By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
In her role as council member from Hollywood, Goldberg has also set the standard for socially responsible development. At the Hollywood-Highland retail, hotel and theatrical development being built by Trizec-Hahn, and at the Cinerama Dome development a mile away, Goldberg has won assurances that the workers in the establishments now going up will make a living wage with benefits. In a city where businesses routinely have received government assistance without any requirement that they pay decent wages, Goldberg has crafted a way to create better-income jobs.
And like most elected officials around L.A., Goldberg will soon be term-limited out of her own job: Her council tenure runs out next year. The Assembly member from the district in which she lives -- Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa -- is also termed out of his seat this year. With his support, Goldberg is running to succeed him.
Goldberg’s opponent in the March primary, Cesar Portillo, legislative director for Michael Weinstein‘s AIDS Healthcare Foundation, also boasts progressive politics, but can’t claim the kind of exceptional leadership record that Goldberg plainly possesses. Weinstein and Goldberg are old rivals -- he ran against her for the council seat she won in 1993 -- and like that race, the Portillo-Goldberg contest has been the cause of some division within the gay and lesbian community. (Portillo‘s gay; Goldberg’s a lesbian.) Unlike that earlier contest, however, the current race is also a contest for the city‘s new majority -- the Latino working class.
The 45th is a majority-Latino district growing steadily more Latino, and for Latino nationalists such as state Senator Richard Polanco, the idea that the district should cease to have Latino representation is historically retrograde, if not plain appalling. Polanco, who heads Sacramento’s Latino caucus, has stated that Portillo‘s election is a top priority -- for himself and, if he has anything to say about it, for the caucus, too.
Polanco and Villaraigosa represent what historically have been the two opposing currents in American ethnic-group politics: Polanco the nationalist, Villaraigosa the coalitionist. In a sense, they’re latter-day versions of what Mervyn Dymally and Tom Bradley were to black L.A. a generation ago. Dymally was concerned chiefly with the election of black political leaders, and aligned himself with centrist, business-oriented Democrats who could help fund his candidates. Bradley was concerned with building a citywide, multiracial progressive coalition, and aligned himself with liberal activists all across town. For years, Bradley-supported candidates duked it out with Dymally candidates for the allegiance of black L.A.
A similar dynamic already exists in L.A.‘s Latino politics today. The difference is that there’s a third player in Latino politics -- the new-model, Latino-led labor movement, aligned with Villaraigosa in that both the speaker and the movement stress the commonalities of class over the particularities of race. Since Contreras took the helm at the County Fed in ‘96, labor has an unparalleled record of mobilizing not only union members but new immigrant voters on behalf of its candidates. With the support of labor and Villaraigosa, progressive Latino candidates such as Assembly members Gil Cedillo and Gloria Romero have bested Polanco-backed candidates in a number of races. Last year, though, Nick Pacheco, with Polanco’s backing, defeated the labor-Villaraigosa candidate in a City Council contest.
With the Goldberg-Portillo contest, the contesting appeals of class and ethnicity in Latino L.A. will receive their greatest test. For the County Fed, selling the non-Latino Goldberg to Latino voters will be a considerable challenge -- particularly since Polanco has a record of playing the race card in the most demagogic way imaginable. “With Jackie,” says Fed political director Nunez, “we‘ve taken the politics of race out of the equation of how labor can help influence the new Latino immigrant community. We’re saying, instead, ‘She’s a warrior. She stood with you. No one fights harder for you to have a decent wage, a decent standard of living.‘ And we think this will resonate in the new immigrant community. We will get Latino immigrant workers to vote for non-Latinos. We will build a force for working families that reaches across racial lines.”
Certainly, no cause is more urgent in a city where working-class impoverishment is increasingly the norm. And few Angelenos have done more to advance that cause than Jackie Goldberg and Hilda Solis -- which is why their election this March is so important to the future of L.A.
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