John Ellis begins this “We The People” interview a little differently. He refers to when Uphill Media was still Bernie2016tv, and his own language was more colourful, and points out that as time went by, he came to realize how often people were offended by “words”. This, at a time when we have “politicians choosing to murder people, either by passing legislation so that we bomb them somewhere, or passing legislation so that we eliminate protections for their air, or water, or their ground, or not passing legislation that would provide all of them healthcare - which ends up murdering people. So, our politicians by their actions have been far more offensive than any of the words that come out of my mouth, or Maria Estrada’s. The thing about Maria, was she had the courage from day one to say that! So, I am very honoured to welcome to this program, Maria Estrada, who is running for California’s 63rd Assembly District…” Maria is up against Anthony Rendon.
Why did Maria decide to run for election, after raising kids, becoming a grandma, working as an accountant…? Well, she was very involved in the Bernie campaign, and one of the founding members of Compton for Bernie. (Bernie and his family - nice people, Maria says - followed their Compton page and asked if they could send them all shirts!) She had always been political, but had to wait until her children grew up to have the time. She moved to Compton and got involved. She tells us that in 2016 she was protesting outside the L.A. Convention Center, where people are sworn in as citizens. There were the Republican, the Democratic, and the Compton for Bernie stands…and everyone was coming to their stand and taking pictures with them. It was a really exciting time. Maria wasn’t a delegate herself, but she raised funds for delegates, mostly younger ones who were not even in her district. She did go to Philly though and sat there watching how it all went down, (it was) so corrupt. This is the United States of America, she thought! Wasserman-Schultz had to resign and Clinton (just) put her on her campaign. Maria was livid. “Everybody got that sick feeling, and we were all disappointed, and shocked, and hurt and mad…”
Maria Estrada had become a Democrat in order to vote for Bernie. She left the Party. Then she met Linda (Basset?) in Banning Park, Wilmington on Labor Day Weekend. Maria was there to protest all the police killings. Linda’s reaction to a comment from someone, about HRC, made clear to Maria that she had found a kindred spirit. They got talking and before Maria knew it, Linda asked her to (join) her on the L.A. Central Counting Committee. Maria had to sign up for the Democrats again to do so. Central Counting Committee (meetings) were uncomfortable, awkward, cultish, and says Maria, the people listen and clap like seals. Linda strongly encouraged Maria at this point to run to become a delegate. She did so, but lost the election. Mike Gipson (64th State Assembly District) rigged the whole thing Maria says, and goes on to explain what happened. She says there are a lot of people who have been in the party for years and who are just not happy. She was welcomed by those and found another way to become a delegate. There are though, others in the party and Maria has no patience for their arrogance, their condescension. Right now what we are hearing from them is that Donald Trump will win again if we don’t do what they want. Neither John nor Maria are impressed.
On Anthony Rendon, Maria says that when he shelved the bill (SB 562 - Medicare for All) he literally stopped the legislative process. The reasons given were ridiculous. He is the Speaker of the California State Assembly, one of the 3 most powerful men in the State. Single-payer healthcare is part of the California Platform, but the Party does not push for it, she says. John tells her that they don’t have to, that the Platform just states what the people believe. The money is there for whatever they want to fund. 70% of the proposed cost of the bill is paid through Medicare and Medicaid funds by way of a federal waiver. You can’t blame Donald Trump for something that hasn’t been presented to him, Maria pursues. California Democrats are the ones blocking the bill. Rendon shelved it so that it can’t be amended, can’t be changed… nothing can be done to it. He’s failing to do his job and obstructing the whole process. Every city, and every county and the entire State, has part of their budget for healthcare for the employees. That part would be completely eliminated. That’s a lot of money. The bill also covers on-site work injuries, so workers’ compensation would be eliminated, because that’s covered. In the State of CA, they have one of the highest workers’ compensation rates there are. They are not telling businesses how much they would save. The healthcare and pharmaceutical lobbying firms are very very powerful, and these politicians are in their pockets. Maria isn’t impressed with those politicians in CA who are jumping on the Bernie bandwagon, and proclaiming to be for Medicare for All. “They’re saying that because it’s convenient for them, because it’s politics and they’re pandering to their constituency, but the fact is, if you’re not fighting for it right now, in this State, then you’re not going to fight (for) it at the federal level.”
