This article originally appeared in the East Bay Times.
By: Tatiana Sanchez
With the press of a digital “panic” button, immigrants detained by ICE may soon be able to send customized, encrypted messages to friends and family from their mobile phones in a last-minute attempt to share final parting words or critical information.
Notifica, which has yet to launch, is just one mobile app being developed for immigrants at a time when both legal and undocumented immigrants are increasingly worried about their status in the U.S. Others are working on tools that provide real-time alerts about ICE raids and information on legal resources.
While apps aimed at helping immigrant communities have been around for years, developing digital safety nets and resources for this growing market has taken on new urgency in the wake of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“A lot of people in the tech community have been upset with what happened after the election and want to do something about it,” said Natalia Margolis, a software engineer at the digital agency Huge who partnered with Notifica founder Adrian Reyna to design the app. “Trump winning the election was certainly a wake up call to a lot of people.”
Potential users of these apps have grown exponentially in recent years — an estimated 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind and the share of those who own smartphones is now 77 percent, up from 35 percent in 2011, when Pew Research Center conducted its first survey of smartphone ownership.
An estimated 98 percent of U.S. Latinos own cellphones, according to Pew. Within that group, about 75 percent own smartphones.
So far, there are about 8,000 people on a waiting list to download Notifica, according to Reyna, director of membership and technology strategies for the national immigrant rights organization, United We Dream.
As an undocumented resident himself, Reyna understands what’s needed: “In a moment when you don’t know what to do because everything is crashing down on you and you’re trying to get a hold of many people at the same time … we want to narrow that down to one thing.”
The app gained national attention after its debut at the SXSW conference last month.
Notifica, or “notify,” works with the press of a button by sending out a message blast to up to 15 of the person’s trusted contacts in a matter of seconds. The messages are pre-loaded and protected by a PIN number, which users share with loved ones. All communication is deleted from the app once the messages are sent out, according to Reyna. If they don’t have immediate access to their cellphones, users can also call a hotline to have the messages sent out at a later time.
Gabriel Belmonte, of San Jose, described the app as “a good resource to send out any status reports.” The 35-year-old, who has temporary deportation relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said younger people would be much more likely to use the app.
“For any apps, it’s really the younger people that take precedence in using it,” he said. “There’s a disconnection between the older generation” and the younger generation.”
Technology has made a natural progression into the realm of immigration, but “the Trump administration has accelerated this, especially in Silicon Valley,” said Eduardo Gaitan, co-founder of the Arrived app, which provides a one-stop shop of resources for immigrants, from housing and education to employment and deportation. The app launched in 2016.
“Most companies are feeling the effects of the new administration directly. I think it’s at the top of everyone’s mind,” said Gaitan, a Google employee.
The app’s founders are considering adding an emergency feature in which users can send custom messages in a variety of languages, much like Notifica.
“Mobile technology is moving into more and more spheres, and immigration makes a lot of sense,” said co-founder William McLaughlin. “It makes sense to have something that addresses one of the biggest challenges one can face.”
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said, “Technology is going to do what it’s going to do.”
“It can inform people about what their options are, but in the end, if ICE and the administration are intent on enforcing the law, then it’s going to happen,” he added.
Software developer Celso Mireles is building a tool that delivers real-time alerts about nearby ICE raids or checkpoints. RedadAlertas, or “Raid Alerts,” will start off as a web app accessible through a website and text message-based alerts, according to Mireles, who plans to eventually build a mobile app.
“These alerts will inform vulnerable immigrants of risks they may face in their neighborhood or workplace,” Mireles wrote on a website for the app. “They will also enable legal aid groups, community organizations and activists to respond rapidly to protect immigrant communities.”
Apps for undocumented immigrants
Notifica: With the press of a button, immigrants who have been detained by ICE can send customized, encrypted messages to friends and family from their mobile phone.
