During a visit to Los Angeles’ City Hall for the City Council meeting on June 28, Reporter Corps of South LA met with Councilwoman Jan Perry. It was the last day of her 3rd and final term of service to District 9 of South Central Los Angeles. In her 12 years of service, Perry got a fast food ban in South L.A., got some 5,000 units of affordable housing built, as well as supporting the implementation of other large developments, such as parks and businesses. Though she is uncertain of exactly what lies ahead, she plans to stay in politics.
Meeting with Councilwoman Jan Perry might have been unexpected, but in the few moments we had between discovering we would be talking with her and her actually making it to the pressroom, the sharp minds of Reporter Corps South LA were able to hustle up some interesting questions. Check it out.
Reporter Corps: What were the reasons behind your initial desires to run for councilwoman of a South Central Los Angeles District?
Councilwoman Perry: There were three women who asked me to run. One was Juanita Tate…the other one was Donna Johnson. Juanita lived in Vermont Square. Juanita was the founder of Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles and Mary Knolls, who was a Black Panther that lived at 61st and Figueroa. So you know I had no plans to run for office and I won. Because I had already [00.00.30] worked with the people of the district very closely and had done a lot as the Chief of Staff [Perry was Chief of Staff for former CD 9 City Councilwoman Rita Walters] and I think they liked me.
I enjoy the whole spectrum of politics. Not only doing the job, that is completely different from campaigning, but actually campaigning. It was very challenging, but I enjoyed it. I like to push myself, I like to challenge myself, I like to put my ideas out there and see whether people accept them or reject them.
Reporter Corps: You pioneered the fast food ban. Why do you think that’s important?
Councilwoman Perry: I thought it was important because I read a story in the Los Angeles Times that we have well over 2,000 outlets or retail outlets in the city of Los Angeles and over 40% of those outlets were in South Los Angeles. In listening to people for the last 20 years asking for grocery stores and sit-down restaurants we had an over concentration of fast food restaurants and an under concentration of sit-down restaurants and grocery stores. You throw in childhood obesity and the propensity for African Americans and Latinos for Type Two Diabetes and hypertension and heart disease, and I just felt like I had to do something about it.
We got two new groceries stores on Central Avenue. One is at 20th and Central. The second one is at Adams and Central. We have a few more sit-down restaurants. There will be a full service sit-down restaurant on the ground floor of the Dunbar Hotel. We have a farmers market at my [district] office, which is at 42nd and Central. Every Thursday from noon-1 pm. And there are farmer markets all over the district. Sometimes churches set them up. If you drive around Thursdays through Saturdays you’ll find farmers markets dotting the district in lots of places now.
Reporter Corps: What advice do you have for bringing news in South LA?
Councilwoman Perry: If you want to be a good reporter, a really good reporter..you have to approach a story without bias, gather facts, perspectives, and let the story tell itself.
Reporter Corps: Any advice in speaking with public officials?
Councilwoman Perry: Know as much as you can about the person before you speak to them. The best journalist is one who asks the question that causes the person to reveal more information than you may see. So I am always impressed by journalists who are not putting their ego in front of the person that is providing you with the information.
Reporter Corps: Are there any issues in South LA that you think are particularly important for journalists to be reporting on?
Councilwoman Perry: To me the biggest issue and it’s not immediately obvious but it goes to the future growth of South Los Angeles, there is no revenue connection from other parts in the city into South Los Angeles to build for the future because it has been broken through redistricting. So you should look at and study things like tax revenue and how to get projects built to bring jobs closer to where people live. Now everything that I have built over the last 40 years I have built with tax credits, primarily tax revenue. Very little private investment because there is a strong bias in going to South LA to build and invest. So, its harder to drag people to that direction. It is not an exciting issue but if you really want get into the heart of building a community and the development of an economy, go to the heart of that issue.