Voting and Justice
By Claudia J. Gonzalez
Editor’s note: Earlier this year, leaders from PICO California gathered in Los Angeles for a statewide leadership assembly. Among attendees was Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), a prominent supporter of our work and sponsor of AB 953, AB 2590, and AB 2765. Our Live Free Vista Fellow, Claudia J. Gonzalez, had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Dr. Webber.
Claudia: Why is it important for you to sponsor pieces of legislation such as the Restorative Justice Act (AB 2590)?
Dr. Weber: It is my responsibility as a representative of the people to move us towards justice one step at a time. We need to move closer to where we need to be in terms of societal change. AB 953 was a huge victory for us, we need to keep the momentum going. I am part of the bigger puzzle, because we didn’t get here alone, so we need to work together to enact change.
You were also the sponsor of AB 953, how did you feel when Governor Brown signed it into law back in October?
I thought, that’s the beauty of ‘People Power.’ From the beginning, we made a commitment to pass this bill. It was a statewide effort by leaders like you who mobilized a lot of people. Right before Governor Brown signed it, we were in Sacramento preparing for a hunger strike. In our hearts, we knew AB 953 would be signed.
Not all progressive politicians were supportive of AB 953. Governor Brown was quoted as saying it would take “a miracle of God” for him to sign the bill. Why do you believe there was hesitance in supporting this bill given the cases of police brutality making national headlines?
It was the moderate Democrats who were hesitant. You know what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said about moderates right? A lot of bills get killed by moderates. It is more of an issue thing, not which side they’re on. We have to remind these people about who they represent. If the people want accountability and transparency, we have to support that, especially when people are being killed. We need elected officials who will do the right thing.
You mentioned “People Power,” but how important is ‘youth power’ in the work we do, and particularly in this election?
Young People are waking up. Look at what happened in Chicago. That is youth power. Historically, young people have not voted. We have to instill in them the importance of being civically engaged. That is happening right now. Our folks have to vote all the time, not only when it is considered to be ‘important.’ Votes matter in every election. We need to engaging young people and help them understand what we are fighting for. The work PICO is crucial. Organizing is very important.
PICO, is part of the ‘Million Voters Project’ campaign to mobilize folks to register to vote. What would you tell your constituents in order to motivate them to register?
I would tell them the truth. In the world of politics, you do not exist if you don’t vote. If you want to be taken seriously by politicians, you need to show up. You need to vote. In California, we are revitalizing the concept of voting. That one vote truly matters.