Walking up to Cyprus Church hall, afraid I was late, I found myself nestled into a room filled with nicely dressed, smiling happy folks who greeted me into my first visit to SRA. This balmy June 13th meeting was to have a myriad of speakers, including John Cox, a man who has announced his intention to run for Governor of California 2018. It was Mr. Cox as well as many other district and assembly speakers that drew me to this incredible grouping of people. As I met person after person, who smilingly introduced themselves, spoke briefly on what their background was and of course speaking about the SRA. I became acutely aware that although I was in a room of strangers, they helped me to feel as one of them. Mr. Russel Gray graciously escorted and seated me at the front of the room, not my first choice; but found myself drawn into the easy chatter of those around me. Everything from national and state politics, to economic issues to everyday business concerns whirled around me in a happy buzz of a community well acquainted with the issues of the day. I took an immediate liking to this group of people who were all well versed with the state of politics in California and awed in their willingness to answering my many questions.
Jorge Riley, SRA President, began the evening wide smile out at the room before him. Acting as the evenings emcee, he introduced those seated at the dais, sitting before us. From the commencement of the pledge to a beautiful invocation given by Bill Cardoza, I found myself again feeling completely at 'home'. Ted Gaines (R-Ca Senator) gave a incredible opening introduction for the man of the hour, John Cox. I had never met Senator Gaines before, and immediately found myself smiling as I listened to his easy Sacramento accent and soft words of praise for a man he obviously held in high esteem. With a few well placed smiles and allot of self deprecation, Sen Gaines introduced John Cox to come speak. From the moment Mr. Cox took the podium, I was struck by the humble nature in which he thanked his host, SRA and it's members, as well as his thanks for those who sat with him, in how humbled he was to have their support in his endeavor in running for Governor of this great state.
John started out with his own upbringing within the state of Illinois, by way of Chicago no less. He spoke lovingly of a single mother who worked as a teacher raising her family to the best of her ability. I found myself tearing up as he spoke gently of how his mother would cry late at night, stressing over how best to raise her family under such hard circumstances. John refereed to his home as a 'fatherless' one; even making a joke how his father left once he saw John as a baby and how it was too bad his father had yet to see his amazing golf swing; which of course brought light laughter from the room. He spoke on how one by one his family found their way to our great Golden state of California, and how he, as the last hold out, finally joined them in the late 70's, making California his home. He spoke of the late 70's California, when our state was prosperous, unique, and most certainly not the California we all see and know today. My ears perked up as John sadly stated that we are currently living in two California's. One California was represented within the good people seated in the room in which I sat. The other California was one in which it's own Governor called it's citizens 'freeloaders'. This of course elicited nods of agreement, light giggles and much low murmurs of acknowledgement of our Governors feelings about 'us'. I found myself freely joining in as John continued on in statements of incredulity of how Californian's have been treated. I felt as though I was sitting in this man's living room, listening to him speak to us as close friends and family would. John's voice boomed over us as he ticked off these stats: Highest in the nation on taxes; Lowest in the nation on job growth; Highest in the nation poverty rate; High pension/liability *CalPers; Highest in the nation sales tax rate; "and now", his voice loudly carrying over us, "we've the great boast of the highest gas tax in the nation!!" I couldn't help myself, and found myself clapping loudly right along with the others in the room. Quieting down, John took us through a brief history of California. From the envy of the nation in every aspect, with one of the highest GDP's in the world, ranging in the top 10 for decades, to once beautiful roads, high quality public education, copious job opportunities for anyone wanting one and affordable quality health care to boot. California could boast of all of these things. Today sadly, California can only proclaim the abysmal national status that no state wants; failed and bankrupt.
I found myself intrigued as John began discussing a solution to tackle the 'large government' disconnect with the real people of California; and, with what appears to be little to no accountability or connection with the various districts and communities that they are elected to over see. A senator can have a constituency of 1 million people. An assemblymen, half of that. With numbers of population so high to just one representative, it is no wonder our roads, our schools, our taxes, our resources and issues we care about fall upon deaf ears. John Cox's solution? Why not have volunteer force for each neighborhood similar to aldermen back in Chicago? Much as a PTA has volunteers who serve for a short period and then leave, allowing another person to take their place to serve a short term was explained in detail. John continued on that instead of having to fight Capitol Hill or try to get an elected official to take your phone call; a neighborhood legislative body would be able to not only hear the issues of the neighborhood; but could more effectively take those specific concerns directly to capitol hill and the appropriate representative in bi monthly or monthly meetings. Truly a "for the people by the people" idea! These non paid volunteer position wouldn't be inlaid with corruption as there is no money involved. John explained that the number one issue in our government today, state or national, is corruption. Corruption that stems from far to much money being thrown into politics that looses sight of it's goal and instead finds itself pushing for bills by lobbyist who pushed money to get a candidate elected. With a legislative neighborhood alderman force, initiatives for that specific area could be addressed. This not only would save money on a state level; but would distinctly give the people of specific area the solutions they needed immediately. I was fully engaged now, ears fully perked as I listened to him explain a possible solution to an ever present pandemic government problem. The possibilities were endless in how this type of neighborhood legislative alerdmen's could become a useful tool for all Californian's, regardless where they lived within the state.
