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Author Topic: Profiles in Courage  (Read 7516 times)

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Re: Profiles in Courage
« Reply #135 on: October 14, 2018, 05:21:10 pm »
Fierce Battle for State Assembly Between Socialist 👍 and
Obama Staffer in Richmond, CA

October 14, 2018

Richmond, California, Councilperson Jovanka Beckles, a declared socialist versus Obama staffer Buffy Wicks in a battle for State Assembly is defining the Democrats

Story Transcript

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. Iím Marc Steiner. Good to have you all with us.

The new class of political battle inside the Democratic Party seems to be between the Democratic establishment and the rise of new people from the Democratic Socialist association and others; candidates that are defining whatís happening in politics in America, redefining whatís happening in America. And itís happening in the 15th California Assembly District. Itís a district that comprises working-class cities like Richmond, and academic left-wing enclaves like Berkeley, and parts of Oakland, California.

One of the candidates running- theyíre both, actually, Democrats in this final election. One of them is an Obama acolyte whose name is Buffy Wicks. The other candidate in the general election is Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles. Jovanka Beckles and the other candidate are similar on some issues, but really different. Jovankaís running on single-payer, full daycare, free college, as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which sets her apart. In our continued exploration of Americaís future with progressive candidates from around this country, we talked today with Richmond Councilperson Jovanka Beckles, whoís running for the Assembly seat in the 15th District. And Jovanka, welcome back, good to have you with us here on The Real News.

JOVANKA BECKLES: Thank you so very much. Great to be here.

MARC STEINER: Good to have you with us. So what I want to do, weíre going to start by playing this short clip of your campaign ads to give people a flavor, and then jump into our conversation.

All right. Very well.

VIDEO: My name is Jovanka Beckles. Iím a mental health professional, a union member, and an immigrant. For the past eight years on the Richmond City Council, Iíve been part of a movement and fight corporate [money]. We rejected corporate campaign donations and achieved victories for working people. We banned the box, won rent control, and a $15 minimum wage. When working people come together, we can take back control of our lives, and a greater share of the wealth that we ourselves create.

Because together we can build a California that puts people over profit.

MARC STEINER: So for our viewers across the country and the globe- let me explain very quickly and see if I have this right, Jovanka- in California when you run for political office, the top two vote getters, to make 50 percent, run against each other. Many places have two Democrats running against one another for the general election, which is whatís happening in your district this moment. Is that correct?

That is absolutely correct. In fact, in the primary there was one Republican in a race full of 12 people.

MARC STEINER: It says something about your district.

JOVANKA BECKLES: It says a lot about our district. Exactly. Itís the most progressive district, the most diverse district in the state.

So I really want to explore, because I think this, as I said at the top of the program here, this is kind of an example of this new classic battle across the country in the Democratic Party. But talk a bit about that as you see it. Because Buffy Wicks is an Obama acolyte, as I said. She worked for his administration. She helped his campaign in California when he fought against Bernie Sandersí campaign in California. But she also is very liberal and progressive on a number of issues, and thatís what mean by this new battle. Define what you see as the difference between that point of view and point of view that youíre running on.

JOVANKA BECKLES: Yeah, itís exactly right. And I you know, I know folks have have expressed that oh, you know, weíre weíre both very liberal, very progressive. But I havenít really seen that in terms of the policies that we both find to be the most important. So in other words, we differ in so many different ways. We both agree, of course, yes, something needs to happen with regard to wealth inequality. We both agree that thereís an affordable housing shortage, absolutely. But we differ in the way that we- in the solutions that we have.

We differ in the solutions to address the housing crisis. I believe that we need to build hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing, public housing. She believes that we will get ourselves out of this mess by building market rate housing, and I donít. I disagree. And so thatís why we differ when it comes to just- one of the other solutions being the support for Prop 10, which is the repeal of Costa-Hawkins at the state level. I support it. The opposition does not. Thatís one way we differ.

We also differ in other ways. I believe that when you have an attack on the public school system the way that weíre seeing it, unprecedented numbers of resources being drained from our public institutions, our public schools, we need to have a moratorium on charter schools. And she does not agree that thatís the way that we address resources being drained from our public schools.

I also believe that we need to get dark money out of our elections, out of our politics, and our government. The majority of money comes from, that were donated to me, comes from right within the district. The majority of money that sheís received comes- a lot of it is coming from Washington D.C. Unfortunately, a lot of the billionaires that are donating to her campaign are the same billionaires who not only donate to Republicans, but are invested in privatizing our schools, are invested in private prisons, and are committed to destroying unions, and destroying- and not supporting the implementation of a single-payer healthcare for all system.

MARC STEINER: So if Iím clear, you are a union member. Youíre in the Teamsters, correct?

JOVANKA BECKLES: Correct. Local 856. Absolutely.

MARC STEINER: But youíre a mental health worker by trade?

JOVANKA BECKLES: There we go. Teamsters Local 856. And yes, Iím a mental health professional by training. Iíve been in the mental health field for 30 years right here in the Bay Area. Thatís the other way that we differ. Iíve lived consistently in the Bay Area for 30 years, and have worked here consistently for 30 years. I moved to the Bay Area in 1989, and I have never moved away, but Iíve been devoted to creating the change that I like to see in my community for the last 30 years here.

