Friday, May 20, 2011

Community College Board Runoff Election: Scott Svonkin Victorious

By Max Reyes, SFVYD Editorial Director

On Tuesday, May 17, 2011, SFVYD-endorsed candidate Scott Svonkin emerged victorious in the LA Community College District Board’s runoff election for the 5th District. The election is a great win for young democrats as Mr. Svonkin is a passionate, experienced leader who will work to strengthen the community college district and ensure a voice for our generation. Our club has been a strong supporter of his candidacy and, in fact, organized a young democrat fundraiser raising $2,500 for his campaign’s GOTV efforts.

Mr. Svonkin comes to the Board with a great wealth of experience. He was a product of the community college system, who has dedicated his career to public service including serving as Chief of Staff to an Assemblymember, working for Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, serving two terms as a Community College Student Trustee, and teaching a class at Valley College. Currently, Mr. Svonkin is a Senior Advisor to Sheriff Lee Baca and Vice President of his local Schoolboard.

SFVYD also endorsed candidates for the March 8th elections earlier this year. Here is a list of candidates who were successful in their elections:

Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees

District 1 - Mona Field

District 3 - Steve Veres

District 7 - Miguel Santiago

San Fernando City Council

Antonio Lopez

Sylvia Ballin


Fred Gaines

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Youth Homelessness: A Bigger Problem Than You May Think

by Max Reyes, SFVYD Editorial Director

The beginning of 2011 has proven that it will be quite an eventful year. We’ve all been reading about it in the news - the civil unrest in Egypt, Republicans attempting to repeal President Obama’s Health Care Reform, and Governor Brown’s “tough love” approach to the state budget. Amidst these pressing issues, however, I wanted to shed some light on a noteworthy topic receiving much less attention - youth homelessness. In California, the term “homeless youth” generally refers to 12 - 24 year olds who are inadequately housed and apart from their families. A Bay Citizen article states that “200,000 kids between 12 and 17 will be homeless - and alone - for at least one night in California, but the state has only 1,000 beds to take care of them.” There are thousands of individuals between 18 and 24 who will be inadequately housed as well.

The majority become homeless because of “family conflict, neglect, or rejection over sexual orientation.” Currently, the state and nearly two-thirds of its counties do not offer services geared specifically towards this population. Most homeless shelters are meant for adults and usually turn away unaccompanied youth, forcing them to live in the streets. Additionally, research indicates that homeless youth do not qualify for government services such as foster care, former foster care, and juvenile justice programs, leaving them with minimal support.

According to a California Watch article, youth homelessness has worsened in recent years with the unemployment rate reaching record highs during the recession. Before the recession, unemployment among 16 - 24 year olds was approximately 10 percent and today it is 18.1, much larger than the nation’s overall rate of 9.4. Unemployment insurance, intended for older, out-of-work adults, is not available to teens and young adults having a difficult time entering the workforce for the first time.

The state of our economy is making it much more difficult for homeless youth to improve their situation.

Thankfully this issue is being addressed in Sacramento. Homeless youth and advocates lobbied the halls of the State Capitol on January 24th to address pertinent issues and discuss legislation. State Senators Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) recently introduced a package of bills that would declare youth homelessness a statewide priority, call upon the California Emergency Management Agency to develop a strategy to reduce this problem, and create a state licensing category for youth shelters which would preserve over $6 million in federal funding. Senators Liu and Lowenthal acknowledged that funding these initiatives in a time of fiscal crisis was going to be challenging, but they believe that putting this issue on the state’s radar was a necessary first step.

The issue is certainly relevant to us as Los Angeles County residents. According to a 2009 report, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) estimates that on any given day there are 42,694 homeless people in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (CoC), which includes all of LA County except for the cities of Pasadena, Glendale, and Long Beach. LAHSA estimates that approximately 16 percent are age 24 years old or under; and two-thirds of the total homeless population is unsheltered. In the San Fernando Valley, the total homeless count is 3,312 with 54 percent unsheltered and 19 percent who are 24 or under.

