All posts by Elliott Petty

L.A. Mayor Protects Non-Profit from Political Retribution

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa graciously ordered the city to rescind an eviction notice sent to South L.A.’s leading grassroots organization, SCOPE.  City Councilman Bernard Parks, who is also running for L.A. County Supervisor sought to have them evicted from a city-owned office because he believes the non-partisan organization worked against his candidacy.  Parks is so wrong on so many levels!

Let’s deal with this item by item.  First, as reported in the LA Times:  

  • For eight years, [SCOPE] Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education’s headquarters has been at 1715 W. Florence Ave. in a 10,000-square-foot building under a $1-a-year lease negotiated with the city’s Department of General Services.

    Anthony Thigpenn, the group’s founder and president, said the nonprofit specializes in organizing residents around issues of employment, poverty and public policy.

    “We are audited and every year we receive a clean bill of health,” Thigpenn said. “It is nonpartisan and nonprofit.”

    But Thigpenn, a veteran of political campaigns, said he independently ran a field operation for an alliance of groups, including labor unions, that pumped millions of dollars into state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas’ bid to defeat Parks and others in the June primary. He also worked on Villaraigosa’s 2001 bid for mayor.

Now to bring you up to speed, Parks fledgling campaign for County Supervisor is tearing apart from within.  Though he led in fundraising, popularity, Parks only managed a second-place finish to state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (who I support) in the June primary.  With the runoff election less than 40 days from now, Parks campaign is roughly $400,000 in debt, with very little cash on hand.  

There have been rumors of campaign infighting for weeks now and several of his top campaign aides resigned because they didn’t like Parks’ tactics and lack of leadership.  He appears to be headed for an embarrassing loss in November and is looking to blame any and everyone.

In the case of SCOPE, Parks is obviously abusing his power as City Councilman in an effort to harm those he perceives to be his political enemies.  Not sure if this activity violates law or city ethics but I do know it is reprehensible.

It is also a terrible move in the midst of a campaign.  I can see the campaign mailer now, with a headliner reading “Bernard Parks Tried to Evict South LA Group for Trying to Improve the Community.”

I must admit my general disdain for Councilman Parks.  Though he is an African American Democrat whom represents South Central, he is possibly the most conservative member of the L.A. City Council.  He’s voted against Living Wages, has blocked affordable housing projects in his district and generally opposes the economic justice agenda of the progressive labor movement.  In short, his political philosophy does not match the needs of his constituents.

While his actions against SCOPE are shocking, they are not totally surprising.  Let this be an example to all communities who elect politicians solely based on popularity and sympathy.  

Parks was elected to his council seat after being fired from his job as Chief of the LAPD.  His campaign at that time was one of appearances and adulation.  His political positions were never discussed and many African American voters, disappointed with his firing saw his election as get back.   South LA has suffered under his non-leadership ever since.

Grant all credit to the work of Anthony Thigpenn, SCOPE and especially Mayor Villaraigosa who work diligently to improve the quality of life for many Los Angelinos.

(cross-posted at Courage Campaign)

Dems Still Not Off the Hook

(cross-posted at Courage Campaign)

When State Controller John Chiang pledged to defy the governor’s executive order to slash state worker pay to the federal minimum wage (which is lower than the state’s minimum wage), Arnold filed suit in an effort to assert his authority to stop the budget deficit bleeding on the backs of hardworking public employees.

Today, Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley set a hearing date to consider the dispute for September 12th, effectively ensuring full pay for 145,000 state workers and their families for the entire month of August.

Of course, if Democrats could get the Republicans to compromise on a new budget before then, the September hearing is moot.

Ironically, Democrats are under their own pressure to get a deal done before the Democratic National Convention next week.  Many Assembly Democrats are delegates to the convention and most of them certainly want to attend to hear our next president’s nomination acceptance speech.

But if there is no deal completed by then, they will be faced with a P.R. disaster: 50 days past due for a new budget and no Democrats in Sacramento working to iron out a compromise with our Republican governor and his minority party in the legislature.

The state GOP is already priming the pump and since Assembly Speaker Karen Bass did the right thing to Assemblywoman Nicole Parra; the media will expect no less from the Dems.

Even though state workers have dodged buckshot today, California is still not in the clear and if Legislature Dems attend the convention en masse with no budget, they will unfairly be held responsible and Republicans will have gained the upper-hand.  The hand of the public’s support for their position during negotiations.

From American Hero to Political Hypocrite

Just as presidential hopeful Barack Obama left California this past weekend, news is circulating about a new headline grabbing statement he made to a small group of people in San Francisco.  This time, conservatives are going mad because Obama told a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender group that he opposes Prop. 8, a discriminatory ballot measure that would prohibit marriage equality via constitutional amendment.

