As I begin my term as Councilmember for the 12th District of the City of Los Angeles, I must first express my gratitude to everyone for giving me the opportunity to serve. Thank you for the trust you have placed in me to serve as an elected representative on the Los Angeles City Council. Whether, you voted for me or not, I plan to serve you and the people of the 12th District to the best of my ability.
I have lived in Council District 12 for forty years. This is the community that raised me. This is the community I have served my entire adult life and it is my honor to continue to serve, not only CD12, but the City of Los Angeles.
When the race began there were fifteen candidates vying for the seat. Throughout the entire election process, it was the support of the community that fueled our victory every step of the way. Our victory is a testament of what happens when a community comes together to take control of its future.
I ran on a platform of public safety, supporting businesses to create good jobs, and a new approach to fixing the homelessness crisis in our city. This message resonates with CD12 voters like the rest of Los Angeles. That’s because when businesses thrive and schools provide our children a good education, everyone can enjoy a brighter future. When our police and fire departments are properly staffed and equipped, everyone can feel safe and secure in their communities. By focusing on these issues, I will work to ensure that our victory in Council District 12 is felt by all Los Angeles residents well beyond the borders of the district I serve.
Since I was a young child, I’ve known the importance of businesses to a community and to individual families. When my father immigrated to the United States in the 1950’s and my mother followed in the 1960’s, they opened a small business in Koreatown. This enterprise allowed my brother and me to have every opportunity growing up and to live the American dream. Because of this experience, I understand that a few misguided city fees can mean the difference between a profitable business and a failing business; and that can mean the difference in whether or not a family can afford a home and provide for their children. On Council, I will be the voice of common sense for businesses so that city regulations are not an impediment to creating jobs and allowing small businesses to thrive.
Ensuring public safety is also a priority for me. Prior to this election, I was privileged to work for both of the Councilmembers who preceded me as the elected representative of the 12th Council District. Greig Smith, whom I served as Chief Legislative Deputy, and Mitchell Englander, for whom I served as Chief of Staff, both emphasized public safety within CD12. The result is that the 12th Council District is the safest within the City of Los Angeles with the lowest crime rates. I intend to continue this emphasis because the safety of a neighborhood comes first in ensuring that residents can feel secure in their homes and on their streets.
I will continue my work to ensure that children have opportunities beyond the classroom to grow and develop skills that lead to a successful life. One of the projects I’m proudest of in my career is the fundraising and programming I developed for the Devonshire Police Activities League Supporters (PALS) Youth Program. For almost twenty years, PALS has been an important community center where at-risk youth work with police officers, learn leadership skills, and participate in programs that strengthen our community.
I’ve heard countless personal stories of young people whose lives were transformed by the PALS program. These were children at risk of dropping out of school or joining a gang but instead they went on to attend college or signed up to join the police academy and serve our City. Hearing these stories reaffirmed for me the reasons I ran for office.
I will also continue to partner with community associations and build programs that encourage families and neighbors to engage in the project of improving our community. Community organizations, school Parent-Teacher Associations, and churches big and small represent the mortar that binds a strong community together. I know from experience that when a council office is engaged in partnerships with organizations such as these, the influence and impact of both are that much greater. As Councilmember, I will ensure that any organization or group of individuals looking to improve their street, their local park, their neighborhood, or their community will find a strong and willing partner in my office.
And we cannot discuss how we are going to improve life for residents of our city without having a strategy to address -- and reverse -- L.A.’s crisis of homelessness. Homelessness in Los Angeles has become a humanitarian disaster that threatens the public health and safety of everyone, not just those living on the street. While there is no easy solution, we cannot be afraid to take action.
Even before homelessness was as widespread as it is now, I was involved in projects to prevent individuals and families from ending up on the street. I helped find a location and fundraise for the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission long before the City was talking about “bridge home shelters” or “supportive housing.” Since opening its doors in 2014, the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission has become a model of how to successfully help families at high-risk of falling into homelessness. By providing stability and safety to families, they ensure that children stay in school and parents stay on track to finding a job and, ultimately, a path to self-sufficiency. In the five years it has been open, thousands of individuals have come through the Rescue Mission to find permanent housing while remaining a neighbor in good standing to the surrounding community.
Housing alone is not the answer to the homelessness crisis. Many individuals currently living on the streets have issues of drug addiction and have been out of the labor market for extended periods of time. In these cases, people need more than housing. They need an intervention that deals with underlying addictions and illnesses and helps them develop skills to support themselves or else they will likely end up back on the street. That is why I believe in programs that don’t just provide a service but engage individuals experiencing homelessness in a rewarding project that improves their lives such as Clean Streets, Clean Starts which began in Council District 12. This enlisted individuals living on the street to participate in community clean ups. As part of their participation, they received food vouchers, job training, and support in achieving sobriety. This program was so successful that it has grown citywide. It results not only in cleaner streets, but individuals who take pride in keeping neighborhoods clean.
L.A. faces many difficult issues right now. However, we have something special in CD12 that has helped us become the safest, most well-kept district in the City. We care about community. We call when there is an issue that needs to be fixed. We volunteer in greater numbers than any other area of the City to improve our streets, libraries, and parks and to assist police and firefighters. By involving ourselves, we take control of our future no matter what the challenge.
That is why I ran for office. To show that building a better future for our neighborhoods begins with people getting involved. Now, I hope you will join me as we work to show the rest of Los Angeles what we can achieve when we come together as a community.