Youth homelessness is another aspect our state must fix for a better future. I know you have all heard this before, but today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders - not to mention some may be the next generation of Young Democrats. We need to make sure they are given the means to thrive so that they can be in the proper mindset to take advantage of opportunities to ensure a better future for themselves and their communities. Otherwise, the homeless youth will be left in the streets continuing to be exposed to danger on a daily basis. Currently, a high rate experience mental health problems including depression and suicide as well as drug abuse, sexual exploitation and malnutrition.

As we move forward this year, I urge you to keep the homeless in mind especially those in our generation and younger. I encourage you to donate clothing or food items to relevant non-profit organizations. Our club actually just held a clothing drive during our last General Membership Meeting on January 25th. We collected warm clothing and donated it to the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission, an organization that outreaches to low-income and homeless individuals in the Valley. If you are interested in donating to them, please check out their website at

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Post-Election Wrap-Up: A Win for CA Democrats

by Max Reyes, SFVYD Editorial Director

What an exciting election night it was indeed on Tuesday, November 2nd!

We should all be proud of our work—from countless hours of phone banking, canvassing, and helping candidates out in the campaign trail. We saved California’s seats despite the Republican wave sweeping across the nation. We elected Jerry Brown to become the Governor once again and kept Senator Barbara Boxer in office. Meg Whitman spent an earth-shattering $140+ million and still lost by a wide margin. To put this in perspective, Jerry Brown spent just a little more than $25 million for his campaign and received more than 5 million votes while Whitman received only approximately 3.8 million for her investment. Whitman may as well have donated that money to the State to help fill our budget deficit!

Voters also elected newcomers to statewide office with Gavin Newsom, Dave Jones, Tom Torlakson, and hopefully (fingers crossed) Kamala Harris. The CA Democratic Party has sent out a call-to-action to help monitor the vote count for the rest of the vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. If you are interested in volunteering, you can sign up at

Additionally, Democrats in the Legislature picked up a victory through Dr. Richard Pan in the 5th Assembly District (AD), a seat currently held by terming out Republican Roger Niello. And in AD 31, Democrats added yet another member, Henry Perea, to the Party. That seat is currently held by terming out Democrat-turned-Independent Assemblyman Juan Arambula. Two days after the election, former Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick stepped down and was replaced by Assemblywoman Connie Conway.

California voters passed Proposition 25, which lowers the vote threshold to pass the state budget from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority. The budget has come late year after year in large part due to the two-thirds vote threshold required to pass it. This year, it was a record 100 days late. The main drawback to this initiative, however, is that increasing taxes (a high point of contention every year) still requires a two-thirds vote. Nonetheless, Prop. 25 is still an incremental step towards bringing the budget process in the right direction.

In turn, there are a couple of propositions that passed which will make it more difficult to pass the budget on time. For instance, Prop. 22 will prohibit the State from borrowing local funds. Although I see why voters would support this measure to protect local transportation funding, CA is facing tremendous financial hardship with a soaring unemployment rate and vital programs such as education and healthcare need to be funded. Prop. 13 had already put a ridiculous amount of responsibility towards the State Legislature with not nearly enough funds to pay for essential services (a whole story unto itself) and the passage of initiatives such as Prop. 22 only make it worse because lawmakers will have fewer sources of funding to solve a budget deficit. I think given the changes the Legislature has had to go through within the past 30 years, local transportation projects could have waited while the common Californian is given the means to survive during our economic crisis.

Another proposition that will further exacerbate the budget process is Prop. 26, which increased the vote threshold for certain state fees to two-thirds. State fees are different from taxes in that the former is typically used to pay for a specific service or program, whereas taxes pay for general services such as prisons, healthcare and social services. Fellow SFVYD Executive Board member and Sierra Club Associate Press Secretary, David Graham-Caso, explains that Prop. 26 causes a problem for the State because ‘"fees" are how we make polluters pay to clean up toxic spills and how we make tobacco companies pay for healthcare programs that seek to mitigate the damage they do to public health.” Also, imagine what this does to our budget shortfall for next year. Republicans will most likely block any attempt to increase state fees to help fill the gap in our budget, just like they do with tax increases, further limiting the Legislature’s ability to fund crucial programs.

