ELECTIONS: Forums aim to increase Latino, black turnout

Two election forums this weekend in Colton and San Bernardino are part of an effort to increase Latino and African-American voter turnout on Nov. 6.

Candidates for several congressional, state legislative and local offices are expected to appear at the informal forums, as are proponents for several state ballot initiatives.

“There are some really important initiatives this time that particularly affect our communities of color,” said José Calderón, of the Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, which also works in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. “That’s why we need to get out there and inform people of the importance of these initiatives.”

African-Americans are especially likely to face the death penalty, and blacks and Latinos are disproportionately affected by the state’s three-strikes law, he said.

Prop. 34 would end the death penalty in California and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Prop. 36 would revise the three-strikes law so that some convicted felons who were found guilty of a third, less serious felony offense would no longer face life imprisonment.

Joe Olague, president of the Inland Empire council of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he also is closely watching Props. 30 and 38, each of which would increase taxes, in part to bolster education spending.

“The ones who would be most affected if they don’t pass are people in the Latino community,” said Olague, noting that a majority of students in Inland schools are Latino.

The forums are located in neighborhoods with large Latino and black populations, and several Latino and African-American organizations are among those sponsoring or participating in the forums.

Calderón said he hoped that would increase the number of African-Americans and Latinos attending the events.

The sponsors of the forums include the Chicano/Latino Caucus of the Inland Empire, LULAC, the NAACP of San Bernardino, the Democratic and Republican central committees of San Bernardino County and the San Bernardino Teachers Association, said George Aguilar, who is helping organize the events and is running for re-election to the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.