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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hollywood not Brown Enough" Do Latinos Care?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:  Photos above came from Bigstock

Will weed take us to the promised land?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading

Chamba Sanchez


Sources consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

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

Year One, We Survived Trump !

Most of us still remember Trump's grand escalator entrance at his Trump Towers lobby in New York when he first announced that he was running for the highest office in this land.  Latinos vividly remember that day, here are some of his remarks: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”  The backlash was swift not only from Latino organizations but also from many progressive corners in this country.  People also laughed at him and everyone thought that before this man would become their commander in chief, hell would have to freeze over.

It has been a year since people around the world and people in this country were stunned by the election of Donald Trump as President of this nation. Editorial boards of many major newspapers have been gearing for this day. They will evaluate the President's policy failures, economic successes and his impact on the international stage. Others will solely focus on how his behavior has altered our institutions of democracy.

That night of Nov. 8th of 2016 will always be remembered by many Americans as one of those days when a major event took place.  It has been likened like the day when President  Kennedy was assassinated or when this country was attacked on September 11, 2001. As a candidate, Trump broke all the rules of America's political landscape and as President, he never pivoted. He doesn't care about the philosophical underpinnings this Republic was founded on.  And, he operates in a different dimension that generates a different "truth," one that might be in conflict with the collective truth.  And, he disturbingly talks about conspiracies theories that lead many to believe that he might actually believe in them.

Evaluating President Trump's first year in office, one might look at two phases that people in this country have gone through.  First, people were in shocked and in a state of denial.  Immediately, many hit the streets and started marching with signs that read, "This man is not my president." Phase two, many Americans who voted against Trump finally came to grips with reality and reluctantly realized, that in light of all allegations, the man had been democratically elected.  And they were willing to give this man some room or at the very least recognize the legitimacy of his election.  And, they did that while screaming at top of their lungs that they would not recognize the legitimacy of his policies if said policies would attack minorities.

Pundits and other experts who engage in political analysis agree that Trump's success in winning the presidency was his ability to animate the uneducated white working-class who saw the political and economic system being rigged.  They also rejected multiculturism and saw the new economic order as a threat to their own beings.  They were the ones who totally disliked the political elites who control the major political parties.

Many thought that this country was not going to survive this man's "cruelness" and "grotesque" lack of civility. At every opportunity given either as a candidate or as this country's President, he disrupted party orthodoxy and norms of presidential behavior.  Yes, there are people still scratching their heads as to how a man who frequently displays misguided exceptionalism, greed for power, inability to show compassion, and constantly defiling the founding spirit of this country could have gotten elected.

This last year, America's society has been further polarized.  This polarization has not only been among Republicans against Democrats or Bernie's supporters against corporate Democrats.   But we also had ugly and bloody confrontations between the so-called "alt-right fascists" and  antics leftists that are also known as "Antifa."  It is not clear if all these divisions could be attributed to President Trump.  But, he certainly has done or said things that have enhanced these divisions.
But how did the Democrats lose the presidential election in 2016? This is a debate still raging in many progressive circles. Although it is widely known that leaders in the Democratic Party have been operating under the illusion that this party's problem was not about policies but rather about a message. This stupidity was on full display during the summer when congressional leaders called for a press conference and told the media that they finally came up with a strong message to start winning elections again. They called "A Better Deal."This encapsulated the very reason why Democrats have been losing working-class voters and other progressives who see Democrats being in bed with the masters of the universe from Wall Street.

As historians point out all the dark chapters in this country's history, one should feel optimistic that this country will soon correct itself.  These historians cite daunting challenges such as slavery and President Nixon in the 1970s. The Republic survived these challenges. However, this might not fall from the sky.  People in this country should endeavor to find opportunities in these trying times.  Indeed, they should somehow see this man's election as a moment of clarity and engage more in their communities and demand better leadership.  Nonetheless, if people just bitch about Trump all the time and utterly neglect local elections then they deserve this man as their president.  It was reported here in Los Angeles that the election for the  Assembly District 51 only one out of ten voters actually cast a vote. This was a disgrace.  This political maxim fits just right here, "we deserve the government we have."

It is difficult to predict what the future holds in politics.  But, it appears that President Trump might be facing legal challenges as some of his close advisors and campaign managers were recently indicted by the special counsel and former FBI director, Robert Muller.  As this piece was being posted, there was breaking news that Democrats had won both governor races in Virginia and New Jersey.  it is not clear how much effort came from Democrats in winning these two races, at the very least they should get credit for the victories in Virginia.  Voters in New Jersey had wanted to get rid of beleaguered Governor Chris Christie for a very long time. These Democratic victories have been the first ones since Trump was inaugurated and they might boost the Democrats' spirit or enthusiasm in the next year midterm elections.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Sources cited.

