In case you didn't get the memo, 2008 is a very serious political year for all of us. During this time, black folk need to make sure their political voices are heard and respected. For political candidates who seek our votes, they must bring something of value to the table and we cannot let them take us for granted.
How do we accomplish both of those important objectives? For one thing, we go to as many of the political forums and candidate meetings as we can, and we ask pointed and pertinent questions of all the candidates. Compare their answers.
This is not about either a political beauty contest or whether you personally like the candidate or not. This is practical politics-what can each candidate do or not do to help you and the community (or communities) you represent get your interests satisfied. Your vote counts, so make them know it will not come free. Politics has no friends, just interests.
Practice subduing your passions and unleashing your political common sense and wisdom, people. Here are some sample questions to take into the forums with you, courtesy of Our Weekly and CAAPEI.
Questions for candidates:
(1) This area needs jobs, housing, enhanced medical facilities, and increased educational standards. If elected, what specifically are you planning on doing about any and all of those issues?
(2) If elected, will you provide a consistent way for your constituents to convey their interests to you? Please elaborate on why, why not and how.
(3) Why exactly do you want this particular elective office, and what in your background specifically qualifies you for it?
(4) Can you name at least five projects you have accomplished for the community? Did you do them in coalitions or essentially alone? Describe how you have worked collaboratively before to get things done. In public office, what does "knowing how to count" mean to you?
(5) Integrity, responsibility and accountability are important aspects of an effective public servant's performance. Can you provide specific examples which demonstrate your integrity in public life, your sense of responsibility to your community, and how you perceive accountability?
More focused questions. (Legislature and Supervisor)
(1) The UJCC (United Jobs Creation Council) just scored a major victory in the LA City Council by getting a process approved to provide consistent jobs in the construction industry for members of underserved communities. If elected, can you duplicate that type of process for this community?
(2) Speaker Karen Bass recently disseminated a "State of the California Black Community." In it, she provided data on specific needs of the black community throughout the state. Do you have plans to utilize any of that report in your legislative activity, if elected?
(3) Communities are currently learning how to issue "Report Cards" on state legislators. Are you willing to be judged by your constituents on your attendance and voting records, the number of bills you author or co-sponsor, and how effective you become within the state legislature?
(4) What plans, if any, do you have for training and preparing the youth in your community for future leadership?
(5) Do you support universal health care for Californians? Do you support reforming Three Strikes? Do you support ending the school-to dropout-prison cycle that is epidemic in our communities? Are you planning on creating a group of citizens' councils to inform you of what your community needs and wants? Describe any tangible plans you have to deal with any or all of the above.
David L. Horne, Ph.D., California African American Political & Economic Institute (CAAPEI) at California State University, Dominguez Hills.