So letís take a couple of these things that youíre talking about. I want to take a broader issue here first, before I talk about some of the specifics youíre kind of talking about in your district. What does it mean for you as a union member to be a socialist, a declared democratic socialist, running for a State Assembly seat? I mean, clearly the socialists wonít have a majority in the Assembly. They most likely will not for the foreseeable future. But what does that mean for you, to be a socialist running?

JOVANKA BECKLES: It means that I believe that there is more than enough to share. I believe that in the fifth-largest economy in the world, within the largest economy in the world, there is enough resources for us to share. We as working people, we created this wealth that we are seeing, and yet weíre not benefiting from any from it. Weíre not being, itís not being shared with us. And so we as working-class people absolutely have to have a seat at the table. We have to have a seat in positions of power to be able to change this direction that weíre seeing, where weíre seeing the gap between those who have and those who do not have widen every day, by the day.

And so itís so important that as working people we know, we see, we experience firsthand the challenge that it is to make ends meet. The challenge that it is to pay for for healthcare, to pay for food, to pay for rent, or a mortgage, and still be able to have some, you know, some spending money, right? Some disposable income. And so when we have more working people, I believe, in office, weíll start to see the wealth shared a little bit better and more equitably.

So one of the things we see in this race also, I believe George Miller the congressman came out in favor of Ms. Wicks, and Barbara Lee came out to support you. Am I right about that?

JOVANKA BECKLES: Yes, you are. So excited. The congresswoman is someone that Iíve admired for years, particularly when she was the lone Ďnoí vote to start us in this endless war that we are still experiencing today. So sheís always been someone that Iíve admired because of her courage and her willingness to stand up for the people and be a voice for the people. So thatís really exciting. This happened yesterday. The endorsements from other unions are also coming in. So weíre really seeing this campaign gain so much momentum on a daily basis.

MARC STEINER: So let me talk about the issues here. And when you, when you talk about the housing issues, and talking about Prop 10 and what that means, and what the battle is over Prop 10- and I believe that is your opponent has not said sheís for or against it, she said let the voters decide, but you very clearly have come out on this on this value proposition. Talk a bit about that.

JOVANKA BECKLES: Right. What Prop 10 does is right now, cities like Richmond- Iím really proud to have been in this movement to bring the first rent control policy to a city, the first one in 30 years. So Richmond, we passed a rent control on the ballot. However, our hands are tied. And Berkeley has rent control, and Oakland does, too.

MARC STEINER: And hands are tied why? Why are your hands tied?

JOVANKA BECKLES: Hands are tied because of Costa-Hawkins. Thatís the state law that exempts properties built after 1995 from rent control policies. And what Prop 10 does by reforming Costa-Hawkins, by repealing it, rather- my, the opposition wants to reform it. But we, the majority of people understand that we have to repeal that that law so that states, so that cities, can have more power, more control in creating the kinds of policies that best fit their residents.

And so right now weíre seeing, for example, in Oakland lots of new development; for-profit luxury units being built right now. And those units are not going to be under rent control, under the rent control policies, because theyíre being built, you know, after 1995. So by reforming that it gives cities more options for those, for better policies that best fit their residents. And so my opponent believes that we donít need to appeal that, we need to reform it. And it really is, you know, her idea of housing development, her plan, really is- thereís no other way to say it, but it really is a public giveaway of land for the for-profit developers. And I believe that we really should be using our public land and money to build the permanent, affordable, not-for-profit housing that that we need.

MARC STEINER: So letís talk about money for a moment. One of the things, the conversations Iíve had with people in this state, where we broadcast from in Maryland, and across the country, about certain policies is about money. We live in a capitalist world, which is how our economy is managed and run. When people talk about having a single-payer system in the state of California, when you talk about daycare for working families that is paid for in California, when you talk about free college tuition, which used to be in California, as it was in New York once, and no longer is. First question people will ask, will ask Jovanka Beckles: how do you pay for that? In this system, how do we pay for those things for our people?

Absolutely. So weíre really seeing now in 2018, weíre seeing how capitalism really is not working for the majority of us. Itís only working for a very, very small percentage of people. So you pay for these things by taxing the wealthy, by taxing the rich, by insisting that they pay their fair share of taxes just like the rest of us. And you do that by reforming Prop 13. And in California, Prop 13 really is a way for big corporations to have a loophole, and not pay their fair share of taxes. So when we reform that that proposition- and it will be on the ballot- we will then be able to have the resources that we need. Since Prop 13 was initiated in, I think it was 1979, we have lost about $367 billion in revenue. Now imagine what we could have been doing with all that money lost. And so when we reform prop Prop 13, weíll then have the billions of dollars that we need.

