Q & A w/ Luis J. Rodriguez, Famous Chicano Author Who's Running for Governor of California
Twenty years ago, Luis J. Rodriguez wrote Always Running, the legendary memoir chronicling his transformation from cholo to Chicano activist. Now the author of fifteen books is looking to transform the state of California with a grassroots bid for the Governor's office--because if Norman Mailer could run for office, why can't he? An independent candidate endorsed by the Green Party, Rodriguez's platform tackles issues of poverty, the prison system, the environment and single payer healthcare for all.
He honed that message at an open candidate forum hosted by LULAC in Garden Grove on Sunday with Greens Laura Wells and Ellen Brown, who are running for Controller and Treasurer respectively.
Rodriguez is currently on a statewide tour to collect 20,000 signatures for ballot placement in 2014. Before heading off to another stop, the Weekly spoke with Luis Rodriguez about his campaign.
OC Weekly (Gabriel San Román): What motivated you to run for governor this year?
Rodriguez: Like most people, you get tired. I think we put a lot of effort behind Governor Jerry Brown thinking he would be the guy that would save the state and it's just not working. The Democrats and Republicans for the most part just do not represent the interests of the homeowner, the poor guy working, anybody trying to survive. The idea is that I'm part of this world. I want to contribute in a meaningful way. I thought I could do it with my voice, my books, my writing, and now by running for governor, a very important position, bringing in vital, new ideas. My slogan is 'Imagine a New California.' That's the first step.
You harshly criticize Governor Brown's recent budget proposal. What do people need to be aware of in terms of it and what alternatives do you offer?
It was pretty much balanced on the backs of poor people, cutting back CalWorks, cutting back CalFresh, cutting back arts programing, cutting back all these things I think are vital to keep communities alive. What I would do is turn it all around. Imagine every community clean, green, where everybody has healthcare and education access, where everybody's got decent homes. Imagine a California in which every neighborhood is alive with arts, festivals, music, dance. Imagine what your community should look like and say every neighborhood should be that way. The budget should not be balanced off the backs of poor people, but it should be allowed so that all the wealth in state--which is very massive, we're the eighth largest economy in the world, the largest economy in the United States--should help create that situation for everybody to live decently.
In the summer of 2012, Anaheim became the media epicenter for issues of police brutality. This past year, there was the controversial shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County Sheriff Deputy. What are your thoughts on police brutality as a statewide issue?
Every police department needs to be overseen by the public. Whatever you want to call it, community control is vital. They've got to work for us. They're separate from us. They can kill a 13-year-old kid like Andy Lopez for no reason and pretty much get away with it. We have to change that. This is what happened in Anaheim and all these communities where people are being killed, officers are being exonerated, and things are not changing. I think we have to say every police station has to be controlled by the community, not by politicians or by themselves. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department has a billion dollar budget. They're not putting money in restorative justice. They're not putting money in treatment or jobs training. The police are getting bigger and the budgets are getting bigger. The prison system has become massive. It's the largest in the world outside the federal system. This is not a state I want to be a part of.