Cotton, Rob. "A message to Democratss who still support Hillary Clinton." Inquisitor 3, Nov. 2017. Web. 7 Nov. 2017

"One year later: an accounting." Editorial.  Los Angeles Times 5 Nov.  2017. Web. 7 Nov. 2017




Gentrification and the Poor in Los Angeles !

Major developments started at Downtown and as land became scarce developers started looking for more land into other communities throughout Los Angeles.  Not long ago the "Reef Development" was approved in which developers just sailed through the process with no major obstacles. Even when some activists argued that this Reef development was going to displace at least 40,000 poor renters.  The Councilman and many other community-based organizations they all embraced said development.

Now, a new project called  Macarthur Park luxury development-"The Lake on Wilshire."  has started its process.  This ambitious development is near McArthur Park and Westlake area and it will build "a 41-story, 478-unit, luxury apartment tower, and a 220-room luxury hotel." The development has gotten the blessing of the councilperson who represents that area.  It has also gotten the green light from prominent non-profit organizations located in this neighborhood.  Some of them have written letters of support on behalf of the development and attended the public hearing held in City Hall.

This process on the surface appears to be open and inclusive in which community leaders truly engaged and scrutinized the benefits of such development.  Not so, community meetings were held just to project an illusion that a robust dialogue took place among different stakeholders. It was all merely a facade. It is a standard process in which the interest of developers usually tips the scale. Poor renters had no chance.

Advocates who truly represent renters in McArthur and Westlake's neighborhoods fear that the project above will in some way either directly or indirectly lead to evictions of poor renters.  These neighborhoods have a large percentage of renters, more than 80% living in these communities are renters. And the median income for a family of four is about $24,000. It truly is difficult to fathom as to how a non-profit organization in this area would support or even celebrate this development. These community organizations are conflicted and they are selling out the overall interest of these communities.  A leader with the basic ability to think critically could actually see no benefits from these developments going to the poor people whom they are supposed to represent.

Los Angeles is known as a bastion of social progressivism, one might think that poor renters would have been defended against the powerful economic interests that have been radically changing the physical landscape of the city. As developers tried to cash in the next project whether by building arenas, stadiums, theaters, museums, lofts or condominiums.  Poor renters in Los Angeles were being aggressively displaced and the so-called "liberal" or "progressive" politicians at city hall and many progressive organizations that included labor just looked the other way.

Los Angeles has really become a case study where social justice activists appeared to have turned against the very people who they supposed to protect.  Developers have a lot of resources and they effectively use them to influence politicians at city hall, community-based organizations, consultants and the poets and artists who constantly are looking for gigs to survive in this city.

Developers had it all figured out as to how they can successfully push for developments in Los Angeles.  Any developer who wants to build anything in LA, he or she will first have to see the councilperson who represents the area.  Usually, developers have developed a relationship with the councilmembers. It is rare a fundraising event that they don't attend.  They also hire consultants who guide them with community groups.  Then, the councilperson makes the case to these developers that the development must have support from the community organizations in the community.  They hint the developers that they need to identify the community groups and that they need to use their resources to have these non-profit people on board. These are starving non-profit organizations that are constantly struggling for funding.  They are too conflicted that they care less if they have to sell-out the very people who they are supposed to help.

These non-profit organizations are the ones that ultimately make the case that development is good for the overall interest of the community.  Some of these people who are behind these non-profits have no qualms in taking humble poor people to testify to city hall on behalf of these developments.   The house of labor is as guilty as these non-profit organizations, developers just raise the flag of jobs and offer unionized construction jobs and labor in LA just rollover. It has been difficult for activists who still lookout for the best interest of the poor to disrupt this corrosive process in which developers dictate whatever they want.

In addition, many evil landlords also concoct well-coordinated schemes to evict renters.  So, a different class of individuals with the ability to pay market rate's rents could move into their units. Displacement of poor renters in many cities here in California and the nation might really be the civil rights issue of our times.  It disproportionately affects poor Latinos and poor African Americans. It must be traumatizing for these poor renters being forced to leave a community where they had roots and where their children have been raised.

Los Angeles' landscape has radically changed-there has been this kind of physical renaissance in the city, the Staples Center, the Disney Concert Hall, LA Live, the Broad Museum, and all those luxurious lofts and condominiums have been built in the last two decades.  The promises made by civic leaders that these developments were going to increase civic participation, heal divisions along racial and ethnic lines and bridge the gap in wealth and income facing Angelenos never came to fruition.

