Tom Cares

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 don’t know that I would have an answer that is actually specific to Long Beach, but I do believe I will go about representing the district in a different and better way. I’m promising to let every other candidate who is running introduce bills or essentially have me introduce bills on their behalf. I think this is an important way to better represent the district and all parts of it. And I can get more into that if you want, but also, I want to see how big an internship program that’s possible to have, and hopefully have hundreds, maybe even over 1,000 interns. Because I know there’s a lot of people in this district who could use help to get their career going, who could use things like that in their resume and those kinds of experiences. And I think if I can bring in potentially hundreds of people that get involved with my office that we’ll know a lot of what’s going on all over the district, in ways that a normal legislator will not. Definitely I want to do the best I can to really work hard for the specific needs of the people in this district and in Long Beach.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

One of my campaign promises was to introduce a resolution where California would declare that it would become independent in the event that Trump is re-elected. I wish we were in better times. There’s a lot of other things that are important to me. I wish I wouldn’t have to do that as maybe the first thing that I do. But, definitely the country is facing possibly going down a very dangerous and terrible path that can continue and get worse and worse. I know a lot of people in this district [feel] sure, we had our problems with presidents like Bush, but this time we had a demented, dangerous sociopath running the country and I think California has to take that ultimate stand against that. And I really believe this is very important, especially as a message that we’re sending to the world. Not since 1884 has a party denied its incumbent nomination through the presidency. And I would hope that if I could introduce this, if I could try to force legislators to take a position on it, they might realize it’s the right thing to do. And I think if California could do that, I do believe it would cause him to lose the GOP primary. It would really help the United States start to heal from this nightmare. So that’s a campaign promise I’ve made and there’s others things that I would love to also do really fast, but I think that might have to be the first thing that I’d probably do.  

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 haven’t really gone for endorsements at all. I think the endorsement process is corrupt. We have this hidden primary and it’s a mesh of donors and endorsers and these institutional power structures that are really just trying to maintain something that served them. It’s really not good for democracy. In fact, all of the questionnaires from labor unions and all these groups and in every questionnaire it ask how much money have you raised. Essentially, it really is all tied in with the money interest. Whereas, the special interests who have money are choosing someone who suits them and then they try put money behind them early. The press then thinks, ‘Oh this is a serious candidate, this is the candidate we have to pay attention to.’ And the labor unions and all the organizations, endorsements, they all fall in line behind that and before you know it, we have one candidate like we have in this election with over a million dollars supporting them and none of the other candidates having anywhere close to that. I really hope we put those days behind us. So I’ve just completely stayed out of that and decided not to go for any endorsements.  

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

Because I haven’t really pushed to get endorsements, I have the ability to be completely objective, which I think will serve voters and residents of this district well.

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?

Well we have a lot of local electeds running in this election. In fact as far as I know, me and the Green Party candidate are the only ones I think who are not elected, at the moment, to local office. So I do believe that even my promise to take half of the 40-bill limit and let the other candidates introduce 20 bills is really important to cover. And so the other 11 candidates in this election—even the one who isn’t campaigning anymore, but still, the other candidates in this election, they have a combined enormous wealth of knowledge of the district, diverse experiences that can definitely contribute and I know they all have their own supporters, people who have followed their careers for years. And I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do that as a way of giving a voice to everyone in their district. But I do believe in addition to everything else that would probably put me above and beyond in representing the whole district, particularly in regard to local issues because 10 of them are local electeds. I definitely want to be really engaging, have forums, have online forums that I’m very attentive to. And I also think having that large internship program would make it a lot easier for my office to pay attention to everything that’s going on in the district. I definitely want to do great work that I’m proud of. So even if it’s an issue that’s not on my radar, I still as a point of pride, want to really pay attention to everything that concerns everybody.

How would you address climate change?

