community in Congress.

We, Latinos, are a very diverse community, and immigration is not the only issue we care about.  Our numbers have been growing substantially in the last two decades, and we have many brown faces leading powerful foundations, in academia, in businesses, non-profit organizations, and elected political offices.  Yet that progress has not translated into the betterment of our community. We should endeavor to have an honest and robust conversation as to how we can effectively use our political power to benefit our greater good in our community.

Yes, I am a single-issue voter. I want immigration reform!

Thank you for reading.

Photo Credit: Stocksphotos online.

Sources used.
Enchautegui, Maria E. "Is piecemeal immigration reform that bad? Yes!" The Blog of Urban Institute 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Kamarck, Elaine and Christine Stenglein. "How many undocumented immigrants are in the United States and who are they?" Policy 2020 Brookings 12 Nov. 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Rey Koslowski, Rey. "Hey, Congress: It's comprehensive immigration reform or nothing." The Christian Science Monitor 21 May 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2019.
Johnson, Hans and Sergio Sanchez. "Immigrants in California." Public Policy Institute of California-PPIC 10 May 2019. Web. 15 Dec. 2019.
McCammond, Alexi. "The first-time Latino voters." 14 Dec. 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Navarrette Jr., Ruben. "Millions of Latinos are Trump supporters. Here's what they're thinking." US Today 26 Nov. 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Stieber, Zachary.  "Hose Approves Bill Giving Some Illegal Immigrant Farmworkers Amnesty." The Epoch Times 12 Dec. 2019. Web. 15 Dec. 2019.
Valverde, Maria. "Did Senate pass immigration bills in 2006, 2013 and House failed to vote on them?" 26 Jan. 2019.  Web. 13 Dec. 2019.

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.

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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