Lobbying, a view from the inside (Part Two)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It is no secret that there is acrimony between California Assemblywomen Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City and Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, and staffers from both parties whispered in the capitol's hall that while Garcia supports the language of the bill that she does not want Goldberg to receive credit.
The two women could not be any more different politically and perhaps this is at the root of the chill between the two women. A quick look at their offices confirms this. Goldberg, a 1960s civil rights activist decorates her offices with United Farm Workers posters and other decorations that pay homage to liberal icons. Whereas Garcia defiantly displays bumper stickers with conservative messages on her staff refrigerator and has a prominently-placed doll of President Bush holding an American flag in her office.
After a pitch by Hoopa tribal member Danielle Vigil-Masten, Garcia explained that while she was sympathetic she blamed politics for impeding her vote last year and said that Republicans were blindsided by Democrats on both the mascot bill and a sacred sites bill on the closing day of the legislative session.
It should be noted that Curtis Notsinneh, Jicarilla Apache, the point person on the bill, disputed this and claimed that Garcia had plenty of time to get her vote straight on the bill since it had traveled through committees and been floating around for several months prior to the vote.
The end results with Garcia proved inconclusive. She was clearly concerned and even related the issue to how she would feel if her own Puerto Rican heritage were similarly used for the purposes of a mascot and said that she would have to think about it.
However, Goldberg's offer of co-authorship is an olive branch to Garcia and it is almost certainly clear that would support it if the name carried her bill. Furthermore, Garcia is also the freshman Republican tribal liaison and it is likely that other Republican members would follow should she join the effort.
One of those present in Garcia's office was Edward Guyer, a Hoopa tribal member who is also a registered Republican and he included this fact in his plea to make the issue less divisive and show that there is bipartisan support among tribes.
In fact, according to a CNIGA poll taken last year, fully 80 percent of American Indian respondents said that they supported at least some restrictions on the use of American Indian mascots.
Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges of the day took place with Matthew Z'Berg, a staffer for Assemblyman Ed Chavez, D-Industry. While Z'Berg said he was personally sympathetic he pointed out that his boss, an elected representative, would have to face the wrath of voters in his home district if he voted for it.
To this John Orendorff, a Cherokee tribal member and director of the American Indian Education Commission pointed to a framed poster of John F. Kennedy on the wall of Chavez's office.
"When John F. Kennedy desegregated the universities of Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960s it wasn't popular with his constituents in the south or at those schools."
Z'Berg seemed to eagerly agree and said he would take that argument to his boss, who briefly stopped in at the meeting but remained noncommittal when asked by some of the assembled members.
Throughout the day, the political discussion remained civil. Included among the group were Native students from Sequoia High School in San Jose, whose mascot is the Cherokee though they recently changed it to the Ravens. The students were present for the meeting with the staff of Assemblyman Greg Mullen a San Jose-area Democrat and Sequoia high school alumnus.
During the exchange with Mullen staffer Willie Armstrong, they were asked by Armstrong how the school mascot affected them. One of the students, Marcello Castaneda said that he was picked on and forced to cut his hair because of the taunting from fellow students based on the school mascot.
In the end, however, Mullen remained uncommitted.
There were also funny lighter moments including when the group encountered former Los Angeles mayor and a current Gov. Schwarzenegger appointee in education Richard Riordan. Riordan engaged the group with some very funny anecdotes though fled quickly when he discovered what the group was there for.
At the end of the day the exhausted group assembled in Goldberg's office. Paula Starr, executive director of the Southern California American Indian Center gave a pep talk to the group. She pointed to gains made by Indians on the civil rights issue over the past century and congratulated the group on their efforts for the day.
"What you have done is participated in direct democracy as ordinary citizens. Let's thank the Creator that we've made it within just two votes of making this the law now."
Assemblyman Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who incidentally voted for the mascot bill said that people often misunderstand who lobbyists are. Correa defines a lobbyist as someone who has an interest in what is happening in the state. Though he concedes that sometimes those interested parties are oil companies, big business and teachers unions, it is just as likely to be a group of interested individuals that want to be engaged, such as the mascot group.
Correa estimated that he spends 30 to 40 percent of his day with various groups and said that he will always hear them out even if he does not agree with their positions on their issue.
It is also important to note that besides this particular group, Notsinneh has been working with CNIGA and individual lobbyists from some of the large gaming tribes, including Pechanga, to work in the more traditional way with insiders to push this bill. Though this is typical in both Sacramento and Washington most lawmakers consider it necessary to place the imprint of ordinary citizens on legislation.
During the day at the capitol there were several other groups working the corridors of power including several disabled groups there to protest cuts made by Gov. Schwarzenegger. It is likely that they too are working with inside lobbyists to further their cause.