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For this assignment, we have been asked to identify four politicians from our country. One from the US Congressional Senate, one from the Congressional House of Representatives, one from the California State Senate, and one from my California State District Assembly. For this assignment, I decided to do my research on the careers, platforms, and contributions made by Senator Kamala Harris, Congressional Representative Jimmy Gomez, California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, and California State Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo.
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Kamala Harris is the Congressional Senator that I chose to do my research on. Born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, Harris was elected into the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2016. Harris is biracial, born to a Jamaican-born African American father, and an Indian mother. This makes her both the first Indian American to serve as a U.S. senator and the second African American woman. She has held her Senate seat for only 3 years so far and has already gained enough national popularity to run for the office of President of the United States. If she doesn’t get elected as President, her Senate seat will be up for her re-election in 2022.
Before she got elected into the office, she worked as a deputy district attorney from 1990 up until 1998 in her native town of Oakland. While she was district attorney she was making a name for herself for the handling of her many criminal cases. She was popular for her toughness as she prosecuted multiple cases that dealt with drug trafficking, drug violence, and even sexual abuse. Harris also received criticism from the African-American community for that same toughness. Many communities of color believe that in her zeal to be tough on crime, she was unfair to victims of police violence by opposing independent investigations of police shootings. She also didn’t endorse statewide rules that force police to use body cameras. (LA TIMES). This is an issue that concerns me greatly. Black men are 3 times more likely to be racially profiled and killed or harmed by police than any other group. Unfortunately, I believe that Kamala Harris’ actions regarding police department investigations and regulations hurt the chances for justice in the African-American community. Justice is a key value to me and my family. If the police can’t be monitored, investigated and held accountable for killing us, then we are being robbed of justice. The U.S. Constitution under Title 42 of the United States Code Section 1983, protects our civil rights against anyone operating on behalf of the state or government from using unreasonable and excessive force against civilians. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution also say that governments cannot deprive any person of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights supports this as well. in her approach to prosecuting crime and targeted black men disproportionately more than any other group. She was the California Attorney General from 2011 until 2017. There are many things that I like about Kamala Harris. I agree with her support for safe and legal abortions. She has also done a lot of work on providing assistance with housing and education for ex-convicts who have served their time and need to rejoin their families and communities. I agree with this as well because this will help communities be more stable. But I hope she changes her position on police investigations and body cameras.
The Congressional Representative that I chose for this assignment was Jimmy Gomez. He represents my congressional district which is the 34th Congressional District. The 34th district has a population of 698,741 and is widely diverse. It’s 66.5% Hispanic, 38.2% white, 19.3% Asian, and 4% black. Gomez is a politician for the Democratic Party and he is a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. He is also affiliated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Before Gomez’s election to the Congress House of Representatives in 2017, he served four and a half years in the California State Assembly where he also served as the Chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Representative Gomez is up for his re-election in 2020.
In January of 2019, Jimmy Gomez announced that he is co-sponsoring legislation designed to combat climate change known as the “Climate Solutions Act” in 2019. This initiative will establish a National Renewable Energy Standard to drive the country towards 100% renewable energy by 2025. This act will also produce a National Energy Efficiency Standard to reduce energy usage from electric retailers and makes strict greenhouse gas emission targets to reduce emissions to 80% below the levels of 1990 by the year 2050. I believe this would benefit the country drastically because we would be preserving energy and lowering the amount of CO2 emissions in the air.
Climate change is an issue that has been of personal concern to me for a long time. I am concerned because every year our weather becomes more and more extreme. There is solid science to support the fact that unless we do something drastic to reverse our carbon footprint and reduce gas emissions, my generation, and my children’s generation will be living in very different earth and suffer from our negligence. Many news agencies are reporting that the changing climate is driving a lot of the waves of immigration between countries. Animals, insects and now people are moving away from areas that used to be fertile and are now drying up. Crops won’t grow where they used to, and in some areas like Florida, ocean levels are rising causing people to move away from the shore. The earth gives us our greatest feeling of stability. Climate change will create unstable communities and economies around the world. The U.S. Constitution speaks of “The Common Good” and the duty to “promote the general welfare.” These concepts mean that our country was founded on the principle of a government that does everything it can to support the health and safety of its citizens. Breathable air, drinkable water, and stable weather systems are necessary for our continued survival.