As you can see we have a lot to be proud of, but yet have much to work on. We have elected and re-elected some great individuals into public office. Although I definitely see what Democrats will be up against in the coming years, we have to remain strong. The Republicans may have taken back the U.S. House of Representatives, but we were able to hold down the fort here in CA. We need to use our momentum, up the ante and continue getting folks, especially our generation, involved and back to the polls as we did in 2008.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This November, Young Dems Are More Important Than Ever

by Max Reyes
SFVYD Editorial Director

Democrats now have the great fortune of controlling the Oval Office and being the majority party on Capitol Hill. But let’s not get too confident. It is a critical time for young Democrats to remain involved with politics and recruit others to do the same. As you know, the elections will be held on Tuesday, November 2nd and Republicans are attempting to make a comeback to defeat and unseat as many Democrats as possible. Nothing shocking, but we’ve all heard about the strong possibility that the GOP actually has a shot at winning the lower House back.

According to an article in “The Hill,” non-partisan political analysts are actually backing up this claim. The article sites that the Cook Political Report, a well-known race ratings newsletter, indicates that “over a two-month span [between June and August], an additional 12 Democratic-held congressional seats have moved into ‘toss-up’ territory from previous ‘likely Democrat’ or ‘lean Democrat’ categories.” I checked out the website for their latest projections and there are a total of 38 Democratic-held seats in trouble, while only two Republican-held districts are contested.

We have to remain diligent in the fight to keep our fellow Democrats in their seats as well as elect more into political office. The Republicans’ refusal to work with us at both state and federal levels has set back needed reforms. For one, the California political deadlock we face year after year with the state budget has caused important programs in areas such as health and childcare to be largely underfunded. For the budget that just passed, Democrats were willing to compromise with the other party by making cuts to certain programs, but Republicans didn’t budge to increase any revenue to fund necessary social services in our state.

At the federal level, Republicans are refusing to work across party lines to help President Obama fix our nation. In a Rolling Stones interview, President Obama stated, “I still remember going over to the Republican Caucus to meet with them and present our ideas [from the recovery package]…to solicit ideas from them before we presented the final package. And on the way over, the Caucus essentially released a statement that said, ‘We're going to all vote ‘No’ as a caucus.’ And this was before we'd even had the conversation.” But yet when the Reps. run for office, they blame us for being inefficient. They would rather play political games to advance themselves even if it hurts the people they were elected to represent.

Not only do we have to keep close-minded Republicans out of office, but we also have to work hard to keep unqualified candidates from being elected. I hardly think candidates, such as Meg Whitman, with no vote history would benefit our State. While new and fresh perspectives help invigorate our government, Whitman’s conservative goals and objectives are setting herself up for failure. She would be working with a Legislature with a Democratic majority and seven other elected State Executives that wouldn’t be accountable to her. For instance, recall the series of legal battles between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Controller John Chiang when the latter refused to follow the former’s order of reducing state worker pay to the federal minimum wage.

These are just few of the many reasons you should get involved if you aren’t already in the mix. If we don’t get enough of our fellow Democrats involved during the last push for the upcoming election, we risk having out-of-touch Republican Tea Party members and candidates lacking a vote history running our government, further setting back highly needed reforms for the common person and disadvantaged communities. There are a myriad of opportunities to become involved including phone banking, precinct walking, and asking your friends and family to join you. Campaigns are always looking for volunteers to help out. The Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley (DPSFV) office holds phone banks regularly. I highly encourage you to contact their office to find out more at (818) 995-DEMS. You can also come to SFVYD general meetings, join our mailing list and Facebook page to be kept up-to-date on political happenings.

Sources used:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Student Fee Hikes Hurt Young Dems: How the California State Budget Affects You

by Max Reyes, SFVYD Editorial Director

As we all know, the California State Legislature has been working on a budget that will close a $19.1 billion budget shortfall. Although much of the proposals being discussed sound discouraging, one of the aspects I feel optimistic about is the funding the State Legislative Budget Conference Committee and the Governor have proposed to allocate to higher education. Both of their proposals are planning to increase the total funding by approximately $1.2 billion.

This is rare good news considering that over the past decade our State has been cutting rather than increasing funds for high education. According to an article in the Orange County Register, student fees at the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) have tripled in the past decade. Just in the past year, UC fees increased by 32 percent and CSU fees by 5 percent. That translates to an increase of $2,514 and $204, respectively. These fee hikes are very difficult for the students, especially for those from middle-income households. They’re not making enough to fully fund education themselves nor do they qualify for financial aid. As a result, many of them end up taking out loans and paying them back for a long time after graduating. That is, if they don’t drop out because of financial issues.

