The Waxman Cometh: Meet Our New Congressman*
By Susan Chasen
It's safe to say that Congressman Henry Waxman, D-LA, has a good shot at winning re-election this year on November 5, as he has done every two years since 1974. But one difference this time is that he is seeking to represent Topanga, Malibu and the rest of the Santa Monica Mountains to the county line as a result of redistricting adopted last year by the state Legislature.
Waxman is a 28-year incumbent and he is running in one of the most staunchly Democratic districts in the country, as well as one of the most affluent.
The new 30th Congressional District which now includes Topanga, also retains West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Bel Air, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica from Waxman's old district. The eastern boundary is La Brea Avenue, near Waxman's current office and the center of his old district.
Congressman Henry Waxman is running for re-election in the new 30th Congressional District which includes Topanga.
In an interview with the Messenger on September 27, after a busy morning and a quick can of salmon for lunch, Waxman discussed a few of his many passions as a legislator--from his groundbreaking work exposing the inner workings of the tobacco industry to his career-long dedication to health and environmental causes to the current prospect of war with Iraq.
On October 10, Waxman joined the Congressional majority in a 296 to 133 vote in favor of a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq. He first argued in support of an alternative resolution that didn't pass that authorized force only in cooperation with the United Nations and required further authorization from Congress for unilateral action.
"We should do all we can to secure a [U.N.] Security Council endorsement of an invasion of Iraq, and possibly to avoid a war by forcing Saddam to abide by the U.N. requirements for disarmament," said Waxman during the House debate.
"If the U.N. does not act, it not only leaves Saddam unchecked, but it undermines, perhaps fatally, the purpose of having or supporting a U.N. in the first place.
In the end, however, Waxman supported the Bush-backed resolution authorizing unilateral action as "the strongest bipartisan signal possible" to pressure the U.N. to act.
He'll be coming 'round the mountains
Back on the homefront, Waxman acknowledged that his personal experience in the Santa Monica Mountains has been limited, but he says he has always supported Congressman Brad Sherman in his efforts on behalf of the mountains and those of Congressman Anthony Beilenson before him. Plus, he thinks his own record is a good match for his new constituency.
"The new district, like the old district, and even more so, is very much an environmentally conscious area," said Waxman. "This fits in well with the issues I've worked on because I've been long a champion of environmental issues as well as health issues.
"It's just a beautiful area...that people want to see maintained as a national treasure."
Life in the big city
Waxman, 63, grew up in a home above his family's grocery store in Watts. His grandparents came to America around the turn of the century to escape persecution in Czarist Russia.
Though he is a native Angeleno, Waxman said he doesn't think he ever visited the Santa Monica Mountains as a child or a young man.
"I didn't know about the Santa Monica Mountains because I didn't grow up in West L.A.," said Waxman. "I don't think I was even aware of some of those magnificent hiking trails that I've come to enjoy in the last 5 to 10 years.
"Should the people in this district re-elect me to Congress and I represent this new area, I plan to...work with everybody in the community to make sure we have the federal support for what we all want to do in preserving the Santa Monica Mountains."
Waxman said he supported House Resolution 640 just signed by Bush on October 9 to expand the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by 3,492 acres. He also sought $3 million on behalf of the city of Santa Monica for the Santa Monica Mountains Gateway visitor center project planned for 405 Pacific Coast Highway, originally Marion Davies' beachfront compound. But it doesn't look like the full amount will make it into a final appropriation's bill.
Waxman said he is opposed to the Ahmanson Ranch development where 3,050 homes are planned on 2,800 acres north of the Ventura Freeway, just over the line into Ventura County. It would create, in one project, a community of over 8,000 people where none existed before.
"I've joined in the opposition to the Ahmanson Ranch project," said Waxman, "because I know the impact it's going to have on traffic, quality of life and the environment in the L.A. area particularly, even in Ventura County."
He cited concerns about polluted run-off from the development draining into Malibu Creek; traffic and infrastructure impacts; inadequate and outdated environmental studies as well as threats to the habitat of two endangered species--the California Red-legged Frog and the San Fernando Spineflower.
"I've been looking to see what we can do on the federal level," said Waxman.
So Many issues, so little time
Since Waxman was first elected to Congress in 1974 at age 35, he has never received less than 61 percent of the vote, perhaps because he is regarded as one of Congress' hardest-working, most accomplished lawmakers. He has tackled an enormous breadth of issues over the years, especially those related to health and environmental concerns, approaching each with personal conviction and humanitarian purpose.
After successfully warding off attempts during the Reagan years to weaken the Clean Air Act, Waxman was a principal author of the revised Clean Air Act of 1990 to deal with smog, acid rain and destruction of the upper ozone layer and to prevent areas like the Grand Canyon from becoming polluted.
"We need to have a very strong federal law to make sure that we continue to reduce the air pollution that causes health problems and interferes with the quality of life in Los Angeles," said Waxman.
He sponsored Safe Drinking Water Act amendments in 1986 and 1996; the 1996 Food Quality Act, which regulated pesticides use on food, and measures to protect against household radon and lead exposure.
Waxman was chairman of the Commerce Committee's Health and Environment Subcommittee for 16 years. During that time, he advanced the cause of the public's "right to know" about local releases of toxic pollutants by industry; expanded access to healthcare, especially for senior citizens and children; established standards for nursing homes, and fought for women's reproductive rights and increased research funding for AIDS and women's health concerns.
