Dear Arianna, Help Save Our City from Uber

The Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

Uber is coming to my hometown of Oakland. Will the change this ride-hailing giant brings be good for our town, or a disaster?

As Uber prepares to take over a former Sears department store in the heart of downtown next year, Oaklanders have reason to worry. But Uber could also set a positive example that tech companies nationwide might emulate – if it chooses to.

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington sits on Uber’s board. As a longtime advocate for social justice, I’m appealing to her to use her influence with the company to uphold the values she has long espoused.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, a technology-driven economy has squeezed workers and disrupted affordable living conditions, even while the overall economy flourishes. The galloping gentrification and displacement crisis that started in San Francisco and Silicon Valley has crossed the bay big-time, and seems to have accelerated since Uber announced its Oakland plans nearly a year ago.

Gentrification doesn’t just impact families. Nonprofit community groups also find themselves squeezed by soaring rents, endangering their ability to remain in Oakland. This, too, seems to be part of the “Uber effect.”

Oakland community leaders are alarmed enough that we recently published anopen letter to UBER CEO Travis Kalanick in the Oakland Post, a community newspaper rooted in Oakland’s African American community. The letter points out that Uber should have at least some understanding of equity and diversity issues, considering that – in addition to Huffington ―  David Plouffe, former senior adviser to President Obama, sits on its board of directors and Obama’s former Attorney General Eric Holder gives the company legal advice.

Our letter to Mr. Kalanick spells out the problem:

The benefits of this technological surge have been very uneven and have led to the biggest wealth gap we have ever seen. Your unwillingness to release your diversity data worries us about your commitment to Oakland’s diverse residents, especially since your advisers have a history seeking diversity through openness and transparency.

The evidence is clear that a tech driven economy is accompanied by some serious challenges, including the displacement of the working poor. That said, we reject the idea that we are powerless to shape the impacts of technology on diverse cities, especially given Oakland’s history of fighting back against policies and actions to disrupt and displace our neighborhoods.

Thus far, Uber’s response to community worries has consisted of feel-good generalizations and reminders that the company will create jobs in Oakland. While that last statement is surely true, it leaves open the question of who will get those jobs and how they will impact communities that already feel under economic siege.

Uber can do better. That’s why we want Mr. Kalanick and his team to meet with us and work out a solid plan to make sure that this famously “disruptive” company brings real benefits to our neighborhoods, rather than forcing families, small businesses and nonprofits out of town. We’d like to see Uber and community leaders work out a set of basic agreements in the areas of jobs, education, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, housing, community engagement and research – agreements that will ensure that Oakland’s working families and small businesses get a fair share of the tech boom that’s turning the local economy upside-down.

Disrupting petrified business models that no longer serve their original purpose may be a good thing. Disrupting the very survival of working families is not.

Uber, are you listening?

Uber Should Help Address Issues Facing Oakland

The Post News Group
By Orson Aguilar

Uber is a disruptive force and Oakland is a disruptive city, but for innovation to occur, disruption must be coupled with new and better ways to address the needs of current Oakland residents.

As a new corporate resident of Oakland, UBER should use its core skills and immense resources to help address the critical issues facing Oakland, including affordable housing for residents, quality employment opportunities, business opportunities and affordable transportation options.

Rapidly rising commercial rents Oakland as a result of UBER’s surprise announcement is having tremendous negative impacts on many non-profit organizations that serve Oakland low-income residents.

Low-income residents will feel the impacts of rising housing costs as Uber attracts thousands of jobs to Oakland. UBER is developing a new workforce of drivers with no protections or benefits and who are strangely called “partners”. Those “partners” will join countless Oakland residents who cannot afford to live in Oakland.

That said, we believe that UBER’s appetite for disruption can serve Oakland well, especially if UBER commits to a truly disruptive plan to battle the gentrification UBER is causing.

Given UBER’s immense resources, we call on UBER to commit to the following corporate responsibility practices.

Housing: UBER should make a $100 million investment in an Oakland Affordable Housing Development Fund that provides low-cost capital for non-profits that are working to retain and build affordable housing in Oakland.

UBER can use its immense fundraising power to attract 10 investors to match Uber’s Investment to achieve a $1 billion anti-displacement fund for long-time Oakland resident.

Support Non-Profits Serving Oakland’s Low-Income Communities: UBER should establish free or low-cost and permanent office space to several Oakland non-profits, with a priority on organizations that are working to train tomorrow’s diverse tech leaders.