Hopefully the Legislature and the governor follow through with their higher education proposals for the 2010-2011 budget and don’t cut anymore funding in the future. They have already set back enough students from completing a college education - an education that will give individuals the means to get a good paying job, provide for their families and live comfortably.
Also, having a more educated populace benefits our State. According to a study conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, for every new dollar that we invest in education the State gets a net return of three dollars. Additionally, State Senator Alex Padilla noted at a “Campaign for College Opportunity” event that 40 percent of today’s national workforce is eligible for retirement. We need to get more students through college and get them ready to join the workforce.

I know firsthand how important a college education is. Had I not graduated, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Cutting funds to education has literally destroyed the dreams of numerous students. I’ve spoken with countless others who have to undergo poor living conditions, work full-time, and skip meals just to get through college – some don’t even make it and decide to drop out because the financial burdens are too strenuous.

This is why it is essential for the State to follow through with its proposals to increase funding for higher education not only to give everyone the opportunity to succeed but to help our State’s economy get out of its slump. In fact, I encourage you to contact your local State Legislators telling them that you are counting on them to keep Higher Education a top priority as they work to pass a budget.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Unemployment and Young Dems: You Are Not Alone!

by Max Reyes, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats Editorial Director

One can tell that through its incredibly slow housing market, looming $19 billion budget deficit, and high unemployment rate, the California economy is in despair. Of particular concern is unemployment for individuals in our generation.

According to a recently published New York Times article, 14 percent of 18 to 29 year olds are unemployed and seeking work; and "23 percent are not even seeking a job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total, 37 percent, is the highest in more than three decades and a rate reminiscent of the [Great Depression].”

Even for college-educated young adults, unemployment is an issue. According to the same article, a “record level” of almost 17 percent are jobless, granted many may be off to graduate school and not seeking work. The unemployment rate for this group is “5.5 percent, [which is] nearly double what it was on the eve of the Great Recession, in 2007, and the highest level — by almost two percentage points — since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started to keep records in 1994 for those with at least four years of college.”

I know that these statistics are discouraging, but for those of you out there that are jobless please know that you’re not alone. Believe me I know what it’s like to look for a job. When I graduated from college in May 2008, I started off as an intern the following month in the CA State Capitol Building. I didn’t get a permanent job until January 2009, but I did campaign work through much of the fall.

Although I had a difficult time getting a job, the contacts I’ve made through the process have proven to be invaluable. While I was still a college student, a professor said that the best way to get a job somewhere is to make at least three contacts in the field you are interested in pursuing and grab lunch with them. He explained that the purpose was to learn more about their job and what they do. At the end of the meeting, he suggested to ask for other contacts that he or she can refer you to so that you can continue to expand your network in the field.

I followed my professor’s advice and contacted a former professor who was well connected in Sacramento. He referred me to three individuals, who I set up coffees or lunches with while I was interning. They each connected me to three or four others and I repeated the process with each contact I made. By the end of the summer, you can imagine that my network expanded beyond what I could ever have imagined. Essentially, this led me to my campaign job and my first permanent job in the Capitol Building. Not only did I gain an extensive network, but I also made a lot of great friends and mentors who support me up until this day (I’m sure for a long time to come).

Aside from networking, there are other resources out there that help the unemployed. For instance, there are ways to receive low-cost automobile insurance and food assistance to hold you over until you get a job. Great resources are your State Legislators. They are equipped with information to help you through this difficult time. To find out who your local Assemblymember or State Senator is visit: I would also encourage you to contact your local Chambers of Commerce to find out if they have job fairs coming up or any programs to help those who are looking for work. Lastly, get on pertinent e-mail listservs that forward its subscribers employment opportunities.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Becca Doten: Don't Call Us "The Future" If You Want to Win Now

This coming weekend, Democrats from across California will be converging on Los Angeles for the annual California Democratic Party State Convention. Activists, elected officials and candidates will attend the convention to shake hands, take meetings and look for the election trifecta -- endorsements, money and volunteers.

