Jan Perry prepares to leave city council

The May 21st elections in Los Angeles will bring a new mayor to the city, and new representatives to four of the city’s 15 City Council seats.

In South L.A., this will mean definite changes. Councilwoman Jan Perry has represented the city’s 9th district for the past 12 years, but because of term limits, she can’t run again.

“We live in this time of term limits and it takes a long time to get things done, get things funded…You have to work under enormous time pressure,” Perry said. [Read more…]

Prominent South LA endorsements in the race for mayor

By Sarah Politis

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

Two powerful endorsements were announced in the race for Los Angeles mayor on Thursday. City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel are running against each other in the May run-off. On Thursday, they each joined their supporters in South Los Angeles to announce the endorsements.

imageJan Perry endorsed Eric Garcetti. (Photo by Neon Tommy)

Jan Perry stood in front of a crowd at the 28th street YMCA to endorse her colleague Eric Garcetti. While Perry might wish it was the other way around, since she spent most of her unsuccessful mayoral campaign competing against Garcetti. [Read more…]

Flower Street residents continue to fight for affordable housing

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageAt the intersection of 30th and Flower Street there is a McDonald’s, a used tire center, and an old motel. The hum of the 110 freeway and the Expo line are constantly in the background.

The neighborhood may not look particularly fancy now, but to developers, this area between Downtown and USC has big appeal. Residents of the apartment building at 2913 Flower Street found that out last fall when developers started asking if they would be willing to move out.

“The developer was just offering them the standard relocation and he said the company would be willing to pay a little bit above the standard relocation,” said Thelmy Perez, an organizer with the LA Human Right to Housing Collective.

A few weeks ago, she and the residents of the building sat down with Symphony Developers, a company that owns a USC student housing building on 27th and was interested in expanding more.

Nohemi Armendariz has lived with her family in the Flower Street building for 15 years.

Her message to developers was, “We are happy at this place. We don’t want to move because it is not fair that they want to make the apartment only for the students. That is not fair. We have lived here for a long time.”

Symphony Developers did not wish to comment, but told ARN that they are no longer pursuing the Flower Street building.

But Perez said, “This issue is much larger than just this one building.”

imageThat’s why she and the building’s residents sought the support of one of their most influential neighbors. City Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office for her now-dormant mayoral campaign was just a few doors down from the apartment. 

“There is plenty of opportunity of non residential empty commercial buildings that could be acquired,” said Perry.

Perry came out to support the building’s residents at a news conference on Thursday. She will end her term on City Council in June and says her successor will have to pay attention to affordable housing.

“That person will have to protect the interests of people like the ones who live in this building,” she said.

It will also be up to the next mayor to protect rent stabilization in Los Angeles. Perez says as the mayor’s race continues, she hopes affordable housing will become a debate issue.

”None of the candidates, at least for mayor, have a plan for housing,” Perez said. “We are in dire need of affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles and we can’t afford to lose any more rent stabilized affordable units in this city.”

Residents of the 33-unit Flower Street building pay between $700 and $800 a month for small studio apartments. If forced to move, Perez said many would have to leave the neighborhood to find comparable rent prices. That’s why, as election season continues in Los Angeles, they’ll look for candidates who will help them stay in their community.

Closeups of the 2013 Los Angeles mayoral race candidates

As Antonio Villaraigosa bows out of his role as Los Angeles Mayor, several candidates have stepped up to the stage to snag his spot. Those looking to replace him are City Council Members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, entrepreneur Emanuel Pleitez, former federal prosecutor Kevin James and City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Rosalie Murphy has profile of the candidates to discover the issues they want to address for Angelenos.

Candidate Closeup: Eric Garcetti
City Councilmember Eric Garcetti leads polling in the days before LA’s mayoral primary. But is he a strong enough personality to lead the city politically? MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Wendy Greuel
In the days before March’s mayoral primary, City Controller Wendy Greuel leads the field in funds raised. She is expected to advance to the May runoff election. MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Kevin James
Kevin James is more like a watchdog than a City Hall outsider—a longtime Angeleno keeping a careful eye on its policymakers. MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Jan Perry
There are two narratives about City Councilmember Jan Perry. MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Emanuel Pleitez
Emanuel Pleitez is the Los Angeles mayoral race’s undisputed underdog. MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Eric Garcetti

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageWe’re probably going to see a lot more of Eric Garcetti.

He served on Los Angeles City Council for more than a decade. The son of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti is only 42 years old, the second-youngest among the five leading candidates. He is expected to finish in one of the top two spots in the mayoral primary election March 5.

