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March 3, 2020 — Primary Election
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California State AssemblyCandidate for District 53

Photo of Godfrey Santos Plata

Godfrey Santos Plata

Public Teacher Advocate
20,923 votes (37.1%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • RENT, HOMELESSNESS, AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Protecting renters; accelerating services for the unhoused; and prioritizing affordable and subsidized housing options
  • WORKERS, WAGES, AND QUALITY OF LIFE: Supporting workers and their rights to unionize; fair wages, hours, and benefits; and a just transition to universal health care and clean energy communities
  • STRENGTHENING PUBLIC EDUCATION: Working toward free day-care, early childhood education, and higher education; maintaining strong traditional public school systems for all kids; and ensuring transparency and equity of resource allocation

Experience

Education

UC Berkeley MA, Performance Studies (Thesis: Racial Performance in K-12 Public Schools) (2010)
University of Richmond BA, American Studies (Concentration: Ethnic Studies) and Theater (2006)

Biography

Godfrey Santos Plata is a 35 year old Filipino immigrant, Koreatown renter, and former public school teacher dedicated to supporting public school teachers as they mobilize around issues important to them and their students. He knows first-hand what it’s like to have a class of 49 students. Over the last 13 years, Godfrey has worked against the school-to-prison pipeline and has been a fierce advocate for protecting and improving our public education system. He proudly joined picket lines with teachers in 2019.

Godfrey arrived in the United States in 1988, and was raised by parents whose union jobs offered secure wages and benefits that brought them into the middle class. A graduate of LA and Long Beach Unified schools, Godfrey holds degrees from the University of Richmond and UC Berkeley, where his master's thesis focused on how racial identity is constructed in K-12 public school classrooms.

Godfrey first entered the education field as a 7th grade English-Language Arts teacher in a school where most students qualified for free or reduced lunch. It didn’t take long for him to realize that teachers were working with students of color without a deep understanding of racism and classism. Godfrey shifted his work outside the classroom, and through teacher education programs, he worked to develop more socially-conscious teachers. When he saw that even the strongest teachers were often asked to uphold laws and policies that reinforced racist and classist outcomes, he began to organize teachers, students, and parents to change oppressive laws that govern education. Through organizing and advocacy, Godfrey has supported school communities and stakeholders to take on issues like the school-to-prison-pipeline, unsafe routes to schools, attacks on immigrants, and more. He’s built some of his organizing muscle by organizing with churches of all denominations through the Industrial Areas Foundation.

Today, Godfrey is running to represent a district of renters, immigrant workers, and their families. Godfrey is a democrat who prioritizes people over profits because he sees how much policy-making can be taken easily influenced by corporate and developer interests. 

If elected, Godfrey would be the first assembly-person in California’s 140-year history to be both an immigrant and a member of the LGBTQ community; the first Filipino assembly-person ever to represent the greater Los Angeles area; and just the second renter to join the assembly in which tenants are represented by just one renter, while more than 25% of legislators are landlords.     

Who supports this candidate?

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of California (4)

Describe what proposal(s) you would support to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing for all income groups in California?
Answer from Godfrey Santos Plata:

My top priority as a representative of my assembly district is to protect renters, particularly those who are cost-burdened or at risk of displacement or eviction. Although housing is an incredibly complex issue for our state, the specificity of my top priority comes from direct experience knocking on thousands of doors in my district, where you cannot escape from stories of eviction, landlord abuse, or out-pricing. Additionally, if and when elected, it is likely that I will be the only renter in the entire assembly, where there is only one current renter in an assembly of 80, with over 25% of the assembly being landlords.  

In my first term in office, I will begin to build a coalition with other legislators like State Senator Maria Elena Durazo who have stated that they are unafraid of turning over the Ellis Act, which currently allows for the eviction of tenants so that the landlord can go out of business. The Ellis Act has been used as an opportunity for speculative real estate corporations to buy out lots in the name of development. Although landlords may authentically want to go out of business, unlike any other business for which displaced employees might be able to benefit from unemployment services, we do not have a temporary substitute for becoming unhoused and being unable to afford the rates of housing in our communities. We must find other options for landlords wishing to retire and/or residents who might enter housing markets incongruent with their means.