Arrived: Created by a team largely composed of Google employees, the app aims to empower immigrants with knowledge on a variety of topics, from housing and education to jobs and deportation.
RedadAlertas: Delivers real-time, verified alerts about nearby ICE raids or checkpoints.
The current Administration forgets that our nation stands on values and ideals that protect our freedom and peace of mind. Don’t let millions of children live in fear of being separated from their family.
You can join us by signing our petition and telling the administration, “No ban, no wall.”
With the stroke of a pen, President Donald Trump vindicated the fear and anxiety incited by his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric—signing an executive order enhancing immigration enforcement and deportation. As a result, there have been reports of multiple U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country, which netted the arrest of more than 680 immigrants in one week, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
However, whatever the executive order, this is America, which means we still have the Constitution and the people still have rights. Everyone should know your rights and should know what to do if immigration officers are at your door.
If officers are at your door (courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union):
Remember an ICE administrative warrant (Form I-200, I-205) does not allow officers to enter your home.
If officers force their way in, don’t resist and tell everyone in the residence to remain silent.
If you are arrested, remain silent.
Do not sign anything until you speak to a lawyer.
The Immigrant Defense Project advises undocumented immigrants to have a plan in place for if they or a family member is arrested. Organize all important documents (passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates and medical records) and store in a secure location. “It is important that neither you nor your family members give ICE your passport,” the organization said.
When dealing with ICE agents, make sure to report and record everything that happens, unless you are on federal government property. “Take notes of badge numbers, number of agents, time, type of car and exactly what happened!” Cases have been known to be dismissed when there was enough documentation to prove that ICE officers acted outside of the law.
Clearly, the Trump administration is making good on their promise to target immigrants. This is not just about “criminal” immigrants; in a meeting with members of Congress, ICE officials acknowledged that at least 186 of those apprehended had no criminal history. Further, there have been reports of some of the most vulnerable being targeted.
In El Paso, ICE agents showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her—she left under arrest. In Alexandria, Virginia, two men leaving a homeless shelter at the Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church, were met by ICE agents.
Now, the Associated Press reports that President Trump considered using as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants, which would be an unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement.
We must stand together and protect each other. No one should be ripped away from their family for the ‘crime’ of wanting to work, study and participate in our great democracy. Sign our petition and tell President Trump, “NO!” to these draconian immigration policies. #NoBanNoWall
For more information, go to:
Los Angeles, CA – Former Los Angeles Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa issued the following statement on changes to The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policies, which will drastically expand the number of immigrants subjected to immediate deportation.
“The last thing we should be doing is militarizing our immigration enforcement and terrorizing vulnerable people and communities,” Villaraigosa said. “Instead, we should focus on working with the immigrant community and implementing comprehensive reform.”
In a shift from the Obama administration, President Donald Trump will no longer prioritize enforcement efforts targeting those who commit serious crimes or who are a threat to national security. Instead, the new policies will target those who may have minor violations such as a speeding ticket or are simply suspected of such a violation.
“Millions of immigrants will now live in fear that any action, no matter how minor, will result in their deportation. We are already seeing immigrants who are more fearful of working with local law enforcement as that interaction could result in the break-up of their families. Just last week, a woman was targeted for deportation for reporting domestic abuse. Under the Trump administration’s actions, many more will worry that false charges will lead to their removal. This is a terrible thing to do to an already vulnerable population.
“I continue to stand with our immigrant community in the face of policies designed to provoke anxiety and fear – policies that will make immigrants more vulnerable and all of us less safe.”
Thank you. I’m excited to be with you here today. These days, I find it particularly reassuring to be among my fellow Californians.
As the threat of the Trump Presidency becomes all too real – Californians are uniting as never before. Millions marching to protect: our health care, a woman’s reproductive freedoms, civil rights and civil liberties, and to defend California immigrants and their families facing arrest and deportation.
