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The Legislature's Latino Caucus

September 18, 2004

I was left amused after reading Anthony York's Sept. 12 Opinion article, "Latinos in Legislature Run a Risk." His main point accuses the Latino leaders as "more concerned about pushing their own ethnic interests than those of California as a whole." The reason we have a Latino caucus, a black caucus and, hopefully, in the near future, when they have larger numbers in the Legislature, an Asian caucus, is to assure that ethnic issues are addressed in the interest of those ethnic communities. The irony of these caucuses is that they are in response to the "white caucus," better known as the state Legislature before blacks and Hispanics became politically active and energized their communities to elect those who were both sympathetic and responsive to their issues.

These caucus members are in fact representatives who were elected to represent their constituents and deal with the issues in their districts. They have a duty to those who elected them. Anything less would be reason to replace them. Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) won't back off because he has a duty, regardless of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's imminent veto and apparent opposition in other districts. He does not represent districts in Orange or Marin counties.

York cited the fact that no Latino Democrat voted against Cedillo's bill -- which would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses -- as an example of an ethnic agenda and not a California agenda. It is obvious to me that York does not fully understand what is at stake if we continue to ignore the fact that most illegal immigrants are driving throughout the state without the proper safety training and auto insurance that would protect every Californian. As I see it, this is nothing more than a statewide security (anti-terrorists) and safety issue.

The fact that no Latino Democrat voted against the bill suggests to me that they understand what it means to the Latino community specifically, and to the entire state generally.

Victor M. Franco

Monrovia

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The source of indifference to the will of the people among Sacramento's Latino caucus on issues such as driver's licenses for illegal immigrants is lack of accountability. Most Latino caucus members come from "safe" districts, allowing them to become a voting-bloc majority. This seems to have instilled within the caucus a haughty sense of indifference to such old-fashioned concepts as "consent of the governed." For them, serving in the California Legislature has become little more than an opportunity to promote pet causes, all on the public dime.

A major problem in Sacramento is the safe districts that lawmakers draw to protect incumbents. This lack of competition in all but a handful of races has made a mockery of party primaries, leaving the Legislature more and more polarized as ideological lawmakers appeal above the common good to narrow segments within their gerrymandered districts.

It's clear the California Legislature is incapable of policing itself, and redistricting should be turned over to an independent commission, perhaps made up of retired judges, to draw district lines. Enough of this unbearable sense of entitlement, coupled with complete unaccountability, for the benefit of a few.

Michael Scott

Glendora

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York asks, "What will it take before members of the Latino caucus learn" that moderation a la Schwarzenegger is more acceptable across the board to the California electorate?

Either they will learn when one by one they begin to get voted out by moderate Latino voters, or when they begin to see beyond their currently limited horizon. They need to stop acting primarily and mainly as ethnic politicians and more like California elected officials.

Edward R. Torres

Glendora

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