But it isnít just a matter of of taxing the rich through proper reform of Prop 13, itís also taxing speculators. Itís also taxing vacant properties that they buy and they keep open, they keep empty. And so when we tax these kinds of speculators and vacant properties, we can build the, as I talk about in my platfor, the hundreds of thousands of of housing for all, through taxing the rich. We can also- that will bring millions and billions of dollars to the state for us to build the affordable housing that we need, and that people have a right to. People have a right to shelter. Weíre seeing so many people who are working 40 hours a week living out of their cars, and something is terribly wrong when hardworking people canít afford to pay rent in the state of California in the Bay Area.

So Jovanka, one of the things I think that a lot of us really wonder about, and many of our viewers who wonder about people around this country are wrestling with, is for people running as democratic socialists in this country, we live in a land right now that is hugely divided in terms of political viewpoints. And Itís gotten to a point where we are as divided now as it was when I was younger civil rights worker down South. Itís that intense. I can feel the same intensity at the moment. Iím just curious, from your perspective, what the political battle means that weíre facing now when weíre so divided as a people. And so much is built around race, itís also built around, kind of, political viewpoints and more. And what that means, you think, for our future, your future as Californians and our future as Americans, and where that takes us.

JOVANKA BECKLES: Yes. You know, weíre all in the same boat. The 99 percent, weíre all in the same boat. Because what weíre seeing now is a movement. Is a movement that really is stating a loud message. We cannot continue in this direction. The for-profit system that puts profit above our health, that puts profit above our education, that puts profit above our planet, is not working. Itís not a sustainable model. We need- people are fighting. Weíre coming together, weíre realizing that we have to put aside our differences of race and age and even political affiliation, and come together as one united people to fight against the injustice that weíre seeing, to fight against the greed.

What weíre seeing right now, as people are understanding that we have to elect more candidates, more public officials who are going to always put the needs of the planet and working people and our children and our health above the profit of of our billionaire class and corporations. What weíre seeing is a movement where people are understanding that we are getting poor while theyíre getting richer, and itís not a model thatís sustainable. Because when we donít have the kinds of regulation that we need, our planet is literally burning. Our planet- weíre seeing the weather is wreaking havoc right now in Florida and throughout the world. And thatís a scientific truth that if we continue to go in this direction weíre not going to have a planet to live on.

And so no amount of profit- we have two corporations right now, I believe itís Amazon and Apple, that have now reached the trillion dollar profit line. That is not a model that is sustainable, because we the workers created that wealth, and we are realizing that we deserve, weíre entitled to share that wealth that we ourselves have created. And so we have to build a world, a California, a United States that puts the needs of the people above the profit of corporations. And thatís the, thatís the model that weíre seeing; a movement thatís gaining momentum more and more every day. And so Iím really excited about what weíre seeing, that people are now awake, and are passionate and driven to change the system, this very corrupt, unjust system that we are all experiencing.

MARC STEINER: So very quickly here as we conclude, Jovanka- I mean, I understand also that the campaign, which was really kind of aboveboard for a long time, and the two of you, with different positions, were acting fairly honorably, at least in the debates Iíve seen, the conversations Iíve seen taking place. But things have gotten ugly. I understand that some red-baiting has taken place and people are literally attacking your signs, and attacking you as a person. Not physically, but your character.

Yes, attacking my character. Red-baiting a black woman living in the United States of America. Our signs are being defaced. Theyíre being tagged with things. One sign I saw someone had ďCommunist voters unite.Ē Donít even understand. Thatís obviously people who donít understand the difference between communism and socialism. Socialism just says that there is enough wealth to share. Thatís all. Thatís what that means. And itís unfortunate that any working-class person would not subscribe to a model that benefits all of us.

Theyíre theyíre attacking my character. Thereís whisper campaigns. I had a gentleman, a black gentleman the other day approached me saying he heard that I hate black man. And I know that itís a whisper campaign based on the fact that Iím an out lesbian on the Richmond City Council. But to take it to that level, that I hate black men, is really disheartening. But itís not the first time that this has happened. In 2008 when I ran the first time, that was the whisper campaign; Jovanka doesnít think sheís black, Jovanka doesnít like black people because, you know, sheís a Latina. And then there, then the other whisper campaign was, you know, Jovanka is a Green Party member. And Iíve been a Democrat for 37 years at this point. But itís just the kind of things that people use to divide us. Our office in Richmond has been vandalized twice.   >:(

And so weíre seeing that our message that resonates with the majority of people to actually build a California that works for all of us, it resonates with the people to have a California thatís just and equitable. Resonates with the majority. But weíre seeing that there are those that are feeling threatened. And unfortunately, you know, the very people that Iím sure are doing these things are working-class people not understanding that everything that I do, everything that this movement is about, is for them. And so thatís really unfortunate. But we move on, we persevere, we stand up, we fight back, and weíre going to win this election in November.

MARC STEINER: Weíve been talking to Richmond City Councilperson Jovanka Beckles, who is running for the 15th Assembly District in California. And Jovanka, thank you so much for joining us here on The Real News. Itís been a pleasure to talk with you.

JOVANKA BECKLES: Thank you. Pleasure is all mine. Thank you so much.

MARC STEINER: Take care. And Iím Marc Steiner for The Real News Network. Good to have you with us. Take care.

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Pr. 22:22-23


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