Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
“Who are you?” “California’s future leaders!”
In the first half of high school I moved without purpose. The only goal I had in mind was college but no real plan on how to get to college. I knew the college application process from my older brother and the UCLA Early Academic Outreach Program counselors at South Gate High School but I lacked the motivation and drive to do more than just my classes to prepare for college. I was involved with an environmental justice group in Southeast Los Angeles and two mariachis (South Gate High School’s and our own group) and spent the rest of my time in school, reading, playing video games, or (in the second half of my sophomore year), with my then girlfriend.
The summer of 2005 was a strange time for South Gate: for the first time in over two decades, all of its high school students had a summer vacation. South Gate High School’s position as the only high school in South Gate for over 70 years was about to end. South East High School was set to open in September 2005, taking with it about a third of South Gate High School’s students, along with South Gaters attending Jordan High School in Watts and those bussed out of South Gate due to overcrowding. The days of summertime school for two-thirds of South Gate high school students were over. For the first time in my life, I had a summer vacation.
I think it was for that reason that my older brother pushed me to apply to the 2005 Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project (CLYLP) in Sacramento. He knew that I needed motivation I was not going to find by checking out books from the library or staying around South Gate. All I had lined up that summer were two summer school classes to fulfill graduation requirements and a free August.
The CLYLP promised me a week away from home with other students from California, most of us Latino, and learn about college and expose us to Chicano/Latino professionals. My first summer camp.
What I got was so much more. Read the rest of this entry »
Retail space and market-rate housing interspersed amid affordable housing is done with the hopes of changing the social life of Jordan Downs and by extension, Watts. The concern amid current residents is whether the redeveloped Jordan Downs will replace one-to-one the 700 affordable units or if there will be a loss in affordable units, as has been the trend in recent redevelopments of public housing across the country.
Then a series of corruption scandals in southeast L.A. County roiled the region and made national headlines. Prosecutors filed public-corruption charges in Bell, Vernon, Commerce, Cudahy and Lynwood. Investigations are ongoing in Maywood and in at least one water district.
Now the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission is taking another look. And it’s asking a question that has been much debated since the scandals broke: Is there a better way to govern the area?
“Agency takes a look at southeast cities’ governance,” Los Angeles Times, 8 Apr. 2013.
Today’s Los Angeles Times has an article focusing on the political corruption cases that mark southeast Los Angeles’ recent political history. What caught my attention as I read this article was the idea of merging the different cities of southeast Los Angeles county into one large city government. This is something I have thought about for years as a way to improve local government. For the record, the cities I include in this are Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, (unincorporated) Walnut Park, Bell, Cudahy, Bell Gardens, South Gate, and Lynwood.
From the article:
For nearly three decades, corruption has been endemic in the area. A South Gate treasurer looted $20 million from the city. A former Lynwood mayor collected $6 million in a contracting scheme. Other Lynwood council members used city credit cards at strip clubs. And, of course, Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and seven others there treated themselves to hefty compensation packages in a case that Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley called “corruption on steroids.
Southeast L.A. County has long been a place where political engagement is often low and temptation is high. The dozen or so cities that make up the region are small and poor. Most of the residents are Latino immigrants who work hard and have little involvement in traditional civic life.
Only a small fraction of the residents actually vote — turnouts of less than 10% are not uncommon — making it easy for political blocs to gain power by collecting just a few hundred votes. There are relatively few newspapers or community associations that monitor city halls or the network of school districts and special districts.
Some believe the only way to stem the tide of corruption is to merge the various cities into one much-larger government that can be better policed.
“Instead of 40 council members, you [should] have seven. Instead of six city managers, you have one. Instead of six police chiefs you have one — and there are more voters to pay attention,” said Rick Cole, an urban planner and the city manager of Ventura . “One person … isn’t going to be able to seize control of a city of that size, complexity and sophistication.”
