SACRAMENTO, CA— With the participation of more than a dozen activists from across the State of California, the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region conducted its annual Sacramento Advocacy Day on Wednesday, February 20, visiting key legislators and advocating for a number of issues on behalf of the Armenian American community of the Golden State.
The ANCA-WR Sacramento Advocacy Day, which is an annual project in the organization’s public and legislative outreach division, aims to bring Armenian American activists from across California to the State Capitol to meet with legislators and policy makers to educate them on pressing issues facing the Armenian American community.
Participating in this year’s Sacramento Advocacy Day were Armenian American representatives from Glendale, Burbank, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco and greater Bay Area, Sacramento, as well as members of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors and ANC-TV journalists.
The issues discussed by the delegates included a current proposal by Glendale area State Senator Jack Scott to establish a California Trade Office in Yerevan, as a progression of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in late 2001 between California and the Republic of Armenia. The MOU, which was an initiative of the ANCA-WR and then State Senator Adam Schiff, was led to its successful signing under the leadership of Senator Scott. The MOU established the appropriate environment and the formalized relationship for further trade and exchange opportunities to be explored between the two governments. In addition, the ANCA-WR delegates spoke to the legislative offices regarding ANCA-WR’s various initiatives on Armenian Genocide education and curriculum, including the Armenian Genocide Handbook and Armenian Genocide and human rights lesson plans prepared by the ANC-San Francisco/Bay Area Chapter in conjunction with San Francisco Unified School District instructors.
Two groups of advocates visited more than two dozen legislative and State agency offices. Meetings were scheduled with members of key committees who will play a significant role regarding issues on the ANCA-WR’s 2002 legislative agenda for California.
The day began with meetings at the offices of Senators Michael Machado, who chairs the Senate Committee on Banking, Commerce and International Trade and is on the Subcommittee for California – European Trade Development, John Vasconcellos who chairs the Committee on Education, and Latino Caucus chairman Senator Richard Polanco. Representatives of the ANCA-WR spoke extensively on the importance of establishing a Trade Office in Yerevan and the ANCA-WR’s determination to see this process through to its end. Representatives gathered valuable information and gained insight to the status of establishing a Trade Office and were able to earnestly share ideas and receive feedback from the elected officials and their staff.
The morning was also highlighted with meetings at the offices of State Superintendent of Public Education Detaine Eastin, whose senior aide Rod Atkinson, discussed in detail the importance of implementing the Armenian Genocide handbook for students and teachers in California’s public schools. The ANCA-WR has led the effort to include the Armenian genocide in public school curricula covering human rights for more than a decade in California.
The morning block also featured meetings with Assemblymembers Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), Jackie Goldberg (D-Hollywood), Paul Koretz (D-Beverly Hills), Mark Wyland (R-San Diego), Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks), and Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson.
Assemblymember Joe Simitian, the only Armenian American member of the State Assembly and chairman of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee spoke about the importance of including the Armenian Genocide in the State’s public school curriculum and pledged to make sure that the Genocide was not ignored in any discussions about human rights violations.
The meetings at Assemblymembers Koretz and Wyland’s offices focused on the recently introduced bill by the legislators’ proposing consistent provisions for Genocide and Holocaust education in California. The ANCA-WR has been involved with the Koretz/Wyland bill since its inception. Specifically, the ANC-San Francisco/Bay Area Chapter worked to assist in the development of the legislation to ensure it reflects current public education content standards and appropriately embraces the significance of the Armenian Genocide as a tragic and unique crime against humanity, used as the prototype for modern-day genocide and of particular import in human rights education. The ANCA-WR and the ANC-San Francisco/Bay Area Chapter are at the forefront of Armenian Genocide curriculum advocacy and development in California and the Western US. The ANCA-WR in early 2001 published The Armenian Genocide 1915-1923A Handbook for Students and Teachers authored by Dr. Simon Payaslian under the auspices of the Armenian Cultural Foundation’s Education Resource Committee to be distributed in California’s public high schools as a teaching supplement to world history classes.
At the same time, the ANC-San Francisco/Bay Area Chapter has led the effort to develop comprehensive lesson plans for 10th grade World History courses in California public schools. In this process, the Chapter has enlisted the expertise of San Francisco Unified School District instructors and has conducted numerous workshops and teacher training seminars.
The second portion of the day was packed with the bulk of the 2002 Sacramento Advocacy Day meetings, including meetings with Assemblymembers Joseph Canciamilla (D-Martinez), Jenny Oropeza (D-Carson), Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), Louis Papan (D-South San Francisco), Carol Liu (D-Pasadena), and Marco Antonio Firebaugh (D-City of Commerce).
On the Senate side, the ANCA-WR delegates met with Senators Jack Scott, Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco), Bob Margett (R-Arcadia), Richard Alarcon (D-Van Nuys), and Tom McClintock (R-Ventura). In addition, meetings were held with the aides of Senator Joseph Dunn (D-Garden Grove) and Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno), who due a last-minute scheduling of meetings with Vice President Cheney, who was on a two-day visit to California, was unable to be present in Sacramento.
Meetings during the second half of the day ranged in topic from Genocide education initiatives to trade and commerce, and housing issues in local communities.
Senator Scott, who as been a staunch supporter of Armenian American issues during his tenure in the California State legislature, discussed the road blocks in the legislative process facing Senate Bill 179—the proposal to establish a trade office in Yerevan. He explained that the budget shortfall has affected all aspects of the state budget making it very difficult to infuse funding into any new projects. He however pledged to work on finding funds to send a trade mission to Armenia in order to keep the process moving along towards its eventual goal.
Senator Speier, who is one of two Armenian-American members of the California State Senate, welcomed the activism of the ANCA-WR and commended the delegates for their commitment to becoming engaged in civic life. Assemblymember Louis Papan thanked members of the ANCA-WR for their hard work in fighting for Genocide recognition and said that ignoring the facts of what happened was “unacceptable.”
As the representative of the largest concentration of Armenian American constituency in the State of California, Assemblymember Frommer touched on a number of issues of concern to his constituents. He spoke about the concerns he has regarding the state’s budget shortfall and the impact that it will have on the Armenian-American community in regards to allocating funds for a trade office in Yerevan and distribution of materials to schools that would educate the community at large about the history of the Armenians.
“The ANCA-WR Sacramento Advocacy Day is one of the most important projects of our organization. It allows community members to interact directly with elected officials and serves as an effective method of getting the message out on our issues,” explained ANCA-WR Government Relations Director Ardashes Kassakhian. “We have a very difficult road ahead of us with the shortfall in the State budget but we are confident that with our supporters in the Capitol we will be able to make progress and see through many of the agenda items this year.”
Over a dozen activists were in Sacramento for the Advocacy day including Rich Sanikian and Art Hampar of ANC Fresno, Paul Krekorian and Yerado Abrahamian of ANC Burbank, ANCA-WR Board Members Armine Koundakjian and Raffi Hamparian, ANC Glendale Chairman Artin Manoukian and member Angineh Babooian, Hovannes Boghossian of ANC Sacramento, and ANCA-WR staff members Naiery Misserlian and Ara Soudjian, as well as Kassakhian.
The Armenian National Committee of America is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots political organization. The ANCA actively advances a broad range of issues of concern to the Armenian-American community.