Pleitez hosts a hack-a-thon as latest effort to win voters

By Melissah Yang

Computers and coding was the theme of Sunday’s campaign event for mayoral candidate Emanuel Pleitez.

In an effort to bring technology to underserved communities like South L.A., the hack-a-thon – dubbed “Silicon-Alley” – brought together tech experts and local students to build a website that maps out the area’s resources and programs. image

Several laptop stations were set up in the backyard of a couple of apartments where Pleitez’s campaign team lives and works. Post-it notes on each laptop, all personal devices belonging to Pleitez’s campaign team members, signaled which topics would be covered in relation to South L.A.

Half a dozen students, who had little to no experience with web producing, typed quick blurbs, ranging from the history of South L.A. to local parks and after-school programs, and coded webpages with the help of a mentor.

Alejandro Bernal, a junior at 32nd Street/USC MaST High School, heard about the event through URBAN TxT, an organization teaching teens from South L.A. and Watts how to become leaders in technology. He said the website will be important for people who want to learn a little more about the history of South L.A.

“There’s enough about South L.A. on the Internet, but we want to incorporate more information including programs that will help people in this community,” Bernal said.

The hack-a-thon was one of many unconventional campaign events that Pleitez has hosted in preparing for the final days before the mayoral election. Pleitez, a former tech executive for social network aggregator Spokeo, said the event fit his campaign’s overall theme of community outreach.

“It’s youth-driven, it’s technology and it’s innovative,” Pleitez said. “And at the end of the day, it’s helping everyday people especially in the most underserved communities like South L.A.”

Juan Vasquez, Pleitez’s director of digital outreach, said the hack-a-thon and many of Pleitez’s campaign events defied the idea that “extravagant” events, backed with money and support from key sponsors, win elections.

“This type of event challenges the way traditional politics run in Los Angeles,” 24-year-old Vasquez said. “That’s something our campaign has been doing for months now, and we’re proud of it.”

Yet, the community events seem to have little effect on Pleitez’s standing in the mayoral race. The latest poll by SurveyUSA puts him in fifth place with 6 percent of the vote, well behind front-runner Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel by around 20 percentage points.

For students like Bernal, who wants to study computer engineering or software programming, the website is a project of pride that he hopes will help with his college applications.

“Now that I know more about technology…I’m actually excited because I didn’t know how to code before, but now I do,” Bernal said.

The website is set to go live later this week.

OPINION: Do something

By Paula Minor

imageLast September, someone called my house and left a message about attending an Obama campaign meeting. I got the message and decided to ignore it.

Over the next few days I noticed that my friends and I were constantly complaining about the negative political rhetoric we saw on TV and online. I took a step back and realized that I needed to stop complaining and do something.

I’ve always felt the call to do something for the greater good. I first felt the call over 40 years ago when I participated in the Civil Rights Movement in my small college town. I joined student organized protests and marches against racial segregation and discrimination.

Our first protest involved hundreds of students crowded in my college’s Chancellor’s office. The Chancellor refused to meet with us or hear our concerns and called the police to remove us. The police told us that students who were still present after 5pm would be arrested and expelled from the college–yellow school buses arrived, ready to send a caravan of students to jail.

As time went by, I witnessed many students leave in fear, followed closely by my friends and family. As my cousin walked out, he warned that my mom would be upset with me. That warning was more worrisome than the threat of arrest and expulsion, yet I still stayed to protest–somebody had to stand up and do something on behalf of all African American students.

5pm came and went. We were arrested and expelled for fighting for our rights.

Months later, our charges were reduced and we were reinstated in school. The school also agreed to end the discriminatory policies we were protesting.

Nowadays, I am retired and the grandmother of eight. African Americans, and especially those who are retired like me, should give some time and volunteer for the Obama campaign. We should serve as role models and share our story with the next generation of organizers. Together, we will reelect the President this country needs.

Just do something. I am ready to help, to make that personal sacrifice, and to stand up for something important again. Join me today and do something.

California provides a golden opportunity for presidential fundraising

imagePresident Barack Obama spoke to an enthusiastic audience last night at Hollywood’s House of Blues, where he promoted his jobs bill, urged the crowd to stay motivated, and dealt with the odd heckler. But with tickets starting at $250, the focus of the event was fund-raising.

The president is just one of several candidates to hit the Golden State. Earlier this month, Mitt Romney also stopped by for a breakfast in Southern California, and Rick Perry attended six fundraisers across the state. (Track 2012 candidates’ events at Politico.)

