Meet Tony Mendoza
California Legislator and Car Enthusiast Takes a Stand Against Illegal Street Racing
California Assemblymember Tony Mendoza, born in South Central Los Angeles, is the second youngest of nine children. As a young man living in a single-parent home, he witnessed firsthand the struggles of working families and the opportunities a good education provides.
Passionate about education, he was an elementary school teacher in East Los Angeles for more than 10 years and was involved with the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association. In addition to working diligently on education, health care and family issues, he is focused on making the roads a safer place through measures that oppose illegal street racing.
First elected to the California State Assembly in 2006, Mendoza represents the 56th California Assembly District, which includes the communities of Artesia, Buena Park, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Los Nietos, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, South Whittier/unincorporated Whittier, portions of East Whittier and Lakewood. Last year, Assemblymember Mendoza joined forces with the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus, which was founded in 2005 and is supported by SEMA. The caucus is a non-partisan group of state legislators whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles.
Working with state legislatures in recent years, the SAN has sought legislation to overhaul existing statutes and create brand-new programs to safeguard and expand the automotive hobby. These efforts have brought a series of significant legislative and regulatory accomplishments for the specialty-equipment industry on issues ranging from equipment standards to registration classifications to emissions-test policy and hobbyist rights. The State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus now numbers approximately 400 total members from all 50 states.
Driving Force recently spoke with Mendoza about his work in the legislature.
Driving Force: In addition to being a tenured elementary school teacher, you were the first Latino member of the Artesia City Council and, at 26, the youngest mayor in the history of Artesia. What attracted you to public service at such an early age?
Tony Mendoza: I wanted to make my community safer and strengthen local neighborhoods by providing options for families through the development of parks and recreation centers. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where the gang element was strong. I wanted children in my new home town of Artesia to be free of those problems and have alternatives to that lifestyle. Being involved and active as a teacher and serving on boards, I understand that positive change can happen through policy.
DF: SEMA has been fortunate to partner with legislators such as you many times in the past on key issues. SEMA promotes safe and legal alternatives to illegal street racing through its Racers Against Street Racing program. How did you become aware of and concerned with illegal street racing in California and in your district?
TM: Public safety has always been one of my main concerns, and street racing can leave devastation in its wake for families in my district and neighboring communities. I recognized the problems it creates in Ontario and San Diego, for example, because of their geographic location and design. Both cities have large industrial zones with straightaway thoroughfares that stretch for miles and are optimum for illegal street racing. I worked with the Ontario and San Diego police departments to ensure that the resources they need are continuously funded to drive programs geared at monitoring and apprehending street racers. Each department had noted increased activity, including fatalities, as funding for their respective street racing programs declined.
DF: California and local governments have reacted to illegal street racing with a variety of new laws. They have increased fines and jail sentences for street racers; made it illegal to be a spectator at an illegal street race; and impounded and crushed cars involved in street racing. What do you think needs to be done to further curb this dangerous activity?
TM: Incrementally, each of these methods has helped curb illegal street-racing activity. Education on the dangers of street racing and the continued promotion of both the consequences and legal ramifications will help further lower incidents. Being able to continue to fund abatement programs with the proceeds from fines will also benefit law-enforcement efforts.
DF: Beyond law enforcement and deterrence, how do we encourage street racers to take their racing to the track?
TM: We need to work to legitimize nonprofessional racing through programs and events sponsored by auto manufacturers, by the Society of Automotive Engineers and by creating statewide racing tournaments at public race courses. SEMA’s Racers Against Street Racing program is a great example of how we can try to engage youth and channel their passion for racing to safe and legal track alternatives.
DF: In November, you had the opportunity to attend the 2009 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The Show is the single largest assembly of specialty automotive manufacturers, retailers and distributors in the United States, many of which are based in your home of Southern California. Please share with us your experience and impressions from the Show.
