It’s about time we had new ideas, new imaginations, and an encompassing and inclusive governance.
By Luis J. Rodriguez
I am not a career politician. I won’t accept corporate donations. I am not a Democrat or Republican. And I’ve been blocked from print or airtime in the major media. Still, I’m running a serious independent campaign to be governor of the largest state in the union, one of the 10 largest economies in the world, with the third largest agricultural business anywhere.
I say it’s about time.
California has been governed by politicians, business people, accountants, actors, and, with Governor Brown, a former governor. Yet today the state is in a multiyear drought; has the highest poverty rate in the nation; the worst rated schools; and is 48th in arts funding (although we are the “Entertainment Capital of the World”).
About a third of all Californians breathe bad air.
It’s about time we had new ideas, new imaginations, and an encompassing and inclusive governance. It’s about time a candidate ran that can be trusted to: 1) end poverty; 2) provide clean, green and efficient energy and healthy environment; 3) overhaul the bloated and failing prison system (the largest in the world after the U.S. federal prison system); 4) institute single payer quality health care from the cradle to the grave; 5) provide free—non-debt—quality education from pre-school through university; 6) create access to art, music, dance, theater, books, writing, festivals, murals, and more in every neighborhood.
My candidacy is the intersection of the three pillars of a free and thriving society: the environment, the economy and social justice. That’s why the Green Party of California and the venerable Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) have endorsed me; why Monterey County school board member Francisco Estrada and City Councilmember Jose Casteñada of Salinas, and anti-fracking activists Mark Lipman and Marian Cruz, are with me; why scholar and dean of Chicano Studies, Rudy Acuña, has supported me as are organizations like Corazón Del Pueblo of Boyle Heights; Brooklyn & Boyle magazine; PODER of Santa Barbara; Inspire Research Academy of Watts; and Chicanos United of Orange County, among others.
That’s why we have 200 volunteers in Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Napa, Salinas, San Benito, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and other areas —many of whom obtained 5,000 signatures and/or funds to get me on the ballot.
We’ve worked hard to get here. What I have to say matters.
For one thing, I want to extend the conversation about what is democracy. When it takes millions of dollars to even play, this is not democracy. When only two parties dominate (two sides of the same coin), this is not democracy. When politicians make deals, fail to keep their promises, talk the talk but fail to walk the walk, this is not democracy. With 20 percent of the electorate expressing no party preference and low voter turnouts, I aim to engage the voter again by talking about vital issues, root causes, real solutions, placing the power in the hands of all Californians.
I want to unveil the undemocratic nature of elections in California—for now, on sale to the wealthiest corporations—and create a meaningful process via a transparent, grassroots and uncompromised race.
The way it should be.
As for solutions, I summarize my plan as aligning resources to needs. Governor Brown has proposed a $10 billion prison budget—I would stop warehousing people (and training them to be better criminals at taxpayers’ expense) and provide rehabilitation, restorative justice practices, alternative sentencing, mental and drug treatment, healing circles, the arts, training, jobs, and faith-based assistance, methods repeatedly proved cheaper and more effective.
I would charge a severance tax for oil companies who “sever” oil from the land, resulting in billions (California is the only place on the planet that does not do this). I would end hydro-fracturing (“fracking”) of shale deposits to extract natural gas and oil, which uses millions of gallons of water, mixed with benzene and other toxic chemicals, that in turn poisons the air and water supply.
I would put people to work on clean and green jobs—or provide a livable income—to relieve people from economic distress (to start I’d implement a $15 an hour minimum wage). This includes fixing and upgrading 50 percent of irrigation systems in the Central Valley, which already uses 80 percent of our total water, to stop waste in this drought-stricken state. I would tap more meaningfully the $38 billion generated from our commercial ports, the busiest in the nation.
I would also legalize marijuana and properly regulate and tax its production and use for more state funding. I would stop the $68 billion (and counting) high-speed rail project from L.A. to San Francisco which will only serve a relative handful of primarily high-end business commuters at the expense of millions of poor and working people who rely upon and deserve clean and adequate local rapid transportation wherever they are at.
There is money—and we won’t need to have bonds, to borrow from high-interest financial institutions, or make cuts in food, work or housing programs—to “balance the budget” as Governor Brown has done by unbalancing our lives.
When the state works for the poor, the working class, the neglected and pushed out, it works for all of us. My main principle is the healthy and whole development of anyone is dependent on the healthy and whole development of everyone.
Why am I the best person to do this?
Because I’ve been in uphill battles many times before. I quit gang violence and drug addiction in my youth to now have forty years crime-free, gang-free and drug-free. I even saw my oldest son get into gangs and spend close to 15 years in prison, although he’s now working in gang prevention and intervention projects and has also left gangs and crime for good.
After working ten years in industry and construction, including in a steel mill, a lead foundry, and chemical refinery, I became a journalist and writer. At the same time I’ve been working to turn troubled youth around and bring about urban peace throughout California, the United States and numerous countries in Central and South America as well as Europe. I helped create an effective community-based gang intervention model, approved by the City of Los Angeles in 2008, and helped with a U.S. congressional bill based on this multi-prong, comprehensive approach.
I also took part in a number of labor rights battles, including the largest union representation elections in U.S. history—some 60,000 employees of the University of California system—when I worked for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO.
I have 15 award-winning books in poetry, children’s books, a novel, short stories, and memoir. My best-selling book “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” has been called one of the most checked out books in libraries—and one of the most stolen. The book has also been designated as one of the hundred most censored in the country. And my journalism has taken me across the country and to indigenous and farm labor uprisings in Mexico, the Contra War in Nicaragua and Honduras, and gang wars in Central America.
I have achieved awards and fellowships for my writing from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, the Sundance Institute, the National Book Critics Circle, PEN Oakland, Lannan Foundation, California Arts Council, City of Los Angeles, and others. I’ve been designated as a local hero from KCET and Union Bank of California, from the Agape Spiritual Center in Culver City, and from Wisdom in Action, presented by the Dalai Lama.
My wife Trini and I also helped create the only cultural space, workshop center, art gallery, performance space, and bookstore for some 500,000 people in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. I’m a homeowner and a small business owner. I have four children, five grandchildren, and a great-grandson. I have a son at UCLA.
Despite the odds, I’ve come a long way. And we can all do the same in California.
It is practically a given—with his millions in campaign funds, incumbent status and his placating of the right wing business interests—that Jerry Brown will place first in the June 3 primary and thereby face whoever comes in second in the November general election. At present, polls show former Minuteman and Tea Party member Tim Donnelly in second place. That is no choice for California voters; the parameters of that debate will effectively exclude millions of Californians as both of these corporate-dominated candidates race to the right. My aim, therefore, is to become the second-highest vote getter in the June 3 primary and thereby give Californians a real choice; a genuine discussion rather than a rhetoric-fueled debate on who can create the better “business climate” or worse.
In short, I am clearly the most qualified, issue-focused and passionate to challenge Governor Brown and the status quo on the issues that matter.
Vote Luis J. Rodriguez for governor. Vote Green—there are Green Party candidates for Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Controller (and many local races). Vote for a new California. Go to www.rodriguezforgovernor.org to find out more, donate or volunteer.