Garcetti is second in fundraising to City Controller Wendy Greuel, but he leads narrowly in polls. He’s been endorsed by a host of local leaders, including movie stars, unions, La Opinion and the LA Times.

“Eric Garcetti shows the most potential to lead LA into a more sustainable and confident future,” the Feb. 17 endorsement read [Read more…]

9th District Candidate Closeup: Terry Hara

imageWhen Terry Hara was posing as an undercover cop as the real-life version of “21 Jump Street” in the 1980s, he never imagined he would make an attempt to play a new role over three decades later. As the current Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief, Hara believes he has what it takes to be the next Ninth District City Council member.

“The people want somebody that they can trust,” said Hara to a group of USC students in early February.

Hara is going back to the basics and building trust the old-fashioned way. He is knocking on doors in the community to find out what changes residents hope to see.

“There is a difference between hearing and listening,” said Hara. “In order to listen to someone who is telling a story or a problem they have in my mind I’m saying, ‘how can I problem-solve? What can I do to provide the services or response that they are looking for?’”

He hopes to help community members with the small problems such as illegal dumping, cleaning the alleyways, and repairing potholes and sidewalks. According to the Los Angeles Times, half of the illegal dumping throughout Los Angeles happens in South LA. Hara wants to ensure that the residents of South LA are allocated their fair share of services to combat these problems.

Hara also wants to deal with larger issues in the community that may not have such an obvious answer, such as unemployment. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles is about 11 percent. In some South LA neighborhoods, such as Florence, Graham and Westmont, the LA Times reports that the unemployment rate is much higher at 24 percent. Hara wants to help those who have returned to the community after serving time in prison by setting up job training programs for them.

“The people want somebody who’s a leader and not afraid to make a decision, even a hard decision,“ said Hara.

Hara also wants to combat an issue that resonates with the USC: public safety. He believes his 32 years of experience with LAPD will help him improve the safety of neighborhoods.

image“I believe that Terry really does have the district’s best interest at heart and I wish him the best of luck with the rest of his campaign,” said Vanessa Wilkins, a sophomore undergraduate at USC.

Hara joined LAPD in February 1980. He has had numerous positions throughout the department but is the first Asian-American to achieve the rank of Deputy Chief.

“None of the candidates come close to my experience of work and leadership in the community [for] the past three decades,” said Hara.

Voters in Council District 9 weighing the field of candidates

By Emilie Mateu

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

On March 5th, voters from the Ninth District will take to the polls in order to fill Councilwoman Jan Perry’s seat.

I spoke with residentsin the South Central LA area – or tried to. Out of over twenty people, only five spoke English. In my first successful English interview, I asked a resident if he knew who Jan Perry was.

He immediately responded with all of the confidence in the world.

image“Oh yeah! That guy cracks me up,” he said.

Nope. Wrong. First of all, Jan Perry is a woman. Second of all, maybe she has a good sense of humor but that’s not something for which she’s typically known. Clearly this resident doesn’t know who Jan Perry is, but many others do. Perry has represented the Ninth District for 12 years and she’s now running for mayor.

She is the third African American to hold the 9th District seat. Fifty years ago, Gilbert Lindsay was the first. Since then, the demographics have changed and the Ninth District is now almost 80 percent Latino. Many residents in the district do not speak English and many do not vote.

“Unfortunately in South LA we have very low voter turnout and we want to change that,” said Jose Lara, a member of the South Central Neighborhood Council. “Because of the way our electoral system is many people are disenfranchised, many people don’t know when to vote, how to vote, where to vote.”

In speaking with residents, a few of them said t their main issue with elected officials is how out of touch they really are.

“When they come in, they ask for your vote, you vote for them and then what happens? No, you need to come in and try to look around and see what needs to be done. Because if you don’t look around how are you going to know?” one resident said.

“Where are the necessities for the poor? Out of sight, out of mind, out of money, out of time. I’m not asking for a whole lot, just help me with the necessities,” another resident said.

Lara and his organization are working to raise awareness about some of the main issues in the Ninth District. “We’re hoping that whoever represents us next will focus back on the community, will focus back on cleaning up our streets. Getting rid of the graffiti, fighting against crimes in the community. Making sure youth have correct opportunities and making sure schools are fully supported,” Lara said.

Race and ethnic diversity are huge factors in this election. The candidates are Mexican, Central American, Asian and African American in a district that is predominantly Latino.

“Whoever represents the Ninth District has to represent those interests as well,” Lara said.

But at the end of the day, even though the Latino community’s interests need to be represented, Ramiro Delarajon, the manager at Family Farms Market on Central Avenue, said, “It doesn’t really matter the ethnicity or the race. As long as they are looking out for the community. Yes I know things have changed but still people are people and that’s what matters. That they look out for the people,” Ramiro said.