Good for Obama, and good for California.  His opponent on the other hand, is playing so many sides of the fence, it’s hard to keep track.  Since when did it become so acceptable to flip flop your positions in the manner John McCain appears to do with so much comfort and ease.

McCain even goes so far as accusing Obama of flip-flopping in an effort to mask his own very real lack of integrity on the issue.

Follow this bias-filled Fox News article:

  • “I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law,” reads the Obama letter, available on the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club Web site.

    Obama said he supports “extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law,” and called the measure a “divisive and discriminatory” effort to amend California’s constitution.

    In response, John McCain’s campaign told The Sacramento Bee that Obama is guilty of flip-flopping, saying his support for the measure contradicts an earlier statement in which the Democratic candidate said it should be left to the states to decide their marriage policies.

Let’s see, Obama is merely supporting the position of a soon-to-be-revealed majority of California voters at least, who support the constitution and equal rights to marry therein.  On November 4th, the state voters will decide.  Therefore, McCain is dead wrong about Obama on this point and further investigation reveals that McCain himself is guilty of this precise claim.

Case in point.  In 1996, McCain voted in favor of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which declares that the federal government will not recognize same sex marriage and that states are not compelled to recognize such marriages that may be legal in other states.

That act federally undermines a legal marriage in California, wherein its state constitution, ratified and upheld by its people and sovereignty uphold the grant equal rights to marry.

Today, McCain prefers to allow each state to decide its own marriage laws, as California has done and will do on November 4th when Prop 8 is defeated.  Problem is, the McCain supported Defense of Marriage Act voids certain marriages at the federal level, abridging the right of a state to make its own decision.

On the issue of marriage equality, McCain goes from American hero to political hypocrite.  

Think of Karen Bass Speakership as an Audition for Governor

On May 13th, former South L.A. grassroots leader, Karen Bass will officially assumer her duties as Speaker of the California Assembly.  While she is only eligible to serve as Speaker for two years because of term limits, the budget woes in Sacramento should provide Bass a great audition for the governor’s office.  Her success as Speaker could shake up the governor’s race in 2010.

In Today’s Sacramento Bee Bass described her new job as the “biggest challenge I’ve had to face in my life.”

I think Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger feels the exact same way right now as our state has relives budget woes he was elected to fix.  

When Bass becomes Speaker, she’ll sit opposite of Schwarzenegger at the negotiating table, possibly deciding the fate of public education in California as we know it.  Other basic state services face certain spending cuts. She’ll also be faced with a looming redistricting battle headed towards the ballot box which may pit traditional allies against one another in a bitter expression of frustration with government’s performance.

As Speaker, she becomes the chief fundraiser for her members facing re-election as well as for the state Democratic Party.  I have no concerns or doubts about her ability to not get caught up in the lavish lifestyle which accompanies money and fame.  

Still, lets hope she prefers California vintage over French wine.

If Bass is successful over the next two years, she would help save California from going over the brink and would easily put herself in position to become the Democratic candidate for governor in 2010.  

Think about it, none of the current crop of potential candidates can put themselves in the position she can reach.  Mayors Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa will be dealing with the impact of being short-changed by the state; Attorney General Jerry Brown can only offer maturation and enviro street credibility; former Controller Steve Westly will sadly have to remind us he lost the 2006 nomination to Phil Angelides; and current State Treasurer will have to prove he’s done something in that post since leaving the AG office.

I hope the audition goes well, for our state’s sake anyway.  Besides, Californians may very well be in the mood for that Barack Obama type of change.

cross-posted at Courage Campaign

L.A. Harbor Paves Way for Clean Air, Better lives for 16,000 Port Truckers

(This did not get the attention it deserved.  It’s a big deal that the labor-enviro alliance worked and was able to push this through.  There’s more at the LA Times and Matt Yglesias’ blog. – promoted by David Dayen)

In a landmark vote by Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa moves closer to his goal of cleaning up Southern California’s air and paves the way to improve the lives of 16,000 port truckers and their families.  The sorely needed L.A. Clean Trucks Program is expected to serve as a national model for ports around the country.  

Here’s why the program was needed, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have served as the nation’s top entry point for commercial goods slated for store shelves at the likes of Wal-Mart and Target.   This brought a daily barrage of thousands of the worst-polluting trucks in Southern California through its major transit corridors and nearby communities, causing many residents to suffer high rates of lung disease, cancer and childhood asthma.  

On top of that, the port truck drivers themselves were classified under Jimmy Carter deregulation as independent contractors which meant they each were individually responsible for operating and maintaining their own trucks.  Problem is, the combined injuries of low load fees from shippers and their middlemen brokers, rising cost of diesel fuel and high cost of living in L.A., most truckers ultimately earned little more than minimum wage.

Small earnings in a multi-billion dollar industry left port truckers unable to purchase and operate expensive new trucks with environmentally friendly emissions standards that could clean up the air and reduce the health risk to neighbors living nearby.  

The Clean Trucks Program places the responsibility for cleanup squarely on the backs of new trucking companies by requiring that only companies with fleets of 2007 emissions standard trucks and drivers to operate them can serve the port.

Unfortunately the Long Beach Port Authority authorized the new emissions standards only and fail to realize that the current business model at the harbor will not afford truck drivers there to finance the expensive, but much needed upgrades.

This program is a longtime coming and I have a feeling Wal-Mart and Target will not simply roll along with the program.  This should also teach us a lesson that democrats should not always accept conservative-business friendly deregulation ideology as it can have disastrous impacts on local communities.

But thanks to the new Blue-Green Alliance (Labor-Environmental), new progressive ideals are advancing.

Clinton Campaign Continues to Play Race Card

On the day Mississippi holds its presidential primary, Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro, former Vice Presidential candidate is stoking the race fire claiming that Obama has only achieved his pole position in the nominating contest because of his race.  

The Clinton campaign finance committee member and former New York congresswoman told the Daily Breeze, “If Obama was a white man; he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position.  He happens to be very lucky to be who he is.  And the country is caught up in the concept.”

So if a non-white male successfully campaigns for the presidency on the basis of hope, change and bringing the country together, than he is simply lucky to be who he is.  

She sounds like an anti-affirmative action activist.  

Ferraro is all too willing to discount Obama’s political ideology, ability to mobilize young voters, motivate independents and persuade Republican crossovers solely on account of his race.

Even worse, she is all to willing to assert that the 13,601,175 people who voted for Obama did so not because of his judgment on the Iraq war, or his pledge to withdraw from the war or his health care coverage plan.  

Apparently the majority of Democratic voters who casted ballots thus far have done so solely because they like the concept of an African American party nominee for President of the United States.  

Give me a break.

One can’t help but to assume that this racially charged rhetoric from Clinton supporters is a less than sophisticated appeal to white male voters in Pennsylvania whom their Governor, Ed Rendell (Clinton Supporter) believes will not vote for a Black man.

The Democratic Party establishment that Fannie Lou Hamer bravely fought more than 40 years ago to prevent an all white, anti-civil rights state delegation to the national convention is still standing in the door way of African Americans who seek to participate in the American political system.

I guess the Clinton campaign really does believe it is entitled to win the Democratic nomination.  She is the white wife of a former US President; Obama is simply a Black man lucky to be where he is.  

This thinking is not far removed from the despicable White Supremacy premise which asserts that WASPS are naturally better than Blacks and should therefore be given all positions of power in society over people of color.

This is extremely disappointing considering Ferraro ran on a presidential ticket with the classic liberal Walter Mondale.  

Perhaps all but two states in the union voted for Reagan because they were uncomfortable with Ferraro for reasons we can now clearly see.

Newsom’s Attack on Obama Betrays His Support for Gay Marriage

As San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom barnstormed gay bars in Texas this weekend on behalf of Hillary Clinton, he attacked Barack Obama for opposing same-sex marriage. Although both contenders share opposition to gay marriage, only Obama has pledged to repeal the entire federal law which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed by the states.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Newsom told a recent crowd “I was very disappointed when Barack Obama said he didn’t see any difference between civil union and marriage. To me it was very hurtful; particularly coming from someone in the African American community who understands separate is not equal.”

As a supporter of full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, I share Newsom’s disappointment with Obama. But I hold the same level of disappointment with Hillary who only supports civil unions and her husband Bill who signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act into law.

Hillary, ever-mindful of supporting her husband’s legacy has only vowed to roll back a portion of the law to allow same-sex couples to access federal benefits.

That position only supports civil unions which Newsom must be uncomfortable with, while Obama pledges to repeal the entire separate and unequal law to allow individual states to determine marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Does Newsom possess any political integrity on an issue he became so famous for across the country?

Must Obama be held to a higher standard because he comes from the African American community?

Does Newsom prefer Clinton triangulation over the values of gay rights?

It appears as if Newsom conveniently ignores the inadequacy of his candidate’s position in an effort to motivate gay voters in Texas to support the former first lady in Tuesday’s tightly contested primary and caucuses.

