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 was born and raised in the City of Bell. Went through the public school systems there and after went into education, then my family business. My parents had a mom and pop shop. In 2010 the scandal broke in the City of Bell. I went in as an activist who would hopefully bring justice to the community after the suffering of the high property taxes that were imposed on them and the mismanagement of public funds. I was a co-founder of the community group BASTA, which means “enough” in Spanish. It also meant Bell Association To Stop Abuse.
We were successful in putting two of the council members on the recall ballot and the other three were up for re-election anyway so there was no reason to recall them to confuse the voters. I decided to throw my name in on the ballot. There were quite a number of candidates that ran in that race as well. And I was successful with the highest votes in a community that is 96 percent Latinos.
We went in there, and I know you all reported on it as well. What we found out when we went in.. we went in with no government experience, we learned on the job. We went in with no city managers, no directors and not even a chief of police. We were on the brink of bankruptcy, a lot of the media even said there was no chance for the City of Bell to come out of the ashes. We were successful in keeping our police department, increasing the number of officers, we were able to continue the parks and rec programs and all the necessities that someone would expect from their local government.
Today, I’m happy to say that we’ve been able to build up a reserve of $20 million and without raising a cent on people’s taxes. That kind of qualifies me to be able to go into the state legislature, make sure we look at the responsibility of how money is being spent. A lot of the problem that we have is that this community in Southeast Los Angeles, from Long Beach to Huntington Park, is predominantly low-income communities and we have to figure out a way that…people are paying their taxes but how is it being managed? And how will we be able to physically make sure that our government is being responsible.
We have a supermajority already in the legislature so we have to now start working on the way to make government accountable. Corruption has been a problem in Southeast Los Angeles. We have to make sure that we audit local governments and make sure that they’re using the funds correctly and make sure that they’re being responsible with the money for residents of that city and so on.
If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?
I’d make sure that we would look at…Again, it goes back to good governance and transparency. We have to look at a way to make sure that local governments are transparent and make sure that the good governance of being able to show the public of how their money is being spent.
San Jose has reached out to the FPPC to see how their reporting and the 700s the 460s, they’re asking them to take charge of it. Maybe we can have the whole state be able to do that because local governments do not have that many resources to be able to control all of that with the local electeds and people that are in charge of the jurisdiction and the money that is being spent in the cities.
That will be one of the key issues that I look at.
But I’m also looking at education. Making sure that we find resources to put more funding for schools and teachers. Being that California is the fifth largest economy in the world and yet we’re 42 percent behind all the states across the country.
You probably will ask me about homelessness, but that’s another big issue that we have here in Los Angeles County.
And last is transportation. I also sit on the gateway city council of government that Long Beach is part of. I was president of that as well so transportation is a key thing that we’ll also be looking at.
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?
Two of my colleagues are teachers and one out of Maywood who is also a teacher. Again the reason why I feel those are important is because they understand how much I push for when it comes to schools and making sure that we get the resources that are for our students and our teachers to make sure that they’re able to succeed in education. From the legislative side I’ve received the endorsement of State Senator Anna Caballeros, Assemblywoman Susan Eggman and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.
Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?
I’ve been endorsed and supported by a lot of people but that doesn’t impact when it comes to the needs of my community. The community comes first before anything. They’re the ones that have elected me and my voting record and what I’ve been able to accomplish in the City of Bell kind of transcends my accomplishments of being accountable to the people and making sure we do the right services, programs. We’ve not cut any programs, we’ve actually have increased it.
The Bell POA’s endorsement since day one and I’ve not been accountable to them, I’m accountable to the people. But public safety means a lot in our communities and hopefully that will be represented in the whole district.
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’ll definitely have a staff that kind of mirrors what my thoughts are and make sure that we have field representatives that will be all across the district to make sure that we’ll be able to let m know what is happening and how we can bring resources from the state level to all the cities. Obviously each city has a different need but we’ll definitely look at every need that is possible. Because at the end of the day it’s the district that elected me and I’m responsible to make sure that they get their needs done all across the district. And I’ll definitely do what I did in the City of Bell all across the district.
How would you address climate change?
Climate change is a good question because up and down the 710 Freeway we have the issue of a lot of the trucks, a lot of the emissions that are let go in the area. Also we had Exide in the City of Vernon that was a big issue that we dealt with. I think that Exide was an issue that from the state level, getting them temporary permits for many many years without putting a stop to it. At the end of the day it ended up hurting the residents of Maywood, Bell and the surrounding cities. To this day they’re still cleaning up some of the dirt that is still around there. Our children, mothers, fathers that are walking around there and yet there’s no protection.
We have to start working with corporations and a lot of these trucks that are driving up and down the 710 Freeway are independently owned. We have to start working with them to start transitioning to clean-air trucks and have some grants that they can use to be able to transition.
Obviously it’s not a transition that can be from day one, but we should have a plan. Maybe from 1-5 years or from 1-10 years, but there should be a plan to transition these vehicles into clean energy.
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?
Housing is a big issue and I think we need to find a solution. Cities should be the ones that are responsible for it and the state should not be imposing it. The state suing some of the cities, you know, we [Bell] were listed on it but we were listed as pending, we don’t have that much land. We have one of the biggest homeless shelters west of the Mississippi, we have over 500 beds in the Salvation Army shelter. We just approved 64 unit housing for people with disabilities and for those who were homeless in the past. So we’ve done our part, we’ll continuously work on that. Going back to Measure H that was approved in 2016, it’s time that we started using that money to be able to house some of the homeless that are all over LA County. I work in Downtown LA and you see some of the homelessness. We need to start treating these people as human beings and not something else. We need to start treating them as human beings and figure out a solution whether they have drug issues, mental issues or some people can’t go into a shelter because they have an animal. That dog is probably a comfort for them that could help them with their mental illness.
What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?
Their role should be to provide funding to some of the cities to be able to help with these homeless in every city. And to also impose that they have a solution to the problem. Obviously housing is a whole different aspect of the state getting involved with local jurisdictions to tell them how their housing should be. But I feel that there is funding that they can help out some of the cities that are transitioning people into housing, getting them off the streets. A lot of it is that it’s a big burden on public safety to deal with this. Fire departments keep getting calls about this. So, we need to start helping these people and figure out a solution to get them off the street and hopefully the state can get funding to a lot of the cities around the district and around the state.
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?
I think that a lot of police departments need to start getting resources on how to deal with the use of force. I think we need to figure out ways on how to push them back from use of force. In our community we’ve been successful in not having a lot of those problems of use of force. I think it’s a culture. I’m against any of that use of force if there’s a way to stay away from it.
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?
When it comes to taxes a lot of the people in the county tend to lean toward approving them. But the problem that we’re having is a lot of the funding is being misused or mismanaged. We have to figure out a way to keep it fiscally responsible in making sure that that money is used for what it was intended when it was first approved by the voters. If it’s going to be used for what it’s intended, then I’m totally for it.
Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?
I’m against it. We have enough trucks that go up and down the freeway, we don’t need any more of it.
Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?
I just ask people to look at my record of how I was able to turn the City of Bell from insolvency to being solvent with a $20 million reserve. We’ve been able to balance our budget every single year and our services were not cut. I’m very responsible when it comes to that. I’m a progressive reformer, someone that really understands what we go through. I was born and raised in the City of Bell and the three things that I’ve always wished upon my family is for them to have a roof on top of their heads, great education and great healthcare and I wish that upon every person in the State of California.