Opinions are divided on whether gentrification is a sign of prosperity or a war on working-class people.  It is not difficult to see that all these investments that have gentrified this city having had some sort of a positive impact on the overall quality of life of Angelenos. Many L.A. neighborhoods that were infected with a crime in the 1990s have turned into more livable places.

Buildings, where the poor used to live in these neighborhoods, have been replaced by lofts, upscale newly built homes and condominiums surrounded by Starbucks, yoga studios, trendy restaurants, and bars.  Homeowners in these communities welcome the investments as they saw the fair market value of their homes skyrocketing.   Anyone who drives through Silverlake and Echo Park will see "well-heeled hipsters" as they are being called by those who are resentful as how their communities have been altered.

Our leaders in this city must internalize that the housing crisis must be a vital component of any policy decision or strategy that is taken on in this city.  One with a basic understanding of the needs, priorities, and resources of our city must have some sense that this housing crisis affects all communities in this city on all levels. For starters, this profound crisis affects the business community as employers struggle to find workers and people living in garages or in cars have adverse effects on public health safety.  Poor people unable to find housing they can afford in this city have moved to the dessert either in Palmdale or San Bernardino and have to commute every day to the city to work.  Think about that collective environmental and quality of life repercussions for LA of workers commuting for five hours daily.

Some activists have started pushing back with more militant direct actions.  And, they are targeting galleries and coffee places in Boyle Heights.  Some people including homeowners might not like these tactics being used by these activists. But they had forced a different conversation that might have included the needs of poor renters.

It is not clear how to measure success in this city.  Success shouldn't be measured by the number of state of the art arenas, theaters, museums, luxurious lofts and condominiums, and stadiums being built or by the Dodgers making it to the world series. Sucess, one fair-justice-minded individual would think,  should be measured by how well our children are doing in school and how we treat the poor.

Thank you for reading.

Sources used.
Khouri, Andrew.  "Southern California apartment rents will keep climbing, the report predicts." Los Angeles Times 11 Oct. 2017. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.

Lee, Frances. "Why I've Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists." 13 Oct. 2017. Web 20 Oct. 2017.

Novotny, Ben. "Persistent Gentrification in Long Beach Increases Student Homelessness and debt." 11 OCT. 2017. Web. 19 Oct. 2017.

Photo Credit:  Took pics on this piece with an iPhone.

Politics, Football and Trump

What a difference a week makes, last Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, might have been the biggest protest in the NFL.  Players, coaches, and even owners protested.  They protested because of the insensitive remarks made by President Trump Friday in Alabama.  There were also protests in baseball games and among basketball players. As usual, there were different reactions, those who dislike Trump were outraged but his supporters were gleeful.  And Facebook, Tweeter, and other social media sites lighted up like there was no tomorrow.  Many conversations have been held about players exercising their freedom of speech and disrespecting the national anthem or the flag. These were the exact remarks made by President Trump,“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,” Out! He’s fired. He’s fired.”  Nonetheless, protests have started fading away as the President has taken on critics who are not happy with his administration's response to the calamities facing people in Puerto Rico.

Freedom of Speech is vital for free societies to function.  It is a tool used by citizens to file grievances against their government and hold their representatives accountable.  Although this citizen's right has limitations and usually just provides protection that is directly related to the government.  In other words, freedom of speech protection can't be given to employees working for a private company.  It is complicated and complex but employers can regulate speech that might jeopardize their economic interest. Companies argue that they exist for the purpose of selling a service or producing a product.  And when employees engage in political controversy during working hours, this will directly affect the company's bottom line. Therefore, this employee should be either stopped or be fired immediately.

Now, let's go back to players kneeling down in stadiums while the national anthem is being played.  It is always good for our democracy seeing a citizen taking a stand. In this instance, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling down while the national anthem was being played.  He should be commended for his courage.  Mr. Kaepernick did it to protest police brutality against African Americans in many cities. However, citizens should also understand that positions that they take will not be embraced by everybody hence there might be some consequences for their actions.  That should be fair game and citizens should have no problems paying a price for their actions.  A point of contentious in this man's action among fans and civic engaged citizens: Should a player just play football for which he is being paid and practices his civil liberties on his own time? Owners and most business people with companies argue that this man should be fired and no team should hire him. They also added that no fan who pays to watch football should be exposed to someone's political point of view that they disagree with.

Throughout history, African American athletes have engaged in civil disobedience to protest discrimination and unfair treatment of their own community.  Countless acts of civil disobedience have been used by black athletes to force conversations of unjust policies or traditions in American society.   They have used their sports to take a stand against a social issue that was detrimental to their own communities. Yes, from John Carlos, 1968 Olympic U.S Medalist who raised his fists in silence in a Black Power salute during the national anthem to Mohammed Ali refused to enlist and engaged in a war he thought was a war of choice.