The main District Nine candidates are listed below.

Manny Aldana, Neighborhood Council member
Ana Cubas, Former chief of staff for City Council member Jose Huizar
Mike Davis, State Assembly member, 48th district
Ron Gochez, Schoolteacher
Terry Hara, LAPD Deputy Chief
Curren Price, State Senator, 26th District
David Roberts, Former redistricting commissioner

Redistricting lawsuit filed on behalf of South LA voters

imageAttorney Leo Terrell filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of residents in the 8th, 9th and 10th Council Districts, alleging that city officials used race as the basis for redrawing boundary lines for those districts.

Terrell accused the City Council of redrawing the boundaries to create a predominantly African American voting bloc in the 10th District represented by Council President Herb Wesson, who is African American. Many of the black neighborhoods represented by 8th District Councilmember Bernard C. Parks, who is also African American, were taken out of the 8th and put into Wesson’s district.

Parks has said moving those neighborhoods out of the 8th District has been economically disastrous for his district.

“Over the last two years we were leading the city in creating jobs, but the 30,000 jobs were taken out just by the drawing of a line. This community leads the city in homelessness, unemployment and foreclosures,” Park recently told Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce.

In a news release, Terrell said,” Key Redistricting Commission and City Council members redrew the City Council district boundaries, with the explicit purpose of increasing the African American voter registration percentage in District 10, and increasing the Latino voter registration percentage in District 9.”

District 9 is now represented by Jan Perry, who is African American. Perry is termed out and running for mayor of Los Angeles.

Terrell also points to how redistricting “diluted the voting power of the Asian American community” by breaking up parts of Koreatown and Downtown Los Angeles and moving them into other districts. The redistricting commission moved much of the downtown neighborhoods out of District 9, leaving it with mostly low-income neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. Voters will be electing a new city council member in District 9 on Tuesday.

“Shame on this city when minorities disenfranchise minorities,” Terrell told the Los Angeles City Council today.

Councilmember Herb Wesson did not comment on Terrell’s lawsuit.

Candidate Closeup: Jan Perry

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageJan Perry/ File photo.

There are two narratives about City Councilmember Jan Perry. In one, she is a crusader for poor communities in South LA—the woman who invested on Figueroa and reaped the benefits for Main Street. But in the other, she is the union-busting pragmatist who shut down the push for a Fresh & Easy on Central and Adams.

“I think the greatest source of my passion is my desire, my very strong desire, to help people move forward,” said Perry. “It’s obvious that I’m a woman, I’m a woman of color; I happen to be a woman who is not only black, but I’m also Jewish and I communicate in Spanish. I think I step in the shoes of most people, and I feel what they feel because I go through it myself.”

Perry has represented Council District 9 since 2001. During her tenure, she tightened restrictions on fast food restaurants, installed the Central Avenue Farmers Market and directed millions of dollars into parks and affordable housing. She also championed the Central Avenue Jazz Festival and won awards for restoring her district’s wetlands.

“Over the last twelve years, when we had the redevelopment agency, I leveraged tax increment and took it south to develop more housing, to bring in more neighborhood retail, to basically create a climate that was far more receptive to business. I will continue to leverage construction of housing and retail,” said Perry.

Her advocacy has won her a devoted base among black voters in South LA. CD 9 has historically been represented by an African-American, but in the past few decades it’s become about 80 percent Latino. Perry has worked hard to win support from her Latino constituents, too.

“The voice of the communities is very, very important on what happens in this city,” said Mark Gory, a South LA preacher who noticed her history of engagement at a recent mayoral forum. “This is a very large city… and each community needs to have their issues addressed individually.”

imageJan Perry at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival, July 2012.

On the other hand, there’s the Perry who installed LA Live and advocated for USC’s Village project. City politics writer Ron Kaye says those put her at the beck and call of developers like AEG.

“Jan has done everything she can that the Central City association wants, that downtown developers want, certainly that AEG wants… She represents downtown, the city has poured most of his wealth over the last 30 years into downtown, and so she has done everything she can, because that’s where the money was, certainly, for her campaign,” said Kaye.

Perry is decidedly pro-business. That’s helped cull support among fiscal conservatives in the San Fernando Valley who might have leaned toward Kevin James or Wendy Greuel. Garcetti and Greuel, who lead in the polls, have also gathered union support. Perry hasn’t.

“She’s always… not against unions, but questioned,” said Kaye. “In her own way, Jan is stronger than, as a personality, Greuel or Garcetti, and is more capable of fighting, at least on some of the issues.”