Where there's smoke
Perhaps his most dramatic health initiative was to call the tobacco industry to account for a cigarette-related death toll which he says is 400,000 annually. Smoking, he says, is the leading cause of preventable death in the country. His 1994 hearings on cigarette company practices, such as manipulating nicotine levels to promote addiction or targeting advertising to young people, led the way for tobacco lawsuits across the country which have been described as resulting in the biggest transfer of corporate money to state governments and lawyers in history.
"You cannot talk about health in this country without recognizing the terrible cost of cigarette smoking," said Waxman.
"I thought those hearings were a really important turning point in the public attitude toward tobacco because they gave a human face to the greed of an industry that was willing to be pushing a product that they knew was harmful.
"The chief executive officers of the tobacco companies appeared and took an oath to tell the truth and then immediately proceeded to lie about how harmful cigarettes were to people's health."
And yet, Waxman said he has been disappointed that the tobacco lobby has still been able to prevent legislation to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco or to prevent promotional campaigns that target children or discredit the United States in other countries.
"The tobacco companies tell them that to be American they should smoke their brand of cigarettes," said Waxman.
"The lawsuits have been helpful in bringing out more and more information about the deceptive, fraudulent, dishonest role that the companies have played for decades, but I've felt disappointed that many of the lawsuits resulted in money that hasn't been used for health care or anti-tobacco efforts."
Instead, he said, it has gone to build prisons, pave roads or just to help balance state budgets.
When the Republicans came to power in the House of Representatives eight years ago, Waxman conceded the chairmanship of the Health and Environment Subcommittee to a representative from the home of cigarette- maker Philip Morris.
"That really brought home to me how different things were going to be."
Another Waxman battle was to establish standards for nursing-home care after completing a study that found appalling conditions in Los Angeles facilities. Recently, he released another study that showed what he called "unconscionable gouging" in pricing of prescription drugs. He found that senior citizens in his district in Los Angeles were paying two to three times as much for prescriptions drugs as senior citizens in other countries.
Waxman said his commitment to the people's "right to know" about environmental hazards around them stemmed from the devastating release of poisonous gases in Bhopal, India, in 1984, that killed and maimed thousands.
"We learned that, from many chemical facilities in the United States, there were the same releases of toxic gases--at a lower level, but at a steady level," said Waxman.
"We found out that in many communities adjacent to these facilities, the cancer rates were off the charts and birth defects were a common problem at levels far exceeding [those] elsewhere."
When he learned that the Environmental Protection Agency had no inventory of toxic air pollutants coming from these facilities, Waxman pushed for legislation to require disclosure of that information.
"When the toxic release inventory was prepared, it gave enormous impetus to legislators to make sure that these facilities use the best and most up to date equipment to limit the amount of pollution going into the environment. But if the public didn't have that information to start with, no one even realized there was a problem."
Those who were being injured, he said, were often afraid to come forward for fear plants would close and relocate.
Waxman's record on health issues dates back to his days on the Health Committee in the California Assembly. He was elected in 1968 and served three terms in the Assembly before running for Congress.
With the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and the loss of his chairmanship, Waxman also lost his ability to call hearings, subpoena witnesses and set the legislative agenda. So, using the only means available, Waxman has gained a status as a gadfly, writing pointed letters to the Republicans and the Bush Administration demanding answers on questions about the secrecy surrounding the formulation of Bush's national energy plan and the failure of the Republicans to investigate the political component of colossal business scandals like Enron.
He now serves as the ranking minority member on the Government Reform Committee and serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee as well.
Currently, he is taking the Bush Administration to task over the failure of the Transportation Security Administration to fully implement a program to scan luggage for explosives at airports. According to his survey of 155 explosives detection machines out of 218 being used, the machinery is only screening a tiny fraction of its capacity--less than 3 percent of machines are operating at even a minimum level. Instead, they are being used exclusively on luggage that meets certain computer profiling criteria, such as belonging to travelers paying cash for tickets or who are traveling one way, along with a number selected at random.
The difference, according to Waxman's letter to the Homeland Security Office, is that half a million bags are screened weekly instead of 4.3 million.
The problem, writes Waxman, is that airlines are only required to screen bags chosen by computer and have not adopted a recommendation to increase random screenings. Also, Waxman notes that the Bush Administration is seeking a one-year extension on the December 2002 deadline requiring all baggage to be screened, even though existing screening capability is not being used.
Another recent Waxman legislative effort is H.R. 2693 to require insurance companies doing business in the United States to release old insured lists to assist Holocaust survivors in filing claims for deaths and losses during World War II. In some cases, Waxman said, insurers have made unrealistic demands such as requiring death certificates of relatives killed in concentration camps or paperwork that Holocaust victims were forced to leave behind in their houses.
Almost from the start, Waxman has been a powerful force in Congress. In his third term, he was the first member of Congress to overcome seniority requirements to become chairman of the Health and Environment Subcommittee. He reportedly accomplished this by making a strong case for himself and through political savvy that included making campaign donations to other members--a tactic common in California at the time, but not yet common in Washington.
Waxman's Republican opponent in this year's election is Tony Goss. In the primary election in March, Goss ran unopposed and received 29,500 votes from Republicans. Waxman received 52,785 with Democratic challenger Kevin Feldman drawing 6,146 votes. Voter registration in the new 30th District is over 1.8 to 1 Democratic to Republican. There is no Green Party candidate running. The population of the new district is 639,088.
