As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?
I just want to say thank you for the opportunity. It’s a really good opportunity to engage folks because the district goes from Pine and Park all the way to Long Beach, or the other way around. I think it’s very important that we get to talk to folks that represent the various parts of the district. So I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity.
It is crazy running for this office while having a full-time job. I have to put that one the table. It’s been very difficult for schedule purposes. But nonetheless, we’re here and on that note, to your question, I do believe I am one of the most qualified candidates because I bring a lot of experience to the table. I’ve been elected five times to local office, three times to the school board and twice to the local city council.
From those five elections, the last four re-elections I’ve been a top vote getter. I’m in tune and connected to my local community. And I definitely believe and feel that taking that local experience to the state level will be very important. I’m a firm believer in local control. As a sitting council member I see the effects of how state legislation affects the local cities and how our contribution to the conversation also helps move forward state policy.
The difference between me and other people running for this seat is I don’t need to be the senator, I want to be the senator. And with that being said, I’ll highlight again my local experience and I look forward to engaging local communities from some of those smaller cities like Cudahy and Maywood, to some of the larger cities like Long Beach, and being representative of some of the local issues that we all share. Things like the 710 Freeway, the LA River, things that we all have in common because we all have that in all our communities. I look forward to being a voice and taking our voices at the local level up to Sacramento.
If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?
Something that I’m very intrigued by and is happening in our district is the environmental issues both in Paramount and in Maywood. I’m a firm believer that whoever wins the seat needs to make that priority. I would work with not only Speaker Rendon at the local level and partner up with him on issues as such, because they are very important. These environmental issues that affecting Paramount and Maywood are not something that can wait. I’m very happy to see that Speaker Rendon has made the the Exide issue a priority, and addressing that. But the communities of Paramount also need representation. That’s from the emergency status kind of or priority bills, and then one of my personal passions that I look forward to working on at the policy level is education, and specifically higher education.
I’m a former school board member for 10 years. I’ve been involved in higher education issues since my student government days. I always make the joke that I can get rid of Dominguez Hills but they can’t get rid of me because I started school literally 20 years ago in 1999 and this fall will be my 20th anniversary. I’ve been very engaged in higher education policy that affects not only the university but the CSU and community colleges. The three higher education school systems that we have in California.
I’m very excited and I look forward to adopting good policy. I support Jerry Brown and all the good things that he did for our state but one of the things that happened was that funding for education was not equal. You can’t fund the CSU the same way you fund the UC system for example. We’re a much larger system. I know we all have our own priorities and needs but there’s no equity in funding both systems with the same amount.
We welcome it, but I think there needs to be a conversation about the different needs in each system. I know for a fact that the CSU has a lot of different needs than the UC, but again, someone that’s been very involved at that level, I’m very excited to be a part of that conversation. When asked by different groups that I’ve interviewed with about which committee do I want to sit on that’s the top committee that I would like to sit on. I know it’s not the quote/unquote “sexiest” committee or the most “juice”. That’s why I’m not running for Sacramento, I’m running for Sacramento to be a voice for the people.
And I know that campuses like Dominguez Hills, Cal State Long Beach are very important to our local communities here in District 33. Dominguez Hills for example is a campus that serves a lot of underserved communities like Lynwood and a lot of the southeast communities are feeder schools to Dominguez Hills. So, again, from a very personal commitment that I have, it’s definitely the higher education conversation besides the priority bills that need to happen based on current needs of the district.
Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?
I think there’s many endorsements that I’m proud of and excited to have from local leaders in our communities. But most recently it was announced that I received the Equality California endorsement in a time where the national conversation is going a certain way, a certain tone if I can put it that way, it’s important that we remember as one community we cannot forget that there still is that sense of equality in California, being what they are and what they represent and what they push for, and being a proud LGBT community member myself, I’m happy and honored to receive that endorsement.
To Long Beach specifically, outside of West Hollywood and San Francisco, we are a city that represents a lot of the LGBT community and I feel that that endorsement and the fact that I know how I represent in the district would be very important to make sure that we advance the conversation. Not only from personal beliefs but from policy agenda, making sure that we are being one voice to all communities, especially those that are more vulnerable. And having been one of the grand marshals for the Long Beach PRIDE parade, this kind of endorsement means a lot to me on a personal level.
Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?
There was a candidate forum last Wednesday in Long Beach to be exact and I was excited to attend. One of the questions they asked was ‘What about these groups that are getting involved, special interests for that matter’ and I want to answer that with your question. I want to repeat my answer to say that not every special interest is a wrong group. For example, I would gladly take a check from Equality California. I would gladly take a check from Planned Parenthood as two examples because those are two groups that I concur and believe in what they do. Not from a political angle only but from a basic 101, just things that make sense. What Planned Parenthood does and Equality California, to me they’re common sense issues and they’re beyond politics if that makes sense.
Another issue to me is immigration. The Dreamers, it’s common sense, it’s beyond Republicans and Democrats. It’s an issue that makes sense and why wouldn’t you give these students who have proven to be good members of society, because they were brought to this country by not their choice, but they’ve proven to be good members of society, they’ve received their education, they’re paying their dues in every sense of the word. So, to me, it’s in that same arena of common sense. It should be beyond politics and the current partisan politics that we have, not only at the state level but obviously at the federal level.
How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?
I think the fact that I am a local mayor in the district helps me understand the needs of not only my local community but also it helps me understand the neighboring communities. In my role I’ve worked with South Gate, Maywood, and their different needs. Some needs are not just local needs and they’re southeast needs.
One issue for example is the LA River conversation. There’s been a working group that we’ve all been part of through different discussions and that’s one unifying issue that has united all our different cities. And it’s a reminder to me that when I become state senator I will not only represent Lynwood, as I happily and proudly do today, but I would represent the entire district. And I’m very cognizant of the issues that are not always overlapping but are also very important to make sure that each person that lives in the district feels like they’re being represented regardless of what city you live in.
Even though I grew up and my life has been Lynwood, I do work in the southeast a lot. I am very cognizant that Paramount, Lakewood and Long Beach are also part of the district and I look forward to being a voice for the communities there as well.
In fact, yesterday, a very cheesy moment…my partner and I were driving down to Long Beach and we were driving down literally the edge of the district. I wanted to get a really good sense of where the district separates. We were driving down Ximeno, Spring Street, Carson, we were kind of driving along the borderline of the district trying to understand the sense of the district divide.
All of the rest of the district include whole cities but Long Beach, Lakewood and obviously parts of LA only include parts of the city. Obviously it’s a good majority of Long Beach but it was interesting to see how they cut the divide. I think we made a left on 7th Street off of Ximeno and then a right onto a little street, one of the “T” words”, I forget off the top of my head, and then a right onto Spring Street and then down Carson Street and then Lakewood.
It was a very interesting perspective to understand. So my partner and I were driving and I said ‘I don’t know many more candidates are doing this to just understand, more in depth, the district.’ I know it may sound cheesy to someone but to me it was very important to get a better sense of where my advocacy level will have to be and so I would never forget the parts of Long Beach that I would be representing.
How would you address climate change?
I think the conversation that’s happening at the national level with this New Green Deal is a good conversation for folks to have and we can’t ignore the fact that what we do as human beings, literally as a society—this is beyond the district by the way—it affects climate change.
Does it exist? Of course. Do we have to fund it more at the state level through science and other funding sources? Absolutely. And I would be very committed to making sure that these science communities through our state funding gets our attention because only through research and more data are we going to understand the full impact of climate change.
I’m very cognizant of the fact that we have an issue that affects all of us regardless of what borderline I’m driving through in which district. It affects everyone. And I think we need to make sure that we are supportive at the state level with legislation that affects climate change.
Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development. This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development? What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?
We read and saw that Governor Newsom was in Long Beach. I saw Robert Garcia and other local leaders with him. I think I applaud that Governor Newsom is having this conversation because it’s every city’s responsibility to address affordable housing. As a proud Lynwood mayor I’m proud that we’re addressing this issue at the local level and we’re increasing affordable housing.
