9th District Candidate Closeup: Ana Cubas

White tennis shoes are a stark contrast to the jeans and black blazer worn by 9th District City Council hopeful Ana Cubas.

Talking with one of her aides, Cubas mentions that she is planning to walk door-to-door in order to cull more votes before the March 5 election. While social media has been a useful tool for her campaign, Cubas said getting out into the community and talking to people is her preferred plan of action.

imagePhoto courtesy of Ana Cubas campaign

When Cubas was 10 years old, she moved out of El Salvador and its escalating civil war to join her mother in Los Angeles. While her mother worked two jobs cleaning houses and office buildings and her father worked as a day laborer, Cubas would sit in the library with her sister every day after school until 6:30 p.m., when her mother would be done working.

Cubas credits her hours in the library as helping her get accepted into the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to her acceptance, she had never heard of Berkeley but after some prodding from her history teacher she applied. Cubas graduated from Berkeley with Highest Honors in Sociology, later pursuing a Master’s Degree at Princeton University.

She said her personal experiences coupled with her career as a public servant working in Washington D.C. for the Department of Education and in Sacramento, analyzing the state budget has influenced her decision to run for city council.

Intersections SouthLA: What can voters expect from you?

Ana Cubas: Number one is jobs and economic development. Our district needs good paying jobs. Two things when it comes to jobs and economic development – one, obviously, is to hold AEG and USC accountable for their major developments that are on the way. That’s the easy part, I think. The hard part is how do we in the southern part of the district, south of Adams, south of MLK, focus on making things better.

One of the things I’ve been working on is how to revitalize the vacant warehouses along Alameda and then San Pedro; if you walk even just a little bit you see all these vacant warehouses. How do we reactivate them to make them either do two things, become what is mixed-used where you have commercial and residential or, this is the side i’m most excited about, how do you create a specific plan…to build what I call a bio-med or clean tech corridor. You began to call and attract biomedical companies who want to locate here, and in fact, I know two already that I’ve talked to that are looking to move to L.A.

Third element is how do we help all our small businesses. How do we help them expand and grow and do better?

The second part of my platform is more green space. One of the commitments I have made is the Central Farm on 41st Street and Alameda is to basically convert that vacant land into a beautiful park and community garden. Also pocket parks, dog parks – whatever we can do to increase the amount of green space and green our commercial corridors with landscaped medians.

Education reform, because of my story, obviously, education is a key part of what I care about.

I’ve worked in city hall for over 14 years. I know the L.A. city budget very well. It’s a $7 billion budget – that’s bigger than most countries in the world. El Salvador, where I come from, their national budget is $3 billion. So, why is it that we have less than other areas? There’s nothing in the $7 billion budget that says, ‘Ok, there’s 15 districts. District 9 you get half of what the Westside gets.’ I’ve never seen a formula. It’s about leadership. It’s about fighting for resources. I’ve been lucky to have the endorsement of Councilwoman Rita Walters, and she and I are very in tune with this issue. It’s about being vigilant and making sure the bureaucracy of city hall, and it’s huge, is working for District 9.

Intersections: There’s been accusations that you have only recently moved into the district in an effort to gain a city council seat.

Cubas: So, the connection is my cousin my sister have lived here for 20 years. Remember, I was born in El Salvador until age 10, and then I went to college at age 18, so I only had eight years to live anywhere. It’s an unfair statement because I wasn’t born and raised here. If you see the constituents, I see them walk by, they remind me of my mom and dad. I remember when the new school year started, we never went shopping for clothes. I remember having a pair of white canvas tennis shoes and I used to clean them and put white paste on them and it hardened and they would break until you see a hole in the shoe. I am very much like the constituents of District 9 so it’s hard for me to understand those attacks.

Intersections: You’ve received some bad press around the redistricting of District 9. How do you plan to unit District 9 and the portion of what was District 11?

Cubas: I think the whole redistricting was blown out of proportion. Here I am, a woman of color, do you really think I had all that power to redraw the lines the way they were. Give me a break. There’s not that many women of color in city hall.

The redistricting commission had hundreds of hearings and the city council pretty much adopted the map the commission recommended. The issue was District 9, because of the immigration influx, had grown. So, technically, each council has to have 250,000 to 255,000 residents and these are just by population, whoever had been counted in the census. Now, from what I remember, CD9 had grown somewhere around 5 to 9 percent bigger, so they had more. So, somehow CD9 had to shrink. CD14 actually shrunk, and where did the growth happen – in downtown. So, CD9 had to shrink and CD14 had to grow so where did they look to? Downtown.

Intersections: Is there anything that you feel constituents in District 9 should know as they head to the polls?

Cubas: L.A. City Council has 15 members. Currently, Jan Perry is the only woman. All of my opponents are men. So, there’s a likely scenario that if I don’t win we will have an all-male council. There’s something wrong there [especially] a city of our magnitude of wealth and resources. I think that we need to pay attention to that because it means that we are being left out. Women pay taxes. We own our own businesses. We have the right to be at the table of power because men are making decisions for you as a women, in this city, they are making decisions for the children, and I think that it’s backwards.

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