President Trump seeks to divide us from our third largest trading partner and closest neighbor to the south with a wasteful wall on our border, which could cost up to $40 billion dollars to build. He proposes a religious test for refugees—contrary to our Constitution. These policies create walls of division and distrust, pitting: Muslims against Christians and Jews, documented against undocumented, wealthy against working people.
Here in California, we are not allowing ourselves to be divided. Instead, we are uniting around a common purpose – to defend our values and protect the people of our state.
California has long been a beacon of hope for the nation and the world. We have welcomed millions who share a vision of freedom, tolerance and opportunity. These newcomers have joined with long-time residents to help build a dynamic economy and a rich multi-cultural society.
But as we stand up for our values, we must also remember what we are fighting for.
While it is important that we uphold our progressive principles, it is imperative that we take stock of how well we are doing to make economic progress a reality for the many Californians who have been left behind.
Silicon Valley is booming so fast it can’t house its employees, while the Central Valley is home to some of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Most of the communities along our coast are flourishing, while too many of California’s inland communities are languishing. Travel a few miles from Brentwood to Boyle Heights or a long distance from Hillsborough to Huron, and you will see that there are still two Californias – one largely white and wealthy, the other largely Latino and poor.
We shouldn’t resent the wealth of our coast, but we must create policies that extend economic opportunity to every corner of our state – and to everyone in California.
That’s why the last thing we can be is complacent. We have more wealth, but also more poverty than many states in the nation.
California is the sixth-largest economy in the world. Yet, housing affordability is slipping away in a state where homeownership is at its lowest since the 1940s. The California dream is harder and harder to achieve for a middle class that is actually shrinking for the first time in nearly a century.
Too often where you live determines how much you earn and even how long you will live. The life expectancy in Marin County, the highest in the state, is nearly 8 years longer than the life expectancy in Kern County in the Central Valley.
Economic inequality has grown because our policies have not kept pace with our changing economy. As in other states, California has lost many good-paying jobs and replaced them with jobs that pay low wages.
Today, the cost of housing, child care and higher education soar, while wages stagnate.
These changes coincide with a major demographic shift in our state. We are now a plurality Latino state, on our way to become a majority Latino state.
At precisely the moment Latinos have become the largest ethnic group in California, the promise of a better life is growing farther and farther out of reach.
If the recent election taught us anything, the erosion of economic opportunity gives space to the politics of fear. That’s why the work of organizations like yours is so important.
At this moment, California must lead. And because Latinos will soon to be the majority of this state, we must lead. We must help this state become a national example of how to build a successful 21st Century Economy that creates more middle-class jobs for more people. We must work to preserve the fundamental notion that anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules ought to have a clear path for a better life.
Californians remember that voters lashing out amid economic anxiety is nothing new. As a state, we’ve seen this movie before.
I was first elected to the Assembly in 1994 on the heels of a deep recession that plunged our state billions of dollars into debt and sent unemployment sky high.
This gave rise to the scapegoating of immigrants, culminating with Proposition 187, the elimination of bilingual education and affirmative action.
During my six years in Sacramento, I worked with leaders from both parties, forging common ground to find solutions to the problems facing our state.
We created a children’s healthcare program that extended coverage to 750,000 children across the state. When the federal government stripped public support for legal immigrants, we helped bring people together to ensure those benefits were covered here in California. We raised per pupil spending and made progress in improving our schools.
Latinos were a minority then – building a broad coalition of people from across the state who understood that these policies were in our collective best interest.
Now that we are soon to be the majority, let’s remember that moment. We endured because we were not alone.
Let’s remember the hand of friendship extended to us back then when our Muslim neighbors are besieged by bigotry today. Let’s remember the support given to us when women are being denied basic health care. Let’s recall who stood with us when it is time to stand together to protect the LGBT community, our environment, students from deportation.
But at this pivotal moment, being progressive also means promoting economic policies that help lift all Californians into the middle class.
In my own public career, I have never run as “the Latino” candidate or served as a “Latino” elected official. I have always sought to unite all people around a common purpose.
However, I am a proud American, but equally proud of my Mexican heritage. I know that California was built on the backs of so many who came so far in the pursuit of the American dream. People like my grandpa Pete who came from León, Guanajuato Mexico at the turn of the century.
We are Americans first and foremost, but if anyone wants to make our Mexican heritage an issue, we will not shy from that. We embrace our Latino heritage as every bit a part of our American heritage.
Because blind-eye bigots don’t know what we know. Latinos stepping up to take leadership is not a threat to American values. It is an emphatic embrace of the American values of reveling in our diversity and welcoming our newcomers.
Latinos want and need what all Californians want and need. A stronger economy – creating more middle-class jobs.
Many of our kids need access to early childhood education to a greater degree than others and so the fight for quality pre-school for every child is not political – it is deeply personal.
For the parents of Latino children, children who now make up the majority of our public schools in California, improving those schools isn’t a campaign slogan – it is absolutely necessary to the opportunity we all aspire to.
Because so many of our families must commute hours from distant homes, we understand that affordable housing close to jobs and excellent transit is not some nice-sounding position paper – it is an absolute necessity.
Because it is now Latino kids flooding into the community colleges, CSUs and UCs, opening up access to free and affordable higher education for everyone is not an abstract idea – it is an immediate priority.
Because so many Latino kids literally go hungry when there isn’t enough water to grow our crops, we know it is not an option to choose between protecting our wildlife or providing the state with the water it needs to grow – we must absolutely have both.
The promise of America cannot be an elusive abstract. It must be concrete and reachable by more of us.
Opportunity. Opportunity for all. The freedom to work and prosper together. These are the core promises of America that the diverse communities of California understand and embrace.
And because we embrace the freedom to succeed through our own hard work – we are not ready to settle for the tyranny of false choices.
We do not need to make a choice between growing our economy, improving our business climate and protecting our environment or closing the income gap. We can and must do it all. We must clear the path for our businesses to prosper, but ensure that we are prospering together.
We must safeguard the rights and hard-earned pensions of our employees while protecting the next generation of California’s workers who must pay for these pensions. I launched my career as a union organizer fighting for the rights of workers. I was tested as Mayor of California’s largest city – where I saw “balanced” budgets were too often balanced on the backs of the poor and the powerless.
I, for one, will not ignore the challenge of paying for future obligations in a way that protects workers today and poor children tomorrow.
We can protect rights of teachers and promote better schools for our children. Our teachers need to earn more. Our teachers and parents need to be heard more. Our kids need to learn more. We can – and must – do it all.
We here today understand that as Latinos become the majority of this state – our success is California’s success.
Because we take so deeply to heart the promise of America, our presence strengthens America.
Because our idealism is tempered by the reality of too much poverty and too few economic opportunities, our focus on growing the middle class will create wealth and opportunity for everyone.
This is not just a Latino moment. This is a California moment. And indeed, an American moment.
So, thank you for your time, for the work you do and for joining the fight to ensure that we meet this moment to find a better way forward together.
I am proud to stand with you today.
We are grateful to all the women and girls of America for your leadership—and thankful to all the boys and men who support them.
Of course, it is the women who lead the way as we join together in the righteous struggle ahead to protect those we love—and the values we hold dear.
I remember today—as I remember every day—my mother Natalia. Of course, she would have been here today if she was still with us. She has a smile though, looking from above at her children and grandchildren who are here.
She would have marched with confidence and courage. She would have walked today—as she did every single day of her adult life—with purpose and faith in a better future.
Some of my very first memories are of my mother—I can still hear the sound of her heels on our wooden floor—leaving for work, walking down the street and waiting for the bus to take her to work.
It was the sound of a woman walking with purpose.
Her life was a long and arduous walk to provide for her family, to stand with her community and protect those she loved. She walked to extricate us from a home of alcoholism and domestic violence.