Additionally, tenants deserve the right to counsel, state-wide, and this is a priority. When regular people are charged by the criminal justice system, they are entitled to a public defender if they cannot afford one. Similarly, when residents are evicted, most evicted residents lack personal legal counsel to help them understand their rights. Studies of right to counsel in other parts of the country have shown an immediate decrease in the number of evictions, as exploitation of the eviction process also decreases.

Most of all, we must center the urgent need for 1.4 million affordable rental units for our most cost-burdened communities, as this is not only a production issue or renter issue, but this is about stopping an increasing population of those who are unhoused as well. We cannot create or pass housing proposals that produce only a percentage of affordable units; we have to create proposals that focus on our communities in most need. Assemblymember David Chiu demonstrated this type of incentive with his 2019 “density bonus” bill that provided certain flexibilities for developments that were intended primarily for affordable housing, as opposed to just partially for affordable housing. We should continue to ideate legislation that provides incentives and flexibilities like this for affordable housing developers; for communities that begin to welcome this type of development en masse; for property-owners willing to take on ADUs meant to serve section 8 vouchers, unhoused folks in need of transitional housing, or other cost-burdened low-income tenants; and for organizations that help ease property-owners into those responsibilities.  

What programs or legislation would you support to meet the water needs of all Californians?
Answer from Godfrey Santos Plata:

As we more and more seriously feel the impact of climate change, we will need to be more strategic, smart, and coordinated as a state to ensure and protect clean, sustainable water sources for all Californians. Currently, our water sources are divided into surface water and groundwater. Almost all of our surface water is in the northern third of California, while almost all of the demand occurs in the bottom two thirds of our state. Additionally, scientists, policy-makers, and community members are just beginning to align on what possible groundwater management systems could be implemented in order to conserve water for the state, while enabling agricultural needs to be met and support the livelihoods of our farming families. Most groundwater basins are in the Central Valley or along the Central and South Coast, and too many are known to be in overdraft, meaning that we are depleting those water sources too quickly. All of this will demand that (a) we put in place data collection systems that help us understand and compare water quantities and movement throughout the state, that (b) these data systems limit disruption to agriculture and families, that (c) these data systems maintain basic privacy needs of folks whose properties contain or are built atop of water supplies, and that (d) we legislate the funding to be able to implement these systems. We cannot regular water and make the strongest decisions around how we can protect and conserve our sources unless we create the infrastructure to understand our water sources (and their users) first.

To reach a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, as set forth in a 2018 executive order what, if any, proposals, plans or legislation would you support?  Please be specific.
Answer from Godfrey Santos Plata:

I support the national and state iterations of a Green New Deal. In district 53 in particular, our density of life and infrastructure -- along with the multitude of freeways that bring non-district 53 residents in and out of district 53 neighborhoods, tourist attractions, and places of work -- contributes to the deadly smog that clouds our city. The National Air Toxins Assessment has created a map of cancer risk for the country and almost exactly over the gerry-mandered puzzle piece shape of district 53 rests a dark red indicator that we are at the 95th-100th percentile nationally in cancer risk due to our quality of life. Battling this impending environmental injustice against communities that are predominantly immigrant and people of color requires that (a) we ensure residents access to healthcare and also (b) plan for long-term changes in the ways we build and operate the second largest city in the nation, such that we curb and ultimately eliminate environmental determinants that are a hazard to our health:

  • First and foremost, we must accelerate a transition into a world of zero emissions technology to counteract the pollution left hanging over our district. This means not only building the infrastructure to incentivize travel and transportation without gasoline or diesel, but also accelerating the uses of zero emission technology in public transportation, delivery transportation, and buildings (which many people forget also contribute to carbon emissions).
  • At the same time, we must increase green space to counteract pollution in our district. Almost the entirety of our district experiences the hazards of pollution that exist merely by living, working, or going to school within 1000 feet of a heavily-traveled road (like a freeway). My own neighborhood in Koreatown has some of the smallest parkland per capita of any area in Los Angeles; the long-term health costs of this quality of life, in an area high in population density, are not in line with the quality of life that the second largest city in the nation and the fifth largest economy in the world can provide. As we think about possible increasing density closer to the transit lines that criss cross our district, we cannot forget to include a plan for greenspace.   
  • Lastly, we must halt the fossil fuel industry and its contributions to smog, global warming, and other fracking-related pollution. We can’t transition to a zero emissions world if big business continues to make possible a world dependent on gas, coal, and oil. I refuse to take fossil fuel money as a small show of my commitment toward this end, and the incumbent should do the same.
According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, we spend over $81,000 per individual who is incarcerated.  Other than incarceration, what ways can the State address safety and justice?
Answer from Godfrey Santos Plata:

Safety and justice for all must begin with those who disproportionately experience injustice and lack of safety at the hands of the state itself. We know that we must lower criminal justice outcomes for LGBTQIA+ folks, people of color, women, immigrants, and non-English speakers before our communities reach the criminal justice system.

