Readers: As part of an occasional series on candidates in the November election, I am reaching out to our local, county and state candidates to report their views.
I selected a narrow set of concerns that I believe have the most dramatic impact on our daily lives here in the Santa Clarita Valley. These concerns are: transparency in government, reform of the criminal justice system, and social welfare programs.
Candidate views regarding these topics I find to be most revealing and helpful when determining whom to vote for.
Santa Clarita City Council member Dante Acosta is running for California’s 38th Assembly District.
The 38th District encompasses Santa Clarita, Castaic, Canyon Country, Newhall, Saugus, Agua Dulce, Vasquez Rocks, Stevenson Ranch, San Fernando, Granada Hills, Chatsworth, Porter Ranch, and part of Ventura County including Simi Valley.
When asked about a perceived lack of transparency, Acosta stated he is in favor of passing Proposition 54 on the November ballot.
This proposition would require every piece of legislation to be published at least 72 hours before legislators can vote, and every public committee hearing must be recorded and available online.
Every candidate I have asked this year about Prop 54 has been in favor of it.
“I am in favor of anything that puts more sunlight on the process,” Acosta said.
In his view, everything in Sacramento comes down to which party is in the majority. He said the Democratic majority right now controls the degree of transparency in government because transparency rules are governed under parliamentary procedure, not codified in statute.
Prop 54, he says, would make these transparency safeguards the law, therefore preventing whichever party is in power from simply waiving rules when it is expedient for that party.
On the issue of social welfare programs, Acosta said every person at some point experiences loss and struggles with tragedy, but abuse of social welfare must stop.
“Social welfare,” he said, “must be available for those who really need our support, but we need to avoid spending money on those who abuse the system and who intend to commit fraud.
“We have to figure out how to better end social welfare abuse and fraud and adjust our system.”
When asked about a specific remedy for reducing fraud, Acosta said it starts with further investing in our schools so our students have the necessary tools to be self-reliant when they enter the work force and avoid falling into government dependence.
He specifically noted the need for greater investment in career technical education so students are prepared to compete in the 21st century economy.
In the area of the criminal justice system, Acosta is promoting the concept of “One Strike” for certain specific criminal acts. Child molestation and sex trafficking, he said, are among the most egregious crimes against the innocent and should result in prolonged sentences, if not a lifetime behind bars.
“Catch and release is not only an expensive practice, but makes us all unsafe. The courts are frustrated and cops are frustrated,” he said, referring to the state’s move toward early release programs.
“Offenders are being released early and then recommit(ing) the same crime the next day. The justice system needs comprehensive reform. Our current system is not working.”
Acosta believes AB109 – signed into law in 2011 to send lower-level felons to county jails, forcing early release of some inmates – and Prop 47 – approved by voters to reclassify some felonies as misdemeanors – are complete failures.
When asked what specific measure he would endorse that would help remedy the challenged criminal justice system, Acosta said much crime is related to untreated or inadequately addressed mental illness. He advocates focusing on treatment for mental illness.
When asked what special skill or ability he might possess that would make him an effective legislator, Acosta highlighted his business experience, which he says has taught him to be a good “listener and a peacemaker.”
“I am a listener; I find out what the need is and then get folks together to move toward implementing the best method toward achieving that goal. I am a peacemaker – I will work with anyone.
“I use our common values – like having clean water, good schools, and safe streets – to get us moving ahead.”
I found Acosta open to new ideas and very interested in addressing some of our greatest challenges.
Jonathan Kraut directs private investigations and private security firms, is a published author, Democratic Party activist, and SCV Interfaith Council member. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.