Orange Coast College faculty, staff and students say it is important to become familiar with issues that could affect college students in the Nov. 6 midterm election — including community college funding, rent control, fuel and sales taxes or changes in Congress.
OCC political science instructor Ann Williams said one of the biggest issues students should be aware of is the state’s budget and how it affects the funding of community colleges. She said future funding could depend on who is elected governor, either Democrat Gavin Newsom or Republican John H. Cox.
Traditionally, Democrats tend to be more generous with community college funding than Republicans.
Williams said while California is currently required to fund OCC and other community colleges because of Proposition 98, the state could suspend that funding like it has in the past.
“They have suspended that in the past, where we don’t get as much funding as we were told we were going to get and we have to make cuts,” Williams said. “I’ve taught here at OCC where it’s just been horrible, the cuts, and not had nearly enough classes for the demand of students that want funding.”
She referred to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2017 spending formula which led to a 4.4 percent increase in community college funding and said the request and approval for more money was “extremely unusual” and that “we can’t expect that to continue.”
“He always has appreciated community colleges and understands their relevance to the economy and society as a whole,” Williams said. “But we can’t always say that with future governors and future legislators — that they understand the value of a community college education.”
Williams added that OCC’s new Pirates’ Promise program, which provides free tuition to the college’s first-year students, was made possible through state funding passed by the state legislature.
“The governor signed that budget,” Williams said. “So if that doesn’t tell you something about the importance of getting involved I don’t know what it is.”
Member of the OCC Republicans club James Doody said it’s important for people to have discussions with the “other side” and share diverse opinions in order to make educated decisions.
“Even myself, I don’t know what a lot of these propositions are and I think it’s important to remind people to research what they’re going to be voting for, if they vote, and at least let them know what’s there,” Doody said.
Doody, a 19-year-old aviation major, said voters should focus on issues regarding homelessness in Orange County as well as congressional races, like the one in 48th district which includes Costa Mesa.
“I understand why people want to come here, this is one of the best places to live,” he said. “But when you’re living off someone else’s dime and you’re not giving back to the system I think that’s wrong and it’s just really unfair to the taxpayer.”
Proposition 1 on the midterm ballot would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for affordable housing programs for “low-income residents, veterans, farmworkers, manufactured and mobile homes, infill, and transit-oriented housing.”
Arguments in favor of the proposition say it would provide affordable housing options for Californians without raising taxes. The arguments against, however, say the housing shortage “stemming from the influx of millions to California” would require much bigger solutions.
Proposition 2 also addresses homelessness, specifically those with mental illness. If approved, the state could use the county’s existing mental health fund, up to $140 million per year, to house homeless people with mental illness.
Doody said if students want to have a voice, they need to “get out and express their views” and associate with people who are like-minded.
“It’s also good to have discussions with people from the other side, which is what our club’s about,” he said. “We want to have as many diverse opinions at our club as possible, I think that’s just important because we all have to live together.”
Trish Boyer from Swing Left, a progressive political organization, has spent time wandering the OCC campus and others in the area, registering students to vote. She said students often think their vote “doesn’t matter,” but that there is “too much going on to be apathetic.”
“I think sometimes young people don’t want to vote because it doesn’t mean anything to them, but an issue will mean something to them,” Boyer said. “The cost of education, rent control, women’s rights, equal pay — all these things will really matter to most people.”
Proposition 10, for example, deals with restricting the span of rent control policies that “cities and other local jurisdictions may impose on residential property,” according to the ballot.
Those in favor say putting limits on how much landlords can raise rent would prevent displacement and homelessness whereas those against argue the move will make the housing crisis worse and allow for regulation of single-family homes by putting “bureaucrats in charge of housing” and allowing them to add fees to rent.
“Rent control, Prop. 10, has a direct impact on student’s lives,” Williams said.
Williams also said the race between Democrat Harley Rouda and Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher to represent California’s 48th congressional district is one that directly pertains to OCC students.
“The 48th in our own backyard is a huge race in terms of potentially tipping control of the House of Representatives,” Williams said. “And we do get federal funding here on campus as well, so definitely the federal budget is involved.”
Williams said that while she thinks there will always be students who feel like politics don’t affect them, she has seen a “tremendously positive trend” toward engagement throughout her 12 years of teaching at OCC.
“This generation is going to get out there, they’ve been politicized as we say,” Williams said. “Because they understand what’s at stake, their direct lives.”