Rounding out his speech, John gave a rousing voice to those who have voted for Donald J. Trump, our current President. He spoke to how the democrats are literally in a state of bewilderment at how they could loose anything. With clapping abounding from every corner of the room, John proudly proclaimed that 'We', the people of this nation and of California, are going to take back 'Our California" and "Our Leadership" and how they need to "Represent us, not special interest or lobby's!". Proudly and with a face filled with honesty and determination, John proclaimed at the end of speech, "We believe in freedom, choice and prosperity!" I couldn't help myself; I found myself up on my feet and clapping for a man less then an hour ago I had never met. I was surprised when he opened the floor for a few questions. Anyone who has attended any kind of election year speech knows that usually questions are 'out of the question'.
There he stood, waiting for a question. Seizing the opportunity I found myself raising my hand. Color me shocked that he called upon me! I asked sheepishly "Where do you stand on mandatory vaccination?" Without missing a step, John stepped up into a common sense approach, giving me an answer that I couldn't find fault with. "I'll tell you," he began, locking eyes with me, "I like not having diseases like Polio and Measles running rampant throughout our states population." I began to think I was about to get a lecture in how vaccines were safe and not to worry about the topic. How wrong I was! "I also understand there are hard concerns over vaccinations and I don't like the 'mandatory' part of Senator Pan's bill at all! Californian's don't deserve to be told what they will and won't do. I also believe in being safe and following solid evidence and science. I believe we can, with some exploration and study, find a middle ground that will satisfy a healthy California for all as well as keep Californian's constitutional rights intact!". I was floored! That had to be the best answer anyone could have given me who was running for any government office, much less a man who was running to become our Governor. As a retired and now disabled nurse, I had been a fully supportive 'vaccinate' type of gal. Now however, with much research and study; listening to far to many parents whose children have had harm done to them post vaccination, I have taken on a different view upon vaccines and fully oppose Senator Pan's bill. I smiled and thanked Mr. Cox for his answer.
Another member, "Tony the Tiger Lopez" no less, asked John about "Education and School Choice" Tony explained how public schools and the educational system in general were decaying and failing our children miserably. I watched as John rose to the challenge of a tough question; stepping into it like a comfortable pair of shoes. He agreed with Tony that our public schools are out of control, failing and falling apart. He named the powerful teachers union and lobby as part of the problem, but not the whole of it. He spoke on how we needed to empower parents, giving them a choice of schools for their children to attend based on success as well as what fit the needs of their child best. He concluded with, "We need to make education affordable and we must allow choice for our Californian parents." Clapping rang throughout the room. Another attendee asked about the states "pensions and liabilities" John nodding his head in understanding as the question was asked gave a short history of his own background within financial planning and finances. He stated that the current pension plan, which is guaranteeing a 7% return should be reset to 4%. He also went on to state that CalPers needed an over haul in order for it to serve the function is was meant to serve, our public servants and states workers within government. Another question arose, which John quickly took was about our states Agricultural and Illegal Immigration issues. I noted a sad yet determined look around Johns eyes as he responded. "California has been declared a Sanctuary State, which is counter to our federal and previous state law. John reiterated his agreement with our presidents take on immigration, regardless of country of origin. He went on to state that no one business should have an financial edge over another law abiding business within Agriculture by paying 'illegal immigrants' slave wages while legally run business payed minimum wage. The disparity is wrong to not just the immigrant, but to the fellow business who believe in lawful capitalism and safety for their employees. He stated to approach this issue of Agricultural workers who are here legally verses illegally while qualifying that the state was a sanctuary state is just silliness on the part of California leadership on capitol hill. "Anger and Division" he boomed out, 'equals money for a democratic majority held legislative body as well as those they wish to seat within our capitol every two years." "We need to clean up this 'pay for play' politic that we have within California! We need to make the playing field fair!" The last question was about the proposed solution of a 'neighborhood legislative aldermen' program. The woman asked pointedly if this wouldn't grow our already oversized state government further? I watched John's face as the question was asked. Concern and understanding crossing it. Understanding the confusion of such a system to a state that has never operated such a force, John went step by step in how a 'volunteer' system weeds out corruption. Having a direct line to your representative through such a volunteer program would not only get solutions to specific problems; but would solve those problems quickly, easily and cut the cost of current poor solutions down to hundreds or thousands of tax dollars instead of the tens of millions of wasted tax dollars over 4, 8 or 10 years later, by a corrupt and lack luster legislative body currently entrenched within our state capitol.
Once he answered questions, he quickly stepped down off the dais and began speaking to those coming up to the front of the room to shake his hand or ask him questions. I watched him closely as he interacted with other members of city or state boards, every day people who came to listen to him speak, and had to smile as he looked almost shy when requests for a picture with him came from the members in the room. I watched as he locked eyes with each and every person who stepped up to speak to him, the same way he had when I had asked my question; just as he had with each person who had asked him a question. I thought to myself at the time that this was a man who actually cared what 'we', the people of California thought. I found it refreshing to say the least!
Two weeks now have passed by since that balmy night, and I still find myself going over that night; replaying Johns speech in my head. I can say without hesitation, I have found the man I will support in the upcoming Gubernatorial race! It wasn't the suit or tie he was wearing that got my support; because neither stood out. It wasn't a slick hair cut or the way he walked or held himself, for he is, after all, just a man. It was the way in which he glued right into you as you asked him an honest question, and those eyes that looked back at you were glued into you that said 'I will tell you the truth' as you awaited your answer. Any man or woman who can look you in the eye with nothing but honesty and integrity shining back at you, is a man or woman worth your vote!
authored by: Pamela J. Olson