Candidates Forum

The voting period to elect our chapter’s new Steering Committee and Branch Coordinators is open from Saturday December 14th - Saturday December 21st. This page is designed to allow our members to review the Candidates Forum that was held on Sunday, December 8.

 

CANDIDATES FORUM

Here is Part 1 of the Candidates Forum (Recording Secretary, Communications Director, Treasurer):

https://www.facebook.com/DSALosAngeles/videos/430334090966439/

Here is Part 2 of the Candidates Forum (At-Large Steering and Branch Coordinators):

https://www.facebook.com/DSALosAngeles/videos/781308022342904/

 

 

RESPONSES TO AUDIENCE QUESTIONS

As several of the Steering Committee Treasurer and new At-Large Candidates were unable to attend the Forum, we gave those Candidates the opportunity to respond in writing to the audience questions from the Forum, as well as personal statements. We’ve included those responses below.

 

Treasurer Candidates


BOBBY OROZCO JR

Personal Statement

As a progressive in favor of a democratic society, I am honored to be able to run for the position of Treasurer for DSA-LA. I am running as a candidate to bring my Labor experience at a time when Labor is being attacked from the highest office in the land down to the lowest employer who refuses to bargain with its workers. I was made aware of DSA through my advocacy of Senator Sanders this past and current presidential primary. It was Senator Sanders’ movement that really vaulted DSA, as a brand, to the forefront of democratic socialism as a whole. It is in that spirit, and in the mantra of “Not Me. Us.” that I have decided to run for DSA-LA Treasurer. I sincerely believe that if we, as a group, take an introspective look at where we have been, where we are now, and where we would like to be in the near and immediate future, with proper planning—through the position of Treasurer—we can be a significant force to be reckoned with and we can take this organization, beginning in Los Angeles, to the next level.

Have you had the role of Treasurer in any other organization and what are your views on fundraising?

Currently, I am the Local President for American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1260, AFL-CIO, representing Officers at United States Transportation Security Administration at airports from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, where we possess over 2,200 members. Prior to my current role as President, I have served as Executive Vice President and Treasurer, respectively. When I was with United Steelworkers Local 8065, I served as Trustee, which allowed me to audit the Financial Secretary and Treasurer on a quarterly basis. Furthermore, I have assisted my church youth group with fundraising off-and-on for about five years.

Is there anything you think the chapter is currently not spending enough money on?

I would like to see the Chapter put more money into self-promotion. The cheapest way to market effectively is through social media ad buys, with the ability to specifically target certain audiences of interest. As the saying goes, “It takes money to make money;” and exposure would allow DSA-LA a broader ability to attain more members. More money and members equates to further reach and capabilities to accomplish all our goals.

What are your thoughts on transparency? Would you favor releasing, for example, quarterly financial reports, in addition to the required annual financial report given at convention?

As a Labor leader in my Union, I realize the need for transparency is not only healthy and vital for long term sustainment, but it protects the organization as well as the members—after all it is the members’ money! In terms of releasing quarterly reports, I would have no objections; in fact in my union, we report our monthly—so that may be an option as well.

What do you think of house parties? Would you support Jams for Justice?

House parties have become an integral and effective part of many political campaigns, especially Bernie Sanders’ campaign. It is not only a more intimate way of communicating and sharing a space, but it is a fun, interactive way of meeting new friends seeing old ones. In short, yes, I am in favor of house parties . . . and Jams for Justice. Music is one way to bring people together, but it is likely one of the few ways that has significant staying power; couple that with like-minded folks fighting for just causes and it sounds like music to my ears!

Would you commit to looking for an office space alongside Steering Committee? How do you envision us having a permanent physical space for the chapter's resources?

As with any financial endeavor, I believe a hard look at the current financial obligations, potential frequency of office usage, and intended benefit to membership would need to be reviewed at length. This process would not require much time, two to four weeks, but it’s review would be important since its impact could have a severe impact on the budget. If these litmus tests are met, I would be in favor of opening an office. As an alternative, shared spaces with similar organizations would be cost-effective while providing DSA-LA with a place for membership until it’s financially sound.

