South LA caregivers want equal treatment + LA City Council to remove ‘tiny houses’

South Los Angeles caregivers are almost twice as likely to live at or below the poverty line according to a study from the Administration for Children and Family Services.

South Los Angeles caregivers are almost twice as likely to live at or below the poverty line, according to a study. | Photo by Marisa Zocco

As South LA families struggle to raise their relatives’ kids, some want equal treatment: A recently passed law will allow foster parents who are related to their foster children to get the same financial support as non-related caregivers. Local residents took their concerns to the state congress after a report from the Administration for Children and Family Services showed relative caregivers for foster children in South Los Angeles are more likely to be impoverished than in other parts of the state. (Southern California Public Radio)

LA City Council seeks legal advice on removing ‘tiny houses’: Los Angeles City officials are looking to remove tiny houses made for the homeless. The houses have popped up across South Los Angeles and San Pedro, creating tensions between residents, city government and homeless advocates. (Daily News)

‘South Bureau Homicide’ Trailer Follows Detectives in South Central L.A. (Exclusive Video): South Bureau Homicide, a documentary on the relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and the citizens of South Central LA, will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film features community leaders and highlights the issues surrounding the violence of the 1990s. (Hollywood Reporter)

Mayor Eric Garcetti tours South LA’s District 9

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks to journalists at Powerfest South LA. Garcetti said he wants Los Angeles to register more people for health care than anywhere else in the US. Photo by Katherine Davis.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks to journalists at Powerfest South LA in 2013. | Katherine Davis

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Curren Price toured businesses and met with residents of South L.A.’s 9th District last week as part of the mayor’s efforts to examine how districts around the city tackle issues such as homelessness, employment, youth empowerment and community beautification.

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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…

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.

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.”

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

Hara targets USC early in Ninth District council race

By Logan Heley

imageWalking down Trousdale Parkway or outside of the Lyon Center on the University of Southern California campus, it’s likely you’ve seen or even talked to the people working at Terry Hara’s city council campaign booth. It’s also likely you haven’t seen or talked with any of his rivals, at least not yet. The reason: Hara has made USC central to his early campaign strategy while his opponents have yet to establish much of a presence on campus.

The Hara campaign claims to be the only operation on campus “24/7” and its booths on Trousdale and the Lyon Center have been active for over a month. Go on Hara’s website and the first picture you’ll see is of him talking with young people in Trojan gear at the Von KleinSmid Center. With elections just under a month away, Hara’s campaign for the Los Angeles City Council 9th District seat has a commanding fundraising lead, with nearly twice as much cash on hand as the next candidate.

USC joined the 9th District last year after a contentious redistricting fight that took much of Downtown Los Angeles, and its political bargaining chips, out of its boundaries. One candidate running, David Roberts, a former USC employee, said the new 9th District might be the poorest in the city, if not in the entire state. The 9th District has been represented by Jan Perry for the last 13 years. Perry is now running for mayor.

Hara has been part of the Los Angeles Police Department for 33 years and currently serves as one of eight Deputy Chiefs, the first Asian American to hold that position. That’s one reason why his USC point man, Nick Paladines, who graduated from USC in December, said some people don’t recognize him.

“He’s been in the police, not politics,” Paladines said.

Involving the “top of the district,” referring to USC, in the election is important because it boasts the highest concentration of people and the university is the largest promoter of jobs in the district, Paladines said. Recent violence on and near the USC campus also offers an opportunity for Hara to show off his public safety credentials. In meetings with students, Hara likes to bring up the story of when he caught the serial rapist who had been targeting USC students in 1981 after going undercover.

Paladines believes it’s more important for students to be registered to vote at their USC address rather than in their hometown because students spend most of the year in school. Paladines said that only around 3,000 USC students are even registered to vote.

“It’s their neighborhood; we’re just trying to get them involved in it,” Paladines said.

Some USC students are taking that message to heart. The Hara campaign said it has about 30 USC students working for the candidate. In addition, the Beta Omega Phi fraternity, an Asian-interest chapter, decided to stick one of his lawn signs in their front yard and endorse Hara after he made a presentation at their house.

“He had some pretty good ideas and he has USC students’ safety in mind,” said Jeffery Liu, Beta Omega Phi’s president.

Hara’s rivals say they’ve reached out to USC students, but will step up their efforts soon with on campus events like a two-candidate forum at USC on Tuesday.

“You will definitely see an immediate increase (in on-campus campaigning),” said Mike Davis, council candidate and former state assemblyman for the USC area.

Other notable candidates in the race include Roberts, Ana Cubas, a former L.A. city council aide, and Curren Price, a state senator.

Thomas Wong, a second-year Price School of Public Policy graduate student and Hara staffer, believes this election should be important to USC students. “This election actually has more direct consequences on our own neighborhoods than a presidential election does, but (students) kind of tune it out,” Wong said. “So I have hopes that more people start to pay more attention to these kinds of races.”

City Council approves redistricting map

imageHundreds of furious South LA residents attended today’s Los Angeles City Council meeting to protest the proposed redistricting map they believe would weaken the influence of African Americans and severely disrupt their community.

“They’re going to take established communities and divide the neighborhoods, so they’ll lose influence,” said Jacqueline Arkord, as she waited to enter the council chambers.

“I’m not happy about what they’re trying to do with our community,” complained Joyce Stinson. “We as black people don’t have a say so. We’re here to make a stand.”