TM: It was a real treat to be among other auto enthusiasts. As a fan of car shows, I was amazed by the creativity and ingenuity of the products made by SEMA members. To see the innovation of the automotive industry on display and in motion, even after 100 years, was truly inspiring. My recent visit to Egge Machine Co. was likewise a treat and a great opportunity to see firsthand the passion that members of this community have in their industry and hobby.
Each month Driving Force will feature members of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. The SEMA-supported caucus is a bipartisan group of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles.
Here are its newest members:
Representative Bill Rehm
Delegate Mark Keam
Delegate Glenn Oder
Delegate Sam Nixon
LEGISLATIVE QUICK HITS
Iowa Antiques: The SAN is supporting Iowa legislation which would allow antique vehicle owners to register limited-use vehicles for a reduced fee. Under the measure, owners who agree to use their vehicles for hobbyist purposes and occasional transportation (not to exceed 1,000 miles annually) would be charged an annual $5 fee. All other antique vehicle owners would be charged a standard $70 fee for a two-year registration.
Kansas Inoperable Vehicles: Legislation that would allow cities to enforce “nuisance abatement” procedures by notifying affected property owners by use of first-class mail instead of certified mail (with a return receipt) has been introduced in the Kansas Legislature. Nuisance abatement laws are often used by cities to force removal of inoperable vehicles, including parts cars, stored on private property by car collectors. In opposing the bill, the SAN has argued that certified mail with a signed receipt provides proof that a property owner has been properly alerted to a future enforcement action.
Maryland New Car Emissions Exemption: The SAN is supporting legislation to exempt newer motor vehicles from the state’s mandatory emissions inspection program. Under the bill, a vehicle would be exempt from mandatory emissions test requirements for four years after the vehicle’s model year or first registration date, whichever is earlier. Maryland already exempts older (pre-’77 model year) motor vehicles from emissions tests.
Mississippi Nitrous Oxide: The SAN is seeking to amend a bill to outlaw all vehicles equipped with nitrous-oxide systems. Using an approach adopted by other states, the amended legislation would allow the system if disconnected (or canisters removed) while in use on public roadways.
New Jersey Street Rods: New Jersey has reintroduced SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles and provide for special license plates for these vehicles. In the 2009 legislative session, the bill was approved by the New Jersey Senate Transportation Committee but not considered by the full Senate prior to adjournment. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The bill allows kit cars and replica vehicles to be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model-year designation as the body of the vehicle it most closely resembles.
New Jersey Historic Vehicles: The SAN is again supporting legislation to allow historic vehicles to be used for pleasure driving one day per week. The bill did not receive committee consideration last session. Under current law, owners of properly registered historic motor vehicles are permitted to operate them solely for exhibition and educational purposes. In order to be designated as historic, a vehicle must be at least 25 years old and owned as a collector’s item.
Ohio Street Rods/Custom Vehicles: SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle registration and titling classification for street rods and custom vehicles and provide for special license plates for these vehicles is pending before the Ohio House Transportation Committee. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The bill allows kit cars and replica vehicles to be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model-year designation that the body of the vehicle was constructed to resemble.
Virginia Exhaust Noise: At the SAN’s urging, the House Transportation Committee rejected a bill to ban the sale of “any aftermarket exhaust system component” that would cause the vehicle to produce “excessive or unusual noise.” The SAN recommended that Virginia adopt reasonable noise decibel limits for modified exhaust systems which can be verified through an easy-to-administer test standard. In California, for example, a SAN-supported provision is made for the testing of vehicle exhaust noise to a standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to an established noise limit of 95 decibels (SAE J1169). To date, this procedure has been enacted in California, Washington state, Maine and Montana.
West Virginia Antiques: The SAN is again supporting legislation that would exclude owners of antique cars from the scope of vehicles required to pay any taxes or fees related to the registration or titling of these vehicles. Last session, the bill did not receive committee consideration before the legislature adjourned for the year.
