Generally speaking, Gayle McLaughlin is a strong left-leaning candidate. Her general vision for the state seems to be very much in line with Democratic Socialist goals. However, I have some slight reservations regarding a couple of topics raised during the Q&A during the December meeting.
Regarding housing, candidate McLaughlin indicated that her primary plan to increase affordable housing would be to use state land to build much cheaper, affordable housing for the public. This is a decent plan in theory, but is really just a band-aid, rather than a solution for the root of the problem. If we did use this state land, we would still be left with many areas within Los Angeles with very unfair housing practices. Speaking from personal experience, I do not believe there is much state land available to be used for housing in Los Angeles, as our primary problem is that we have a limited amount of land for our massive population. The map found through the Public Lands website generally corroborates this. At best, this solution would create affordable housing far away from the city without adequate public transportation to help workers commute. Even with public transportation, it’s unreasonable to require workers to travel for hours per day simply for work. This plan is simply not adequate for the needs of Angelinos.
While in Richmond, then-Mayor McLaughlin utilized eminent domain to purchase upside-down mortgages to create affordable housing, as the government is allowed to purchase lands at fair market value if for a public purpose. On a macro-level, this is a good strategy to make housing affordable again and to rectify many of the problems with the housing crisis, because the government can institute much more reasonable rates than a for-profit bank ever would. However, then-Mayor McLaughlin used private-investment firms to purchase these lands. While this may have ultimately worked in Richmond, this creates a dangerous conflict of interests and a general presumption of collusion between the government and the private-equity firms. This problem is only exacerbated at the state level, as housing is much more expensive across the entire state, especially in Los Angeles, as compared to Richmond. I understand that candidate McLaughlin is an advocate for a state-controlled bank, of which I am in favor, as well. However, her housing plan seems simply unworkable without the condition-precedent of the state-controlled bank, which regrettably does not appear to be in the state’s near future. As such, it is difficult to say that any of her housing plans will adequately provide for Angelinos.
Regarding law enforcement, candidate McLaughlin touts her 75% reduction in homicide rates as Mayor in Richmond as evidence of her effective law enforcement policy. While true that reduction of homicide rates is the ultimate goal, we must be vigilant in regard to the methods we use to achieve this. After all, a police state is also effective at preventing civilian-on-civilian homicides. Candidate McLaughlin described her strategy as a glorified and expanded “neighborhood watch” program to create a dialogue and ultimately lower crime rates. Like housing, in theory, this is a good strategy. However, the underlying methods used by then-Mayor McLaughlin raise concerns. As expanded upon by Mother Jones in 2014, then-Mayor McLaughlin’s strategy involved using a private firm to collect police-like background information and identify the individuals most likely to commit homicide. These individuals would then be paid though the “Office of Neighborhood Safety Fellowship” for good behavior, i.e. not committing homicide. This cannot be described in any way other than proto-police state behavior. This is stop-and-frisk with the proverbial carrot as reward for good behavior, rather than the proverbial stick as punishment for bad behavior. The proto-police state issues do not even address the obvious incentivization issues of suggesting that young people become “at-risk” individuals for the possibility of receiving one of these fellowships. Simply put, this method creates a dangerous precedent for profiling that could very easily harm those most marginalized in California.
Ultimately, I think that candidate McLaughlin is the best candidate we have available. Regrettably, we are not living in a society where we have many candidates with similar goals to our group, and candidate McLaughlin’s goals do seem to be in-line. I have some serious reservations with her methods, but I do believe that she is the best candidate available.