She walked every day so we had food on the table.
She walked so we had a decent place to live.
She walked so we could go to schools where we were valued and where we could succeed.
She walked so we could go to college, get a good job and have a more comfortable life than she did.
She never stopped walking down our street in the morning, onto that bus to work and home again to stand up for her family during good days and bad. She walked and walked and walked.
I walk today in her memory and with her purpose.
Today, we walk for health care for all. For reproductive rights. And for Planned Parenthood.
Today, we walk for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Today, we walk for our Muslim brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers.
Today, we walk for our immigrant community—for those who crossed borders for peace, for prosperity and for a better life for their children.
Today, we walk for the disabled who deserve dignity and respect from All of us, including our president.
Today, we walk for the rights we have fought for, the battles we have won and the promise that America can and will do better.
Today, I walk for my mother, my daughters, my wife—but also for my sons. Because this cannot and will not be your fight alone. This will be a movement of women and men standing together.
Today is the first day—but we’re following in the footsteps of millions of women who have marched for generations. We thank them and we tell them—this is for you. THIS IS FOR ALL OF US!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2017
Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor Exceeds Campaign Fundraising Goals
$2.7 Million Raised as Campaign to Unite California Contrasts with Trump Agenda
Los Angeles, CA – Today, the gubernatorial campaign of former Assembly Speaker and Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa announced that it had raised just over $2.7 million between the launch of the campaign on November 10 and December 31 of 2016.
“We are humbled by the incredible show of support for our campaign,” Villaraigosa said. “This campaign is about inclusion and giving voice to the millions of Californians who feel they have no voice. The $2.7 million raised as of December 31 far exceeds even our own expectations, and I would like to personally thank everyone who made it happen.”
Villaraigosa has said his campaign would focus on uniting California around solutions to rebuild the middle class by investing in our schools and repairing our state’s infrastructure. And he pledged to organize his campaign to ensure every voice is heard—particularly for those who have been ignored or left behind.
As a public servant, Villaraigosa served as Mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013), Los Angeles City Council Member (2003-2005), Speaker of the California Assembly (1998-2000) and California State Assembly Member (1994-2000). Should Villaraigosa become elected, he would be California’s first Latino governor since 1875.
In the wake of the stunning election of Donald Trump, Democratic leaders have been rightly focused on what went wrong—and what we should do next.
I have offered that the best response to bad policy is good policy. We should concentrate on advancing an agenda that creates high-wage jobs and reduces income inequality by focusing on better public schools, better access to career and job skills training, lower-cost college and a targeted investment in infrastructure that creates job growth.
We need to step forward—not step back. That’s why I wanted to respond to a report in which a Democrat I respect said, “there’s some truth” to suggestions that California focuses too much on greenhouse gasses at the expense of poverty.
The proven reality is that focusing on the clean energy we need to address climate change creates high-wage jobs—and in California, it is creating them in the tens of thousands.
According to the Advanced Energy Economy Institute’s 2016 California Advanced Energy Employment Survey, advanced energy employment grew 18 percent last year—almost six times the rate of growth for the overall economy in California. To date, clean energy employs over half a million Californians. While not all of these jobs are middle class jobs—most are. And we can, and must, work to make sure more are. Through community college training and certificates, union apprenticeship programs and even career and technical training in high schools, we build the skilled workforce it takes to keep expanding this clean energy economy—and expand the middle class as we do it.
The reality is that cleaning our environment might be an important cause among the privileged, but it can be a life or death issue for the poor. Low-income Californians are more likely to suffer from cancer and asthma, and they die earlier than wealthier Californians—about 12 to 13 years earlier according to recent research from the Brookings Institution. And one of the key reasons is that they are more likely to live in polluted areas.
