Life long resident of Gardena. Currently serving 12th year on Gardena City Council. Distinction of being the 1st African American elected for that position in 1997. Also more importantly the city of Gardena was facing great financial hardships. We hadn’t balanced the budget in over five years. We had no money in the back. We had $27 million of outstanding debt. Fast forward to today, we have $8.5 million in the bank. We balanced the budget for the last 12 years. I have served as chair, co-chair or vice chair of the finance committee. We’ve debt served that $27 million down to $20 million. We’ve given our employees four series of raises and we’re in negotiations for a fifth raise. All that without laying off a single employee, cutting off city services, or raising taxes. It’s a small example of what’s going on in the state, but it shows a clear leadership, and a mindset that I plan to bring Sacramento to deal with what is clearly a gargantuan of a situation.
Q. How much money have you raised.
A. To date, started as of April 1, until June 30th, we have raised $175,000. We have $170,000 on hand. We have raised another $30,000, giving us $20,000. Our budget is $300,000. We’re on track to do that. We have a campaign office that is fully functional.
Q. Do you feel at this point that it is a natural progression to move up the political landscape, or do you feel that you can have a greater impact in Sacramento that would continue to advance some of the causes that you have already had in Gardena?
A. Without a doubt I see it as a bigger playing field. I still believe that the heart of being an elected official is being local. At the end of the day it is the local elected official that makes sure you’re streets are paved. Make sure your trees are trimmed. So I don’t look at this as an advancement. I think the greater responsibility is on the local official. But this position creates a greater playing field. Gives you a greater opportunity to deliver those resources to the local communities. To help empower local communities. So I just look at this as a greater way to serve the local communities that I am committed too.
Q. What are the most important things you see facing the community, locally and statewide?
A. I’ll speak from the 51st. Without a doubt it’s jobs. I don’t care where you are in the state of California, jobs development and economic development is the major challenge. Not only in the state of California but in the entire nation. When we look at the 51st, one of the greatest challenges we have is access to health care. Not just coverage, but understanding the close of your Robert F. Kennedy Hospital in the last four years. The closure of Daniel Freedman in the last two years. The closure of Martin Luther King. The downsizing of Centinella. The downsizing of Gardena memorial. All of those hospitals are in the 51st assembly district. So you talk about folks even with insurance in place having places. It’s one thing to have insurance, to have medical coverage, you have to have quality facilities to access them. So now people are faced with the challenges of having to drive an hour to find health care providers. You get in an accident on the 105 freeway, where do you go? You have a long drive to Harbor. You have to depend on traffic. Having quality healthcare and being able to access it is paramount to the 51st. Economic and job development is also key.
Q. What do you think needs to happen to restore public trust in what the legislators do in Sacramento and what will you do to build a better relationship between the legislators and the pubic?
A. Something I’ve done as a local elected official that I’ve done is what I call “Open City Hall.” Every quarter, for the last 12 years, on a Saturday, I’ll open up my office. You don’t have to set an appointment. From 8 to 12, you can come in for 15 minutes and talk about what ever you want to talk about. If nobody is out in the lobby you can stay in there all morning. That’s what I plan on doing if successful in Sacramento. Open it up so people can understand our roles and responsibilities as legislators. Because I think going to Sacramento removes you from the people, just as you go to congress. It creates that wall or divide and creates that mystery so to speak about what it is that a state legislator does, because we’re not there in the community everyday.
Q. Since the Presidential election fewer voters have gone to the polls. How will that affect your campaign?
A. That’s a big challenge for us. A lot of voters have gone back under the rock. We need to still stay engaged. We need to still understand that just because we sent him to Washington, it isn’t where healthcare is going to be resolved. That’s where the fight is going to be, but it’s going to be resolved between working folks like ourselves who stand up and say this is what we want for him to be able to deliver through congress. The nuts and bolts are here in the local community. How do you get those folks out? We’re factoring in right now a 10% voters turnout.
Q. What is your position on term limits?
A. You have to expand them. Right now the people who are doing budget deals are not the legislators, it’s their staff. It’s the lobbies. You have somebody up there with only six years shelf life, that’s not a whole lot of time to figure all this out. I’m in my 12th year, but I didn’t understand what it was to be an elected official until I was well into my second term. So if you tell me that I only have six years to do what I’ve done in Gardena, you wouldn’t see that jazz festival, you wouldn’t see $8.5 million in the bank. You wouldn’t see a lot of things that we’ve done. Term limits have to be adjusted.
Q. What is your opinion on Hollywood Park?
A. I would have voted to keep that horse track there. Horse racing throughout the state is dying due to a couple of things. Online betting and the inability for the racetrack to have slot machines. You have to have a draw. If you can bet on a pony at home from your computer, or from any other casino, why go to the racetrack? There is no reason for the horse lover to go to the track. I love that track. It’s been around since the 1930s.
Q. If I’m an 18 year old student who isn’t college bound, or a straight a student, why should we be interested in you?
A. I think public education is paramount. Not everybody will be college bound. When I was in school there were voc ed opportunities that do not exist now. Classes that teach you how to be a carpenter, how to be a plumber, how to be a mechanic. Those are all good paying jobs. We need to focus on that. One of the critical errors in the budget was that the biggest cuts were in education. There’s a threat that Dominguez Hills may close down. When there is a major university on the brink of closing down because you’re adverse to creating new revenues, when at the same time your population is growing, you have to raise revenues. There are no new revenues in this budget. Cutting new revenues puts that 18 year old might have gone to college on the streets.