Political theorists tell us that this country can't be the land of the free if a citizen is not allowed to criticize it.  And this can be done by taking a knee while the national anthem is being played or even burning a symbol such as the flag.  These citizens' actions are within the bounds of democratic dialogue and should be protected by freedom of speech, these people argue.  Yes, it should be okay to burn those flags that might have been manufactured in China.  This is what free societies are all about.

We should always encourage people to speak up about our injustices, but many argue that athletes sometimes might exacerbate the problem and they might just overshadow the very problem they want to highlight.  Many people questioned whether it was easier to take a knee down rather than going into the community and do the hard work. Indeed, the work of mentoring young people and helping to create opportunities for his community.  And many drew comparisons of Mr. Kaepernick with Rosa Park or Boxing legend Mohammed Ali.  It is not entirely clear if these comparisons might be fair since these legends had a robust track record of doing hard work for their communities before they engaged in symbolic gestures. The struggle for police brutality might have taken a back seat, as many think, as some see these protests as being about Mr. Kaepernick not being hired by no NFL team. It was interesting seeing NFL teams' owners taking a knee with the player and yet as of today Mr. Kaepernick still unemployed.

One might ask, in light of the major problems dealing with poverty, inequality, opportunity and daunting challenges in the international arena, why would President Trump get involved with the current controversy going in the NFL?   This is the very reason why this president was elected, uneducated whites and others felt they could no longer say things they wanted to say.  Nobody would dare to call African American Players kneeling down while the national anthem is being played, "sons of bitches" for disrespecting the flag.  Whites can always count on this president to speak for them.  He clearly threw red meat to his supporters when he entered this controversy.

No surprise for many seeing this President getting involved in any controversy that relates to "nationalism."  It was at the core of everything candidate Trump did while running for the White House.  This strategy successfully targeted anxieties of whites who really thought that their country was rapidly changing in a way that was undermining their way of life.  Yes, these whites felt economically marginalized and culturally eclipsed. Trump's populism laced with nationalism was successfully sold to whites who desperately need a presidential candidate who could finally air their grievances.

Finally, it was recently revealed that former NFL player, Aaron Hernandez, who killed himself while serving time in prison had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  It was also disclosed that the NFL was fighting a lawsuit filed by this player. Maybe we shouldn't be fighting the NFL to hire athletes rather we should be doing whatever we can to put them out of business.  Since most players end up with brain disease resulting from repeated head trauma.

Thank you for reading.


Works cited.

American President. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox. Warner Bros, 1995 Film.

Oppel Jr. A. Richard. "Steelers' Villanueva Takes a Stand, but Might Agree With Kaepernick's Mission." New York Times 25 Sept. 2017.  Web. 25 Sept. 2017

Skelton, George. "The more Trump trumpets and tweets, the more he turns people off." Los Angeles Times 28 Sept. 2017. Web. 1st Oct. 2017

"Shield and Brooks."  Newshour. Public Broadcasting Service 29 Sept. 2017. Television.

Turner-Lee, Nico. "Protest, patriotism, and the history of black athletes in America."  ttps:// 29 Sept. 2017. Web. 1st Oct. 2017

Widener, E. Benjamin. The Frist Amendment "Playing Field": Regulating Speech in the Workplace." New Jersey Law Blog 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

Photo Credit: Photo of Colin Kaepernick, Reuters photo: Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)
Drawing of Mr. Kaepernick and Rosa Park on the bus was a screenshot from a shirt being sold online.


The complex fight for immigration reform

Once it was known that the President had ended DACA, there were marches and rallies throughout the nation. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions called for a press conference and spewed venom and screamed at top of his lungs outright lies about immigrants.  Yes, the usual venom used by nativists, i.e., "illegal aliens," and "these immigrants take jobs from Americans."  It truly was a mean-spirited press conference. He also mentioned legislation in Congress being supportive by anti-immigrant forces, the "RAISE Act," a bill in the Senate that will cut legal immigration in half.

Most rallies and marches solely centered on DACA and the dreamers.  I have always said that there was going to be a revolution in this country had this president attempted to kick out these productive immigrants who have contributed greatly to this nation. Indeed, it was clear that the majority of Americans support these immigrants.  And any attempt to deport them was going to be met with intense political pushback.

Although "Illegal immigration" was a signature issue for President Trump while campaigning for the White House. It has been reported that the President has cut a deal with congressional Democratic leaders in legalizing these young people. This is significant if we take into account how paralyzed Washington has been and for how long the immigration issue has been debated. We should all do whatever we can to make sure the Dreamers get legalized. Although we should also endeavor not to lose sight of the prize.