Before I launched my campaign for governor, I traveled all over California and went to many places in the Central Valley and Inland Empire that candidates don’t usually visit. I visited places where many folks are struggling to make ends meet. Folks making incomes in the bottom 10 percent in the Inland Empire have seen their income drop by 35 percent since 2007. The gap between rich and poor in the Inland Empire has grown by 40 percent. By some standards, the Central Valley is the most unequal region in the state, with high-wage earners making on average 14 times more than low-wage earners.
While I’m no stranger to poverty—I was raised by my mom in Boyle Heights—I saw a kind of crushing poverty that should have no place in our state or nation.
Yes, our coasts here in California are doing well and some places are even booming. But today, almost six million Californians live in poverty—more than any other state in the union. And five of the top 20 counties in the U.S. for populations living in poverty are in California alone. The top incomes in California have grown about 40 percent since 1980. In contrast, middle incomes have only grown 5 percent—and low incomes have dropped nearly 20 percent.
The answer to poverty is jobs—middle-class jobs. And the way to create the highest paid workers in America is to make sure we have the most skilled workers in America.
That’s why we should be talking more, not less, about the high-wage jobs we can create to address climate change. And, while we’re at it, we should be focusing our efforts on job creation in every sector of the California economy—from agriculture to advanced manufacturing to tech. Because creating new jobs makes poorer communities both healthier and wealthier.
As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office and implement his vision of a much smaller federal government, it is up to all Americans to work with him where we can and defend our values where we must.
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways we can defend our people is to make sure we are uniting with other cities and states to advance and preserve policies that help meet the challenge of a new Trump administration.
There are of course many other ways we can chart a vision of a government that protects working people – starting with making sure the policies and the programs we defend work well. Of course we need to keep organizing – making sure that voters in future elections understand what is at stake, and register and participate. And we need to propose the change voters sought this November to lift more families into the middle class.
But we should take a hard look at how we can use the combined power of our forward-thinking cities and states to leverage better national policies. And we have the benefit of three extraordinary governors, California’s Jerry Brown, Oregon’s Kate Brown and Washington’s Jay Inslee, who have demonstrated the courage to act boldly in the past.
Just imagine how much we could accomplish if these three governors agreed to work to bring our cities and states together on important policies that could become a breakwater against the national tide of Trumpism?
We have a powerful precedent in the regulations California pioneered to clean our air and protect our environment by working to reduce carbon emissions. We used the tremendous power of our internal California market to create a standard that the nation was eventually forced to follow.
When I served as mayor of Los Angeles and as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I saw the tremendous power of local governments working in unison to drive state, federal and even global initiatives forward.
Fighting climate change is the best example – it is an effort that was pioneered by world cities well before states and nations joined the effort. But there are many other ways local governments worked together in partnership to protect people, with the “Fight for 15” minimum wage effort another clear precedent of how state and local governments working together can shape broader policy.
We live in the most robust democracy on the planet, in a system that was designed to blunt the power of demagogues. One of the foundations of our democratic system is our federal structure, giving tremendous power and authority to states to defend the well-being of their residents. And within our states, our big cities are laboratories for bold new policies.
California is once again the sixth-largest economy in the world. If you add the GDP’s of Washington and Oregon, California would surpass the United Kingdom to become the fifth-largest economy in the world.
That’s power – power we must use to protect our people against any dangerous policies advanced by a Trump administration.
With the ugly presidential race now history, the next major political contest in California has officially begun. It’s to replace Gov. Jerry Brown.
Brown — the longest-serving California governor ever — can’t run for reelection in 2018 because of term limits. He’ll be finishing his fourth. The limit is two. But his first two were freebies in the 1970s before Californians imposed term limits.
Who should replace Brown is a crucial question. Who is most capable of fixing California’s nagging problems of water shortage, highway deterioration, regulatory quagmires, underperforming schools, outdated taxes and public pension debt?
And who can mimic Brown in keeping the state’s day-to-day spending in check?
Here’s an ironclad guarantee: Based on the current field of governor wannabes, the contest will be relatively civil compared to the presidential horror show. Kids can be allowed to watch.