West Virginia Exhaust Noise: The SAN is again opposing legislation to provide that the noise from a motor-vehicle exhaust system deemed “disturbing or unreasonably loud” constitutes disturbing the peace. The bill did not receive committee consideration in the last session before the legislature adjourned for the year.
You’ve Got Legislation!
SEMASAN.com Has All the Info You Need
Legislators from around the country have been busy over the past couple of months, and consequently, so has the SAN. We have plowed through thousands of bills and identified hundreds that may be of interest to hobbyists. The most pressing of these bills result in Action Alerts being shot out to SAN members and highlighted in the Driving Force. However, given limited print space, we have expanded this bill-tracking effort into an online compilation provided at no cost, 24/7, at www.semasan.com. Along the left-hand column of the SAN site you will find, in red underlined letters, the words “MY HOBBY.” Simply find your hobby in the list, click once and you are transported to a list of legislation pertaining to your particular automotive hobby. For a wider range of issues affecting your state, simply follow the same steps in the lower box entitled “MY STATE” to view a regularly updated resource on legislation in your neck of the woods.
Some of the bills listed on the site will never progress past introduction; others will go on to become the laws of tomorrow. The period following a bill’s introduction is critical to its success or failure. It is at this time, immediately following introduction, that the SAN aims to inform enthusiasts and encourage their participation in the legislative process through e-mails and phone calls to their state representatives. Such correspondence has a proven impact on the decisions of legislators.
Visit www.semasan.com today! The information on this site will provide you with the tools you need to help effect real change and aid in the common goal of protecting our passion. Please contact Ashley Ailsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. She would be happy to provide you with the bill’s full text, current status and committee information.
HEY, THAT'S MY CAR!
One Happenin' Half-Ton
1946 Studebaker M-5
Owner: Randy Wilkin
I first saw an M series (built 1940 to 1948) Studebaker at a local car show and immediately fell in love with them. Living in Ohio, it was nearly impossible to find an example to buy and restore that wasn’t completely rusted out. After years of normal searching, the Internet happened and eBay started its old-car marketplace. When I started searching with this new technology, what came up on eBay was not a Studebaker pickup, but a 11/2-ton dual rear-wheel flatbed. It came complete with a caved-in top, missing grilles and basically all the trim missing. It was solid, though, with only surface rust and a price starting at $99 with no reserve. I made the opening bid of $99 and with no other bids forthcoming, I won the truck! Now all I had to do was drive 2,000 miles round-trip to get it! I borrowed a friend’s trailer and my wife’s Grand Cherokee and set out to collect my prize.
I was able to trade an old street rod of mine for some components I needed for the build. My Studebaker’s cab was installed onto a full-size Chevy half-ton frame, which made it easy to install a 350 Chevy V8. I mated that to a 700-R4 overdrive transmission with a lock-up converter and 3:73 12-bolt limited-slip GM rearend. Also in the deal came power steering and power disc brakes. I then added Vintage Air conditioning and Dakota Digital gauges and had the interior done by Rick Futrell in Dayton, Ohio. The bed was crafted from new sheet metal; the tailgate is made out of Douglas aircraft DC 8 thrust reverser pistons; and the rear bumper is an aircraft torque tube. All the bodywork and paint was done by Fred Kidder Jr., and he did an outstanding job with what he had to work with. I had help from the many people I work with who made small parts for the project.
Have your car or truck featured in a future issue of Driving Force. Submit your high-resolution photos online at www.semasan.com.
Five Decades of Safe Racing
McCulley Family Racing has spent 10 years running a safe driving program at local high schools in their area. The focus is on teaching children the dangers of illegal street racing and the importance of safe driving. The program involves different techniques to help demonstrate the responsibility needed to get behind the wheel.
It is a hands-on program, set in the classroom and in other locations with an actual race car and drivers from McCulley Family. The program uses videos from SEMA and the NHRA, in addition to videos from local police. They make the presentation to one class at a time and spend the entire day at the school. The program also includes a local law-enforcement officer explaining the punishment for racing illegally on public streets.