My California State Senator is Maria Elena Durazo and she was elected in 2018 to represent the 24th district in California. She will serve a four-year term and will, therefore, be up for re-election in 2022. Durazo had a unique upbringing because her parents were migrant workers. She grew up traveling to multiple cities and states while her parents were working the crops, experiencing many hardships that a lot of migrant workers go through. Durazo, a Democrat, became the Executive Vice President of UNITE-HERE International which is a labor union in the U.S. and Canada with roughly 300,000 workers. In 2008, Durazo served as the Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee and as National Co-Chair of the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign. From 2006 up until 2014, she was the first woman Secretary-Treasurer of the LA County Federation of Labor which is the second-largest labor council in the country. Maria Elena Durazo is an advocate for Immigration, Civil Rights and Diversity. She wants to raise the profile of immigrant workers and advance the standard of living for thousands of low-wage workers.
Maria Elena Durazo is a true leader. She is a community organizer with a lot of fire. She organized hospitality workers to apply for citizenship. Her labor union UNITE-HERE got out and knocked on doors to get people to vote for Democrats. Her union’s efforts were mostly responsible for turning Nevada blue, which was the only swing state to do so. Very few people have the talent to mobilize and organize people to vote and speak up for their rights. I think Durazo shows how Democracy should work. She has spent her career helping the causes of poor and vulnerable people. But there are an awful lot of poor and vulnerable people. Durazo can turn those people into voting numbers that have a big voice in Washington. Democracy only works if the greatest number of people understand the issues hurting them, and unify their voices to bring beneficial change. Durazo shows that the secret to her political strength is that she truly understands the power of that first line of the Preamble to the Constitution: “We the People…”
Another example of Durazo’s commitment to democracy is her authorship of SB749. SB749 is legislation that forces private companies who have government contracts to have to make their hiring and salary information available to the public. A key component to both justice and democracy is transparency. If companies have to show the public their work conditions and what pay they give to their employees they will have the incentive to treat workers more fairly. Whenever workers have better salaries and working conditions. They contribute to a more stable community. So far, SB749 has gained a lot of support in the California Senate (SD24.Senate.CA.Gov).
The California State District Assemblymember that I chose for this assignment was Wendy Carrillo, she’s a Democrat and she represents the 51st Assembly District. The 51st District represents the areas of City Terrace, East Los Angeles, Chinatown, Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Edendale, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Montecito Heights, Silver Lake, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, and Monterey Hills. Wendy Carrillo came to this country as an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador when she was a child. Through her parents, she learned the meaning of working hard and staying loyal to the community that she was raised in. She became a U.S. citizen in her early 20’s.
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Carrillo is also an award-winning journalist who has a successful career as a radio and digital host, writer, and producer. She was also a host and executive producer for a program called “Knowledge is Power”, a locally based radio program on Power 106 Fm. The topics of this program range from access to better education to environmental justice and political transparency. Carrillo was sworn into office on December 16, 2017, and has spent her career showing her support for social justice, living wage jobs, access to standard healthcare and educational opportunity. Carrillo has been in office for 2 years and is up for re-election in 2020.
One specific legislation she’s done in office is the authoring of AB46. AB46 is a bill that removes harmful biased and outdated language when referring to people with mental illness. Our laws used to use words “insane,” “lunatic,” and “crazy” in describing people with a mental disability. AB46 will help to remove the stigma associated with mental illness. I think this is important because nowadays a lot of people have a mental disability and they shouldn’t have to suffer from unfair and inaccurate perceptions by others. Many people with mental disabilities suffer in silence and don’t seek treatment out of fear of being judged. Some people are even afraid that they may lose their jobs, lose educational opportunities, and be ostracized socially. Mental healthcare is an important issue. Whenever the news reports about suicide, mass shooting, domestic violence, drug overdoses, and homelessness, a lack of mental health treatment is usually at the root of those situations. When people feel safe to seek the treatment they are better community members who can fully participate in our democracy. It is clear that mental health care contributes greatly to a thriving democracy, stable communities, and criminal justice. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a federal law that grew out of the spirit of our U.S. Constitution. This act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Mental illnesses fall under this umbrella as well. Our Constitution and Congress’ power to add amendments to it are designed to help ALL Americans have an equal chance at a decent life.
I was intrigued by this assignment because I learned things about these representatives that I never knew. For a democracy to work, the voting public has to be informed about who our candidates are. My three key values for this assignment were justice, democracy, and stability. In their distinct ways, each of the four representatives has spent their careers showing their commitments to all of these values. I may disagree with some parts of their platforms, but overall, I think they are serving their citizens quite well and keeping the values of the Founding Fathers alive.
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