First, we must seek longer-term community strategies that pivot away from incarceration being our primary mode of dealing with any sort of difference or deviant behavior in our society, as a way to reduce engagement with the criminal justice system at all. We know too much now about the necessity of basic community services like health care (physical, mental, sexual and reproductive), housing, and jobs that help people to manage their lives independently and in community, and the lack of these services and opportunities produce behaviors that we then police -- leading to inequities in the criminal justice system that exist on lines of race and class because of the ways in which institutional racism has influenced the planning of neighborhoods, cities, and their services.

On the other side of things, we must also ensure that public employees, law enforcement and justice system personnel, and correctional peace officers engage in ongoing diversity and cultural competency development and reflection. Too many marginalized communities (including LGBTQIA+ communities) experience (at best) microaggressions and (at worst) explicit hate crimes when others -- particularly others with positional power (such as public employees, who are gatekeepers to services, or enforcement officers, who can exert harm or fatal power) -- are ill-equipped to understand their identities, expression, or traumas. Moreover, diversity training cannot be a one-and-done deal to satisfy a policy or requirement; in order to actually have its effect, diversity training must be ongoing and work not only deepen one’s understanding of a more marginalized community, but also develop stronger, authentic, and more vulnerable relationships with members of that community.

 

Lastly, we will not appreciably build a more just world unless we diversify our state judiciary, much of whom are elected by an electorate who don't know a whole lot about their choices, or appointed by those already in power. We must diversify those entering the law profession (and one of the ways I am supportive of doing so is finding a way to repeal prop 209, which blocks our abilities to implement affirmative action in our public universities), and we must do a better job supporting the public to make educated decisions about judgeships that are elected, which serve as a prerequisite to appointments for higher judicial positions. Information about judges aside from their names is difficult to find, and those who are running for positions must also navigate the cost of campaigning for their positions, rather than exist on the terms of their merit and potential as a judge. We must find a way to better democratize the selection of our judges, whether that means campaign finance reform, required information in voter guides, or some other form of igniting informed public consent.

Who gave money to this candidate?

Contributions

Total money raised: $120,478

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

1
Employees of Leadership for Educational Equity
$8,312
2
Employees of Arthur Rock & Co.
$4,700
2
Leadership for Educational Equity CA General Purpose Committee
$4,700
3
Employees of Teach For America
$3,350
4
Employees of Facebook
$2,376

More information about contributions

By State:

California 53.79%
Texas 9.26%
District of Columbia 7.42%
New York 6.99%
Other 22.54%
53.79%9.26%22.54%

By Size:

Large contributions (73.12%)
Small contributions (26.88%)
73.12%26.88%

By Type:

From organizations (6.90%)
From individuals (93.10%)
93.10%
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

The average person in Assembly District 53 wants four things:

  • A safe place to sleep
  • Enough money for our cost of living
  • Strong public schools 
  • A healthy life

We currently do not guarantee these basic rights for our residents. We can change that. Our campaign platform is about fighting for the FUNDAMENTAL NEEDS for all 483,000+ residents of our district. Our policy compass can be found at www.godfreyforassembly.com/issues.

We're focusing on fundamental needs because my commitment is to center all those who have been historically marginalized from our policy-making processes. This means that when I analyze any issue, I actively seek to name, resist, and reverse policies that perpetuate:

  • anti-blackness, racism, and xenophobia; 
  • gender injustice and trans and homophobia; 
  • inequities perpetuated by capitalism and colonialism; and 
  • oppression and suppression based on ability, language, or migration status. 

Constituents can expect that I will lead with that lens. Where I do not have the lived experiences to develop a strong enough perspective, I commit to ensuring that those who are impacted most by policy issues are at the table to lead the conversation. 

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