What experience do you have in writing grant proposals for foundations? If so, which ones have you written grants for?

I do not possess experience as a professional grant writer, however I have written letters to businesses and organizations, on behalf of my union and church youth group. Grant writers are technical expert writers who require years of schooling and/or experience to be successful. Although I do not believe lacking grant writing experience should exempt any candidate from consideration, I do believe the unwillingness to learn to do so should. As with any and every role to which I commit, I am dedicated to researching and learning these skills to forward the betterment of DSA-LA.

JACOB BATINGA

Personal Statement

I am running for Treasurer of DSA-LA because I believe I believe in socialism and I have the experience to be DSA-LA’s treasurer. Over the past several years I have lived and worked as an activist in Palestine many times, with the international solidarity movement, the excellence center of Hebron, and Human Rights Defenders. With these organizations I have documented human rights abuses, written articles, and participated in direct civil disobedience. I have also helped fundraise and increase membership for these organizations by giving talks to USC’s Students for Justice in Palestine, Socialists of Caltech, and other student organizations. Also, I was on the fiscal affairs council of Orange Coast College, where I fought hard against budget cuts for impoverished students and workers, cuts to the arts, and advocated divestment from certain corporations.

Have you had the role of Treasurer in any other organization and what are your views on fundraising?

I was on the fiscal affairs council of Orange Coast College, where we managed the entire schools endowment. As basically the only progressive member of the council, I fought hard against cuts to student services, the arts, and adjunct professor and janitorial services salaries. For fundraising I believe in social gatherings, presentations to college and community groups to increase membership and encourage donations, grant proposals, and most importantly, canvassing. 

Is there anything you think the chapter is currently not spending enough money on?

I believe that DSA-LA should allocate more resources on the three resolutions that have been passed by the chapter: recruitment, campaigning for Bernie Sanders, and a Green New Deal for Los Angeles. I believe that more funds should go into expanding recruitment through making social media, in person presentations, and canvassing. I believe in a large scale grassroots door-to-door campaign of Los Angeles simultaneously promoting membership expansion and Bernie Sanders. 

What are your thoughts on transparency? Would you favor releasing, for example, quarterly financial reports, in addition to the required annual financial report given at convention?

I believe in total transparency and releasing quarterly financial reports. I also believe in democratic participatory budgeting. 

What do you think of house parties? Would you support Jams for Justice?

I support Jams for Justice, with some reservations. I believe in house parties and social gatherings for fundraising and membership recruitment, but I think that our resources should be focused on direct, grassroots recruitment. I believe that it is more important to drastically increase canvassing, create high quality social media, and give presentations to community groups, college groups, and unions. 

Would you commit to looking for an office space alongside Steering Committee? How do you envision us having a permanent physical space for the chapter's resources?

Yes, I believe that an office space would be very important for improving the chapters operations. But I think we should look for a small office space, without a kitchen and other amenities, so we can focus our resources on other things. 

What experience do you have in writing grant proposals for foundations? If so, which ones have you written grants for?

I have experience in both writing and evaluating grant proposals. I have written person grant proposals for research in college at UCLA. I have had grant proposals accepted by the International Education Office of UCLA. I also have a lot of experience in evaluating grant proposals. While on the fiscal affairs council of Orange Coast College I reviewed and voted on grants from campus organizations.

K. SURI

Personal Statement

Comrades, I apologize for not attending the forum, I had a prior obligation. I still believe in my capacity to effectively administer over the financial dealings of DSA-LA with a discipline that only a stringent Marxist has. I intend to keep a tight hold of the purse, permitting only the worth while endeavors and altruistic affairs that our working groups and committees are devoted to receiving funds; I will not have excessive spending during my time. It is crucial that our chapter has the resources to step into the next decade with a firm financial base. I admit I have no prior experience managing a budget, but I have always been good in mathematics and I scored highly (98%) in my recent Statistics class. Plus, I always do my best cutting corners in my financial living situation; frugal living is my personal gold standard. With me, you know I have a moral lens to spend-thriftiness, and that is all.

