Like many other progressive organizations, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party has enthusiastically backed Proposition 21 as a crucial tool to urgently address California’s housing affordability and homelessness crises. With those public emergencies only worsening as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the L.A. County Democratic Party is working hard to get out the vote for Prop 21 and other key measures and candidates.
“The Los Angeles County Democratic Party name polls higher than several major organizations. Voters across LA County know that when our party speaks, the candidates and measures we support are the ones who are going to fight for our ideals, progressive values, and families all across our county,” says Mark Gonzalez, a young gay Latino Democrat with more than 20 years of activism who chairs the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the nation’s largest county Democratic Party representing 2.9 million Democrats across 88 municipalities.
Prop 21 is the November ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases, reins in corporate landlord greed, and prevents homelessness. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits are key for stabilizing California’s housing affordability crisis. That’s why U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, Congressmembers Maxine Waters, Karen Bass and Barbara Lee, the California Democratic Party, and the Los Angeles Times, among many others, have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.
Gonzalez notes that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the party has gone completely virtual in its critical Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort before Election Day, Nov. 3. “California has a huge volunteer base of people who are calling the 17 battleground states,” he says, with coalition phone banking focused on Arizona and Nevada.
In California, mail-in ballots drop statewide on Oct. 5. In addition to mailing the ballot through the Post Office, there are voting centers in large arenas opening 11 days prior to Election Day where voters can physically drop off ballots. As long as the ballot is postmarked by Nov. 3, it will be counted.
“Our focus has always been robocalls, anything digital,” mailers and social media, says Gonzalez. “We’re planning six virtual GOTV rallies across the County… [and] we’re partnering with the California Democratic Party and doing virtual phone banking” on national and statewide races, including propositions such as Prop 21.
The L.A. County Democratic Party actually endorsed Prop 21 before the state party. A key point: over 30% of California’s 17 million renters pay over 50% of their income in rent.
“In Los Angeles alone, not just the County, there is a significant amount of folks who are renters. During the pandemic, a lot of folks who have lost their job, unfortunately, who are renters, are scared in terms of getting kicked out, being pushed onto the street,” Gonzalez says. “Prop 21 is an initiative on the ballot that prevents homelessness, preserves affordable housing, and gives local communities the freedom to provide renter assistance. There’s over 150,000 people who are homeless in California — and this was before COVID-19. And COVID-19 has left 4 to 5 million people in danger of eviction in California, according to the Aspen Institute study. So, Prop 21 will help get assistance to those renters and help prevent eviction, which I think is what the party is standing for.”
Gonzalez adds: “I think it’s just important. I, myself, am a renter. And I think it’s important for these measures and initiatives to go through, to protect those folks. Because most people who are renting — if you’re not a homeowner, you’re obviously in a very different bracket. So, it’s definitely something that’s needed, which is why the party pushed for it.”
Meanwhile, “any of the building that’s happening now is for luxury building,” while there is also “not a lot of incentive for people to truly build affordable housing,” he says. Prop 21 “would allow local governments to adopt rent control on housing units, except on housing that was first occupied within the last 15 years” and for a person who “owned no more than two housing units with separate titles, such as single family homes, condos and duplexes.”
Gonzalez notes that “with the millions unemployed due to COVID and unable to pay rent, Prop 21 can help city council members and county supervisors with the tools they need to prevent homelessness and stave off evictions.” The measure “will keep rents down for seniors, LGBTers, people with disabilities across the board, people of color. And it also tackles high rents, which are the root cause of gentrification.”
Democrats took the 2016 election for granted, Gonzales says. “But now, with the integrity of voting itself under attack, it is critical to taking voting very seriously and not be suppressed.”
“We have a plethora of new voters for this particular election,” Gonzalez says. “And so, no matter what is happening, especially during this pandemic, nobody can take away your vote. That is the one thing you have and they’re entitled to — and nobody can take that away from you. People died for that vote. People died for you to have that privilege. And so, it’s in your duty to utilize and exercise that right to vote and to show where you stand.”
(Photo: LA County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez and California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks. Photo via Gonzalez’s Facebook page.)