In the wake of the indictment of Senator Ron Calderon and his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, the people of South East Los Angeles find ourselves in an all too familiar place where the business of representing the public is once again overshadowed by political corruption.
Reform efforts are lacking and we are all responsible. Let’s start with the easy targets: Our elected officials. State and local elected officials must implement common sense reforms starting with contribution limits and when contributions can be made. Elected officials running for office should not receive major funding from just one or even a few donors, and those same donors should not be able to donate big dollars right before a vote.
Big dollar contributors typically only do business where we live and thus do not vote in our elections. Nevertheless, they donate thousands of dollars to elected officials who in turn use their vote to approve contracts worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Such contributions put voters who contribute perhaps $10, $50 or maybe even $100 dollars at a fundamental disadvantage. The result is predictable: the decisions of elected officials often provide a greater benefit to business interests than to the public.
More importantly, our State legislators should implement reform that establishes a lifetime ban on elected officials convicted on corruption charges from ever running for office again. Even for misdemeanors. Such legislation deters future wrong doing by elected officials and helps ensure that when it comes to violating the public trust, the punishment fits the crime.
This lack of reform does not lie only with our elected leaders. It is our charge as well and that is where our hope lies: With a more educated and informed population of voters. There’s a way we get there and we can do it together by getting informed and more importantly, by getting involved.
We are the difference makers and we need to take our vote seriously if we wish to change the paradigm so we don’t lose our voice or the attention of the people we choose to lead us.
Jason Gardea-Stinnett is a resident of Commerce and submitted this opinion piece as a private citizen. He is a Media Specialist in the City of Commerce..
Editor’s Note: This article was updated March 14, 2014 to note that the author submitted the opinion piece as a private citizen and not as spokesperson for the City of Commerce. It is the practice of this newspaper to include the title or other background information about the author when available to give our readers an understanding of the perspective from which the author writes.