Topanga has been in the 24th Congressional District and Congressman Sherman has been our representative for six years. Waxman has represented the 29th District. Now, Topanga and Waxman are in the 30th Congressional District, and Sherman is running in the 27th District to the north and east.
Waxman, who has a political science and law degree from UCLA, is also known in Congress as an expert on the Middle East. Though he voted against going to war with Iraq in 1991, this time he reluctantly voted to support Bush's resolution in the interest of unity.
He said he thought Bush's rhetoric regarding Iraq was "overly bellicose" initially, but that he agrees that Saddam Hussein poses a potential threat.
"I hope we don't have to go to war. I think we should do everything we can to avoid war," said Waxman. "But we'll have to wait and see what develops because the threat of military action may be what will be necessary in order to avoid war."
While critical of Bush's original language, Waxman said his September speech to the United Nations may have played a valuable role in making sure that the international community doesn't ignore the problem as it has since 1998 when Hussein threw out inspectors who were trying to enforce U.N. resolutions.
"I feel strongly that the United Nations ought to be insisting on open and unfettered inspection and disarmament of Iraq and, if Saddam Hussein resists this, then the international community should make sure that they take whatever action is going to be necessary," said Waxman.
"If we wait until he does get a nuclear weapon we will have to take actions that are quite unthinkable because we're looking at nuclear proliferation and the threat that he could use it and the fear that we might have to use it ourselves to stop it."
Waxman said he supported establishing the Homeland Security agency to coordinate intelligence and other efforts to prevent future terrorist attacks, but that he believes civil liberties have to be protected as well.
"We're living in a new world since September 11, 2001, where we have to be mindful of security from possible terrorist attacks," said Waxman. "We have to balance out individual civil liberties with the public protection from terrorists and I think it's important that we be as careful to protect both. I fear that Attorney General Ashcroft has tilted the balance too much against individual liberties and that's something that concerns me and I'm watching that very carefully."
When asked whether it should be the United States' mission to prevent other countries from acquiring military powers that could challenge American world supremacy, Waxman said, "I don't think the U.S. ought to be strutting around the world stage as if we're the only ones who matter and we're going to make decisions for everybody else, including our allies, to tell them what to do without working with them as allies.
"I think there has been a real negative feeling by many of our longtime allies that the United States has just turned its back on issues that they care about and that many Americans care about like global warming. When we walked away under the Bush Administration from the Kyoto global warming treaty and acted as if global warming is not a real issue, I think we did a disservice to the goals of international cooperation to deal with what I consider a very real threat to our planet. But we also are not only doing a disservice to our environment, I think we're doing harm to the United State's role on the world stage as a force for cooperative efforts."
For the future, Waxman hopes to make progress on several goals which have apparently been abandoned by the current administration.
"I would like to move forward on prescription drug benefits for the elderly and more access to health care," said Waxman. "Those in power don't have the same interests in mind....They're not even on the agenda."
Say It Ain't So
He recounted recent Republican efforts that show how much the Democrats are on the defensive. He said, if Congress has its way, gun manufacturers will be the only manufacturers in the country that will be protected from liability lawsuits via H.R. 2037 the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Another Republican initiative he cited will allow health maintenance organizations and insurance companies to deny patients abortion information and services as a matter of conscience.
"We already have in law a 'conscience' provision that says a doctor or nurse or hospital that, for religious reasons, doesn't want to provide abortion services would not be required to do so. But this law would say that even if you have private health insurance from an HMO they could decide that they, as a matter of conscience, don't want to give you family planning or abortion services even though it's a medical service that's legal."
Waxman said if he is re-elected he may have to move his office from its present location at 8436 West 3rd Street.
"We are clearly going to have a presence much further west," he said.
Waxman's hardworking reputation comes at the price of hobbies and even reading for pleasure. Despite his ritzy constituency, he has never attended the Academy Awards.
But, he said, he does enjoy books on tape when he gets the chance to listen. One of his recent favorites is "Harlot on the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible" by Jonathan Kirsch that retells Bible stories that have been cleaned up in other versions so people wouldn't know of the terrible actions of some of the people in them.
"For those people who look at the Bible for religious sustenance," said Waxman of the book, "they realize that these are stories about people who were not like the ancient Greek gods, but were real people who were often good and often very, very flawed."
Waxman wasn't particularly familiar with Topanga, but he seems to expect that will change soon. He said he recently drove through the Canyon and stopped at one of our local shops and picked up our newspaper.
"I'm looking forward to spending more time in Topanga Canyon with the community groups and having opportunities to get to know people and for them to get to know me," said Waxman.
"I think it's just a wonderful, wonderful area. It's quite unique because it's got the small village feel in the middle of one of the most beautiful areas anywhere in the world."
Lower Topanga's Relocation Challenge
State Parks is seeking Coastal Commission permits to begin demolition in Lower Topanga as remaining residents prepare for grievance hearing.
By Susan Chasen
More and more, Lower Topanga is beginning to look like a ghost town. Every so often there is another little moving-out sale, followed by a boarded-up house dotted with orange "keep-out" stickers. It appears State Parks has succeeded in eradicating a community of affordable homes and lifestyles in favor of a new park.
And yet, things are not exactly as they appear.
There remains a core group of residents who are challenging State Parks' rush to clear everyone out and this group's attorney predicts it will be at least another year to a year and a half before the rest will have to go.
So far, 29 out of a total of 76 households have relocated, according to State Parks spokesperson Roy Stearns. Another six are expected to leave shortly, he said.
Everyone has now been informed of their relocation entitlement and given 90-day notices--the latest ending on December 19.