My wife is actually probably about to give birth maybe today or tomorrow. And our daughter will probably be alive near 2100 and it’s really scary to think what will be left of our environment in the year 2100. I do believe Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was right when she said it’s not anymore about whether this is a problem or how big the problem is, it’s really now about the urgency. And it’s an existential threat to our species. So if there’s really anything we can do, we should do it. There are things we can do with transportation: I’d like the state to work on a network of electric cars that are hopefully, in an advanced way, are autonomous and synchronized and narrow, and can maybe drive closely by being synchronized. That could be an interesting solution for transportation to cut down on emissions from that. We definitely need a lot more solar energy and renewable [energy]. I think the Trump resolution could help because the best thing that really we could do for global climate change is to sanction, to have trade sanctions against nations that do not do their part. And leaving the Paris Accord was definitely a travesty. And yeah, even taxing meat might have to be something that’s on the table. Agriculture that produces meat is definitely a big strain on the environment. We want to be smart about it, have the right priorities, but prioritize the things that have the biggest impact. We definitely need to be doing everything we can. It’s the whole species that’s at stake here.

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 know we have a housing shortage, we know it’s a problem. You would think: ‘Let’s build a lot more housing.’ I think part of what happens then is that homeowners maybe don’t want a lot more housing because if the supply of housing increases the value of the homes that they own might go down. But I think we have to set that aside. We need to increase housing, at least urban housing, by 2 percent per year, I’d say for seven years. Maybe start gearing up to do that in three years and do it for three to 10 years from now. And to do that, I’d say the state needs to not allow localities to have zoning restrictions—I mean having zoning restrictions that make it impossible to build that level of housing. We need to create incentives and where that doesn’t work, I even believed the state should actually just build the housing themselves. If removing obstacles and creating incentives isn’t enough, then I think the other state should build the housing itself to increase housing supply at those levels.  

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

So certainly what I just said, but also, San Francisco spends over $40,000, I believe, and I think it’s even without their recent increase that passed on taxing for that. As a state I think we’re spending over $30,000 per homeless person, but the problem really ends up being, well two things: with the money that we are willing to contribute to this problem, you could house everybody. But you probably couldn’t help everybody compete in these high demand housing markets to get housing. And then also there’s the issue of if you increase homeless services, so you clear the homeless people that we have now and you find them housing, the area that did that will likely attract more homeless people. Their sidewalks will now be cleared, it’ll be less competition and people might come hoping that they can get the same benefits from those services. It’s really a federal problem that the government doesn’t really address in the right way. But that doesn’t mean that California can’t do something about it.

So we’ve had this a long time. I mean, I first came here about 15 years ago and I remember the homeless problem back then and it seems to only have gotten worse. If we’re really going to solve it, I think we’d have to try to do something big. I think we’d have to try set up these free communities in areas that are less populated, which we could afford to do. We could build tiny houses and things and do it in a way that’s dignified for homeless people where they actually have their own space instead of a bed and a room with a hundred other beds or anything like that. But they actually have a shelter, a domicile that’s really for them only and they can have that dignity in an area that’s less populated, and they have resources there to help them with job training. I would even try to maybe cause a little mischief with the federal government, if I could, by maybe having, you know, if you put [housing] kind of maybe closer to the edge of California and Arizona or maybe put another one closer to the edge of the Oregon/Nevada border and have free buses that go back and forth to Phoenix between these communities. And free buses that go back and forth to Boise. That might get the attention of the federal government to really address this. So I think we’d have to be creative, but I do like the idea of trying to set up free communities where people can live without having to have money to pay for it, even if it’s a part of the state that’s not a high-demand place to live in. And people can then use that time and that peace more or less to learn things and work on themselves and prepare themselves to be contributing members of society.

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?