In addition, UBER should establish long-term partnerships with other area organizations that are training tomorrow’s technology employees. UBER should at least commit to $50 million in philanthropy ($10 million a year) to support Oakland based non-profits, with a priority going to organizations that are helping long-time residents stay and thrive in Oakland.

Employment: UBER should Engage in local hire programs that provide an entry into good paying jobs, career pathways for young women and men of color and establish a comprehensive multi-year plan for internships and other types of job training aimed at young women and men of color.

UBER can be the leader in ban the box policies for all Uber employees and contractors. UBER should provide full-time jobs with full benefits to janitors, security personnel, and other low-wage workers at the Uber complex.

Business: UBER should engage local minority-owned businesses in the construction of downtown campus and suppliers of goods and services to the Oakland and other Bay area office and business sites. UBER will establish a local procurement program that focuses on local and regional women and minority-owned businesses and set goals for doing business with minority-owned businesses.

Diversity: Uber will commit to disclose workforce (non-driver) diversity data within 30 days and release its data within 90 days. UBER will develop a comprehensive plan to further diversify the Uber workforce with community input.

Finally, we recommend that Uber establish a 15-member community advisory board that will meet on a quarterly basis with top executives to review the Community Plan.

We urge Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO to meet with Oakland leaders and conduct a joint announcement of the Plan at a community celebration. Anything less than this will make us wonder why we let the Trojan Horse into Oakland on a red carpet.

Greenlining and the Oakland Post will convene a meeting of Oakland leaders to develop a long-term action plan aimed at holding UBER accountable to Oakland. We hope you will join us.

Financial Regulators Should Look Like America

American Banker
By Danielle Beavers and Orson Aguilar

The agencies that regulate our nation’s financial institutions have a diversity problem. Our latest analysis of the agencies shows they need to get serious about fixing it.

For too long, diversity has been regarded as largely a “politically correct” feel-good initiative in the financial sector — something that might be nice to do, but that is of little consequence to the larger missions of both financial businesses and the regulatory entities that oversee them.

The financial crisis of 2008 taught us better. We saw communities of color hit first and worst. We also saw that the financial decision-makers in the period leading up to the crisis, including both banking executives and leaders of the regulatory agencies, were largely white. They simply missed the signals from communities of color about mounting problems with high-cost mortgages and other indicators.

Congress understood the linkages between a diverse financial sector and better outcomes for consumers of color. The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 required eight federal agencies — including the bank, credit union and securities regulators — and the 12 Federal Reserve banks to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. Congress created the OMWIs to leverage diversity and help reform the financial sector.

In addition to monitoring the private financial sector’s diversity, the OMWIs are also cleaning up shop internally, working to diversify agencies’ staff and contracting with outside vendors. Unfortunately, racial disparities persist, particularly in the most critical positions.

When we examined the 2014 diversity data provided by the eight federal agencies — including the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Securities and Exchange Commission — we found that overall 33.5% of their combined workforce were people of color. That’s roughly consistent with demographics of the U.S. civilian and financial sector labor forces.

But as you go up the organization food chain, diversity declines sharply. In upper-level management, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos are seriously underrepresented. Collectively, people of color represent just 17.76% of executive management roles in these agencies.

We found a similar pattern in jobs deemed “mission critical” — attorneys, economists, examiners and the like. These positions not only play fundamental roles in an agency’s work, but they also form the pipeline to executive roles, making their diversity critical. Once again, people of color were often under-represented, sometimes shockingly so. Latinos, for example, make up 16.4% of the U.S. workforce, but only 3.49% of the mission-critical workforce in these agencies.

These agencies, like other large organizations, buy lots of goods and services from outside vendors. Here, too, the diversity results were disappointing. On average, the agencies spent 17.61% of their total procurement budgets with minority-owned vendors. Such spending also varied massively from agency to agency. For example, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency spent 36% of its procurement budget with minority-owned vendors, compared to just 2.6% at the National Credit Union Administration.

Asian-American-owned businesses received the majority of supplier diversity dollars (9.25%), while Latino and African-American-owned businesses received smaller shares — 5.25% and 3.14%, respectively. We’re clearly far from having a financial regulatory system that looks like America.

Still, we’ve seen hopeful signs.