Stearns said State Parks is currently applying for permits from the California Coastal Commission to demolish some of the houses.
"State Parks will not wait until all the tenants are gone," he said, before beginning demolition.
According to residents, virtually all of those who have relocated, have moved to other states or other communities where housing costs are much lower. Those who remain believe they have a right to stay within the same general community they have lived in for decades.
They also charge that State Parks' earliest relocation offers were more generous than subsequent offers, creating dramatic inequities.
A collective grievance calling for a new relocation plan and a new housing availability study will be heard on November 12 at the California Office of Administrative Hearings downtown as part of State Parks' own review process.
"This is like a 10-round fight and November 12 is the first round," said attorney Craig Dummit, who filed the grievance on behalf of about 35 households. "It will get more interesting from here on out."
If State Parks doesn't reverse the relocation plan, Dummit said, he will ask the court to do it, either by seeking a direct order called a writ of mandate or by challenging each individual eviction order.
Dummit is also representing 22 residents in their individual grievances and more are expected to be added.
Dummit said it will take until next summer just to complete the grievance and appeals process.
Meanwhile, residents complain that, as their ranks have been reduced, homeless encampments are on the rise and pose a fire and security risk. They say rangers have tried to be vigilant, but don't know exactly how to respond because it is public land.
It is not clear whether State Parks views the area as closed to the public or not.
"We'd like to strongly discourage the public from entering the Lower Topanga neighborhood in order to allow for a safe relocation of the people and to allow State Parks time to make the improvements appropriate for opening this area to the public in the future, such as trails and restrooms," said Stearns.
"There's plenty of Topanga State Park above this area for everybody to have a good time in while we're waiting for that."
Scott Dittrich, a 30-year resident who moved out on October 3 but still has his Action Sports stock footage business in the Rodeo Grounds, said the problem of homeless encampments has grown substantially, with a huge encampment a little ways up the creek.
"They've kicked us out and they've let the homeless in," said Dittrich. "I think State Parks is really trying to do their best, but I think they have an overwhelming problem because it's so close to town."
State Parks purchased the 1,659-acre Lower Topanga property in August 2001 for $43 million. So far, $3.1 million has been spent on residential relocation out of an anticipated budget of $6.67 million. Depending on how many of the first to leave have received their relocation money--Stearns wasn't sure--the average compensation falls between $89,000 and $107,000.
Despite the averages, apparent inconsistencies in compensation amounts have angered many residents. This is combined with the fact that the highest amounts are still not enough to buy a house in Topanga or Malibu for most of the residents.
In late September, Ginny Wylie owner of Wylie's Bait Shop learned that Pacific Relocation Consultants calculated her compensation at $80,000. She took the figure as a slap in the face and has joined in the grievance with the others. Now, she says, they'll have to take her out "feet first."
Her neighbor received the same offer for a rundown house with broken and boarded up windows and no electricity. Another neighbor received $96,000 for a one-room studio with a shared bathroom and kitchen.
"I don't know what is determining this," said Wylie.
When she made these comparisons to the relocation representative, she said she was told: "We didn't think the people would talk."
Wylie's home originally belonged to her grandparents who founded Wylies Bait Shop. They bought it in the mid-1940s and rented the land from the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Over the many years she spent visiting and living with them, she slept in a room that the relocation company did not count as a bedroom.
Wylie's spacious house is in good repair, with a large living room, large kitchen, a storage and laundry room, and at present one bedroom, though there are one or two rooms--one now serving as an office and another fully-enclosed porch--that have served as bedrooms over the years, and two garden patios.
The house also serves as a bookkeeping office for her tiny bait shop, and, since she opens at 5 a.m. to serve her early-rising fishing customers, it is convenient to live close by.
When she goes into her house to give her 18-inch-long desert tortoise, Walter, a cuddle and a new hot-water bottle, a buzzer notifies her that she has a customer waiting.
She said no additional compensation was provided for the role her home plays in her business. Wylie will be able to continue operating her tiny bait shop because it was deemed to be a historic business, but when she pointed out that the bathroom is in her house, she was told she could get a "port-a-potty."
Dittrich is challenging State Parks' handling of his business relocation.
"We think it's preposterous to separate the businesses from the houses, because it is a home business."
The failure to address compensation for home businesses, Dittrich said, is one of several examples of the confusion State Parks has created by never adopting specific "rules and regulations" for the relocation project--a state requirement and one that is part of the Lower Topanga grievance.
Another key grievance point is the apparent adjustment downward in relocation compensation amounts. Dummit said he has three clients who have paperwork showing that the state's offer was reduced based on a recount of bedrooms.
There are many other reports of miscounts as well as inconsistent compensation when the number of bedrooms is equal.
Compensation provides 42 months worth of rental assistance covering the difference between rent paid now and rent paid in a replacement home with the same number of bedrooms. The 42-months' rental assistance can also be used for a down-payment on a house.
Bernt Capra, a 22-year resident, said he cannot find a comparable home that he can afford in Topanga or Malibu.
"I am convinced now that I have to build a house," said Capra, who is an architect as well as an independent filmmaker. "With the money I have to spend, I cannot buy a house in Topanga. Malibu is the same thing. I have to find a more creative solution."
He also reports dramatic inconsistencies in the early and later relocation offers. One of his neighbors with three subtenants and six bedrooms received a combined offer of $335,000. Capra's compensation offer for his six bedroom home with five occupants was $50,000 lower.