Democratic Congressional leaders vehemently denied that money to fund the wall was part of the deal. The following morning, after democratic congressional leaders dined in the White House,  the President tweeted that the path to citizenship for the dreamers was not part of the deal that yes "if there is no wall, we are doing nothing.  People are confused and all of us who care about undocumented immigrants in this country are just waiting to see the final compromise once it is written on paper.  Although I have to say it doesn't look good. For all the goodwill President Trump has displayed this week, one could easily argue that the only consistent thing about him is being inconsistent. Some of his most ardent supporters are scratching their heads.  Since Trump, while campaigning for the White House, gave that infamous speech in Arizona where he promised and vowed to reverse DACA and deport the Dreamers

Trump's decision to reach out to the Democrats has been dubbed as a "Nixon-China movement."   Details have not yet been revealed and it is being speculated that Trump is playing both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.  Pundits are still trying to figure out Trump's strategy.

Democratic congressional leaders may have a more difficult time trying to persuade their democratic base. Progressives don't want them to get too cozy with this President.  There are also immigrants' advocates out there who might be tempted to reject legalization for the dreamers and push for legalization for all the eleven million undocumented folks.  House Minority Leader Pelosi heard from them recently in her district in San Francisco. These activists are well-intentioned but they are totally disconnected from the facts on the political landscape.  Voltaire once told us, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of some progress." Yes, let's legalize the Dreamers and take on the fight on the other ten million undocumented immigrants in our communities.

Some progressives dislike seeing Pelosi and Schumer "normalizing" this president whom they see as unfit to serve as President. I have always said that these democratic leaders must make an effort to work with this president as much as they can without betraying some democratic core values.  However, if this is not feasible then they should go for an all-out-war with this man.  There will also be a predicament here, how do these democratic leaders work with this president and turn around and excite the Democratic base for next year's congressional elections and two years presidential elections?  This will require imagination, a robust strategy and a plan of action. Three things that usually escape these democratic leaders.

In the name of compromising, many Republicans are having a field day and see the opportunity to legalize the dreamers while injecting all kinds of anti-immigrant provisions to the bill.   Indeed, a border wall and more policies that mirror the RAISE Act, as well as mandatory participation in E-Verify, the electronic employment eligibility verification system they are all being considered part of legislation that will legalize the dreamers. Neither immigrant community leaders nor the Democratic leadership has the leverage to negotiate immigration policies that would advance the collective interest of our communities.  Most experts or pundits believed that the DACA's recipients were going to be in no danger since the majority of Republicans thought that these young immigrants were embedded in their own communities and they needed to be given a chance.  Even disgraced and anti-immigrant, Joe Arpaio thought it would be immoral to deport these young immigrants.

Finally, California has 55 members in Congress and is the home of Democratic Minority Leader Pelosi and the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. McCarthy.  Yes, California has the largest delegation with 53 members in the House and 2 US Senators.  California delegation should lead this effort pushing for a version of the Dream Act that includes a path to citizenship.  California Rep. Kevin McCarthy should use the power of his position to push Speaker Ryan for generous legislation for the Dreamers.  Rep. McCarthy also represents a district in the Central Valley that is the home of many immigrants who need legalization. These Republican representatives here in California can no longer take an extreme position on immigration.  That would be politically suicidal. Democrats need 24 seats to win the House back next year.  They currently strategizing their focus on 14 Republicans located here in California. The demographics have radically changed in these fourteen districts being represented by Republicans.  They now have large minority voters.

Thank you for reading.


Sources consulted.

Bierman, Noah.  "A risky embrace."  Los Angeles Times 15 Sept. 2017. Web. 17 Sept. 2017

Finegan, Michael and Mark Z. Barabak.  "Trump's backers learning to be flexible." Los Angeles Times 16     Sept. 2017. Web. 17 Sept. 2017.

"Here's a solution to the DACA crisis: Pass a Dream Act. And soon." Editorial. Los Angeles Times 7  Sept. 2017. Web.2018.

Mascaro, Lisa, Briuan Bennett and David Lauter.  "Hope for resolutions to 'Dreamers' dispute." Los Angeles Times 15 Sept. 2017. Web. 17 Sept. 2017.

Politics. "President Trump, top Democrats reach agreement on young immigrants." ABC Sep 13 2017. Web. 16 Sept. 2017


Photos Credit:
Pelosi, Schumer and President Trump - (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The picture with the man holding up the "SAVE DACA" sign I took it in one of the rallies that I attended