For one, Congress has started paying more attention, with members voicing their concerns. In May, over 120 members of Congress submitted a letter calling for more diversity in the Federal Reserve System. In late June, a record number of senators stressed the importance of agency diversity during the Fed’s semiannual monetary policy briefing. The congressional Black, Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islander caucuses banded together and called on multiple agency leaders to adopt recommendations on their internal diversity practices.

Congress is off to a good start and should keep paying attention. Simply reacting to controversies isn’t enough. Our elected leaders should remember that this lack of diversity isn’t limited to any one agency or group of agencies, but is endemic across the government, and they should use their power to push government to look more like America.

The agencies have started to show some signs of progress. Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau revamped its performance review process to eliminate racial bias, and now it is now conducting employee feedback sessions.

All the financial regulatory agencies should start to be more proactive, including in their data collection and in taking action on the data they gather. Congress and advocates need to hold regulators accountable and ensure they take the steps to build a regulatory structure that looks like America.

Sandoval Brings Trust, Integrity to PUC Work

Mercury News
By Paul Goodman

Sandoval brings trust, integrity to PUC work

The Mercury News (“To restore trust, change PUC culture,” Editorial, July 1) claims that California Public Utilities Commissioner Catherine Sandoval is not working in the public interest. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have known Sandoval since 2010, initially as her student and research assistant at Santa Clara Law School, and now as a practitioner at the PUC. She acts with the utmost integrity and holds herself and her staff to the highest ethical standards. She has implemented rules regarding private meetings that are stronger than required by state law and instead holds public conversations with all parties present.

Sandoval has been a champion for consumers. She helped stop the wildly anti-competitive AT&T/T-Mobile merger. She also stopped a proposed natural gas storage facility in Sacramento, protecting more than 700 homes from the risk of gas leakages or explosions. Most recently, Sandoval has proposed to automatically fine phone companies that fail to meet service quality standards. Sandoval is exactly the kind of commissioner we need at the PUC.

Legal Pot Should Entail Racial Fairness

By Orson Aguilar

Slowly but surely, marijuana prohibition is ending. Legalization can help undo the racist impact of the war on this widely used drug — but it could also help perpetuate injustice.

Four states and the District of Columbia have passed measures to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, and many more allow use for medical purposes. Those numbers will almost certainly grow this year, with my home state of California likely leading the way. But state governments, as well as the burgeoning legal marijuana industry, need to get this right.

The campaign to ban marijuana in the 1920s and ’30s was overtly racist, targeting African-Americans and Latinos, and enforcement of marijuana laws has consistently come down hardest on communities of color. While blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rate, blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for it. Felony arrests show even worse disparities.

These disparities have taken a staggering toll in black and Latino communities, saddling millions with criminal records and crippled employment prospects. If marijuana is to be legal, simple fairness demands that the doors of this new industry be open to those hurt the most by prohibition.

This must start with the laws and regulations under which marijuana will be produced, distributed and sold. First, rules must not arbitrarily exclude those whose only crime was getting caught doing something we’re now making legal. There’s no logical reason to bar someone from the legal cannabis trade whose only criminal record is a nonviolent marijuana-related offense.

Many other obstacles can conspire to keep people of color out of this emerging business. High application fees for licenses and requirements for wildly excessive amounts of capital (up to $1 million in some states) form a major barrier, as can licensing processes so complex, expensive and politicized that they require lobbying firms to help navigate the fine print. Restrictive local zoning rules add more obstacles, giving the advantage to those with money and connections.

While the available data is limited, it points to huge disparities. One recent article noted that only one of more than 800 Colorado licenses for marijuana stores and medical dispensaries went to a black woman.

Recently, the city of Oakland, Calif., made a bold move to bring diversity to the city’s licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, reserving half of new permits for those who’ve been targeted by the war on drugs. The specifics caused some controversy, and other jurisdictions may want to try different approaches, but the impulse behind Oakland’s ordinance is exactly right.

We’ll also need to examine other issues related to legal marijuana, such as criminal record expungement for those with marijuana arrests, public health impacts on the poor and how to use new tax revenues equitably.

State and local governments as well as the cannabis industry itself need to take this seriously. It would be both tragic and ironic to build a lucrative, nearly all-white industry on the backs of millions of Latinos and African-Americans whose lives were ruined by a failed drug war.


How Does America Break its Obsession with Hatred and Guns?