“Whether you’re Barack Obama or one of the Republican primary candidates, it doesn’t hurt to talk to California voters, but what you’re most interested in is California donors,” said Dan Schnur, the director of USC’s Unruh Institute and a former GOP campaign operative.

Wealthy Californians have long made the state a hub for fundraising efforts. In 2008, Barack Obama raised $77.8 million in California, more than any other state.

But fund-raising prowess doesn’t necessarily translate into electoral influence. California’s 2012 primary has been delayed until June, meaning GOP primary voters will likely head to the polls too late to be decisive in choosing a Republican nominee, and California’s continuing status as a solid blue state renders it unlikely to prove decisive in the general election. Schnur said Californians’ wallets may speak louder than their ballots.

“California’s very relevant in terms of fundraising,” he said. “California’s very relevant in terms of the message the state sends to the rest of the country. But it’s tough to see the state mattering in how the GOP picks its nominee. And it’s difficult to see the state making a difference in the general election.”

That doesn’t mean courting voters isn’t important. A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California puts the president’s approval rating among likely California voters below 50 percent for the first time since his election.

Dean Bonner, who conducted the poll for the PPIC, said even people who don’t approve of President Obama’s performance might cast a vote for him, but that the numbers illustrated an enthusiasm gap which could hurt fund-raising efforts.

“In a place like California, [the president] is still able to come here and raise money,” he said. “It might not be as much as it was in the past. People in 2008 were very happy to donate to the president, both donors who were big and small, because people showed a lot of enthusiasm.”

Bonner said major donors, including Democratic bundlers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, are likely to stay involved in the Obama campaign. The remaining question is whether the millions of small donors who contributed to the 2008 election are still willing to say, “Yes, we can.”

Jerry Brown visits South Los Angeles churches



Listen to Jerry Brown’s speech at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

View the slide show here.

Hot off his appearance with President Barack Obama at the University of Southern California, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown spoke from the pulpit of several South Los Angeles churches on Sunday. Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, traveled with Brown to the churches.

Over the course of the morning, Brown visited four churches in South Los Angeles and Compton. Brown used these visits as a means to encourage voter participation and to preach the Democratic platform in preparation for the midterm elections.

One of his stops, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, is the oldest African American-founded church in Los Angeles. The pastor, the Rev. John Hunter, introduced Brown with a line of implicit support.

“The Lord oftentimes anoints and moves people to offer themselves to lead and to be a part of the solution,” Hunter said before Brown took the stage.

imageBrown is no stranger to speaking to religious audiences, as he was at one time in the seminary himself. Speaking to the large congregation appeared to energize him, even though he had just been ushered into the building moments before, running late after speaking at another church.

“I know you’re going to vote,” Brown said. “I just want to remind you to vote. This is real important. If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”

Enthusiastic applause broke out after Brown said he wants to make sure everybody has the God-given right to exceed, to soar, and to go however high they can go.

Brown continued, peppering his speech with religious references, while at the same time making powerful jabs at his Republican opposition.

“With your help and God’s blessing, we’ll make it work for everybody. Not just the powerful. Not just the people who seek out Mammon. You know, the children of darkness in their own way are pretty smart, but this is the time for the children of light. Follow the light. The light that will give us the kind of illumination that will lead us to the right path.”

He made a final call to fix the schools and reform the prisons, and then was off to his next destination.

imageWard African Methodist Episcopal Church offered a smaller, but no less enthusiastic audience for Brown. His speech became folksier and he spoke on a more intimate level to the church members, who at this point were already two hours into a church service.

“Seeking and praying and serving, that’s really what we need from our people in government,” Brown said, before launching into a tirade against money-grubbing politicians.

“They’re called public servants. But we know some of those folks over there in Bell, California, were like public potentates. They were paying themselves more than the President of the United States for running a little city. I don’t know if they were running the city, they were running off with the city.”

He asked how many people have already cast their absentee ballot. When several hands shot up, Brown responded, “Well that’s good! It’s good if you voted for me! If you didn’t, it’s bad.”

The congregation laughed, and then continued to offer verbal affirmations and smatterings of applause as Brown insisted that it’s time to stop pointing fingers and to start coming together to solve problems. “At the end of the day, we’re all Californians, and we all have to live in the state.”

Outside of Ward, one church member lamented that they didn’t have a red carpet to roll out for the man he hopes will be the next governor of California.

John Frierson, another church member and long time South Los Angeles community and political activist, shook his head. “I’ve known Brown for 40 years. He’s not the kind of guy who would like a red carpet.”
Slide Show:

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