Someone agrees with me that the cities of southeast Los Angeles county should consolidate to form one large city. Many of the cities in this part of Los Angeles county are too small for their own sake and are not economically viable anymore. As Cole points out, consolidation would also reduce the number of bureaucrats, which may stem corruption y focusing more eyes on each official.
More importantly, consolidation would facilitate projects that would benefit all these cities (and unincorporated neighborhoods) but do not take place because the region is fragmented into numerous cities.
I hope to one day see this happen.
Hector Tobar’s column today in the Los Angeles Times highlights Ana Venegas, an undocumented student who just graduated from Cal State Los Angeles. Ana was a high school classmate of mine and I knew about her situation then, just as I knew the stories of countless more who were about to graduate from high school and were looking to get a job, join the military, or attend college but were barred by their undocumented states. From Tobar’s column:
People like Ana Venegas are said to be living “in the shadows.”
It’s the most annoying of all the metaphors in the immigration debate. And woefully inaccurate.
Venegas, 23, entered this country illegally as a 10-month-old baby carried across the Mexico-U.S. border by her teenage mother. She’s never been able to legalize her status. That makes her “undocumented,” if you’re someone sympathetic to her plight. And an “illegal” if you’re not.
But whatever you want to call her, the one thing you can’t say about Ana is that she’s been hiding. For 22 years she’s lived in the bright sunshine of South Gate, in a neighborhood that looks like a bonsai-tree version of the American dream.
I’m glad to see her story presented in the Los Angeles Times. She stands in for the millions of Americans who would benefit from the DREAM Act and demonstrates the great benefits such legislation would provide.
To read Tobar’s column on Ana, click here.
There are dozens of reasons not to vote for that carpetbagger, Ricardo Lara. Shady deals in backrooms, unethical donations from different entities, and waltzing into a district are but a few reasons not to vote for him in the primary. If you want more information on why not to vote for him, read this L.A. Weekly article on him.
Maybe you’ve noticed the absence of politics-related posts at this site. I grew tired of openly talking about politics sometime in high school when it became clear that the time-honored tradition of civil debate and discourse had coarsened into catchphrases and paranoia. I compared Walden and other essays by Thoreau to essays by William F. Buckley and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and more contemporary essayists who focus on politics and matters of the state to assess the changes in language, tone, delivery, etc. While I feel that there are still a large number of well-articulated essays on politics published each year, the majority appear in academic publications or what are considered “high-brow” publications (The New Yorker), while the popular essays are poorly articulated and generally unappealing to me.
If I want to make myself feel bad and disillusioned, I visit any public forum (whether it’s on a social media site or chat forum) and I see exactly what I wish was not the norm in the United States when it comes to public discourse: half-truths masquerading as facts, scant usage of facts, and people who can’t articulate any ideological basis for their beliefs.
When I arrived at Harvard, I considered becoming involved with political organizations on campus. After two weeks at Harvard, I knew I would never be part of such an organization due to the sheer size of some (the Harvard Dems bill themselves as the largest partisan political organization on campus; I think they are the largest group on campus) and my voice would be lost in the crowd. With the then-growing anticipation for the 2008 presidential election, I saw a lot of fervor, much of it misguided, from fellow students and realized that I was better off letting others immerse themselves in politics while I carved my niche somewhere else. It was this same sentiment that shifted my intended major away from Government and towards studying human relations (Sociology and Psychology).
With the end of the election, the rise of a new level of vitriol in politics that I never believed I’d see (especially after the level of vitriol during the Bush administration) and the ensuing changes in the political landscape, I’ve removed myself from almost all political advocacy because I’ve tired of it. I’m changing my political affiliation to “Decline to state” this week.
Rather than membership in an organization with a broad scope, I prefer to be in smaller groups that, while advocating some sort of goal tied to politics, do so via the usage of research, facts, and statistical models (hence why one of my prospects upon my return Harvard is to remain as a Sociology major but focus of my studies on statistics). I grew tired of advocacy by canvassers, political operatives, paid lobbyists. My work and my vote are my advocacy.
The title of this post is taken from Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience.