Tag Archives: Interview

CA10: Me, John, and BART

(Cross-Posted from The Alternative D.C., http://thealternativedc.com)

It was 5:30 AM.  I was at the Concord BART station.  With me were two friends sporting

“Garamendi for Congress” shirts. Also with me was the Lieutenant Governor of California, John Garamendi.  How did I get here?!?

I’ve always been active in politics, even though I’m only a freshman high school student. For me, this campaign started in June.  My friend, Jeremy Wolff, invited me to volunteer with the Garamendi for Congress campaign, where he was working.  I was already more-than-familiar with the congressional race and John Garamendi. Unable to refuse anything related to politics, I accepted without hesitating, and on the same day, met John for the first time at the Campaign Headquarters.

Since then, I’ve been volunteering regularly, phone banking every other day, and canvassing on weekends. I’ve spent a good deal of my summer with this campaign.  Not only am I a campaign enthusiast, I am also a blogger, and am the editor-in-chief of The Alternative DC, a national bipartisan youth political blog. It was under this position that I agreed to interview John for the blog at the crack of dawn.

Back to 5:30 this morning: I joined John and some volunteers at the Concord BART station and we reviewed the plan: we would take the BART all around the district, talking to and addressing constituent’s concerns, and distributing campaign information. After all, tomorrow is the election.

Several minutes into our southwestern BART ride, John sat down and promptly pulled out the Contra Costa Times, reading every article. As we heard a Ping!, the doors opened and John put the Times away to socialize with the new passengers.

It’s interesting to watch John Garamendi and his methods of dealing with people. He starts off saying “My name is John Garamendi. Tomorrow’s election day, and I’d like to be your congressman,” to each person. Some people shrug him off. Others seem honored and astonished to meet the Lieutenant Governor. The most interesting people are the ones who begin conversations with John, who always is happy to engage in conversations with constituents ranging from tomorrow’s election to tax issues.

After a few conversations, we left the BART to distribute literature to new voters, and then to board the BART going north. During this ride, the seats are mostly empty, so we were able to begin our interview.

I launched the interview with a question that I know is on the minds of many in the district: “After your years of experience in state-level office, why are you running for federal?”

John explained how he also, “has experience in the federal level, under Bill Clinton [as Deputy Secretary of the Interior]. [The] issues I’ve worked on my entire career, they’re all in Washington right now- Healthcare issues, transportation issues, the issues of climate change policy- all of those things I’ve spent my career on- are in Washington.” John then elaborated on his role in climate change negotiations as Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and concluded with:

“… So, my Washington experience prepares me for what’s going on back there.”

I asked my next question: “If elected to congress in November, what would your first actions be?”

Garamendi thought for a moment, then answered. “A lot of it depends on where congress is on policy; if healthcare [reform] is still going on; I’ll be very involved in that. [There’s] the energy policy… Then, there are issues specific to the district: transportation issues… education issues, all of those things are in process… research issues… so there’s this series of things we have to do, on all of these district issues…  I’m going to hit the ground running.”

I asked him a different type of question next- one that dealt with the campaign: “In what ways do you differ most from the other democrats in this race?”

“Well, first of all- vast experience on critical issues… [then] there’s detailed knowledge of government working…” John expanded that he knows Insurance reform (he served as California Insurance Commissioner in the 90’s), and will be able to assist committees on the subject. He also touched on his detailed knowledge of climate protection, and how he:

“…Helped develop the American climate change conference in June of 1998. So, again, detailed knowledge… and those are the things I’d bring to Congress.”

As a follow up, I then asked in what ways he most differed from David Harmer, the presumptive Republican nominee.

“Harmer is inexperienced, and very, very, conservative. Thus far, the only thing he talks about is balancing the budget. In fact, it’s the republicans who fail to balance the budget… In the Clinton administration, we cut the Department of the Interior by 15,000 people, and we balanced the budget, and created a surplus. Republicans talk about it but they don’t do it. In fact, George [W.] Bush and the Republicans created the biggest deficit EVER. Now, the stimulus package… was necessary to keep the economy from total collapse… so I think the basic difference is, I have walked the walk, he [Harmer] is just talking the talk.”

Moving on, I asked him, “You’ve spent decades building up considerable influence here in California. How would you continue this as a freshman congressman?”

“I’ve got relationships… I know the committee chairmen. They’re personal friends of mine… these are people I’ve worked with years and years… Nancy Pelosi, too. So, relationships are useful… we will work together.” He continued, talking about how the committees will, as they have in the past, consult him on issues that he has proved himself knowledgeable in. He also mentioned that he’s worked closely with many Senators, campaigning with many of them, including Majority Leader Harry Reid. He went on: “I have a very significant advantage, not only knowing the issues, [but] knowing this district. I’ve represented this district for seven years. I’ve been on the ballot nine times!”

I now went for a question that I knew would be one of the most important: “What are your specific goals for District 10?”

“Well, as I covered some of it, transportation issues are very, very important. The research issues- this district has in it and adjacent to it, three of the greatest research institutes in the entire country… I’m very involved with research issues… [we’ve got] the Lawrence Livermore Labs, and the Travis Air Force Base is the economic force of Fairfield. Next, agriculture. I’m a farmer-rancher. Water- I’m a 35-year-veteran of California water issues. I know the issues of the Delta. I’ll be the only congressman EVER to live in the Delta. I’ve lived on the Sacramento River for 32 years. So I know the Delta… Healthcare is a big, big issue in this district… again I know the Chairman of the Health Committee… I’ll be able to bring that knowledge to Washington, D.C.-Small things, like regulations, to big things like Medicare, Medicaid, I have a record for these things… The welfare program in California is one that I basically designed in 1980, and that Bill Clinton modeled his Arkansas and National program on.”


The BART halted, and we were at El Cerrito. We decided to continue the interview later on, as Team Garamendi exited BART.

In El Cerrito, Garamendi courted a large crowd of voters, with great reception. And again, he used “My name is John Garamendi. Tomorrow’s election day; I’d like to be your congressman.” He talked to still more voters- young and old and in-between.

Eventually, it was time to head back to Concord and wrap up the round trip. I managed to ask one last question before it was over. I mentioned that, if he wins, Arnold Schwarzenegger would have to appoint a replacement, and asked his thought on that selection. On this he was very straightforward. He explained that the Legislature (controlled by Democrats) has a bigger say in the appointment. Because of this, Schwarzenegger cannot push through whomever he wants for the position. Basically, Schwarzenegger will either appoint a place holder or leave the seat vacant.

PING! We had arrived at Garamendi’s stop.

“Mr. Garamendi, thank you so much for your time.”

“No, thank you.”

8: The Mormon Proposition (Interview w/ director Reed Cowan)

CB:   When did you decide you were going to be the one to make “8: The Mormon Proposition” and what factor(s) drove your decision?  What aspects of your own background or of the Prop 8 campaign brought you to this project?

RC:  Truthfully, this film started out as an exposé on the problems of gay teen homelessness in Utah’s “Zion” and an examination about WHY otherwise loving parents would kick their kids out on to the streets just because their kids are gay.  But as the weeks and months unfolded in our project, I began seeing that history demanded our project be larger in scope.  Slowly, but with great force, our focus shifted to what I believe is the “touchstone” of Mormon ideology regarding homosexuality…and that is exclusively Mormon efforts to get PROP 8 on the ballot in California and see its passage.  It’s the case against Mormons and what I believe has been a decades long work to damage gay people and their causes.  

PROP 8 is truly the most obvious, shining example of what is at the root of Mormon belief about gay people.    As to what factors drove my decision to make the film what it is today, they were personal really and deeply rooted in something that is fundamental to my character.  Human suffering cuts me to the quick.  And when I obtained the entire LDS call-to-action broadcast (transcripts and audio) that was heard by thousands in California, as a former Mormon myself, I knew statistically speaking, that at least ten percent of the Mormon youth who heard the call to action, were gay.  I hurt over the thought of what they must have felt sitting in those pews, hearing their church leaders launch an assault against gay people.    I went in the direction of the fires of their pain, and it’s my prayer this film will be a part of putting out the fire of that pain in their lives.  What the Mormons did and what they continue to do against gay people needs to be a matter of record, because it is spiritually criminal.  When these young people sitting in the pews grow up, I hope they can turn to my film and get the message that it’s OK to leave the organization that pulls them to its breast tenderly, while choking the spiritual life right out of them through assaults on their very civil rights.

CB:  When you started, did you have any idea that the question of marriage equality generally, or Mormon involvement specifically, was headed for its current high level of national awareness?

RC:   I’m continually thrilled to see this issue rise in prominence.  It gives me hope in people.  When I started, I knew there were literally THOUSANDS of people out there who want my partner Gregory and myself to be married…to enjoy the same civil rights as our non-gay counterparts.  And I am so damned proud of the good people in the American citizenry who are becoming our allies in this fight.  The scales are tipping in our favor, and it feels good.

CB:   Can you give us an update on where the project stands? Distribution, release dates, websites, scheduled screenings, or any other news?

ITS CRAZY MAKING A FILM!!!!  So many things to update you on!  The film is in edit and in mid-May I get to see the first cut of the film.  After that, adjustments will be made and we’ll be solidly headed towards the finish date of June or July.

Distribution will hinge on interest and buzz generated in film festivals.  I’m really hoping SUNDANCE screeners give our film a fair look and choose to include it in their upcoming festival.  Can you imagine the press that would happen if our film were to premiere in Utah at Sundance?  It would be explosive!  So, SUNDANCE is my first hope.  But they are such a pristine festival, that MANY great films don’t make the cut.  If we don’t we’ll shop it around to other festivals.  I have received MANY high-level inquiries about the film though, so maybe we won’t need to do festivals.  I just keep thinking: ONE THING AT A TIME.  First we’ll finish it, then we’ll work on the other stuff.  Right now it’s all about making this the most explosive, compelling piece of documentary film-making you’ve ever seen.  And as I look at the wealth of material we have obtained, I just have to say:  BRACE YOURSELVES.  

CB:   As busy as you’ve been, I was watching some footage of the crowds at the California Supreme Court’s Prop 8 hearing in San Francisco and I think I spotted you.  Were you there?  

RC:   Indeed I was.  Me and a little Mormon group called AMERICA FOREVER.  I’ll be interested to see what the Mormon Church thinks of what their members had to say that day to the gay people on the sidewalk.

CB:   What challenges, if any, did the project face in the course of filming?  Any “war stories” related to technical, financial, logistical or other aspects that you’d like to share?  Any experiences with your interview subjects that you’d like to recount?

RC:   The greatest challenge I’ve experienced is the trauma within the families Greg and I are attached to that are Mormon.  So many of our Mormon relatives, on learning of the content of the film, have begged us not to release it.  It’s been excruciating to be in a position of having the material we have, having the sense of moral obligation to get it out, and yet feel sad that it will likely hurt good, moral, loving family members who still are attached to the Mormon machine.  

The next greatest challenge has been the all-out assault of Mormons that came after my interview with Senator Buttars.  KSL TV’s web site hosts the comments of cruel, cruel people who have slandered and defamed my good name for no other reason than what they have “heard” about me.  Some of those attacks have been so hurtful.  So false.  For example, I read on KSL’s web site comment board recently something like “Reed left his wife and little boy to be in the arms of his partner Gregory Abplanalp.”  That couldn’t be further than the truth and Mormon-owned KSL actually allows a falsehood that they themselves know is untrue to remain in perpetuity on their web site for all to see.  (On that note, my ex-wife left me for a doctor nearly twice her age and I didn’t have interaction with Greg until two years after my divorce).  Senator Buttars, Gayle Ruzicka and all whom they are connected to have worked to tear down my character through out and out lies and that has been painful.  My film will have the truth about Senator Buttars and Gayle Ruzicka and the Eagle Forum and the Sutherland Group and America Forever.  I only wish that those who aligned themselves with the ideologies of these groups would also seek truth, rather than attacks such as they have.  These have been my war-stories.  

As to interview subjects:  I have four hard drives full of interviews.  And I can tell you this:  the most vitriolic and hateful interviews DO NOT come from gay people or their allies.  In actuality, the gay people and gay allies I interviewed were VERY kind (for the most part) about the LDS church and its people.  I felt the spirit of God when I talked to these people.  I did not feel it when I talked to Gayle Ruzicka or Senator Buttars or America Forever’s people.  What does that say about all of this?  Hmmmm…

It was also interesting to see certain things come up in the film in two different states…people who had never met each other… with similar stories about private visits to Mormon Prophet Spencer W. Kimball’s home that they all independently characterized as “prurient.”  Some highly credible people with this information.  People with name recognition.  

CB:   Without your interview of a certain Utah state senator, Buttarspalooza never would have happened.  Any comment on the brouhaha that erupted after Senator Buttars’ remarks were made public?

RC:   OY!  That’s my comment!  OY!  It was explosive for sure.  International press!  And what we saw at that point is nothing compared to what will likely happen when the film is released.  

CB:   According to Senator Buttars, you assured him that he would be allowed to see his work and approve his part before you released it.  Are you ready to apologize for your unfair treatment of The Honorable Senator from Utah?

RC:   He’s a liar.  And I have recorded conversations and interviews to substantiate my position that this man lied, ducked and covered when put under pressure.  Senator Buttars owes me an apology.  And he owes people an apology.  In twenty years as a journalist I have never once cut a deal with someone to let them see something before air.  It’s ridiculous.  He’s ridiculous.  

CB:   How did ABC 4 obtain that Chris Buttars interview footage?

RC:   I saw Rich Piatt with KSL and Chris Vanocur [of ABC 4] outside Buttars’ office the day of the interview.  I told them why I was there.  Chris Vanocur asked for the footage.  I let him see it.  He and his managers found it newsworthy, seeing that Buttars had said these things while Senate business was going on without him.  They asked if they could air portions.  I obliged.  No big woop.  I did not plan to release the footage before the interview, and frankly, didn’t plan in the weeks after to release it either.   But Chris asked….