Maria supplied Uphill Media with a pamphlet in English and Spanish about (and produced by?) Anthony Rendon, thanking him for fighting for “access” to healthcare for Californians, and claiming that he is “on our side”.
We all have access right now says Maria, the point is can we pay for it? If I don’t have insurance from the company, I pay $872 a month. She refers to deductibles, to her recent $100 bill from a trip to the E.R., and the average income in her district being much lower than the ($30,000?) for a family of 3, if you don’t count the doctors and nurses living in a particular area. (Audio issues here. Please comment below if anything is incorrect.)
John shows a slide. The information was gathered by the 28ers (Riverside). 2531 people have died in CA since Anthony Rendon shelved SB 562 on June 26th 2017. The “body count” updates daily. Maria speaks with disgust about families being charged $60 an hour to play soccer in a public park. And what if they get hurt? It’s ridiculous, she says. Elderly people with medical bills are reduced to selling their homes. They lose all their assets, everything they have worked for their whole lives. Most of the money raised from GoFundMe is for people’s healthcare Maria says. If the Democrats talk about it publicly says John, they expose the scam...and how this money is taken away from us in various ways.
Maria‘s district covers South, South East and South Central L.A. where they have the highest rates of cancer, and a higher rate of allergies and asthma in kids than elsewhere. That is environmental asthma, Maria emphasizes. John shows a slide with a great quote from her, on all the things she refuses to accept for the people of the 63rd District. It is titled: For me this is not a game and starts with “I refuse to accept this is the best we can do…” She explains that her parents came from Mexico and lived the American Dream (but they’re getting poisoned says John). Mom is the exception to the rule, Maria continues. A family member just died in October of pancreatic cancer, they caught it too late. He had to go to Mexico to get treated, and died (in pain) on his return to San Diego. John tells her about Scott Galindez and how he had a job and insurance, but still died when he was denied a kidney by corporate interests.
Rendon has really failed the Community on environmental issues. Paramount, Compton and then Lynwood are back to back and there is a class action suit going on against 7 companies who are emitting lead, and other toxins into the environment. There are a lot of people sick with cancer there. The community is tired of it. The 63rd Assembly District is a magnet for corruption. Maria talks about a recall effort for the city council members in Paramount who have all taken money and gifts from these companies, and, the city council members in one of the poorest cities, Bell, paying themselves 6 figure salaries and running the city into the ground. People ended up in prison. In Maywood the FBI raided the mayor’s house, and city hall, and found $20 000 in cash. They are all being investigated.
The cities in Assembly District 63 are home to oil refineries, metal factories, battery recyclers and a trucking thoroughfare from the Port of Long Beach. The rates for diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS and a long list of other illnesses are far higher than elsewhere in the country, shockingly so! Most of the mayors and city councillors have already endorsed Anthony Rendon. These politicians (public servants, says John) “should be kissing our a**, not the other way round!” Maria says. John quotes Jim Hightower on agitators: “Agitators get things clean. That’s what’s in a washing machine to get the dirt out.” You’re an agitator. And I really appreciate you being on (the show), he says.
