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AJ Valenzuela is running for Community College Board

Out bisexual wants to serve Ventura County

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AJ Valenzuela (Photo courtesy Valenzuela campaign)

Lost in the uproar over heady political conflicts and fears of a conflagration poised to destroy American democracy as we know it are the skirmishes closer to the ground, the local grassroots fights over elected seats for the judiciary, controller, assessor, or on water boards and school boards that impact citizens more directly than most voters realize.

Arthur “AJ” Valenzuela Jr., 27, is one such candidate. Valenzuela is a young bisexual Democratic activist running for Ventura County Community College District Trustee Area 1, an area that covers Ventura and Ojai. After incumbent Trustee Stephen Blum decided not to seek re-election, four people qualified to run for that seat. Valenzuela says he was recruited by Blum.

“He thought I would be a good candidate because I used to be the Student Trustee on the Ventura County Community College District Board years ago, back in 2012-2013,” Valenzuela tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I had the experience with higher education at the community college level, was elected President of the California Community College Association of Student Trustees, did some advocacy work for U.C. Santa Barbara and also covered higher education for Assemblymember Das Williams. I was known as a local young activist that probably could give a better understanding of the student youth population when it came to community colleges.”

Valenzuela comes to the table armed with policy positions on such hot button issues as free college tuition, workforce development and building community—and he has the personal experience to back it up. 

“I was that student that struggled with community college back when I went through it. Most of my friends went off to four year universities and I was that person locally who went to a local community college, went up to a four year university, came back and now I’m contributing to the community,” he says. “And I think I do have a lot to offer the community college system here locally as a young professional Latinx LGBTQ youth.”

Valenzuela, a strong advocate for free community college, is in favor of Democratic Socialism—which he says means the government is supposed to provide for the community. In the 1960s, he notes, “education was free until Prop 13 came along and Ronald Reagan.” K through 12 grade education is free now, and community college was free in the past so his plan to “break down barriers” is “nothing radical.” Besides, with the California College Promise that waives certain enrollment fees for eligible students at any community college, “we are halfway there now to providing free community college.”

The California College Promise is a good start. “But let’s go to the next step—let’s see how we can make it two years free and so forth, extending it to four years versus in the long run. So I’m willing to work towards it in the realistic capacity that we have,” he says.

Valenzuela has been involved in California politics since 2012, which accounts for endorsements from out former Assembly Speaker John Perez, State Sen. Kevin de Leon and out California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman. “It shows my dedication to the community and to the Democratic Party,” he says. “I think it just shows that my reputation of being effective and progressive works for itself.”

He supports Sen. Bernie Sanders’ view of Democratic Socialism. “It means that people get a fair say in how things are distributed, that it’s done equally,” he says. “But I think we all have to give what we can as individuals. Some of us can give more than others. For example, I do believe that people should pay their fair share of taxes, especially as someone who comes from a family of long shoremen. I do think that we do get plenty of money and we give a good amount back in taxes because we benefit a lot from public taxes that go into contributing to our ports. So for me, as a young professional or a young blue collar worker, we are giving our fair share.”

Valenzuela is highly cognizant of the burgeoning student loan crisis. “The student loan crisis started becoming an issue in California after they started charging students for tuition for attending higher education,” he says. “For me, that just seems like it’s more privatization of community college because in the long run people are gonna have to pay back student debt.”

Valenzuela says he was “very lucky” having to only take out $4,400 while attending UC Santa Barbara. “Once we provide free education for people, we have our Community College Foundation that can help students with the other needs that they have,” he says. “Ideally, I would like to see forgiveness of student loans just from the scratch. But I don’t know if that is politically possible at this time.”

Valenzuela thinks it was “a tragedy” that Donald Trump was elected president. “It was unfortunate that a lot of people didn’t turn out to vote in 2016,” he says. But “I think young people are going to vote when it comes to people that meet their values.”

For more, visit: here.

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California

California expands broadband infrastructure & internet access across state

The initial project locations based on unserved/underserved areas that don’t reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Advancing California’s commitment to bridge the digital divide, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state has identified 18 projects to begin work on an open-access middle-mile network that will provide missing infrastructure paths to bring broadband to all communities.

As part of the historic $6 billion broadband investment advanced in partnership with legislative leaders earlier this year, the initial project locations are based on known unserved and underserved areas across the state. The projects will connect to the core of the global internet and interconnect to last-mile infrastructure, which is the final leg that provides internet service to a customer.

“California is committed to taking on the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities across the state,” said Newsom. “These projects are the first step to delivering on our historic investment that will ensure all Californians have access to high-quality broadband internet, while also creating new jobs to support our nation-leading economic recovery.”