One of the things that I hear not only at the local level but you hear this ripple effect of sound of people saying ‘Well I support affordable housing but not in my backyard.’ That has to be a conversation that needs to be addressed because if that’s the case we wouldn’t have affordable housing. It’s very critical that at the local level but at the state level we are very mindful that we have to make sure that as we push forward policy at the local level to increase affordable housing that we’re very conscientious that it takes an education level of informing our local communities. This whole thought of ‘Not in my backyard’ needs to go away because we need to address and we need to increase it.
It’s very important to me that when I become a state senator that I work with the mayors and local elected officials to make sure that we’re all doing our part to increase affordable housing and that we have a crisis statewide. And I think that a solution of building more affordable housing is critical to the different communities that we’re supposed to represent. This is why we have a homeless issue as well because we don’t have enough affordable housing because people just can’t afford it. So, anything that we can do as elected officials then we need to make sure that we advance that agenda.
I’m proud again that from a local level we’re doing that and I would only echo that sentiment and thought process at the state level.
What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?
To not sound repetitive, at the local level and working with the counties specifically, we’ve been very instrumental in working and addressing it from a very local basis. But statewide I believe there really has to be an increase of housing statewide and the state needs to do their part to be supportive to local communities to advance that. It kind of goes in hand with what I was talking about with the last item but I definitely think the state needs to encourage and push cities to do this because the homeless community is only growing and I think that we need to be responsible.
Obviously the county Measure HHH and other things are good to move the conversation forward but at what point do we start addressing it more directly? We’ve partnered up ourselves with local non-profits in our city and they’ve been able to place some of these homeless individuals into homes and shelters but it really takes a community effort to do that. I don’t believe it’s just one person’s responsibility to do that, or one jurisdiction. But I think it’s a combination of all of us and at the state level, again, to make sure that we bring the resources, specifically to communities that need.
Bell, for example has one of the largest shelters in that part of the district. I applaud that Bell has done those efforts but we need to do more of that in other cities.
Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?
It’s an issue that needs our attention. For example, as a local policy maker I work closely with our sheriff’s because our city is LA County Sheriff’s. But I also have life experiences with some of my family members, cousins, have, in my personal opinion, have gone through a process where because of who they are and what they look like, have not received the best representation. These issues are very real to me and we need to make sure that our community members have the same opportunities that anyone else would. Where your ZIP code is at should not dictate what kind of representation you get.
It’s a very touchy issue, obviously, because law enforcement feels and believes that they need to do as much as possible to do their work, but there’s also the human side of our job—and that’s to make sure that all these community members feel that when they’re being addressed by law enforcement that they’re being given a fair shot. That’s a very interesting working relationship because on one hand we’re saying how do we improve the force our law enforcement uses on our communities, but also how do we address it when our communities are not being treated fairly.
It’s a hard conversation to have but it needs to be had. That’s the point of my response. And we have to work with law enforcement on this because this is a real conversation that needs to be had, and needs to be continued to be had because it’s not going to go away.
We’re not going to pass one policy or legislation item and it will be over. I don’t want to compare it to other controversial issues, but this issue is not going to go away with just one policy. And I think the conversation needs to be continued. Our community needs to feel they’re being given a fair process, but at the same time our cops and officers need to be able to do their job.
It’s a hard situation to be in but I’m committed to having the conversation with law enforcement and groups that represent criminal justice issues. Again, it’s very real for me because I have family that’s not had the best, fair process.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment. What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?
I want to be very, very specific and out loud about this sentiment. The fact that AQMD exists, I want to applaud that because a lot of our communities would be seeing a lot more injustice. So, I’m glad they exist because they help keep all of us in check.
And I say “we” and mean city staff and local policy makers. I’m not sure about a tax at this point because I did not know that that’s what they’re moving forward. But at a time where our residents feel they’re over-taxed already—before we give that green light I’d like to see data, I’d like to see where this would go. Obviously if the data proved that this would be a benefit, I would be more than open to do it, especially if it’s going to help with environmental issues in our local district. But I would just be hesitant to support another tax measure after the most recent ones that we’ve had for a while.
We’ve had a couple of them recently, so, I think that our taxpayers are feeling the brunt of this taxation in general. But, if the data and the need is there then it’s a conversation that needs to be had. I’m open to potentially supporting but I can’t commit to it not knowing the full details of it. As of today.