John returns to the health statistics for the district. Maria tells him that she approached Anthony Rendon at a meet-and-greet and asked him whether it was true that he was considering releasing the bill and letting it go to committee. She had heard that he was considering doing so, because he was concerned about a recall effort against him. His tone changed and he answered “Absolutely not! The nurses are liars, they’re lying.” He got really angry. He takes no responsibility and blames everyone else. If the bill was written poorly, then he could work it out, get help, but he just doesn’t want to, and that’s clear, Maria comments to John. So she said to Anthony Rendon “Let’s be clear… It’s not Donald Trump and it’s not the GOP that’s blocking this bill, and blocking the people in the 63rd and the people in the State of California from having healthcare, it’s the Democrats, but you specifically…” Anthony Rendon claimed that that wasn’t a fair assessment, and Maria continued “…but it’s accurate”. And she told him clearly that she thought it was criminal that he knew 5 years before, when he took the position, about the environmental hazards that these families were dealing with. The Exide plant which operated for 33 years without a permit, still hasn’t been done. There are houses (with children in them) that still have lead. None of this is new environmental damage, John says. Maria ended what she had to say to Anthony Rendon with “That’s why I’m running against you. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Maria never thought she would run for office, but many people asked her to do so, and she feels duty bound to fight for the People. She says that when she was a kid her mom didn’t work, but now everybody has to. Rents are through the roof and folks have got to make dinner and take care of their kids, tired though they are, when they come home. Corrupt people have a stranglehold on these underprivileged communities, where many have come from Latin American countries, may be used to corruption and don’t want to get involved, others can’t because they are barely scraping by. City council meetings, mean getting a babysitter, and the city council people are horrendous, they treat people terribly and they intimidate them, she tells us.
In response to Metal Head (in YT chat) Maria says that the 63rd District is approximately 76% Latino and voted 60% Rendon in 2014. I have been out canvassing, and nobody knows who Anthony Rendon is! Maria goes on to explain that she feels as though posing for photos with constituents, when they are confiding in you is exploitative. She is not comfortable with that. John brings her back to what she felt when she met Bernie, which she did a few times. He says he’s jealous that she did, and asks whether it was an uplifting, inspirational experience? It obviously was, especially when Bernie clearly went out of his way to shake hands with her. Another time someone called out to Bernie, Maria says, to say that she was one of his delegates and his face just lit up and he hugged the woman… He’s such a regular, very affectionate guy, she says. My point Maria, says John, is that this is exactly how people feel when they meet you. You come to their neighbourhood and you give them hope. You tell them the truth, and so when they want a photo, it is for real. They want to keep it and be inspired by you. You’re not like the corporate politicians.
Maria grew up in a tough neighbourhood, with violence, helicopters at night, police sirens… She may not be proud of the trouble she used to get into, but knows that that also made her the person she is today. She worries that it isn’t a healthy environment, and that the U.S. is also putting people elsewhere in situations where they’re living in violence because of what we are doing in their countries. She eventually married an Anglo and moved out, to a very quiet, white neighbourhood. That is where she raised her children. She wanted them away from the violence. John and Maria then talk about the real difference between the two neighbourhoods... economic disparity and environmental racism, money in other words. As Maria says, they don’t have manufacturers with their buildings right next to homes in Ventura County. It’s set up that way. It’s not an accident. Here Maria references Standing Rock, and why the Pipeline didn’t end up going through Bismarck. Maria met some Lakota people in Philly and she has been up there in Pine Ridge. She compares the treatment of the indigenous people to the institutional racism that Blacks and Latinos have put up with. They get killed at a higher rate by the police and it is never reported. To boot, there will always be some of your own community that will sell you out, Maria says. You see the same thing on mainstream media John says, certain persons of colour lying through their teeth, repeating a corporate narrative.
John suggests that Maria, Stephen Jaffe and a couple of others come do a California round-table. He mentions Progressive candidates such as Sarah Smith in WA, and Joyce Judy in OR, being in a primary challenge with their democratic opponents, and not getting access to the VAN. Maria is suing the CA Democratic Party. She got the required number of signatures, plus one, so that Rendon would be forced to get 60% of the votes at the California Democratic Party Convention in order to get the Democratic Party endorsement. Two people said afterwards that they wanted to remove their names, one at least was intimidated by Rendon’s staff, and finally by Rendon himself, she says. After this episode, and blocking the bill, Anthony Rendon actually went on stage in L.A. at the Women’s March!! He was heckled off the stage. There follows a discussion as to language and actions and how offensive they are and are not. Maria has had all sorts of language thrown at her, but she’s not backing down. “The fact that I’m here, if it offends you… Good!” So much for an open Democratic Party!
