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Aranda Rejects Unsolicited Advice

August 15, 2002

Dear Editor:

In response to Kathleen Sheldon's "unsolicited advice" about my candidacy for City Council (LETTERS: "Unsolicited Political Advice," August 13.) I respect and defend her right to voice her opinion.

Ms. Sheldon challenges the validity of my right to run for office; suggests that I am not qualified to hold office; and implies that because I have not followed her proscribed path that I am a token Latina candidate.

It further suggests that my family's working class background and my distinct life experience in general is irrelevant unless I have served on some City board or commission.

Naturally, I reject this line of "reasoning."

As I walk the city neighborhoods and talk with Santa Monica voters, I'm finding friendly people who are interested in my campaign and my "story."

I tell them about my hundreds of hours of work in the city's Thelma Terry Center in Virginia Park as a youth employment counselor and my achievement in establishing the youth/children reading program that exists to this day.

I talk about my work in forming Westside Mothers for Social Justice, a group that united working poor mothers to effectively advocate their desire for opportunities to steer youth away from the criminal justice system.

I talk about my real world activism such as the night in November 1998 that I witnessed the widely reported shooting spree that left 5 young Santa Monica and Culver City youth dead, and threatened the lives of many others including my own brothers. And how I joined community leaders and organized a community "Vigil for Peace," an action that gained nationwide media attention and drew over one thousand participants including state and local representatives.

This action led our Council members to refocus their attention to the growing needs in the Pico Neighborhood and pushed the allocation of CDBG funding for violence prevention programs for Pico youth and families.

Ms. Sheldon criticizes me for not having my own political history in Santa Monica and "not making a valuable contribution to improving people's lives," but she speaks out of ignorance.

I began my involvement with the living wage issue at the beginning of the movement. In 2000, I canvassed door to door against Proposition KK and lead house visits to encourage workers to organize. I was instrumental in beginning the UCLA Cesar E. Chavez Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana/Chicano Studies.

The most disturbing issue however, is Ms. Sheldon's reference to "enemies" in the community.

I honor a diversity of opinions in our community and know that rational people can discuss and disagree about public policy -- but they are not enemies. It is clear that the Living Wage campaign will be an intense discussion and while I support it, I do not believe those with another view are enemies.

I'm running to represent all voices in our community and to encourage the free flow of ideas and debate -- Santa Monica is a strong community that does not fear discussing any issue.

I am a bridge builder and the passion behind my campaign stems from my desire to ensure the historically disengaged in the Pico neighborhood and those who have felt disenfranchised throughout the City have a voice on the City Council. There isn't any political plot afoot here… just a desire to serve a City that has educated me and given me opportunities to succeed.

All voters will decide in November who they want to serve them on the City Council. It is my hope voters give all of the candidates running a look … with an open heart.

Josefina Santiago Aranda

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