Similarly, another neighbor who is a carpenter with a beautiful 3,000 square-foot home, with four bedrooms and a guest house was offered $100,000 less than a neighbor who received $250,000 for his four-bedroom house in the first round of offers last April.
"It's incomprehensible to me," said Capra.
Dummit attributed the reduced offers to economic downturn.
"When this project was started, when they purchased the property, economic times were good, state budgets were as high as they'd ever been," said Dummit. "Now they don't have as much money to give people....The law requires, obviously, that all citizens be treated equally."
He said State Parks has so far refused to provide a full record of compensation amounts given on privacy grounds.
While he can compare offers among his clients, the most generous offers were the early ones and many of those are not , being contested, he said.
Dummit said State Parks can save California taxpayer dollars if more effort is spent trying to find genuinely comparable rental housing.
Peter Camejo Brings Social Concerns to His Green Party Campaign
Peter Camejo, the Green Party candidate for governor, is borrowing the left wing of the Democratic Party and using it to keep his campaign aloft.
By Andrea Makshanoff
On October 7, about 100 protesters showed up outside the Los Angeles Times-sponsored gubernatorial debate between Democratic incumbent Gray Davis and Republican contender Bill Simon in downtown Los Angeles, and many of them were there to protest the exclusion of Peter Miguel Camejo, the Green Party candidate, from the dais. In the crowd was Camejo himself, barred from entering, even though he held an invitation as a guest of Bill Simon.
Davis had previously refused to debate with Camejo and didn't show at a scheduled three-way debate on September 17 in Beverly Hills. At that debate, Simon and Camejo shared the stage, and both had disparaging words for the no-show.
"What is notable," said Woody Hastings, a Topanga Green Party activist, "is that this is probably the last debate before the election, and that a month before the election [in the Minnesota gubernatorial race taken by Jesse Ventura], Ventura had less percentage in the polls than Camejo does now. Ventura participated in a debate and that got him elected." (Recent polls--News10/Survey USA--give Camejo 9 percent in the California governor's race.)
With, by many accounts, lukewarm enthusiasm for either Davis or Simon, and with mud-slinging campaign ads and charges from both camps, it stands to reason that the voters need to hear from a third party, or any other candidate. In fact, a recent poll showed that 72 percent wanted third party candidates included in the televised debate, with 69 percent wanting to hear from Camejo and the Green Party specifically. We decided to call Peter Camejo and speak to him directly.
When I reached him, he had just heard that the Latino Caucus had voted not to endorse Gray Davis, a rejection due mostly to Davis' recent veto of Assembly Bill 60, the immigrants' driver's license bill. Both Camejo and Donna Warren, the Green Party's candidate for lieutenant governor, strongly supported the bill.
"On every Spanish language talk show in California, people are massively saying they are not going to vote for Davis," Camejo said. "Almost across the board they are saying they are going to vote for me. Though not a scientific poll, it gives you an idea of the anger out there and how it's expressing itself.
"I have become the spokesperson for a huge section of the Democratic party in this campaign. I'm expressing their feelings and what they are for. The Democrats didn't put up anyone in the primary against Davis. There was no effort by their progressive wing to challenge Davis."
"It shows how corrupt the whole thing has become," continued Camejo. "It shows why the Green Party is necessary but voters will fear to vote for me because of the winner-take-all rule."
Let's Try That Again
The Green Party, and Camejo, support instant recall voting, IRV, which would ask voters at the polls for a second choice to be used if their first did not win.
The Greens are also supporting Proposition 52, the same-day voter registration proposition. "Unfortunately, I think it will fail because conservatives are opposing it for it would mean that a lot of poor people, people of color, and young people would be able to vote with a social security number and driver's license."
Part of the reason Jesse Ventura won in Minnesota, Camejo said, was that a huge number of unregistered people showed up, registered that day and voted for him.
"In American history when Italians and Irish came, they were given the vote immediately, before they were citizens, for we believe 'no taxation without representation.' As long as people living here are being taxed, they should have the right to vote."
The Green Party is a new party, but one growing very rapidly, Camejo said. With 51 Greens in office now, 11 incumbents running for re-election, and 50 percent expected to win out of 62 total Green candidates, Camejo thinks it is probable that at this campaign's end, there will be over 70 Greens elected.
"We are running the first full slate statewide," Camejo said. "We have three women in three different races, and the Democrats and Republicans are running all men. I think it shows an utter lack of sensitivity that both parties allowed their slates to be all male."
The disapproval in the Latino community could bring Latinos, with 33 percent of the population, away from the Democratic Party, and perhaps toward the Greens. The tone and the anger toward Davis heard on Spanish-language radio stations is "just shocking," Camejo said. "I think the media is missing the story; it's like two different worlds."
"We have millions of people driving around without car insurance and licenses, and therefore living in a state of total fear that if they get stopped by the police, they will lose the car they are driving. So they buy extremely cheap cars that pollute, and are really unsafe both for themselves and other people.
"It is in the best interest of everybody that, if they are driving, they should pass a driver's test, have their eyes checked and go through the normal procedure. The Davis argument that this will open the door for terrorism, I consider as absurd as can possibly be imagined. It's just demagoguery."
Camejo said immigrant workers are wanted and needed in this society, and so should have legal rights, including the right to drive to work.
"The Democrats, Republicans, the corporate world and all the powers-that-be," Camejo said, "know and welcome the fact that we have large numbers of undocumented workers living in every city in the state.
