District 10 candidate Delaney Smith: “We can do better”

Delaney Smith stands in front of Moreton Fig restaurant at the University of Southern California, his alma mater.  | Hannah Vega. 

Delaney Smith stands in front of Moreton Fig restaurant at the University of Southern California, his alma mater.  | Hannah Vega.

The residents of District 10, a portion of which spans South Los Angeles, will vote for a new councilmember on March 3. Intersections interviewed the candidates ahead of the elections.

By Hannah Vega

“I know we can do better,” Delaney Smith repeated during a recent conversation about why he is pursuing political office. He is a candidate aiming to become the councilman representing District 10, one of the city’s largest and most socioeconomically diverse districts encompassing Baldwin Hills in South L.A., plus parts of Koreatown and Palms.

Smith faces incumbent District 10 council member and current City Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr., who is running for his fourth term, and Grace Yoo, an activist and lawyer who works in Koreatown.
Smith is a resident of Baldwin Hills. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, he and his family moved around the country for several years before settling in Los Angeles.

He attended Xavier University in New Orleans before graduating from USC’s School of Pharmacy in 1974. He then went to medical school at Loyola University in Chicago.

Smith had internships and residencies specializing in internal medicine and trauma, before getting hired at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the early 1980s. In 1983, he opened the first urgent care center in Baldwin Hills. He currently practices in Anaheim.

This is not Smith’s first run for political office. In 1998, he ran for a council member position and in 2008 he ran for county supervisor. Both times he lost to Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“I knew things could be done better than I had seen,” he said, recalling past council leadership.

He believes Los Angeles has an unfavorable taxation system, which he believes could be adjusted to incentivize local businesses. He favors decreasing the tax on small businesses from 5 percent to 3.5 percent. Another benefit of the tax incentives would be more flexibility for businesses to provide job opportunities. Smith is also a proponent of raising the citywide minimum wage.

He also believes in lobbying for increasing state hospital budgets. He believes the prison and foster care systems have been heavily impacted since Ronald Reagan’s tenure as governor when state healthcare budgets were decreased. He said the current prison and foster care systems contribute to the homeless population.

But, Smith’s main platform is to improve the water supply. “It’s a problem. They don’t want to address it,” Smith said, referring to the current council members. He believes people should become aware of where water is sourced and treated, concerned about the water reclamation process where microbes and chemicals are used to recycle water. In a recent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade, he campaigned with the tagline: “Stop Toilet-to-Tap.”

Looking ahead to the election, Smith said one key obstacle to enacting change in District 10 is Herb Wesson himself.

“He’s just a seat warmer. That’s all he does. He goes from one seat to another. He’s not going to rock the boat cause he’s looking for that next seat,” Smith said. “I know I can do better than that. That’s why I ran for office, against Herb Wesson especially.”

Smith also said he hasn’t received any campaign donations, which the L.A. City Ethics Commission website verifies. The problem isn’t a lack of donors, he said. His supporters claim to have mailed checks to his post office box, according to Smith. The donations haven’t arrived, however, while regular mail has. He said he is currently investigating the situation.

“Between the Los Angeles Times [who recently endorsed Wesson] and the U.S. Post Office, I have to re-adjust my strategy,” Smith said. Wesson could not be reached for comment.

However, the other candidate running for Wesson’s seat, lawyer-activist Grace Yoo said she knows Smith well.

“This is not his first campaign, so clearly he has some experience. He is a medical doctor. He is an intelligent man. I hope he does very well,” Yoo said. She also added: “When we spoke at one point he said ‘One of us has to win,’ and I said ‘I totally agree.’

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