Maria says Latinos have the majority in CA. They have the power, what they lack is the will. We have to get rid of the sell-outs, she points out. If she gets elected Maria would like to help activists take over every school board and every city council in her district. What we need she says, are real people who want to help their district, to improve the education people get, clean up the parks… real people who are not selling us out to these companies and corporations.
Maria doesn’t hold back on the Democrats and President Obama. Television keeps telling us that Donald Trump is destroying our country when in fact, the State of CA has been f** sideways for a while and it’s been run by Democrats. They aren’t really Democrats, says John. A Democrat says Maria, is a stone’s throw away from a Republican. They have the same donors. Democrats are pro-choice and gay rights, so am I, but I’m 50 and I’m not gay, so? However, I do have grandchildren. I don’t want them or anyone else’s children to have to drink brown water coming out of the sinks, like in Flint and all over this country. The infrastructure is falling apart and yet we are giving tax breaks to these companies. In the 50s the corporations paid over 30% of the net taxes in the country, now it’s under 10%! Since Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controllers strike, the decline of the unions and of the middle class is in direct correlation. And they’re trying to pass these Right-to-work laws that will literally take more rights away from nurses, manufacturing workers… Anything to capitalize on our labour, increase their profit, and still take away our healthcare and any benefits we have, so that their stockholders look good. Workers at McDonald’s don’t deserve a decent wage? Who deserves portfolios in the hundreds of millions? What are they doing to earn that? The biggest transfer of wealth in the history of this country happened under Obama. People get offended when I say that, but those are the facts. She speaks of Obama dropping his first drone on his third day in office, and his putting Tim Geithner in, and that speech to the unions: “We all have to give up something.” Maria continues “What did the wealthy give up? The first thing the police did when the crash happened was go surround Wall Street and protect it. That’s why they’re here, to protect the wealthy, not us!”
It’s so refreshing (to listen to you) but we’re out of time. “You’re one of the first real progressive candidates that has come on and really spoke harsh about Obama, because I think we all need to wake up...” enthuses John. “Look what happened in Libya” says Maria. “He listened to HRC and took out Gaddafi and now there are people being sold on the open market. That’s heinous” she says, “and they worship Kissinger and Kissinger is to Latino Americanos and Asians what Hitler is to Jews”, she points out.
I recommend everybody see the movie Harvest of Empire. If you’re pissed off because there are too many immigrants, first of all you shouldn’t have invaded a country full of brown people and stolen (their oil?). Secondly, “that’s what this country has always been about, that’s what the military is about, imperialism, nationalism, exploiting other countries and their resources.” “You’re amazing. You’re on fire and I hope you win!” says John, and he thanks her for running against Rendon.
Obama is a good-looking man, well-spoken, eloquent and classy, who “deported 3 million immigrants, mostly Mexicans, and yet I’m supposed to be upset because Trump said he grabbed a woman’s p****, and Mexicans are this that and the other. When he gets to the (same) level of deportations as Obama, then come talk to me.” ICE though, John says, is a horrific organization… needs to be abolished. He calls it the American Gestapo, Maria agrees.
Jeff Green and his crew in Riverside created an app and gifted it to me to phone bank and canvass.
I need as many volunteers as possible, phone banking from anywhere.
What a candidate! Maria Estrada is the voice of the People. The crowd in YouTube chat loved her, and even suggested she run for President! At least one is already on board to phone bank for her. Maria is a big Green party supporter too. The links are all in the video description. Volunteer, donate and help get Maria Estrada elected. She is a fighter, and she’ll have them shaking in their shoes. Maria really is a breath of fresh air!