There is nothing wrong with supporting one candidate over another, but Newsom ought to maintain some personal and political integrity towards the issue because in politics we have no permanent friends, only permanent issues.

Fabian Nunez Wants Honest Conversation About Single-Payer Health Care

Speaking at a news conference at the state capitol today, both Governor Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez pledged to regroup with organized labor, consumer, hospital and insurance groups to keep pushing a comprehensive plan that would provide universal coverage.  Nunez even vowed to give SB 840 the type of scrutiny his plan received in the Senate.

While “AHNOLD” wants to figure out why their plan failed, offering no personal suspicions; Nnunez suggested that support for a government-run, “single-payer” system lurked in the background and wound up undermining AB X1 1.

Going even further, Nunez vowed to subject it to the same kind of scrutiny his KOA’d plan received. “I think it’s time, for us to have an honest conversation about single payer,” the Sacramento Bee reports.

Then he made a Clintonesque slight at single-payer supporters saying that lawmakers “cannot create the false sense of hope that we can do something better if it hasn’t been tested and put through the same type of scrutiny that our effort was put through.”

Sounds like fightin’ words to me.  

But we all should remember, Nunez supported Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s single-payer plan in 2006 voting for its passage on August 28th, 2006.  It was vetoed by the governor a short time later.

Did he not engage in an honest conversation about it at that time?

I would like to think he honestly supported universal health care through a single-payer system at that time.  His comments today, at the side of the governor make me wonder if he was not being honest in 2006 and was only playing politics in advance of the Governor’s re-election in November.

You judge, here are his words delivered at a rally urging the governor’s support of SB 840 in September 2006 on the steps of the state capitol.

“Health care is a right and not a privilege….One in five don’t have health insurance in California–that’s 6 ½ million Californians out of the 37 million of us in the state. Three out of four of those who don’t have health insurance are those who work. That, my friends, is unconscionable–not just for employees, but also employers. Just in the past 5 years premiums have increased more than 73%.”

But now he wants an honest conversation about a bill he described in 2006 as “good for business…it’s good for consumers.”

Still, I invite the scrutiny.  While I certainly support SB 840 I am not convinced it is the only option.  I largely agreed with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s assessment about the Schwarzenegger-Nunez plan:

“As a strong supporter of a truly universal health care system, I write to urge you to support AB1x (Nunez) as a significant strategic step toward our shared goal,” Villaraigosa wrote in a letter. “I strongly believe that health reform need not be an “either/or” situation, and that supporting the reforms of AB1x is not inconsistent at all with being a whole-hearted supporter of SB 840 and single-payer health care.”

If Villaraigosa can see AB1x has a forerunner to a truly universal system, than why would Nunez look to heavily scrutinize SB 840?

The politics of retribution will serve no one but unscrupulous profit-driven insurance companies, setting back an entire movement of single-payer supporters who have taken their cause to the grassroots.  

Working with progressive forces gives you a stronger hand at the negotiating table with the governor, fighting progressive forces gives the governor the upper hand.  Be a representative, not a foe.

To be clear, my goal is not to attack the state’s leading Democrat, but rather to urge him to take principled progressive leadership on health care reform that provides affordable, quality health care to all.  

If the insurance companies must be taken on, then lets do it, and lets do it without financing schemes that favor HMO’s at the expense of smokers and tobacco companies.  In light of recent news its hard to imagine the Altria Group is any worse than CIGNA who initially denied a critical surgery for a California teen who eventually died.

As Nunez pays closer attention to SB 840, I certainly hope he recognizes why he supported it in 2006.  This is not a shining endorsement of SB 840, but rather a call for progressive civility, principles and integrity.  

Health Care Reform: Governor, Speaker Can’t Get It Done

Oh my, how the mighty have fallen.  The health care overhaul brokered by the popular Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and power-wielding Speaker Fabian Nunez could only manage one single vote in a Senate health committee.  How can a bill that is supported by insurance companies, business chambers and organized labor fail?  The politics of backroom deals, that’s how.  The people never supported it.

Not a single public hearing in Sacramento or anywhere else in this state, a rushed negotiation at the end of a special session that produced a compromise the governor initially backed away from and a complete retreat from SB 840 which the Democratically controlled legislature passed and sent to the governor only one year and a half ago.  

On the issues that matter most, our elected officials can’t get it done.  Perhaps this is a shining example of why we need term limit reform, so we may give our leaders the time to make incremental improvements.  Others will argue this is why Prop. 93 should be killed, ridding ourselves of the ineffective incumbents that would otherwise hang on to their posts.

