The draft Democratic Party platform doesn't speak forcefully to the concerns of ordinary people. So we asked a group of Angelenos known for their community activism and progressive politics to propose planks they'd like to see included.
Executive Secretary-Treasurer, LA County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
We think it is critical for the Democratic Party to embrace immigration reform and amnesty. If you're going to organize in LA, you're going to organize Latino workers. We want to assure Latino workers that we're in their corner doing battle with them on issues that affect them. Not just amnesty, but the whole issue of immigration, because it sends a strong message to immigrants that they count. Right now we have a backlog of people awaiting processing to be US citizens--600,000 in LA County alone.
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Member, Los Angeles City Council
The widening gap between rich and poor is probably the fundamental question, but neither party wants to address it, because both are getting campaign contributions unlike anything they've ever had as a result of that disparity. We have a statistic in LA that just boggles the mind: The top fifty individuals control more wealth and money than the bottom 10 percent in LA. In the last century, when they saw that there was a need to industrialize America, there was significant investment in public education and job training to make that happen. We aren't making those investments now.
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Executive Director, Communities for a Better Environment
Al Gore has not made any statement on environmental justice or on the fact that Congress has forbidden the EPA from processing Title VI complaints under the Civil Rights Act. If you look at environmental degradation and microscope down into California and LA, it's the Latino constituencies, who are mostly low to moderate income, that are worst affected in terms of industrial pollution, environmental policy and lack of enforcement. We see politicians talking about jobs or talking about crime and education--all of which are important--but one of the things they fail to realize is that environment has an impact on crime, poverty and low educational and social achievement.
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Attorney and lecturer
I would like to see the candidates putting forth a vision of what they see this nation doing in trying to advance the concern of peace in the world. There are a number of places in the world where that is breaking down; and given the state of technology, we do have the capacity to destroy the world as we know it. Arms-control agreements aren't spoken of, and they're so critical at this stage, given the number of places where conflict could break out, and where race relations and ethnic relations come into play.
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Speaker Emeritus, California State Assembly, and candidate for mayor of Los Angeles
I think we have to be aggressive in combating the problem of the 44 million uninsured across the country. While it's important that we expand benefits for prescription drugs and that we take on the HMOs, the issue of the uninsured is the most urgent healthcare problem facing us. Many of us believe that the only way to get there is through some kind of single-payer program, but we could debate the details. [The Clinton Administration plan] started in the middle and fell apart, although it was a valiant effort that we should learn from. I'm not suggesting that 10 million need to be covered next year, but we must show a commitment to providing healthcare to that 44 million.
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Executive Director, ACLU, Southern California
Many of our civil liberties disappeared during the Clinton years, yet the Democratic Party isn't talking about the loss of those rights or how to restore them. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was one of the worst assaults on civil liberties in decades: It eliminated federal habeas corpus, a fundamental safeguard of freedom, and it drastically limited the historic right of individuals to challenge unconstitutional convictions and sentences in federal court. Another assault was the immigration act of 1996, which strips away a host of rights from immigrants.
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María Elena Durazo
President, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees, Local 11
The Democratic Party has to recommit itself in a very strong and assertive way to the right of workers to organize. They don't have the kind of support they need to organize in the face of vicious anti-union intimidation campaigns. The party should embrace what we have here as a model--card-check neutrality agreements--as the thing to do.
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Poet, writer, cultural activist
The arts and humanities are being devastated in the educational system. The new technocrats could care less about the human part of being human! What does that mean to the cultural venues, to writing, poetry, dance, opera? I sent my son to a so-called music magnet school. They had one piano teacher for the whole district, who could come only every third Friday to teach music. Los Angeles is the culture dish for what's coming to the rest of the country. As I travel with my work across the country, I carry this message: We are the nightmare that's coming.
Interviews were conducted by Carl Bromley, editor of the forthcoming Cinema Nation: The Best Writings on Film From The Nation, 1913-2000 (Nation Books/Thunder's Mouth).