Have you had the role of Treasurer in any other organization and what are your views on fundraising?

I have never been treasurer of anything ever before; I only have general ideas about how to maximize our efficiency by "cutting out the fat." By this I mean I would make sure useless projects that soak up more resources than they're worth are simply not funded. We must undertake more fundraising endeavors as dues are not enough to foment a mass movement that must be on a several industry wide scale as our must be. But again, if this fundraising requires more funds to put together than it intends to make, it is doomed to fail.

Is there anything you think the chapter is currently not spending enough money on?

I personally have not been around enough committee's to know, but as I understand it, the room costs for DSA-LA are much greater than they ought to be. This isn't my place to say as a contender for the treasurer position, but with a greater emphasis on local organizing and a focus on branches rather than the whole chapter, might alleviate the financial strain.  

What are your thoughts on transparency? Would you favor releasing, for example, quarterly financial reports, in addition to the required annual financial report given at convention?

Steering must be held accountable to the people it represents, as long as those people are an educated mass that works in its own best interests. So here I am partially a Leninist, but I see nothing wrong in releasing financial information. We don't make much compared to bigger right wing political organizations, there's no shame in that.

What do you think of house parties? Would you support Jams for Justice?

I have no idea what these are, but a cursory google search of Jams for Justice has made me say yes I support what their message is.

Would you commit to looking for an office space alongside Steering Committee? How do you envision us having a permanent physical space for the chapter's resources?

As I do not believe we presently have the financial spending capacity to afford a physical space, I would say no, at least until there would be enough. I'd rather give that money to Housing and Homelessness so that the unhoused have a physical space than us, to be quite frank.

What experience do you have in writing grant proposals for foundations? If so, which ones have you written grants for?

I have absolutely no experience. I just don't want this organization to stagnate because of an incompetent manager or absolutely malicious sycophant at the reigns of our money. Admittedly being the former, I can only try to pledge to make sure we have more money than what we started with.

 

At-Large Candidates


KENYON MCFARLANE

Personal Statement

I’ve been a member of DSA-LA for a year and a half, and during that time it’s been exciting to watch the organization grow in size and stature. 

Organizing within DSA-LA as both a rank-and-file member and a committee leader has emphasized what I love about DSA, and also highlighted common frustrations. For years we’ve been working toward becoming more representative, more inclusive, more collaborative - and in light of the recent resolutions passed, I feel we’re well-poised to make substantive changes this coming year.

Ultimately, I’m running for Steering because I’m passionate about the work DSA-LA does and I’d like to do what I can to facilitate it. I now feel that I have the time and energy to dedicate, and the experience within the organization to feel confident in my ability to execute Steering’s duties.

The Electoral Politics Committee has not been one of the strongest committees in DSA-LA. What do you make of its place in the organization and, if elected, how would you support electoral politics in the organization?

My goal as an organizer is to attempt to alleviate immediate suffering caused by capitalism, while working with the overall aim of massive, systemic change. Direct action work is necessary for addressing people's day-to-day needs, as are broader campaigns that will help us live in a country where we no longer need to set up medical clinics in parking lots.

Electoral work to me is an important part of that strategy, and I think membership generally agrees. I’ll continue to support the chapter’s electoral projects going forward, and encourage committees to connect with ElPol on individual projects when useful.

What is the most important thing our chapter needs to do to increase our membership in the upcoming year?

Increasing membership is an important goal, and I’m specifically interested in figuring out how to build a more representative and activated chapter - an issue I feel the Organizing For All resolution addresses well.

I’ve also been attending Mutual Aid's Community Fairs in South Central for the past few months, and we’ve had conversations with attendees about everything from their healthcare situations to debt struggles. I believe having more events like these - opportunities to meet people and really listen to their needs without proselytizing - is a long-term strategy that will be instrumental in shaping DSA into an organization that reflects LA as a whole.