The program also has a fun part. The students are taken outside and have an opportunity not only to look at the race cars McCulley Family Racing brings, but to actually get into the race cars and put on the safety equipment. This portion of the program also includes a talk about safety and the difference between racing on the streets and at the race track. The program takes place about seven times a day at each school they go to.
For more information on McCulley Family Racing, visit them online at http://www.mcculleyfamilyracing.com/
March 17, Anchorage
MSSRA Monthly Meeting
Sponsor: Midnight Sun Street Rod Association
March 6, Scottsdale
2nd Annual “Let the Good Times Roll”
Sponsor: Arizona Vettes and Rods Club
Information: Laurie at 602/808-9352 or www.vettesandrods.com
March 26–27, Tucson
Mustang Mania 2010
Sponsor: Old Pueblo Mustang Club
March 5–7, San Diego
48th Annual Desert Safari
Sponsor: Tierra Del Sol
March 7, Anaheim
2nd Annual All Porsche Swap Meet and Car Display
Sponsor: Porsche 356 Club
Information: Jeff Trask at 949/697-4499 or NO911NV@aol.com
March 20, Gorman
CORVA Family Fun Run
Sponsor: California Off-Road Vehicle Association
March 27–28, Pleasanton
28th Annual All American Get-Together
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod & Custom Association
March 26–28, Pensacola
31st Annual Gulf Coast National Car Show
Sponsor: Gulf Coast Regional Mustang Club
March 28, Ocala
Live Oak Carriage and Car Show
Sponsor: AACA Club of Ocala Florida
Information: Carolyn Smith at 352/368-3880 or SKISS1937@Embarqmail.com
March 5–7, Chicago
World of Wheels
Sponsor: O’Reilly Auto Parts
March 13, West Friendship
Antique Auto Parts Flea Market
Sponsors: Antique Automobile Club of America, Chesapeake Region Chapter
March 28, Woodstown
39th Swap Meet & Car Corral
Sponsors: South Jersey Region AACA
March 13–14, Roseburg
33rd Annual Roseburg Benefit Car Show
Sponsors: Umpqua Flatheads and Stray Angels Car Clubs
March 12–14, Austin
Texas Volvo Crew Spring Break Bash
Sponsor: Texas and Alamo Volvo Clubs
March 13, Dallas/Ft. Worth
Spring Classic ‘Tri Five’ Chevy Show
Sponsor: Dallas Classic Chevy
Information: www.DallasClassicChevy.com or email@example.com
March 20, Galveston
Spring Car Show On Pier 21
Sponsor: American Pontiac Association
Information: Link Here
March 5–7, Salt Lake City
36th Annual Parts Plus AutoRama
Sponsor: Parts Plus
March 13, Ashland
First Annual Winter Swap Meet and Car Corral
Sponsor: Richmond Region AACA
Information: George Field III at 804/752-6784 or e-mail Andy Fuhrman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Early April 2010 Events
April 11, Rancho Cucamonga
2nd Annual Chaffey College Car Show
Sponsor: Chaffey College Car Club
Information: ChaffeyCollegeCarClub@hotmail.com or www.webstarts.com/ChaffeyCollegeCarClub
April 2–11, New York City
Public days for the New York International Auto Show
Information: 800/282-3336 or www.autoshowNY.com
April 9–11, Portland
Portland Swap Meet
Attention Car Clubs, Event Organizers and Enthusiasts!
Put SAN on Your Mailing List!
We’d like to know what’s going on with SEMA Action Network clubs and enthusiasts across the country; what charity events you’re involved in; when and where the rod runs, car shows, trail rides, rallies and tech meetings are held; and what legislative and regulatory issues concern club members and individual enthusiasts.
One of the best ways to keep us abreast of what’s going on and what’s important to the vehicle hobbies nationwide is for us to receive your club newsletters and updates. Please consider placing SEMA on your mailing list. Send correspondence to: SEMA Action Network, 1317 F Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20004-1105. Or by e-mail to email@example.com.