"They are essential to our economy, and they are hardworking, law-abiding people paying taxes. We have created a caste of under-privileged people without legal rights. I want to end that. I think that's wrong."
The Green Difference
Greens in the United States are different than Greens elsewhere, Camejo said, for in many countries there are worker, laborer and social democratic parties and parties of the left, but here there is no such multi-party tradition. The Green Party here takes on much more than just environmental causes. They are for social justice, living wages, affordable housing and all the issues of concern to working and poorer people, Camejo said.
So how does the Green Party balance the needs of the environment with needs of a burgeoning population, a need such as affordable housing? The environment and the economy are one and the same thing, Camejo said, and to have an economy, we must not continue to destroy our natural capital.
Getting rights to women throughout the world and improving their economic condition is the fastest way to stop the growth rate, Camejo said.
"Wherever women's standard of living has risen, and they have gotten independence from men and the ability to get jobs, the birthrate has immediately slowed.
"You don't have to be for one or the other. We have to figure out how to do both, solve housing shortages and to continuously protect the environment."
All the major housing developments now, Camejo said, including the Ahmanson Ranch which he opposes, tend to be aimed at the higher income brackets.
To find the balance in our transportation needs, Camejo proposes developing fuel cell and lightweight cars, fastrail trains, user-friendly mass transportation and completely changing the automobile culture in the U.S.
Since we are lacking 20- to 50-year plans in our cities, he said, "we just scatter anarchy." Currently, developers, wanting fast profits, buy off the politicians, get the approvals and build quickly, and then throw in a few roads and affordable houses, he said.
The Green Party supports universal health-care insurance, and proposes creating a single-payer and not-for-profit system.
"We are the only nation of all industrialized countries without universal health care. It would save us $4 to $8 billion a year in California and give us better medicine," Camejo said.
Camejo was born in New York in 1939 to a Venezuelan mother. He moved to Venezuela for his early years, returning to New York at age 7 with his mother when his parents divorced. While attending UC Berkeley in the late '60s, Camejo was a leader in the student anti-war and free-speech movement. He founded and is now the chairman of the board of Progressive Assets Management, Inc., the first socially-responsible investment firm in the U.S.
Camejo's book, "The SRI Advantage: Why Social Responsible Investing Has Outperformed Financially," is based on his experience and success running his socially-responsible investment firm. The book proves, he said, that if you are "social," you actually do better financially.
Camejo uses social screening as a business tool to weed out companies that disobey the law or create shoddy products that do damage to people or things. This decreases the likelihood of lawsuit and boycott, which lessens risk and better insures a profit. It is also a way to find and fund strong companies that are on the leading edge of social movements and issues, Camejo said. His investment theories can be applied to politics and to the administration of a state, for example, when calculating the real cost to society of fossil fuels and tobacco.
Switching to renewable energy is the most cost-effective way to have energy in California, Camejo said. He would remove the caps that are placed on solar energy to encourage production, purchase and economy of solar cells.
"We want these utilities to disappear. We want people to go to solar. It should be a condition for the utility companies existence, to accept development of solar and wind and fuel cells, and to end the use of natural gas, oil, coal and definitely nuclear power.
Camejo describes nuclear power as an act of irrationality because there is no way to get rid of the waste.
"We would shut the nuclear plants down. France has stopped building them, Germany is closing them down, and we need to do the same. We can have a 20-year program to do so, but it must be done."
When asked if he felt it was futile to battle the two big parties and their corporate backers in the governor's race in California, Camejo gave a buoying answer:
"The joy of life is in human relations," Camejo said, "and not really in material wealth as people may think. There could be nothing as exciting for the species and for our culture than to be on a campaign to save this planet for the future generations. It would make people so happy to be working for that, with really happier lives, and more vacations, free time, and contact with nature, even if our standard of living was lower.
"Democrats and Republicans in our culture completely underestimate humans, and see just greedy, horrible individuals that can never come together to do the right thing. That is really wrong.
"This is why the Green Party is much more than just a political party. It's a movement, and it's a spiritual movement. It says the values of life are wrong under the present order we are living under, and I agree with that.
Originally, the rights of a corporation and all its privileges were tied to the corporation serving a social purpose. We have to go back to understanding that the government and this nation belongs to its people and not to its corporations. "
Donna Warren Brings Color to the Green Party
Donna Warren is running for lieutenant governor.
By Andrea Makshanoff
Donna Warren, a native Los Angeleno and longtime South Central social justice activist, was first introduced to the electoral process last year when she became the first Green Party candidate to run in a primarily African-American Congressional district. With only 900 Greens registered in the 80 percent Democratic district, Warren attracted the vote of 3,000 others, and took 4 percent of the total.
"We figured it was because of the issues I represent," Warren says. "I am the lady that sued the CIA in 1998 for allowing our community to be infested with crack cocaine, and was leading the fight to limit the three-strikes law to violent felonies only."
Now Warren, who is part of the Green Party's first full slate of state office seekers, is running for Lt. Governor of California. On October 24 Warren will appear with the Green Party's candidate for governor, Peter Camejo, in Topanga at the Community House where they will speak about their views of politics and values in California and the world.
As a certified government accountant and a retired auditor from the Department of Defense and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Warren says she knows much about contracts, fraud, waste and abuse in government contracts. She left the Democratic Party in 1999 for the Greens
Warren is a coordinator of Families Against California's Three Strikes law and the Crack the CIA Coalition, the group that filed a class action suit against the U.S. government when a series of letters between CIA director William Casey and Attorney General William French Smith revealed their conviction that drug trafficking crimes did not have to be reported if U.S. agencies were doing the trafficking, an arrangement that Warren and many believe allowed the Contras in Nicaragua to flood South Central with drugs. She has served on the Geronimo Pratt defense committee, and many other activist committees.