Serving on the Steering Committee is also a high pressure, high responsibility position and our chapter is currently struggling due to a lack of leadership. What are your recommendations for new structural models that we could implement so that we can remedy this problem? What are your thoughts on the Steering Committee’s responsibility to develop leadership within the chapter?

The amount of work required is certainly an obstacle to members assuming leadership positions, and I’d like to find ways to decentralize power that address burnout and make the organization more democratic.

Democratizing information will also be an essential part of convincing people to assume leadership positions. Much of the work Steering and committee leadership does is made opaque, which can discourage newer members from taking positions they may be well-suited for. Clarifying exactly what leadership in our organization does (and the amount of organizing experience you’d actually need to feel comfortable carrying out your duties) would be beneficial.

MOLOMBO THILLIA THILLOT

Personal Statement

My name is Molombo Thillia Thillot III and my entire life has been motivated to achieve more than our society would allow. My personal ambition is instilling the same drive that pushed me through my own difficult beginnings and give an understanding on how to properly navigate our tulmontous present. I am a 2nd generation American raised by a single mother along with four siblings in a low income household in Denver, CO. Always being the poorest and darkest in most spaces led me to quickly understand  the methodology of society at a young age. Today I am a law student, hoping to add my skillset to aid DSA through our most important moment in US politics. 

The Electoral Politics Committee has not been one of the strongest committees in DSA-LA. What do you make of its place in the organization and, if elected, how would you support electoral politics in the organization?

Electoral politics is one of the most important factors that makes up our organization. 2020 will be one of the most important events of our chapter. Pushing candidates from city council to the Presidential race will improve the reach of DSA that benefited our chapter in Queens.

What is the most important thing our chapter needs to do to increase our membership in the upcoming year?

Engaging in electoral politics will inherently boost membership. Creating events and community action that raise class consciousness will no doubt bring more members, retain membership and will only serve as a benefit to our organization 

Serving on the Steering Committee is also a high pressure, high responsibility position and our chapter is currently struggling due to a lack of leadership. What are your recommendations for new structural models that we could implement so that we can remedy this problem? What are your thoughts on the Steering Committee’s responsibility to develop leadership within the chapter?

Transparency of decisions and steering the chapter on actions that engage the entire chapter. Committees and subgroups aid in organization but not having transparency in the choices being made in each committee will only lead to a diluted outcome, compromising before even reaching the table. Developing praxis will inherently instill leadership and action in the chapter.

TOM RHALTER

Personal Statement

I want to serve the movement. I know it's not the most original statement but it's why I'm here. I don't believe that Socialism is a historical inevitability. I believe that it's a choice and it's a fight. I want to help us win that fight in whatever way I can. Our state is literally on fire and inaction doesn't feel like a choice I can live with. So here I am. 

The Electoral Politics Committee has not been one of the strongest committees in DSA-LA. What do you make of its place in the organization and, if elected, how would you support electoral politics in the organization?

We need to start thinking about 2022 right now. We have a window to elect a truly proggressive mayor and city council but there needs to be a city wide grassroots movement behind them. We need to start building. We need to build stronger relationships with the other leftist organizations in LA. We need to create a system that churns out skilled organizers. We need to keep experimenting with distributed organizing. I completely understand the reservations with electoralism but I do think it's an important piece of the puzzle and we need to have the capacity to do it well.

What is the most important thing our chapter needs to do to increase our membership in the upcoming year?

We have a loneliness epidemic in America. We're isolated. We're alienated. There's a real desperation all around us, not just for social change but to belong. The DSA could become that community. So much of what we do is a means to an end, but here, the DSA can be an end in and of itself. We should be having weekly socials and consciously building spaces for people to interact. It will draw more people in, it will help us retain those who are already members, and it will help us build the solidarity we need to keep fighting together.

