GPCA 2014 statewide candidate questionnaire - Luis Rodriguez, Governor

1. Which position are you seeking Green Party of California (GPCA) endorsment for and why are you running for this position as a Green? 

I’m seeking the Green Party of California’s endorsement for governor of California. While this is a practical and strategy driven campaign, for me it’s also an imaginal poetic journey. I’ve spoken to thousands of people over the past twenty years, traveling up and down this state, visiting community centers, public and private schools, universities, colleges, prisons, juvenile facilities, libraries, and more. 
Most of this speaking is linked to the 1993 publication of my bestselling memoir, “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” This book was the subject of a number of banning battles, including in San Jose, Fremont, Santa Rosa, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. However, it is known in urban and rural poor communities as one of the most checked out—and one of the most stolen—books. 
Like the Green Party, I know the issues that impact most people, such as the lack of livable incomes, a poisonous environment, the loss of homes and decent schooling, and a massively bloated prison system that serves to justify unjust police actions, outrageous court decisions, and cruel and unusual punishment. As governor, my impact would be encompassing, for everyone in the state, with a new kind of leadership to voice the issues and aspirations of the most marginalized, voiceless and pushed out residents. I will press legislators, local governing bodies, and activists to shift social energy and public budgets toward the creation of a healthy, peaceful and just society for all.
2. What are your key platform issues? What are the most important issues facing California? What solutions do you offer?
1) Clean and green energy and jobs. I would move to stop our dependence on fossil fuels and push investors, businesses and governments to utilize wind, solar and water for power. The technology is growing in this field, also making clean and green energy affordable. In the early 1980s I lived in an experimental solar-powered community in San Bernardino. This worked. Yet the state or private investors did not build on the model. This must change.
2) Single payer health care system. Extend Medi-Cal to everyone. Pay nurses and health providers livable wages and ongoing training. Also expand the idea of healthy and well communities to include arts and culture, native and other spiritual practices, organic gardening, and creative livelihoods.
3) End the California prison system. Use alternative sentencing that in general keeps people in communities, with families, and surrounded by services, treatment, transformative skills training, and more. End three-strikes-and-you’re out, trying youth as adults, the death penalty, life without the possibility of parole, gang injunctions, and long prison terms. Provide restorative justice practices as well as training and educational opportunities for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Incorporate everyone into the economic, political and cultural life of our communities.
4) End poverty in California. This is not fantasy; this is not impossible. We have the 8th largest economy in the world. We are the 3rd largest agricultural center in the world. Yet the income disparity is growing and there are now six million people in poverty. The state’s official poverty rate is higher (close to 17 percent) than the official poverty rate of the country (around 15 percent). I would work with all sectors to plan, strategize and implement viable policies to generate economies and livelihoods that end California’s poverty once and for all.
3. How will your campaign build the Green Party of California? What are your campaign goals?
I have a broad base in the state. This should help the Green Party grow, particularly into communities that should be in the Green Party but are presently estranged from all parties: the poor and unemployed, communities of color, migrants, unorganized workers, students, and others. I would help in any local campaigns where possible and any local initiatives. These include training new leaders and Green Party candidates on how to speak broadly, strategize and work for the long haul while maintaining the GP’s vision and objectives. My campaign goals include 1) carry out a serious campaign for governor (without corporate funding or big name endorsements, but grassroots, broad-based support); 2) Push local candidates throughout the state to run smartly, carry out advanced fundraising, and to win; 3) Raise GP issues to mass media outlets, including demanding equal time with other candidates; 4) Push all other candidates, be they Peace & Freedom, Democrats, and even Republicans to the concept of how the healthy and wellbeing of anyone is dependent on the healthy and wellbeing of everyone.
4. What parts of the GPCA platform do you feel most closely aligned with? What parts do you disagree with, if any? Are there parts you would improve upon and how?
The Green Party of California platform emphasizes the interconnectiveness of everyone and everything. This is aligned with my spiritual practice as a Native Mexican/American healer and water pourer. I’ve been doing these practices for twenty years, including in the Pine Ridge and Navajo reservations, in the San Fernando/Los Angeles areas, in Mexico, Central America, and Peru. If we honor and respect nature, it will provide abundance for all. If we honor and respect each other, we will have the regenerative power of relationships. If we respect and use in balance our technology and intellectual capacities, we will be able to provide all our needs without great costs in lives, money or the environment. I don’t disagree with any of the GPCA platform. For me, it’s about emphasis, individual expression and my own personal imprint on these ideas. I would color and flavor the platform with my take as a native person, from a Mexican migrant family, of the working class, and as a writer/artist.
5. What in your background qualifies you to be a credible candidate? What assets would you bring to your campaign, in addition to those already existing within the Green Party?
I am a son of poor Mexican migrants. Although I was born in El Paso, Texas, we lived across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We moved to South Central Los Angeles when I was 2. I entered schools not knowing English and was punished for speaking Spanish. We moved to the San Gabriel Valley at age 8. We lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County, the unincorporated community of South San Gabriel. 
At 13, we moved to a poor section of San Gabriel. I got involved in gangs at 11, in heavy drug use at 12, and was detained by police for stealing, fighting and disturbing the peace since age 13. I slept in jail cells in San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Temple City, Norwalk, and East L.A. I was briefly detained in the Central Juvenile Hall and briefly at the Hall of Justice Murderer’s Row at 16 (for crimes I didn’t commit and was eventually not charged with). At 17 I was arrested for attempted murder, but again charges were not filed due to lack of witnesses. At 18, I faced a minimum of 6 years in state prison for allegedly assaulting police officers and resisting arrest (when police jumped me for defending a handcuffed Mexican girl on the ground whom police were beating). 