The Huffington Post
Orson Aguilar

The country we live in today is divided by wealth, race, religion, party, and political ideology. Few countries are as big and as diverse as the U.S., yet we live in a nation that is also full of hate and harmful rhetoric, where corporations, special interest groups, religious institutions, and political sects create an us vs. themattitude in order to maximize their profits and influence.

Although America does not necessarily own hate and division (those things have many shareholders around the world), we do own way too many guns. Combine hate and guns with mentally disturbed individuals and you get mass shootings.

There is a lot of speculation as to why Omar Mateen decided to kill 49 people at a popular LGBT nightclub in Orlando Florida. Was it ISIS inspired? Was it homophobia? Was he anti-Latino? Was he gay and in the closet, believing it when told by family or religious leaders that he should hate himself for who he was? We may never know.

I’d like to pose another question: Does it really matter? Even if he left a detailed diary with his motivation, would it make a difference?

Today’s political rhetoric that pits one group against the other, coupled with easy access to guns, means that another Newton, San Bernardino, Charleston, or Pulse is around the corner.

Are we simply waiting for the next one because we accept that our nation’s leaders will fail to take meaningful action?

Our obsession with guns in the U.S. has gone hand in hand with violent hatred for a long time. Unless we address hatred and guns, simply pray that you’re not in the path of the next disturbed individual who just purchased a gun.

President Obama captured the feelings of many of us when he said, in reaction to the Orlando massacre, “our thoughts and prayers are not enough.” But so far, thoughts and prayers are all we’ve gotten from most of our political leaders.

At times like this, we should remember the famous words of Muhammad Ali when he said, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”

We have the power to change it. Will we?

What’s ‘Waste’ to the Oil Lobby

San Francisco Chronicle
By Alvaro Sanchez and Bill Magavern

Big Oil must love income inequality and our country’s shocking racial wealth gap. The industry’s latest campaign aims to perpetuate these injustices while attacking California’s efforts against climate change.

The Western States Petroleum Association, lurking behind the front group “CARE” (Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy), has launched a website claiming California wastes millions of dollars in its effort to reduce carbon pollution — a bogus claim.

Under California laws, big polluters must buy permits to emit climate-changing carbon into the air. That money, collected via state-run auctions, then goes to fund projects that further reduce pollution and promote clean energy and transportation. Thanks to a law that we sponsored, SB535, at least one-quarter of those funds must benefit disadvantaged communities with the worst pollution and most economic hardships — often low-income communities of color.

These reductions are in addition to emissions reduced by critical policies like the low-carbon fuel standard.

Those dollars are at work today: helping low-income families weatherize their homes, improving public transit, expanding solar power, paying for cleaner cars, trucks and buses, planting trees in urban areas, putting affordable housing near public transit, and more. That’s what the oil lobby calls “waste.”

The price of carbon at auction has hovered just under $13 per ton. Remember, that’s what polluters pay to continue polluting from existing factories, power plants and other facilities that burn oil, coal and gas.

The oil industry’s math geniuses have discovered that it costs more to build clean transportation and energy infrastructure than it does to keep using old, dirty facilities. In Big Oil’s twisted logic, that’s “waste.” Worse than comparing apples to oranges, they’re comparing apples to the cost of planting a new orchard.

That’s crazy. But it gets even worse when you look at the climate investments that the oil lobby calls “waste.”

For example, two of the eight projects its website slams involve putting affordable housing near public transportation. Here in the Bay Area, we understand the need for both affordable housing and transit.

We looked at one project funded by these climate investments, West Gateway Place in West Sacramento. This green-certified, walkable community will put affordable homes in close proximity to bike lanes, rail lines, bus lines, and car and bike shares. By promoting walking, biking and transit use, it will reduce carbon emissions enough to equal taking more than 140,000 cars off the road.

But that’s just the start. By providing low- and moderate-income families a decent, affordable place to live, these projects change lives. We spoke to Esther Robert, who lives in a nearby affordable housing development, having overcome struggles with addiction. “Because of affordable housing, I can be secure and OK and keep moving forward,” she told us. “If I didn’t have this place, my kids would have been in the (foster care) system.”

We must build a new, clean-energy economy if we are to survive. California has chosen to do so in the best way possible, by bringing its benefits to those who need it most.

If you’ve been impacted by air pollution, climate change, or benefited from California’s climate investments like the ones we’ve described, we invite you to share your story at

“Too Big to Fail” Also Applies to Health Care

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

We hear a lot about “too-big-to-fail” banks, and rightly so. It’s time to bring that same discussion to health insurance.