Serving on the Steering Committee is also a high pressure, high responsibility position and our chapter is currently struggling due to a lack of leadership. What are your recommendations for new structural models that we could implement so that we can remedy this problem? What are your thoughts on the Steering Committee’s responsibility to develop leadership within the chapter?

Just going based on the things we have experimented with in the SMC chapter that have a track record of success, I think the Co-Chairs of committees should automatically have a seat on Steering. It's a guaranteed way to improve communication. Also, my approach to organizing is heavily project focused. I want to help create new projects that advance the objectives we've already chosen together. If we want more leaders we need to create the spaces for more people to become leaders.

MEG WACHTER

Personal Statement

As a female-identifying person, I had historically been turned-off to becoming more active with the DSA back in New York City because of it being overwhelmingly dominated by men. While Bernie drew a lot of attention nationally to Democratic Socialism (myself included) and definitely boosted membership to DSA, it was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who personally felt more of a contemporary given her age and NYC residency) is who made me reconsider becoming more actively involved as a woman. This was furthered by seeing other female and non-binary comrades involved and in positions of leadership. Representation matters and I feel that we need to strive to make DSA-LA (and the organization on a national level) more equitable in it's gender parity in leadership and within the chapter as a whole.

The Electoral Politics Committee has not been one of the strongest committees in DSA-LA. What do you make of its place in the organization and, if elected, how would you support electoral politics in the organization?

Electoral Politics is crucial in furthering Socialist candidates and policies on local and national levels. I think all the committees are intrinsically linked to Electoral Politics and need to work more closely together to build a stronger committee with committee liaisons.

What is the most important thing our chapter needs to do to increase our membership in the upcoming year?

We need to meet people where they're at and I would like to propose to first poll current members to see what they feel is lacking in initiative to increase attendance and general interest. I think it would also be great to ask how members of DSA-LA feel those shortcomings could potentially improve. I feel that strong community comes from trust and communication, and an empowered democratic leadership comes from strong community. Additionally, I support the development of increasing bilingual communications internally and forward-facing to the community at-large.

Serving on the Steering Committee is also a high pressure, high responsibility position and our chapter is currently struggling due to a lack of leadership. What are your recommendations for new structural models that we could implement so that we can remedy this problem? What are your thoughts on the Steering Committee’s responsibility to develop leadership within the chapter?

Comrades I’ve been working with have helped to empower me to take on an leadership position. While I alone don’t have a recommendation for a new structural model to leadership, I do believe that the platform Red Los Angeles (https://bit.ly/34PX677), which I am running on, has mapped out distinct goals to work towards in 2020. By continuing to engage long-standing members, as well as talking to our neighbors about the beauty and power of collective organizing, I believe we can continue to move towards more democratic meetings and member-driven decision-making that will hopefully inspire other comrades as it has me.

SEAN BROADBENT

Personal Statement

I am submitting myself as a candidate for the Steering Committee so that we can have a fully seated committee. I did not consider running until I saw that not enough members had submitted. This confirmed something that I had feared. Our Chapter, in one of the largest cities in the US, didn’t have enough engaged members.

I don’t have all of the answers for how to fix what is missing in our Chapter but I will be dedicated to serving the membership and ensuring that our programs are implemented. I believe we have the right people to take action on important problems facing Los Angeles. I believe we have people who are dedicated to the cause of democratic socialism and that those people will be the catalysts for change in Los Angeles.

I am optimistic that in a place where so much is stacked against working people and their development, we can in fact build a thriving Chapter that advances and guards dignity for every person.

The Electoral Politics Committee has not been one of the strongest committees in DSA-LA. What do you make of its place in the organization and, if elected, how would you support electoral politics in the organization?

Electoral politics is essential to our becoming a more influential organization. We have to be able to make demands within the power structures of Los Angeles. I think we need to be encouraging the smart, capable people within our Chapter to run for offices at multiple levels. Our electoral politics committee should be prepared with detailed information on the structures of representation and advocacy in Los Angeles so that we can identify where and when to place people. Our Chapter is good at being responsive but committees like Electoral Politics need to be proactive in mapping out strategy.