Amendment of the Three Strikes law is a Green Party platform issue.
"Three Strikes was to put murderers and rapists in jail, but of the 60,000 people in jail under Three Strikes, less than 5 percent are there for murder and rape," Warren says.
Meanwhile, Warren says about 4,000 people are serving life in prison for lesser felonies such as petty theft, small amounts of drugs, writing a bogus check and not stopping for a police officer. Only people who commit violent crime should be sentenced under Three Strikes, she says. This issue will be argued in the Supreme Court on November 5 in the case of Mr. Andrade, who is serving 50 years for stealing items worth $153, Warren says.
The Green Party wants to strike down all laws criminalizing marijuana. In fact, all drugs should be legalized, Warren says.
"We are putting people who are sick in prison. Criminalizing drugs creates an instant market, and then people protect their investment. [With illegal drugs] out on the streets, guns and gangs proliferate. If decriminalized, we take the criminal element out, and then we can regulate the drugs and start treating people, because they are sick.
"I know I'm a black woman living in South Central, but I don't go for this crap of Jeb Bush saying his daughter's use is a private matter. But the poor kids of color are criminal? No one addicted to drugs is a criminal--they are sick."
Lacking a party position on gun control, Warren has no problem filling in with her own, and for good reason.
"In 1987 a comrade in a grassroots organization came into my home and murdered my son in front of my eyes--shot him nine times, five times into his body. I didn't know he had legal guns; he had them in his backpack. If he wasn't allowed to buy guns, my son would be alive today," Warren says.
"I personally am totally for gun control in our society, even for police officers. Even when citizens have legal guns, the person usually killed is a family member or acquaintance, and it is done out of emotion."
Balancing the environment and population is a challenge for the Green Party, but, says Warren, "the bottom line is that we are for human rights."
Warren says the Mexican-American community knows this and is very supportive of the Green Party campaign. The party, she says, is aware of conditions that proliferate in countries that cause people to come to the U.S. Those conditions, she says, include American policies and practices in South and Central America that disregard environmental and labor laws that must be obeyed in the U.S.
"I think I speak for the Green Party when I say that America needs to stop its repression and its imperialism in other countries. Then people won't need to come here, leaving their homes, to make a living."
Warren admits that some people in her community are not happy when others come in to own businesses and to work, even at the menial jobs.
As lieutenant governor Warren says she would discourage community business owners from hiring undocumented immigrants before citizens or people who live in that community. She said she would punish only those that profit from the hiring of the undocumented, and not the undocumented. "I understand why they come here but I also understand how they are being exploited."
Though not a Green Party platform issue, reparations for African American slaves is a personal issue for Warren. "As an accountant, I know we are going to have to look at things like where did the money go, and who profited from it and if it is a debt all Americans have to share, which I think it is."
Her goal is to repair the damage to a whole people. Education, living wage jobs and health care are reparations, but first, she says, an apology for slavery must be given.
"This country doesn't feel an apology is needed, and I think it feels that way because it does not understand how this country actually got to its wealth and its power."
Green Party educational reforms includes abolishing standardized testing, which she believes are culture-insensitive and therefore inaccurate.
"The resources given to our schools determines how our kids will do," Warren says. But with a lack of credentialed teachers, classrooms and books in South Central, the schools are "just holding kids there until they go on to prison."
Regarding the Green Party goal of universal health care, Warren looks to Canada, Germany and Cuba as examples.
"It is unconscionable for the [Los Angeles County] Board of Supervisors to even suggest closing clinics. You already have to wait 5 to 10 hours to be seen, now you will have to wait until you die!" Warren says.
Everyone wants to make money, Warren says. Greed, a general confusion of values, and a government dependent on corporate and special interest contributions is "driving our government away" from ensuring the services we need.
"We need to take those special interests out of politics, and give politics back to the people," Warren said.
"People will vote again, and participate more, and the greed stimulus will be removed."
Places Everybody--T-CEP Drill Prepares Topanga for the Worst
Andrea Makshanoff takes the helm at the Topanga Emergency Operation Center during the T-CEP drill.
By Tony Morris
The Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness completed a disaster drill on September 28 to test the organization's ability to respond to a real emergency. More than 40 T-CEP volunteers gathered at the new Emergency Operations Center and other locations in the Canyon for the drill from 9 a.m. to noon, and by all accounts it was viewed as an incredible display of cooperation and professionalism.
The scenario created for the drill was that a fire had started near the Top O' Topanga and was burning south toward Topanga Elementary School.
"I am especially grateful to the Topanga community and the dedicated T-CEP volunteers," said T-CEP founder Pat Mac Neil. "This effort was a success because of their professionalism."
Andrea Makshanoff served as manager at the EOC during the drill and was responsible for communicating with outside agencies such as the Water Department, California Highway Patrol, Fire Department, Sheriff's Department and Caltrans.
"It was really intense. I just rolled with it," said Makshanoff of her day at the nerve center of the simulated disaster.
Jack Mac Neil, as operations chief, was responsible for coordinating the various teams in the drill.
As the drill proceeded, a team of volunteers answered calls on the T-CEP hotline from citizens, who were participating in the scenario, with requests for information on the emergency. Hotline team leader Lynne Haigh worked with Karla Morrison, Janice Harmer, Jean La Cour, Linda Jo Loftus, Terry Valente and Kathleen Zundell on the phones.