I’d like to reject both arguments.  The real culprit is the poll-driven decision making of politicians who represent no movement.  Both Republicans and Democrats want to improve the health care system.  

Republican conservatives believe in so-called free market principles like limiting medical malpractice suits, defending the rights of HMOs to pick and choose patients, services and cutting off aid to illegal aliens would make health care more affordable, thus more accessible.  They’re winning by blocking all reform ideas and doing nothing which hurts people with and without health insurance.

As for California Democrats, well in 2006 they believed in Single-payer before it was vetoed, now I think they agree with the governor that everyone should share the costs of the broken system we have today.  

Not sure what they’ll support during the next election cycle.  And the polls will continue to shift in the wrong direction so long as the Democrats continue to ignore its base, neglect to change the electorate into a winning coalition and fail to take principled stands on policy positions.

But these politicians, led by the governor and out top Democrat, the State Speaker want very little to do with any of that.  Listening to the base means taking direction from residents who don’t have the contribution power of the special interests.

Actively working to change the voting electorate requires space for new voices and bold action to keep the momentum going.  If you can promise it during the campaign, you can work to pass it in the legislature.  This builds hope that change is possible, and excitement about what we can do next.  

Taking principled stands means that on occasion you have to be unpopular and work to convince others.  It also builds credibility and respect i.e., Muhammad Ali or Dr. King Jr.

But its easier to take advice from the political hacks who work polls and focus groups in exchange for the almighty dollar.  But as long as this brand of self-styled, ego driven politics continues, so will our state’s problems and our leaders’ inability to get anything done.

Take Prop. 93 for example.  Nunez has put everything behind it, still its slipping in the polls and he may have to look for a new position soon.  I haven’t met a soul who wasn’t working for an elected official or political organization that feel the state needs this type of reform.

Prop. 94-97, Schwarzenegger is doing some of his best acting in those commercials for it, but it too is having trouble finding a voting constituency chomping at the bit to make only 4 out of dozens of Indian tribes richer than they already are.

And ABX 1 1, with the might of the Governor and the Speaker couldn’t find its way out of committee, embarrassingly receiving just one vote in favor of it.  And while there are an estimated 6 million Californians without health care, and millions more who are succeptible to the whims of their profit-driven insurance company, you are hard-pressed to find non-Sacramento politician advocates that were willing to lay it all on the line for such a dubious smoke and mirrors package.

Maybe we should blame ourselves, they say we get the government we deserve, and we sure are getting it.

Obama Supports Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

For me it’s the most common sense public safety policy in a long-time.  Every driver should be licensed and have liability insurance, that’s the law I must abide by, but undocumented immigrants don’t.  Of course, it is illegal, but no law enforcement agency is enforcing the law, placing my safety and pocketbook at risk.  So I agree with Senator Barack Obama, let them have licenses.

Many will argue that Obama is simply pandering to a base of voters in an attempt to wrestle Latino support away from his chief rival, Senator Hillary Clinton.  Perhaps, but I don’t care, I want trained drivers, safer roads and the security to know that if someone crashes into my car, they have the insurance to pay the damages they’ve caused.

Nevertheless, Democratic pollsters Stan Greenberg and James Carville issued a statement last month warning their party on the pitfalls of the driver’s license issue.  The pollsters found that two-thirds of surveyed voters oppose them and the safety argument (partially my own) fails to dent the widespread conviction that granting a driver’s license rewards illegal behavior.

So I must sacrifice my safety and pocketbook to punish illegal behavior that is supported by big business, indifferent government.

I suppose Obama is doing what he said he would, not be afraid to tell people what they need, not just what they want.  Now that is leadership.

Of course, this immigration policy position should certainly please his California endorsers, and he’s got a heavy hitting list starting with the likes of “One Bill Gil” otherwise known as State Senator Gil Cedillo who has tried incessantly to authorize licenses for the all too hated immigrant class.

Obama has the backing of UNITE HERE, the largely Latino and immigrant union who couldn’t deliver in the casino floors of Nevada as well as their former Los Angeles local president, now head of the LA County labor council, Maria Elena Durazo.  

But that’s not all, he’s got a smathering of support from local Latino leaders, including Assemblyman Joe Coto, chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez, who split from her sister, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Clinton backer.

Clinton who is polling overwhelmingly strong support from California Latinos has a support base of spanish-speaking heavy hitters which include Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, French wine loving State Speaker Fabian Nunez, and co-founder of the United Farmworkers, Dolores Huerta.

Clinton recently opened a campaign office in East LA, but has strayed far away from the issue since inarticulately explaining her position last fall when licensing was on the table in New York.

I think I’m inching closer to determining whom I will vote for.