What is the most important thing our chapter needs to do to increase our membership in the upcoming year?

I think we can increase our membership by providing for translation of documents/presentations and incorporating community relevant vernacular into our programming. From my canvassing w/ NNU, we had translated documents that people were quick to point out were technically correct but not how native speakers would phrase. We need to actually be speaking with our neighbors, which presents the challenge of not just translating our programming but making it relevant.

Key to how to increase membership is how to make membership more valuable. As we grow the programs within our chapter, we will incentivize others to join.

Serving on the Steering Committee is also a high pressure, high responsibility position and our chapter is currently struggling due to a lack of leadership. What are your recommendations for new structural models that we could implement so that we can remedy this problem? What are your thoughts on the Steering Committee’s responsibility to develop leadership within the chapter?

We need to develop leadership by engaging members to become more intimately involved. Actively involved members will be properly invested and see a place for themselves in leadership. I see a lot right in what our Chapter does but our engagement of membership could be stronger in some basic ways like standardizing the meeting times of our committees and of the Chapter general meeting. Reliability and predictability are important for working people who want to enact change. I hope that if we are able to find an office space that doesn’t negate other Chapter values/priorities, then it can help further that goal of stability.

ETHAN MCQUERRY

Personal Statement

I grew up studying Marxist ideology. I was alway resigned to the fact that the bribery of the bourgeoisie was whole and complete in the U.S.A. And that if there was ever to be real change here it would be a violent revolution. Bernie gave me hope that a nonviolent Democratic Socialist revolutionary change could happen. And then when the fucking, rapist, racist, nazi, mother fucker stole our country I had to act. The DSA had the name of the political ideology I adhered to, so I joined. There were 28 people. The DSA has done an amazing job of holding itself together through all of the growing pains. What I feel now need to be implemented is a more cohesive work flow and interconnectivity throughout the entire organization. There are 12 committees and YDSA, and the steering committee should have a complete picture of what all of them are doing to wholly facilitate their efficiency and cross communication to eliminate redundancy of labor, and propose much larger projects that the entire organization can work on.

The Electoral Politics Committee has not been one of the strongest committees in DSA-LA. What do you make of its place in the organization and, if elected, how would you support electoral politics in the organization?

Elect-Pol is a main tenants that attracts me to DSA. It is the "D" in DSA, and the reason we can stay a non-violent organization. Unfortunately the work is brutal, thankless undertaking. It is brutal because it is such a massive job to undertake in this city. There are so many districts, and candidates, and issues, and propositions, and bills. They all need to be researched, analyzed, vetted and communicated to our membership for an informed decisions on voting and endorsing. There needs to be compensation for the work.

What is the most important thing our chapter needs to do to increase our membership in the upcoming year?

Fund raising. We need fully paid positions in this organization. National does this. And DSA-LA is asking their members to "put in work", just because we are a moral and just organization. $15 an hour should be our minimum we pay those that do the hard work day in and day out. $15/hr makes us moral and just. We raised over $300,000 a year for my daughter's small public school. Parties, Silent Auctions, Events, and just asking the public, all raise money! The inability to take actions, because of money shouldn't happen.

Serving on the Steering Committee is also a high pressure, high responsibility position and our chapter is currently struggling due to a lack of leadership. What are your recommendations for new structural models that we could implement so that we can remedy this problem? What are your thoughts on the Steering Committee’s responsibility to develop leadership within the chapter?

We should all have the same vision for Global Socialist. The "pressure" should be taken care of if one takes on the responsibility professionally. As for leadership there has never been solid leadership for the type of action, projects, and results, we all know we are capable of accomplishing. Visionary projects, that push our world forward need to be implemented. DSA-LA needs to engage more fully. Engage other DSA Local Chapters in California to organize state-wide action. Engage National for national endeavors. Right now DSA is too ad-hoc and fragmented, thus easily conquered.

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