Most public employee unions have lined up behind Greuel, Perry says that binds Greuel to them, though — and limits her flexibility on pension reform, one of this year’s leading issues.

“They haven’t spoken about getting employees back to the table on giving back on their healthcare and pension costs, because that is the absolute hardest thing to do — particularly if you’re a candidate who’s been heavily endorsed by some of the more powerful public employee unions. A campaign who has received the benefit of that kind of money will not say that your employees need to create salary parity. They will not say that your employees need to give back on their healthcare costs and pension costs.”

Perry is a Democrat who agrees with Greuel and Garcetti on most issues—all three oppose the half-cent sales tax increase on March’s ballot, for example. And she says her years of experience have taught her how to use Council’s resources—and that would make her a well-prepared mayor.

Sherita Herring, a South LA entrepreneur running for the 9th District seat appreciate the work Perry did in city government. But she’s worried that Perry’s cozy relationship with downtown developers threatens her ability to really advocate for poor Angelenos.

“Right now, the Staples Center, when there’s a game there, every game generates three million dollars. Every single game,” said Herring. “How much of that is impacting these surrounding communities, who are going to be impacted when the stadium comes here, and there’s more traffic? What is the trickle-down? You’ve got people who don’t care, because their home isn’t here on 41st and Broadway.”

Perry’s goal, though, is to maintain that political tightrope until March fifth—and she’s counting on crowds on both sides to keep her balance.

South LA mayoral forum

Jan Perry, debate moderator Carolyn Webb de Macias, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Grueuel post after the South LA candidates forum.

The top three contenders for mayor of Los Angeles faced off in a debate in South LA Thursday night. A crowd of about 400 people gathered at Ward AME Church on West 25th St. to hear what City Councilwoman Jan Perry, City Councilman Eric Garcetti, and City Controller Wendy Greuel had to say about South LA.

Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary–treasurer of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, opened the night’s proceedings with a call for the next mayor of Los Angeles to support good jobs with livable wages. Durazo inspired loud applause from the audience when she said union workers do not want more low-paying retailers like Walmart opening in LA.

Members of hotel worker’s union group, Unite Here, Maria Anaya, Mayra Vega, and Maria Loya prepare to listen to the debate at the South LA Mayoral Candidates Forum.

Former chief-of-staff of the US Department of Education, Carolyn Webb de Macias moderated the event. She, along with pre-selected members of the audience, asked the candidates questions about creating jobs, supporting affordable housing, and balancing the city budget.

Garcetti stirred up mixed reactions from the audience during one of his answers when he said he would have all of the city general managers re-apply for their jobs when he takes office. “President Obama didn’t just take Bush’s cabinet,” he said.

Greuel, responded to Garcetti’s statement by saying that, because of her experience auditing different city departments, “I know who I’m going to hire and fire. I don’t need them to re-apply.”

More than 400 people gathered to hear the top three contenders for Los Angeles mayor debate at the South LA Mayoral Candidates Forum.

On the topic of the city’s deficit, Greuel again referred to her work as auditor and mentioned adding to business taxes for companies doing business in LA. Garcetti highlighted job growth in his district in recent years. Perry connected her answer to South LA, saying she would like to see more developments like the University Village project set to begin near the USC campus.

Webb de Macias’ final question for the candidates was on the topic of gangs. She said some of LA’s students are “better prepared to be inmates than interns,” and asked candidates what they would do to close the “school to prison pipeline.”

In response to the question, Perry highlighted her plan to bolster South LA’s economy by keeping South LA politically linked with its more economically stable neighbor, Downtown LA, to keep residents of South LA connected to good jobs.

Garcetti said he wanted to “put the city’s best teachers in the worst performing schools.” He also mentioned his plan for creating a summer jobs program for young people who want work when school is out.

Greuel recalled working on an after-school program when she worked for former mayor Tom Bradley and said she didn’t want to see so many teachers laid off at the end of each school year.

Candidates give their closing statements at the South LA Mayoral Candidates Forum on Thursday night.

During their closing statements each of the candidates highlighted his or her own experiences working for the city. Garcetti highlighted his work on city council and also made a mild jab at Greuel, pointing out some of the media criticism she has received.

Greuel closed saying that her job as city controller has been to identify waste and that that will help her run the city efficiently.

Perry had the last word of the night. She said she has been “relentlessly focused” for the last 11 years on city council. She also emphasized that she does not just see running for mayor as a “stepping stone for a higher office.”

The candidates will debate in South LA again at Crenshaw High School on February 9.