On Saturday, candidates will also stop by theCalifornia Young Democrats' meeting, looking for a chance to address hundreds of young activists, ages 18-35, as we gather for our annual convention, which is held concurrently with the full CDP convention.

Candidates will get a minute or two to tell us why Young Democrats should engage in their campaign and, if the CYD meeting is anything like years past, they'll tell us how, at one time, they were a Young Democrat, too. In their best attempts to pander to our demographic, many will repeat the oft-used phrase that "Young Democrats are the future."

And to be fair, many of us will continue to be involved in politics and the Democratic Party for years to come, and some of us will take on additional leadership roles in the Party or run for elected office. So, in that way, we are the future. But labeling Young Dems simply as "the future" downplays the importance of our demographic now. Young voters are not a constituency to be considered in the perpetual "future." Rather, young voters are one of the most potentially powerful demographics within the Democratic Party today.

It is a very simple equation -- when young people vote, Democrats win.

Polling shows that some very important races are terrifyingly close in California. Not only will there likely be close general election races for Governor and the US Senate, but Democrats throughout the state will face Republican opponents who are banking on a historical election trend. They are hoping that, as in years past, when the party of the President changes, there will be a large shift of seats away from the Party now in power.

Gov. Tim Kaine, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, put it bluntly: "The average president loses 28 House seats, four Senate seats and governor's races. And we're not living in average times."

We've already seen inklings of this trend. In January, the country was stunned when Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the race for the late Edward Kennedy's Senate seat. Yes, Democrats fielded an unfortunately weak candidate in Coakley, and there were lessons learned from the defeat. But in the lessons that we take from the race, there is one that has been largely overlooked -- young voters, aged 18-29, still voted overwhelmingly for Martha Coakley. In fact, almost 60% of young voters in the Special Election voted for the Democrat, even though she only ended up with 47% of the vote.

So where was the disconnect between the young voter's choice and the final results? Only 15% of young voters went to the polls and cast ballots. This is a marked difference from 2008, when a whopping 52% of young Americans voted. It was clear in the 2008 Presidential election and it was clear in the Massachusetts Special Election -- when young people vote, Democrats win.

Issue polls show us that young voters are progressive voters. A recent Public Policy Institute of California study found that Californians age 18-34 support marriage equality 66% to 49%. Republican political strategist Dan Schnur wrote a column in the LA Times last week citing a poll that young voters - regardless of race - opposed denying services to undocumented immigrants by a 20 point margin. Schnur wrote, "age has become the primary factor determining opinion on illegal immigration in California."

And young voters don't just support progressive causes; we support the candidates who champion them. The aforementioned PPIC poll also found that Jerry Brown leads Meg Whitman 44% to 30% in voters aged 18-35 and "younger voters prefer Boxer (56% to 30% for Fiorina)." This is night and day from the results of the polls of all likely voters, where these races are neck-and-neck.

The question facing campaigns this fall is not about how to convince young voters that Democrats are on the right side of issues of importance. Our generation has demonstrated a widespread acceptance of the progressive values which, for a large part, make up the Democratic Party platform. The question is how to activate these young voters and get them to the polls.

There is no silver bullet that will turn out young voters. As with every other constituency, it takes a strategic effort and focus of resources to reach young people. Ensuring young voter turnout, and in turn ensuring Democratic victories, means more than paying us lip service. It means including young voter outreach in campaign plans and investing resources in turning out our demographic. It means having young supporters play an active role in campaigns by reaching out to millennial voters with a message that resonates on a peer-to-peer level. Young voters need to understand their stake in the election, that their vote means something to their lives and that the candidate is someone who will fight for what they believe in - which is a progressive, positive agenda.

President Barack Obama did it right. He had a message that spoke to young voters, one of hope and a new direction for our country. He took bold stances and he made sure he got the word out to young voters - on our own playing field. His use of technology was strategic and innovative and it translated traditional campaign tactics to a medium accessible to our generation.

The California Young Democrats' slogan is, "the margin of victory." In these coming elections, young voters can be the margin of victory for Democrats throughout the state. But it won't happen if there are not concerted efforts to reach out to young voters and give us a compelling reason to go to the polls.

Maybe that's why, this year, the California Young Democrats' Convention slogan is simple:We vote, Democrats win.

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on Huffington Post on April 13, 2010. See the original version here: