South LA voters could play tiebreaker in the mayoral election

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imageIn Tuesday’s mayoral election, about one-third of voters cast their ballots for Councilman Eric Garcetti and one-third for Wendy Greuel, propelling both candidates on to the May 21 runoff election. In the coming months, it’s all eyes on that remaining third–a group that includes many South L.A.voters.

Most of Garcetti’s votes came from the Westside through Hollywood and out into the East side. Greuel cleaned up in the Valley, where she used to be a councilwoman. Conservative Kevin James picked up more than 16 percent of the vote–with pockets of support scattered around the city. Councilwoman Jan Perry got just shy of 16 percent of the vote–with the vast majority of her votes coming from South L.A. Perry took 60 or 70 percent of the vote in some South LA neighborhoods.

“She dominated in South L.A.,” said Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi of The South Los Angeles Power Coalition. “Which puts her and her voters in a very, very strong position to determine who the next mayor will be.”

South L.A.’s voters–many of whom are African-American, could go either way in May.

“I think they’re up for grabs,” said former Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye. “The question is will anybody vote? And is anything at stake that makes people want to vote?”

Perry’s primary campaign was more critical of Greuel than it was of Garcetti, which may improve Garcetti’s chances with her supporters. And many Latino groups have thrown support behind Garcetti, which could be significant in South LA, where more than 60 percent of residents are Latino. The Latino Coalition of Los Angeles PAC–an organization focused on representing the political interests of South American and Central Americans–officially endorsed Garcetti before the primary.

“Garcetti is a coalition builder,” said Latino Coalition president and founder Raul Claros. “He’s embraces the Latino coaltion’s focus.”

The group is also backing Ana Cubas in the Council District 9 election.

“When we met with them, Cubas and Garcetti had a comprehensive, logistical, practical and concrete plan for South LA,” said Claros.

Jitahidi said both Greuel and Garcetti have made promises to South L.A., and wants someone who will keep their promises to be elected. He said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa courted South L.A. in his mayoral campaign, but failed to deliver on his pledges.

“Both of them have given rhetoric to working with South L.A.,” Jitahidi said. “I think whoever wins has to be committed to actually making those promises true. I think only way we do that is if South L.A. really organizes in a coordinated and consistent way.”

He says he’ll be focused on boosting voter turnout. Turnout around the city was just 16 percent Tuesday, and even lower in South L.A.

9th District Candidate Closeup: David Roberts

imagePhoto provided by David Roberts campaign.

The Ninth Council District in South Los Angeles is up for grabs and supporters, ranging from the local community to the Los Angeles Times, claim former economic developer David Roberts is the man for the job.

“The musical chairs from Sacramento to city hall has changed the culture here for the worst,” said Roberts. “It’s very disturbing for someone who has worked in government. It sounds corny, but I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’m running [in order to] improve the quality of life here in South L.A.”

For years, Roberts watched local officials attempt to satisfy the needs of the residents living in South LA. However, the finalization of the redistricting of the Ninth was the last straw, ultimately motivating him to run.

Last year, the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission approved the removal of portions of Downtown L.A. from the Nint District, including the financial district, Little Tokyo and the Civic Center.

“They created a poverty challenged district,” said Roberts. “It was pretty obvious early on that deals had been cut and there were conflicts of interest. I don’t think we will ever recover from that. South L.A. was totally dismantled and the culture was stripped away.”

Roberts added that local officials need to bring more resources to the community and fight for those residents because “it is imperative that somebody is there to fight for them. I’m not afraid to.”

imagePhoto provided by David Roberts campaign.

Roberts was born and raised in Southern California. After graduating from high school, he went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Roberts eventually went on to work as the Economic Development Director for Council members Bernard C. Parks and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Roberts also serves on a number of local boards including Figueroa Corridor Partnership, Friends of Expo Center and the South LA Initiatives Working Group. Roberts hopes that his wealth of experience exhibits his potential to revitalize the Ninth District better than his opponents.

“Government can be a positive impact on people’s lives. I want to restore some credibility and confidence in city hall,” said Roberts.

His supporters recognize and understand his efforts. The Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative honored Roberts with the Outstanding City Partner Award for his expertise and passion for the community. Additionally, in a recently released campaign video, supporters describe Roberts as a man of integrity and passion.

“My support is from inside this district. [I can do this] because these folks are pushing me along and encouraging me,” said Roberts in a recently released campaign video.

Critics might pin Roberts as just another politician with conflicts of interest. Most recently, Roberts worked as the Associate Director of Local Government Affairs at the University of Southern California.

South L.A. residents could be turned off by Roberts’ ties to USC. Some residents are unhappy with USC’s Master Plan, a development project creating mixed-use spaces, including student housing, with the potential of displacing current residents.

“When I went over to USC, I was told I could not work on that plan. I have not done any work on behalf of the university for that plan. There is no contradiction with me and the university,” said Roberts.

Roberts listed the unemployment rate, education system, sidewalk repairs and average household income as some of the district’s most pressing challenges. He plans to redevelop South L.A., expand educational opportunities, ensure safer streets and create job opportunities, which he is already doing by hiring local adults to canvass neighborhoods on his behalf.

“They’re going out and registering some of their friends and family members to vote. It’s a real grassroots level,” said Roberts. “For some of these kids, it’s the first time they’ve had a real job or a real paycheck. It feels so good to be involved in that.”