For three hours people from different districts of the city pleaded with the council to not make the proposed changes. At times, the testimony was explosive.

Korean American attorney Helen Kim, a member of the Redistricting Commission, testified that the process had been flawed and that the redrawing of the map had been done in secret back room meetings. Grace Yoo, the executive director of the Korean American Coalition, said they will sue over the new map.

In a heated exchange, a man accused Council President Herb Wesson of being an “Uncle Tom,” eliciting a strong reaction from a livid Wesson.

Not all public comments were against the proposed map. State Senator Curren Price, who represents much of South LA, was booed by the audience when he stated he was in favor of the new boundaries.

imageDespite the contentious public testimony, the City Council approved the map with new boundaries for the 15 council districts.

The vote was 13-2. Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry, who represent South LA districts 8 and 9 and who have been the most vocal critics of the proposed map, were the dissenting votes.

The approved map removes a big chunk of downtown from Perry’s district, just leaving her the area around the Staples center, and takes USC out of Parks’ district. On a bright note for Parks, the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved an amendment earlier in the day that will keep parts of Baldwin Hills Estates in his district.

If not for that amendment, Parks’ place of residence would have been cut out of District 8, forcing him to either move or abandon his seat (council members must live within the district they represent). He has another three years left on his third and final term in City Council.

Perry will term out of her current seat next year, so the fact her downtown L.A. home residence has been left out of her district is not an issue for her. She is running for mayor in 2013.

In an unusual move, Perry addressed Wesson after the vote, apologizing for not having voted for him to become Council President. If she hadn’t been so critical of him, she said, perhaps her district wouldn’t have been sacrificed. “I feel your wrath, I feel your power,” she stated.

Wesson denied having used the redistricting process to punish Perry for not supporting his presidency.

“A great injustice has been done to the people of Los Angeles. Hundreds of people came out today in protest of what they viewed as maps that did not respect public testimony and the democratic process,” said Perry in a statement. “I am deeply offended and saddened that City Council insisted on rushing a process that will have enormous impacts on the future of communities for the next decade.”

Shortly after the vote, Parks sent his constituents an email saying the new city council district boundaries will “turn South LA Districts 8 & 9 into poverty pits, stripping away thriving business districts and economic engines, leaving little opportunity for new development and new jobs.”

The process is now in the final phase. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has yet to sign it. Parks is asking the mayor to veto the proposal.

Both Parks and Perry, whose districts will now be the poorest in the city, have vowed to sue over the new map.

Elections needed for neighborhood councils, Parks says

imageOne thing was clear after Thursday night’s special city council committee meeting: the neighborhood councils need change. And fast.

Neighborhood council systems are established in several major cities throughout the country, including Tacoma, Wash., and San Diego, Calif.

In communities like South Los Angeles, neighborhood councils are supposed to function as an extension of the city council that involves resident participation. They are supposed to be responsive to local needs and serve as the voice of their constituents to the city government.

Several neighborhood councils make up South Los Angeles including the Empowerment Congress north, central and west councils, the Vermont Harbor Neighborhood Council and the Vernon/Main Neighborhood Council, to name a few.

After holding four special committee meetings throughout the city, Councilmember Bernard Parks said he heard complaints across the board about the 12-year-old neighborhood council system — everything from the councils needing clearly defined rolls to calls for dissolution of the whole system.

“From listening to the four meetings (the election process) seems to be the No. 1 issue,” said Parks, who was recently appointed chair of the Education and Neighborhoods Committee of the Los Angeles City Council.

Elections in the various councils has been cancelled for the last year in an attempt to save money, but council board members and stakeholders urged Parks to reinstate them so that they could elect their peers, rather than having only appointed representatives.

The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is a network of 90 neighborhood councils throughout Los Angeles and many of the complaints heard Thursday were about its failure to hear complaints from shareholders about abuses of power by members of the councils.

Nora Sanchez from the Greater Echo Park area said she filed a grievance in 2009 because her council wouldn’t provide materials translated into Spanish — a language she believes is spoken by many of the residents in her neighborhood.

“They want the Latinos’ help once it comes time to voting,” Sanchez said. “But they don’t care the rest of the time (if we are informed).”

After getting the runaround for years, Sanchez simply stopped going. She now hopes that Parks will be able to reform the system.

David Rockello, president of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council, said an easy way to fix the grievance process would be to put everything online.

“There are no forms, there is no real, formal way to complain,” he said. “It’s a venting and a catharsis that people need if there are issues in their neighborhood.”

But reform isn’t good enough for Ida Talalla, an Echo Park resident who previously served on her neighborhood council. She wants the system obliterated, or at least the Great Echo Park Elysian Council.

“The council needs to be investigated by the FBI and de-certified,” Talalla said. “We are going to be the Bell City poster child of neighborhood councils.”

Talalla said that she was pushed out of her neighborhood council as a result of the appointment system that replaced elections and when she tries to voice her opinion now, she said she is verbally harassed and laughed at.

“What does it take to be heard?” she asked Parks.

Parks will be meeting with his committee in the coming weeks to sort through what was said at the various public meetings and make recommendations to the full City Council.

City Councilman Bernard Parks discusses the future of Marlton Square

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageFor years, Marlton Square has been an eye-sore for the Crenshaw community. That’s one of the issues City Councilman Bernard Parks will talk about tonight when he delivers the 9th Annual “State of the Eighth” address. Check out an interview with park with Annenberg Radio News to hear about what’s next for the square and Crenshaw.