Due to community support, including letters and visits in court, a judge convicted me of “drunk and disorderly” and I was released with time served in the County Jail. By age 19, I quit drugs, the gang life and crimes, dedicating myself to peace and social justice. I’ve been doing this for forty years. 
I also worked seven years as a maintenance mechanic, carpenter, construction worker, welder, pipe fitter, and truck driver, including for Bethlehem Steel Mill, the National Lead Foundry, St. Regis Paper Mill, and a Chevron Chemical Refinery.
With deindustrialization in the 1980s impacting L.A., the largest manufacturing center of the country, I decided at age 25 to become a professional writer, taking journalism/writing courses at East Los Angeles Community College and working for weekly newspapers in East Los Angeles. I got accepted into the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at UC Berkeley, where I obtained a journalism certificate. I worked as a daily newspaper reporter in San Bernardino and volunteered in public/community radio (KPFK and California Public Radio). I also got active in poetry. And I later worked for AFSCME-AFL-CIO as a public affairs associate and writer/editor.
In 1985 I moved to Chicago to become editor of the People’s Tribune, a national political newspaper. I also wrote news and reported for the all-news radio station WMAQ-AM. My freelance work took me around the country—to strikes, civil rights battles, immigrant rights struggles—and to uprisings in Mexico, Nicaragua and Honduras. I got active in the Chicago poetry scene, birthplace of Poetry Slams, and I helped create the Guild Complex Literary Center and Tia Chucha Press. 
In addition, I continued to work in gang intervention and urban peace, helping start Youth Struggling for Survival, the Increase the Peace Collaborative, and the Humboldt Park Teen Reach. In 2000, I moved back to Los Angeles and continued to write. I now have 15 books in poetry, fiction, children’s literature and nonfiction. My writings have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune. U.S. World & News Report, The Nation, Utne Reader, San Jose Mercury, Huntington Post, and others. In Los Angeles, I helped create the nonprofit Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, a full fledge arts training and expression center. I bring all these experiences and more as assets for the Green Party’s governor’s campaign.
6. What are some of the key organizations and/or constituencies that you plan to outreach to and what is your relationship (if any) to them?
I have ties with immigrant communities, both Mexican and Central American (I’ve done gang peace work in these communities as well as in northern Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala). I have strong ties with African Americans and other communities of color. I also have ties with organized and unorganized workers. And I’m involved with Native Americans as well as with artists, writers, and creative people in public, digital and movie arts. In addition, my outreach includes the nationally renowned poor communities in the Central Valley. Since I’ve had many talks in universities and colleges, I can also mobilize our important student population, including MeCha students throughout the state (I am an old Mechista from the early 1970s).
7. Have you filed as a campaign committee with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and if so, what is your campaign ID#.  Do you have campaign bank account and treasurer? A campaign website?
All this is being worked on as I write this. I have a campaign management team so far of Anthony Prince, a California lawyer, and Edy Alvarez, a Green Party activist in the San Fernando Valley. Others will be added since people from across the state have already expressed interest to be involved. An account and website will be obtained shortly. 
8. Do believe that an independent party like the Greens can succeed in the US? How would you define such success? How can it happen?
Yes, the Greens can succeed. The U.S. has one of the lowest voting percentages in the world. People are disconnected from politics due to their disenchantment with Democrats and Republicans, their betrayal and lack of accountability. Both parties have become mirrors of each other. There is a need for a viable political alternative. It can’t be limited to left politics, although it should include activists in all progressive political streams. The Green Party needs to connect having a balanced, green and clean world, as well as full social justice, with the pocket books of the average voter. Even right-wing thinkers are losing jobs and homes. The Green Party should be their party, not based on their ideology or lack of one, but on real solutions to meeting their basic needs and in incorporating everyone into a new economy, a new politics, a new America. To transcend ideology to issues that matter, yet be able to reach, teach, and provide true political knowledge as widely as possible. Growing numbers in the Green Party is a good gauge, but even better is increased organized actions, a growing spirit of struggle, and an enveloping vision for more and more people on how to achieve liberation in all areas. 
9. The Green Party of California intends to run a unified and coordinated slate of Green candidates for California's statewide constitutional offices. How will you collaborate with other Greens running for other statewide office, including on issues, messaging and organizing?
My campaign should be part of an overall state strategy for the Green Party on how to build and win, particularly in local elections, and to have our issues aired throughout the state and in the mass media. Such a strategy would make sure statewide office campaigns can help the local elections of GP candidates – and that local elections can get the needed signatures, media attention, and events for statewide candidates. This includes the cross sectioning of websites, social media, press releases, and media actions. I can do this as California candidate for governor, working together with other Green Party candidates for statewide and local offices. I’d also like to have a weekly podcast on the issues that anyone can access and that we can use widely. We speak in diverse ways, with many voices and accents, yet we are united in the common wellbeing of everyone in the state. We are united in a clean and green California.
10. Why are you a Green? 
The Green Party represents the future of this country. We need integral and cohesive governmental responses to our needs. Our driving methodology should be cooperation and having everyone contribute to their best ability and capability. That’s the direction we’re going as a country, as a world, or we die. We must end the widespread poisoning of our environment, including the wanton destruction of land and water; wars and punitive measures; any exploitation of labor, ideas or creativity. We need to end profit as the motive force for securing anything (which only secures a life for a smaller number of people). Our vision should be clearly positive and possible; encompassing and equitable; and easily understood, even if founded in deep study and experience.
People of great diversity—as reflected in the state—united for the essential aims of a healthy, free and peaceful California.

Received September 27, 2013