Activated in a disaster, hotline volunteers provide updated and verified disaster information for the residents of Topanga. They also help gather information and assist callers in thinking through their needs and options in an emergency, according to Haigh.
During the drill the 455-3000 hotline operators handled 50 calls from participating Topanga residents acting out their parts.
"It was great practice," said Haigh.
T-CEP's radio room was a center of activity as reports of the fire emergency came in from T-CEP ham radio operators throughout the Canyon. Buz Tarlow, Barbara Campbell and Eric Fitzgerald maintained a communications link throughout the drill and demonstrated just how critical the radio operation would be in a real emergency if power and telephone service are affected.
Status boards at the EOC were constantly updated with information on the fire's location, road conditions, vehicle accidents, school closures and evacuations, and the Canyon's Red Cross shelter, located at the Topanga Christian Fellowship during the drill.
At Pine Tree Circle the Topanga Medical Assistance Team, with Dr. Celia Brown and Brad Davis, responded to scripted medical emergencies, going out to identified locations and performing CPR and other procedures on dummies.
Participants in the drill were T-CEP's Disaster Response Team, Disaster Mental Health Team, Disaster Communications Service, Hotline Team and Emergency Operations Team. Other disaster teams participating were the Arson Watch, Pet Shelter Team, Medical Assistance Team, the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control and the Equine Response Team.
Barbara Adolph, an Agua Dulce resident, was present at the EOC as an observer. Adolph was researching emergency preparedness organizations, and T-CEP's drill provided valuable information to share with her community.
Throughout the morning, representatives from the Red Cross and the Sheriff's Department, Fire Department and Highway Patrol evaluated the EOC drill activities. At the close of the drill, they reviewed the EOC operation with Pat Mac Neil. The consensus was that the drill was a success because all those who participated handled their responsibilities with commitment and professionalism.
At the conclusion of the drill, participants gathered at the Topanga Christian Fellowship for lunch and a discussion of the day's operation.
Pat Mac Neil said that a comprehensive report on the drill will be available shortly.
Meals on Wheels is Rolling in Topanga
Topanga Meals on Wheels volunteers, from left, Julia Spencer, who brought meals to Topanga from Santa Monica, MaryAnne Glazebrook and Lynn Dickhoff.
Anticipation filled the air as five adults and two children met in the parking lot of the church on October 2. It was the inaugural run of the Meals-on- Wheels program in Topanga.
Experienced Meals-on-Wheels volunteer John Malloy picked up the meals in Santa Monica for the four households on the new Topanga route. Soon Carole Merritt, Lisa Gabay, Lynn Dickhoff and Stacie Wolcott with her children--6-year-old Jack and 4-year-old Eleanor--were off to meet Pat Patterson, a slim version of a jolly Santa Claus. A party atmosphere broke out as introductions were made, and hugs and kisses were exchanged. Visiting friends cheered everyone on. Two bags of frozen meals that Pat had selected from a menu were stowed in his freezer.
Next stop was Harriet Swenson, jazz fancier and piano teacher of generations of Canyon young ones. Dressed like a fashion plate, she greeted everyone in her quiet way.
Smiles and warm handshakes were received in the next two households from Gordon Kennedy--wife Ione was out for the afternoon--and from another charming senior citizen farther up the road.
When asked the next day what he thought about his dinner, Pat said, "I had a fantastic meal. I put it in the microwave, stirred it, ate it and threw the dish away. The best part was not having to wash dishes!"
"Well, was the food good?" Dickhoff asked.
"It was as good as any frozen meal I've had in the past," Pat replied.
Another customer said, "The frozen meals are actually better tasting than what you can buy in the market."
Harriet's comment was: "It's well worth it for the convenience."
The inaugural run was a great success. The clients all gave it their heartiest endorsement and each volunteer delivery person reported the joy of actually seeing the delight and appreciation of the clients. Who could ask for a greater reward?
Topanga native Lynn Dickhoff initiated the effort to bring Meals on Wheels to Topanga's homebound residents. She invited RoseMary Regabulto, executive director of Meals on Wheels West, to a meeting at the Christian Fellowship church last month. After discussing several options, it was decided that due to our distance from the organization's kitchen, providing a week's worth of frozen meals each Wednesday would work best.
Offers of help were immediately forthcoming. The Christian Fellowship in Old Canyon decided this would be a good community outreach program. Church members John Malloy and Nancy Williams would drive to Santa Monica and bring meals to the Canyon for distribution. Also, Julia Spencer, a Santa Monica resident who remembers Meals on Wheels helping her grandmother, would transport food to Topanga on her way to work. Others who have volunteered to deliver meals are Robert Black, MaryAnne Glazebrook and Barbara Campbell.
Last year in Santa Monica, Malibu, and Pacific Palisades, 300 volunteers served 115,000 meals to homebound residents. Each client receives a freshly prepared hot meal from the Santa Monica headquarters plus a sack supper for later on--all this specialized service for $5 a day, or less depending on financial need.
If you would like to be part of this joyous experience and could occasionally donate two hours of time or help several Wednesdays a month, please call Ami Kirby at (310) 455-1969.
Please contact Sara at Meals on Wheels at (310) 394-5133 if you have trouble shopping and/or preparing meals and would enjoy having one to seven meals arrive at your door each Wednesday. She is in the office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and is looking forward to serving you.