Most Americans first learned about too-big-to-fail when financial industry recklessness crashed our economy, causing an avalanche of foreclosures and throwing millions out of work. With health care now making up 17 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and affecting literally every one of us, it’s time to worry about concentration in the health insurance marketplace.

Many have sounded alarm bells over the fact that the five biggest U.S. banks nowcontrol nearly half the market. In comparison, America’s four largest health insurerscontrolled 83 percent of the market as of 2014. (This includes the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association, whose affiliates are technically separate but have exclusive, non-overlapping market territories and thus don’t compete with one another).

Health insurers probably can’t crash our economy, but they can impact it greatly, and the decisions they make truly have life or death consequences.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because state insurance regulators here in California are considering whether to allow several of our state’s major health insurers to merge. Anthem, California’s second largest health insurer, is poised to spend $54 billion to acquire rival Cigna, the state’s sixth largest health insurer; while Aetna, the third largest health insurer in the state, is set to absorb Humana, California’s fifth largest health insurer, to the tune of $37 billion. Nationally, these four companies rank third, fourth, fifth, and seventh in size. This would significantly reduce competition in California, where the market is already heavily concentrated in just a few firms.

Like other fields, lack of competition in health insurance is generally bad for consumers. As The Commonwealth Fund reported last year, “several studies document lower insurance premiums in areas with more insurers,” while insurance mergers tend to lead to higher premiums.

As an advocate for communities of color, I worry about these impacts, and I also worry about the specific effect on diverse communities in a state where people of color make up about 62 percent of the population.

In California and nationwide, communities of color have specific health challenges. Among other things, they disproportionately lack health insurance (despite improvements under the Affordable Care Act) and are more likely than whites to suffer from chronic health issues, often related to air pollution (that increases rates of asthma) or other environmental conditions.

This makes it important for health insurers to recognize the importance of diversity in order to be able to serve this diverse population. Aetna, for example, has a weak record, with people of color making up just 14 percent of the company’s executive positions and 15 percent of its board of directors. Communities of color are also underrepresented in Aetna’s rank-and-file staff. Additionally, Aetna rarely contracts with minority-owned suppliers, contributing little to our state’s diverse business economy.

Because of America’s ongoing racial wealth gap, we’re particularly concerned about the effect of health insurance mergers on affordability – though of course premium increases affect individuals and employers of all backgrounds. Companies looking to merge typically tout how combining will create efficiency and save costs, but – as noted above – these efficiencies seem to benefit stockholders and executives much more than consumers. We’ve thereforeproposed that, if Aetna and Humana are allowed to merge, they should put their money where their mouth is by pledging a five-year freeze on premium increases. If they’re so sure they can save money by merging, the people and small business owners who struggle to pay the cost of health coverage should benefit.

Keeping premium hikes under control benefits taxpayers, too, since under the Affordable Care Act federal tax dollars provide subsidies to help low-income families buy insurance.

I could go on citing specific questions about these mergers, but the issue of health insurer consolidation is bigger than any one merger or any particular constituency that a given merger might impact. Health coverage isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. And as a nation we’ve chosen (in large part due to lobbying pressure from big insurers) to base our system of paying for health care on private insurance rather than a government-run single-payer plan. The least we can expect government to do is to ensure that we don’t put Americans at risk because a small handful of too-big-to-fail insurance giants have free reign to take advantage of us all.

A Welcome Focus on Racial Justice

Lancaster Online
By Orson Aguilar

The 2016 presidential campaign is proving historic in many ways both good and bad. Among the good: the amount of attention being paid to the issue of racial justice.

This didn’t occur spontaneously, of course. Constant pressure from Black Lives Matter, immigration activists and others played a big role. But the degree to which some top candidates have paid attention to racial justice and adopted platforms related to the issue exceeds anything in recent memory.

On the Democratic side, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have extensive sections on their campaign websites dedicated to racial justice. Both include detailed proposals and state explicitly what many minorities know to be true: that the American playing field is not level and works to the disadvantage of communities of color.

Clinton, for example, pledges to “end the school-to-prison pipeline” by providing funds to help school districts move away from punitive policies like suspensions, expulsions and on-campus police presences that disproportionately hurt students of color. She also takes note of pollution-related asthma rates, lead exposure and other environmental issues that disproportionately harm communities of color.