I invite anyone that is pushing for this item to seek endorsements from local elected, and in this case, god willing I’ll be your next senator for SD33 and I’m more than willing. My doors will be open to having the conversation about why my constituents in SD 33 should support his item.
But yes, the 710 is very real, and anything the AQMD does to protect our constituents via their advocacy work and their actual work to help some of the 710 issues as the example, i’m very happy that they exist and they do that kind of work.
Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?
I think Pasadena, first of all, needs to realize that they are part of our community and that the 710 doesn’t only affect the southeast and Long Beach communities, it effects them too. For them to say ‘Not in my backyard’ is very unfair. I think that anything we can do to advance the conversation that they too are going to be affected, they need to be part of this conversation.
For displacing our community, I’m not in favor of that. I have residents that live literally off the 710 freeway. In fact, I’ve written a letter in the past to oppose that measure. I’ve not only spoken up about it, I’ve sent a letter to speak against displacing our local community members. I come from an immigrant community background and when our community members have invested their life savings, their life everything into a home we need to make sure that not only from a sensitive issue, that this has been all they’ve invested in.
For them to buy property next to the 710 and now they’re being displaced it’s not fair, not only to the place in Lynwood, but the other communities that are along the 710. I’m not very supportive of expanding the 710 project.
Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?
I am excited about the opportunity. Them choosing me to be their state senator they’re going to have someone that’s going to be a hard worker. I’m going to put my time and energy in every part of the district. Not only in the campaign, as I’m doing here today, but during the actual governing part of the job. Regardless of what city you live in in SD33, I plan to be a voice for every city.
And if that means I have to go to Long Beach one day from Maywood then Bell and back to Lakewood…I’m committed to doing that. And I say that because one of my experiences as a local mayor is being truly engaged in the community is how you understand the issues in the community. It’s not only about having a presence, it’s about truly being engaged. And again, I repeat, I don’t need to be the senator. I don’t need the title. I want to be the senator because I want to do the people’s work. I want to be the voice.
Clearly, I’m not Sacramento’s choice and that’s okay because I don’t need Sacramento’s blessing or support to be the senator. I need the people to believe in what we want to do and how we want to be a voice for the community. I’m very confident that as long as we all unite our voices then they will obviously make their vote at the polls and send me to Sacramento. And I’ll never forget where I’ve come from.
The same way that I put my time and energy into Lynwood, as I’ve proven to do that, I plan to do that for the whole district. Again, I’m excited for the opportunity and I look forward to being a voice for SD33 because we have a lot of issues.
One of the things we haven’t talked about is the coastal issues. We have the coast here in Long Beach and we have to be very conscientious that that’s a real issue not only for our state as a whole but it’s an issue for our district. Maybe a senator that is on the east side of the state might not care as much about things that affect the coast because their district is not. Not that they wouldn’t care but we have to be very in tune to the issues that are happening in our district.
We obviously have to be a voice for the state but we also can’t forget that word ‘Voice for the district.’ That’s why we have representation via senate districts and assembly districts. And for me, I’ll never forget that I’m the local SD33 representative. Yeah, there’s big picture items that we also have to look at but very mindful that maybe a senator not in tune with what happens with coastal issues because their district does not have Long Beach, for example.
I’m very in tune with that and the effects that it would have on the community if we don’t speak up. Again, I look forward to representing the district and I want to invite all the residents in SD33 to have a hard working senator regardless of which city I’m at that day.
One of the last things I feel why I’m qualified to run is that I have roots in two-thirds of the district. I’ve worked 13 years of my life in the non-profit world in the southeast with a meals on wheels program representing cities like South Gate , Maywood, Bell, Bell Gardens. To them I represent the central part of the district in Lynwood as an elected official. And lastly, I run the Chamber of Commerce in the City of Lakewood. So, once this election goes to a top-two, my pitch to the district is that I have roots from the northern part of the district to the south part of the district. I feel that two-thirds of the district, I have worked in these communities. So it’s not that I just moved into the district just to run for office, I feel very connected to these communities. So, I look forward to taking that into also places like Long Beach.