9th District Candidate Closeup: Mike Davis


A shocking amount of sunlight permeates the “Mike Davis for City Council” campaign signs that paper the front windows of his campaign headquarters. Inside, precinct maps and outreach goals accent lime green and bright orange walls. Six volunteers sit at two temporary tables, munching on pizza and tacos and shuffling call sheets. [Read more…]

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.”

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.

South LA residents deliver trash from foreclosed Watts home

Esperanza Arrizon, Good Jobs LA

imageSouth LA residents determined to hold big banks accountable for cleaning up local communities, delivered trash from a vacant foreclosed home to BNY Mellon, one of LA’s largest holders of foreclosed properties. The action was held ahead of the LA City Council’s scheduled vote on amendments to improve enforcement of city’s blight ordinance.

After a devastating foreclosure crisis caused by greed and recklessness on Wall Street, thousands of bank-owned, foreclosed homes litter LA neighborhoods. These homes – often left unsafe and in disrepair – attract crime, drive down local property values and are a blight on LA’s communities.

imageLA has a blight ordinance that allows the city to collect $1,000 a day from banks that do not maintain their foreclosed homes. To date, LA has failed to collect a single dime from banks violating the law – a lost opportunity to hold irresponsible banks accountable and collect money to rebuild our neighborhoods.

Protesters held up signs reading “Banks Make Bad Neigbors.” One sign claimed banks owe the city of LA almost five million dollars in fines for ignoring the upkeep of foreclosed homes, allowing them to collect trash and centers for criminal activity.

“Big banks are devastating our communities, with blighted houses full of trash, crime, and poverty and taxpayers are covering the cost,” said South LA resident Angelina Jimenez. “It’s time to make the banks clean up or pay up.”

imageActivists collected trash from a home in dangerous disrepair on Wilmington Avenue in the Watts area and delivered three full bags to BNY Mellon’s lobby.

After the event, South LA residents went to city hall, calling on City Councilmembers to approve changes for better enforcement of the blight ordinance and to fine the maximum authorized amount for each bank’s failure to maintain their foreclosed properties.

The protest was organized by Good Jobs LA, SEIU Local 721 and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

OpEd: Are truancy tickets marginalizing South LA students?

imageRecently, in a class discussion about youth not having a voice at school, my students gave me an earful about racially disparate discipline policies. They pointed to a culture of disrespect that they believe marginalizes and disfavors outspoken African American students. For many, this culture is rooted in a policing regime that kicks in before they even get to school, buttressed by criminalizing truancy policies that disproportionately target black and Latino youth.

Over the past several years Los Angeles Unified School Police and the LAPD have handed out 88% of $250 truancy tickets to black and Latino students. Blacks and Latinos constitute 74% of the student population. Moreover, a significant number of youth of color in South L.A. schools such as Gardena and Washington Prep High Schools are homeless, in foster care and/or indigent. So in what parallel universe does a low income student, a homeless student or a student in foster care afford a $250 ticket?

Clearly doling out tickets to students who are already faced with deep educational challenges is a recipe for disaster. But the city’s current daytime curfew policy bolsters a culture of suppression and enforcement that further exacerbates the yawning achievement gap and feeds the school-to-prison pipeline. It sends students the insidious message that being late for school is a criminal act, rather than a social issue which caring adult providers, families, and communities must actively redress in order to serve the needs of struggling young people.

Towards this end, Los Angeles City Councilmember Tony Cardenas introduced a Council motion that would revise daytime curfew laws to make them more culturally responsive to the needs of working class transit dependent students of color. The motion was passed by the City Council’s Safety Committee on February 13th and will go to the full Council for a vote on February 21st. It calls on the LAPD and School Police to end the practice of issuing citations with fines for truancy when minors are within range of their school sites. It also requires that the LAPD and School Police collect demographic data on the population of minors cited for truancy infractions.

The Community Rights Campaign and allies such as Public Counsel and the ACLU are spearheading the effort to decriminalize truancy. In addition to the City Council motion, the coalition is urging law enforcement and school officials to consider programs that emphasize restorative justice and non-punitive conflict mediation approaches to addressing truancy. It is also recommending that school officials work with the MTA to develop policies that ease the burden on transit dependent youth who are often at the mercy of erratic bus schedules. By framing truancy as a systemic issue informed by multiple social, economic, and educational factors, the Community Rights Campaign is part of a growing movement that has emerged to challenge long-standing institutionally racist and classist discipline policies that disenfranchise youth of color in the LAUSD.

Despite the 2008 implementation of the district’s so-called School Wide Positive Behavior Support System, egregious racial disparities in discipline are still rampant in the LAUSD. The entire City Council should get behind this motion and send a strong message to LAUSD that its culture of youth disenfranchisement will not be legitimized by law enforcement’s suppression tactics on the streets.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project, which is based at Gardena and Washington Prep High Schools. She is also the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars and the forthcoming Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels.

Council redistricting outrages council members

imageA commission appointed by the LA City Council prepared the redrawn maps to account for population changes since the last census. But the changes have outraged some councilpeople.

Bill Rosendahl represents District 11, which currently encompasses the west side, including LAX. His colleague, Bernard Parks, represents District 8, which includes Crenshaw and Leimert Park over to USC.

At a news conference, both councilmen criticized the proposal that would let Rosendahl keep LAX but would give Westchester to Parks.

“How dare they take people away from the issues that matter so much to them? It’s an insult to democracy at its best,” Rosendahl said.

Councilman Parks was quick to criticize what he calls closed-door meetings where the maps were drawn.

“We were asked well before the commission was created whether we want Westchester and the airport. And we said, ‘no, it doesn’t fit our community.’ How are people in City Hall talking about maps before the commission was created, and who’s creating maps outside of the commission?” he said.

Rosendahl drafted a petition against the redistricting proposal that has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

One Westchester resident, William Roberts, says the plan would break up a community with similar interests. He says LAX and nearby Loyola Marymount University affect Westchester residents like him.

“We share the burdens and benefits of LAX, we share the burdens and benefits of having students in our community who rent from homeowners here,” he said. “When there are problems, we want to go to one councilperson and have them worked out that way instead of having an opposing situation where you have two city council people representing the same area.”

Calls placed to the Office of Redistricting were not immediately returned.

Protestors give Herb Wesson a hand-delivered Valentine

Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson had a “Valentine” hand-delivered to his District 10 campaign office this morning, but the message on the card was anything but loving.

Chanting “Housing is a human right” in English and Spanish, members of the LA Right to Housing Collective gathered outside Wesson’s office, demanding changes in the city’s rent-control law. Tenants want to see their rents stabilized and stop a 2 percent increase in utility fees.

Wesson was not present in the office when the group walked inside and delivered their card, which had a picture of a broken heart. A staff member in the office said she did not know when Wesson would be back or what his response would be to the group’s requests.