The initial 18 projects represent a range of geographic locations and technical approaches. Projects are being initiated in the following tribal communities, counties and cities: Alpine County; Amador County; Calaveras County; Central Coast; Coachella Valley; Colusa Area; Inyo County; Kern County; Kern/San Luis Obispo Area; Lake County Area; Los Angeles and South Los Angeles; Oakland; Orange County; Plumas Area; Riverside/San Diego Area; San Bernardino County; Siskiyou Area; and West Fresno.

Evaluation of project areas included consideration of public comments, prioritization of unserved or underserved areas of the state, and inclusion of tribal communities, cities and counties. An unserved or underserved area has households that do not reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload of at least 3 Mbps.

“Core to our success will be the deep partnerships we’ve built with a diverse set of community organizations and last mile providers. Through many years of engagement with metropolitan planning organizations, CPUC-supported broadband consortia, Tribal organizations, community-based broadband advocacy groups, and organizations like the Rural County Representatives of California, the NAACP, and the California Emerging Technology Fund, we are now ready to take this historic step towards broadband equity for California,” said Louis Fox, Founder and Chair of GoldenStateNet, the state’s third-party administrator.

State partners implementing the middle-mile initiative include the California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Caltrans. GoldenStateNet was selected as the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) to manage the development, acquisition, construction, maintenance and operation of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network. As the TPA, GoldenStateNet will partner with key stakeholder groups across the state to investigate the best technical, financial and operational models to meet the needs of the project sites.  

A map and additional information on the initial projects can be found here.

“A reliable broadband connection makes the difference between having access to full-service health care, education and employment or sometimes going without,” said State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong. “Through a historic partnership between our Governor, the Legislature, state agencies and a third-party administrator, we are taking immediate action to improve connectivity for Californians in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.”

“These initial routes have been identified to accelerate projects in areas of the state that are unserved because of the lack of open middle mile infrastructure to serve them. We are accelerating the selection of a diverse set of routes — those that are ready to build and those that are not ready to build.  This allows the state to partner with locals on these diverse projects and learn by doing, as we concurrently work to finalize all the needed routes in the State. There are many more communities like those in Phase I that will be included in the final map,” said Martha Guzman Aceves, Commissioner at the CPUC.

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Santa Monica

Sen. Alex Padilla & Santa Monica College- Thanksgiving grocery giveaway

“As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important to support each other and our communities, and give back when we can” 

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Santa Monica College volunteers & Senator Alex Padilla (Photo courtesy of Senator Alex Padilla)

SANTA MONICA — Ahead of Thanksgiving, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) on Tuesday volunteered with Santa Monica College (SMC) for their 2nd Annual GIVING THANKS(giving) Holiday Grocery Drive-Thru Giveaway.

Padilla joined dedicated SMC volunteers, along with state and local officials to provide fresh holiday groceries to 1,500 food insecure students.

“As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important to support each other and our communities, and give back when we can,” said Senator Padilla. “I was proud to join Santa Monica College and regional partners for their annual holiday food drive to make sure students have access to fresh food and groceries this holiday season. But this is also a stark reminder that there is more work to be done to address student food insecurity, an issue that existed since before the pandemic. I’ve introduced the BASIC Act to give students the resources they need to stay focused on their education. No student should have to worry about meeting their basic needs while pursuing their education.”

“Having Senator Padilla attend today’s event is so powerful because it raises the importance of giving back to our community,” said Lizzy Moore, president of the Santa Monica College Foundation and Santa Monica College’s dean of institutional advancement. “The Santa Monica College community is grateful for his leadership in the Senate to push for the BASIC Act and other legislative proposals to address the dramatic rates of food insecurity that exists on all college campuses including Santa Monica College.”

Even before the pandemic, 50 percent of California Community College students were food insecure.

Senator Padilla has been a strong advocate for addressing food insecurity and ensuring students can meet their basic needs while pursuing a higher education. This year, Padilla introduced the Basic Assistance for Students in College (BASIC) Act, bicameral legislation to ensure college students are able to meet their basic needs while pursuing their education. Specifically, the legislation provides $1 billion for grants to ensure institutions of higher learning have the resources they need to support their students’ most fundamental needs, and directs the federal government to streamline data sharing across agencies to help students qualify for aid – particularly Pell Grant recipients and attendees of community colleges and minority-serving institutions.

Senator Padilla also joined his colleagues in introducing the Student Food Security Act of 2021. This bicameral legislation helps address food insecurity on college campuses by enabling more low-income college students to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), improve data collection and sharing, and create a new grant program to help colleges and universities support their students.

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Arts & Entertainment

2022 Best of LGBTQ LA Readers’ Choice Award Nominations

Nominate your favorites in our 2022 Best of LGBTQ LA categories through December 5th.

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It is Decision 2022! Nominate your favorites in our 2022 Best of LGBTQ LA categories through December 5th. The top 5 nominees from each category will become a finalist with voting starting December 15th. Our 2022 Best of LGBTQ LA will be announced at the Best of LGBTQ LA Awards Party and special issue on January 28th, 2022.

Nominate below or click HERE.

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