The Voices We Must Hear

(Disclosure: I proudly work for Yes on 24)

I wrote earlier about some of the horrific cuts we’ve seen to public education in California. Passage of Proposition 24 could alleviate at least some of the pain by restoring $1.3 billion that’s set to be gift-wrapped to multistate corporations that aren’t creating California jobs. After I finished talking to the teachers who I featured in the linked post, I spoke with other community activists who are seeing lives affected by draconian budget cuts. Their stories should stay with us as we cast our ballots in this election, and inspire us to vote for the change we deserve.

Karla Salazar, who works for AFSCME, told me the saddest story I’ve heard so far. One of her union members is a woman named Pamela Garcia, who works as a rec assistant at state parks. She’s the mother of 2 children. During the budget crises, she’s had her hours cut time and again, and now she’s down to 5 a week. On 5 hours a week, she couldn’t come close to paying the rent, and she and her children don’t have a home.

In case you want things to get worse, Astrid Campos of the California Partnership has more bad news. California Partnership is a coalition of community-based organizations that fight poverty, and they lobby Sacramento to try and protect the safety net for families like the Garcias. Despite their best efforts, the safety net is being ripped to shreds. If Prop 24 fails, she told me, we’ll lose childcare for families that are transitioning out of Cal-Works, the state welfare program. The adults in these families must work at least 32 hours a week, but they make less than $25,000 a year. Ironically, these cuts won’t even save the state money in the long run, as most of the 80,000 families affected will be driven back to welfare.

One bright spot I see is that the effort to stop these cuts has united communities. For instance, the Reverend Lewis Logan is working to extend these efforts to faith-based communities. Rev. Logan told me that faith communities are fundamentally concerned with justice, and Prop 24 is in the cause of justice. He speaks articulately about the distorted politics that created the need for Prop 24, pointing out that taxes are an investment in the skilled labor that corporations need. Essentially, he says, we’re playing a shell game.

Karla Salazar, Astrid Campos and Rev. Lewis Logan were blindsided by the corporate tax giveaways handed out in the 2009 budget process. Organizations like theirs, and the Pamela Garcias they represent, didn’t even get a public hearing. Thanks to Proposition 24, they have that public hearing now. We should hear them loud and clear, and vote Yes on 24.