So this unfortunately had to be an issue that I experienced in my life when I was 19 years old, which was 11 years ago. I was beaten by three deputies. It was pretty bad; I was walking with a limp for three weeks after. I had blood in my ear for five weeks after and it was very scary. I never at that time imagined how things are. So I definitely want to have zero tolerance for police brutality. I’ve come up with some ways I think we could achieve that. So one I think is to raise the bar and to weed out the worst 15 percent of police officers every year. That would essentially to have a system where we can easily receive complaints from people, analyze whether they are clearly stated allegations of misconduct and abuse of power. And even if they’re not proven, still keep the record of all that and then come up with a metric and determine who seem appear to be the 15 percent worst in every department. And unless they previously had multiple years in a row of good performance, that they would be terminated and replaced. And that will essentially keep raising the bar in that way. If there’s evidence of unnecessary police violence, the person who committed that violence should be immediately terminated but probably even more importantly, anyone who was aware of it and didn’t report it should also be terminated. And further, I think an entire precinct’s compensation should to some extent be tied to the number of times that there was unnecessary violence and another officer was aware of it and didn’t report it. And for every occurrence of that, their compensation for the entire precinct should be reduced. We need to have a culture of intolerance for this within police departments. Instead of you know, the cool thing to do for them they feel is to cover up with what their peers do. They should start to realize that this can’t be tolerated at all and it will impact all of them.

And I don’t believe this goes against public safety. This is I think necessary for public safety not just to protect the people who would otherwise be abused by police, but to help the police be more effective by being more trustworthy.

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?

A half-cent increase in sales tax isn’t particularly excessive. It’s reasonable, if it helps with pollution and has a positive impact in the environment and the money is spent well, then that would be something I’d support.  

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I wouldn’t necessarily oppose it, but I do wish we could prioritize more innovative solutions. I mean there’s been a lot of studies on this: when you add lanes, a lot of times actually increases congestion. People are well aware that there are now more lanes and they think now they can drive and there’s less traffic and now you have so many more cars on the road that it actually makes things worse. We’ve seen that in LA for decades—it was trying to build its way out of this problem. I would prefer to prioritize a system where you have smaller vehicles that are autonomous, and like I said before, and I have a little graphic showing that on my website. Yeah I think there are more innovative solutions than building lanes. That’s not to say I would necessarily oppose that though.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

Certainly, nobody begged me to run for this. I mean there are times—10 years ago I was asked to run for city council—but no one begged me to run for this. It’s something I decided to do and there’s a lot of sacrifice involved and I do that because I am trying to give an extraordinary opportunity to this district to try to have politics to rise up to higher levels with things like letting everyone else introduce bills. And there’s really a lot of other things that I want to push that I know probably no other candidate would. One of these things is a democracy platform. Which, I’d agree, is probably ahead of its time, but I think we know that in the future we will do democracy better than this. And so I think we can start experimenting with that now. That would be to create kind of an online platform where voters can vote in a democratic style. But also, where they can choose their favorite person to represent them to have their vote counted for theirs when they don’t vote. And this is I think a revolutionary way to really get governance right instead of having these elections every two and four years that are gamed and are very easy to corrupt because they are games. They are a contest literally. And you know who wins contests: the people who are most powerful and have the most advantage are doing the best. It’s not a great system for people who are not doing the best. But to be specific, just on that point really quick, I’d like to have the state create something like that, and because it’s still experimental it wouldn’t have binding power, but things that pass on that platform, the legislature could be required to vote on. Maybe some of the things that pass in that platform will go up as ballot propositions. So we never have the final say because it’s still an experimental idea but things like that could be revolutionary. Essentially, these seats, they’re always just filled by people who are going to fall in line, who are going to be rank-and-file. We have few candidates in the district who are getting contributions from legislatures in Northern California and other parts of the state and other districts because they know that they’re just going to be easy and not challenging and I think if the voters vote for those kinds of candidates, they’re shortchanging our potential. I want to go there to make people think about and work on things that otherwise might not be thought about and worked on. Even potentially using cryptocurrency to make personal potential invest-able, to give people the power that corporations have to leverage their potential. There’s a lot of big things that I want to try to at least get on the radar and hopefully even get passed. And I know I won’t make all of them happen, but if I lose I can’t make any of them happen. I would ask voters to consider that and take a step for their potential.