Another fairly sure bet: The winner will again be a Democrat. More than 3 million Californians did vote for Republican Donald Trump. But nearly twice as many sided with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The candidacy filing deadline for governor won’t come until early 2018. But the probable field was pretty much set last week when former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 63, officially entered the contest.
Three other Democrats already were in the race: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 49, state Treasurer John Chiang, 54, and — a distant long shot — former state schools chief Delaine Eastin, 69.
“Villaraigosa is a fierce campaigner, and if he can raise the dough, he’s someone to be reckoned with,” says Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio, a former gubernatorial and legislative advisor.
True. As the state Assembly speaker from 1998 to 2000, Villaraigosa was a tenacious, hard-charging deal maker who tended to get things done. He also was charismatic, with a quick smile.
He didn’t come out charging in his campaign kickoff, however. He said all the right things, practically singing “Kumbaya” in an effort to attract the favorable attention of voters shocked by the presidential mud wrestle.
“I truly believe that what people are looking for is a uniter,” Villaraigosa told me, echoing a favorite word of former Republican President George W. Bush. “Particularly now after such a divisive campaign.”
When I asked the former mayor why he’d be a better choice for voters than Newsom or Chiang, he wouldn’t bite. “I’m not going to focus on any other candidates,” he replied.
“I’m not going to throw kerosene. I’m going to be a uniter. But I’ll fight and stand up for values where I must. I’m a uniter but a fighter too.”
OK. We’ll see how all that plays out when the campaign gets hot.
Villaraigosa’s other main pitch was one that Democrats don’t use enough: “I want to help rebuild the middle class by investing in our schools and repairing our state’s infrastructure.”
The high school dropout — who later graduated from UCLA — indisputably holds credentials as an education reformer. He hasn’t always been successful, but his push for charter schools has angered teachers unions.
“Middle class starts with education,” he says. That includes training for the new economy and also for skilled service jobs, he adds.
All the upbeat talk is easy, of course. But once a candidate wins and attains power, decisions must be made that please some and anger others. Some interests benefit financially, others lose.
“I know that far better than most,” Villaraigosa says. “I was mayor during the recession and had to make tough calls. But I left with a high approval rating.”
What about Brown’s two cherished legacy projects: The $64-billion bullet train from L.A. to San Francisco and the $15.5-billion twin tunnels siphoning fresh water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta?
“The short answer is I’m for the train,” he says. “But we need to drive down the cost. We need to leverage it for economic development and jobs. That’s what I did with light rail.”
But leveraging the bullet train for economic development in the middle of San Joaquin Valley cotton fields and nut orchards doesn’t compare with laying light rail in a big city.
“Before we build those tunnels,” Villaraigosa continues, “we’ve got to do a lot more in cities. Double recycling, go to drought-tolerant plants, clean up aquifers and invest in underground storage.”
And, he adds, build two long-promised dams — one off-stream in the Sacramento Valley and another above Fresno on the San Joaquin River.
“We spend too much time finger-pointing and not cooperating,” says Villaraigosa, who has spent many days in San Joaquin Valley farm communities listening to gripes about the drought.
“There are shantytowns growing near Firebaugh and Huron because of the water crisis,” he says.
Villaraigosa clearly sees not only L.A. County, but the Latino-heavy San Joaquin Valley as sources of voter strength.
He’d be California’s first Latino governor since 1875. No L.A. mayor has ever been elected governor. Maybe that means the odds for one are getting better.
This is shaping up as a hot contest between two former mayors: Villaraigosa and Newsom of San Francisco.
“Newsom could charm birds out of a tree,” says Democratic consultant David Townsend, who has been a volunteer advisor to Chiang.
Chiang expects to be heavily supported by Asian voters. But they represent just 10% of the electorate. He’ll also need to attract Republicans and the business community.
This race could get wild. But it will be civilized.