DEEGAN ON LA-The liberal left likes to call us a “sanctuary city,” but everyone, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, can see what we really are starting to look like: a third-class city.
Our slippage in perception is directly attributable to our homeless crisis which has grown 16% in the past year, not shrunk.
When we host the 2028 Summer Olympics, we may possibly be a Third World-like city unless we get this mess cleaned up in the next few years. Lots of people, starting with the Mayor, have been trying to do just that, but with little visible success.
Behind the scenes, behind the public face of homelessness, it's a different story but it’s hard to overcome the optics of failure. Meta data suggests success in housing the homeless. Ask any politico and they will share what they see as their real achievements in helping to solve the homeless crisis, but it may not be an easy sell to voters who are reminded daily of the crisis confronting them on the streets and sidewalks of LA.
All seven even-numbered council seats are up for grabs in the March 3, 2020 primary. Incumbent Councilmembers Paul Krekorian (CD2), David Ryu (CD4), Nury Martinez (CD6) and Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD8) have no choice but to run on their records of solving the homeless crisis not only in their district, but in the City.
Alternatively, challengers to any of them will have to convince voters that they can do a better job with this issue. Rhetoric and campaign slogans will not do it; the incumbents know how difficult it is to make even a modest gain in solving the problem. Reducing the severity of the homeless crisis must occur before it is eliminated. No fast and facile answers on the campaign trail will help.
Now that the window for filing an intention to run has closed, the game is on with a new batch of candidates on the offense, against incumbents on the defense. Krekorian (CD2), Ryu (CD4), Martinez (CD6) and Harris-Dawson (CD8) gave notice they are running. Councilmembers Huizar and Wesson are term-limited out. John Lee is also running in the 2020 election, having just won the seat in a recent special election to fill the sudden vacancy caused by the incumbent who left for the private sector.
Who will the incumbents be facing? A breakdown of the candidates that have filed intention to run statements with the City Clerk shows that of the seventy-two candidates to fill seven council seats, one dozen identify themselves as community activists/organizers, and of those almost one-quarter identify themselves as Neighborhood Council board members.
While community activism is important, candidates with NC training and experience have a path into city politics that gives them an advantage. They are already part of the city family and know their way around City Hall.
Raquel Beltran, the new General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) which oversees the neighborhood councils, told CityWatch, "I believe it’s positive that Neighborhood Councils, like boards and commissions, are providing people a training ground, at a local level, that helps prepare them for city government or municipal government service. I see NC’s as an opportunity for people to understand more about how city government works and functions, and to learn what it takes to SERVE the public.”
One of the incumbents, David Ryu (CD4), is a product of the NC system, having served as a board member on the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council. His challengers are a Community Activist/Mom, a Homelessness Nonprofit Leader, an Entertainment Attorney, and a Writer/Women's Advocate.
The next few months will start to reveal if any of the incumbent City Councilmembers are to become homeless at City Hall, themselves.
(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose DEEGAN ON LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.