Sanders, on his website, focuses on “the five central types of violence waged against black, brown and indigenous Americans: physical, political, legal, economic and environmental.” His platform goes in-depth on improving relations between police and communities of color, promoting greater diversity, training and civilian oversight in cases of misconduct. Like Clinton, he condemns racially disproportionate rates of school suspensions and expulsions and speaks out against environmental racism.

But all that just scratches the surface. Both Democrats delve into racial injustices with far more detail than any presidential candidate I can remember, including Barack Obama in 2008. While candidates have always taken positions on issues that have racial implications, like immigration, what we’re seeing this year is unique and encouraging.

A search of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s website turns up nothing regarding racial justice. The closest he gets is his get-tough stands on illegal immigration, including a border wall and ending birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. The story is much the same for the last two GOP alternatives to drop out of the race, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

That’s sad.

The Republican Party, after all, played a crucial role in ending slavery and putting civil rights protections into the Constitution. A century later, Republicans provided the votes needed to pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. The party has a long and honorable history it should not abandon. There is no reason Democrats should own the racial justice agenda.

Still, racial justice has entered the presidential campaign in a far more detailed and nuanced way than we’ve ever seen, even during the civil rights battles of the 1960s. That’s progress, and it should be just the start.

For Angelenos Looking for Work, Fingerprinting Can Be a Lifetime Sentence

Los Angeles Daily News
By Orson Aguilar

Once again, politicians are pushing for fingerprint-based background checks for anyone who wants to drive for Uber, Lyft or similar services. This approach won’t help safety, but will hurt L.A.’s communities of color. What’s next? Will we require every service employee to submit background checks because they too get close to everyday people?

We’ve even seen the specter of mass shootings raised in this discussion. Los Angeles officials cited the recent shooting in Kalamazoo, Mich., as a justification for this proposal. The accused shooter, Jason Dalton, was an insurance adjuster who had recently started driving with Uber. Ironically, fingerprinting wouldn’t have stopped Dalton, who had no criminal record.

But fingerprint-based background checks could prevent hard-working Angelenos, mostly men of color, from earning a living.

Fingerprint-based background checks have many flaws, sweeping up the innocent along with the guilty. Such checks match an individual’s prints against an FBI database, which even the Justice Department admits is woefully out-of-date and often inaccurate. For example, it includes arrest records that may have never led to criminal charges, let alone convictions. Under this system, anyone who has ever been arrested could be denied work opportunities, even if they did nothing wrong.

For these men and women, an arrest can amount to a lifetime sentence. By some estimates nearly one in three American adults have been arrested by the age of 23 — mostly for nonviolent drug offenses and infractions like disorderly conduct, drunkenness, vagrancy and loitering.

People of color bear the brunt because they are much more likely to be arrested, face tougher charges, and receive harsher sentences than their white peers. In L.A. County, 91 percent of juveniles arrested for felonies are nonwhite. At least 70 police departments across the United States arrest African Americans at 10 times the rate of Caucasians. Many of these arrests never lead to convictions, and evidence suggests these higher arrest rates are due to bias in the system and not higher rates of criminal activity.

Prosecutors have told scare stories about drivers for Uber or other services with criminal records in their distant pasts. In fact, those drivers have had excellent safety records and few if any complaints. A past mistake shouldn’t bar a person from ever being able to make an honest living. Once someone has paid their debt to society, they must be able to earn a living.

This is as much a practical matter as a moral one. Unemployment among the formerly incarcerated runs as high as 50 percent, costing the economy $65 billion annually in lost productivity. And people who are out of work, struggling to support their families, are more likely to commit new crimes. That’s why a growing number of leaders from both parties support removing work barriers for the formerly incarcerated.

Last year, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 47, reducing several minor, nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors to reduce our prison population. These reforms can only work if we allow these individuals a chance in the legal economy.

In a city with huge economic challenges, we can’t afford to deny thousands of Angelenos good work opportunities in an effort to look “tough on crime.” Black male unemployment remains at crisis levels: about 30 percent of 20- to 24-year-old black men were unemployed and not in school in 2014.

We all want to stop individuals who could threaten our communities. But, under our system, people are innocent until proven guilty and get a second chance after paying their penalty. Let’s consider the cost before pointing the finger of blame at drivers who are simply trying to earn an honest day’s wage.