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Is There A Progressive Power Shift Coming At City Hall?

DEEGAN ON LA—You don’t need Bob Dylan to tell you which way the wind Is blowing.

We now appear to be in a strong-tail-winded climate for a Progressive Ascendency in City politics. Half the City Council (the odd-numbered districts), the Mayor, City Attorney, and Controller are up for election in 2022. The other half of the Councilmembers (the even-numbered districts) will face the voters in 2024. 

The newcomers-to-politics include lots of progressives in the council district races. Three years from today, a power shift toward them at City Hall may make its legislative body very unlike what we now have. 

In both election cycles, the incumbents will be “primaried”. The overriding questions for voters, and leverage for the newcomers, could be: is it time for voters to “throw the bums and crooks out?” Does City Hall need a power wash? Are progressives the cleanest solution? 

What’s gone badly recently for the incumbents? In just the last few months:

  • The latest silver bullet solution for the homeless—the council’s “homeless engagement strategy” —has been “in committee” since the summer. There appears to be no urgency to approve and implement it.
  • The council approved the “MC-41.18” application of the municipal code, as a quick fix for encampments. It is a superficial brag by the council that it is doing something to clean up the tented-sidewalks.
  • A botched redistricting process has left tens of thousands of constituents in several districts unhappy.
  • Another—the FBI’s third—federally indicted-for-corruption councilmember (Mark Ridley-Thomas at CD10) has had his name etched into the City Hall of Shame along with former Councilmember Mitch Englander (now sitting in a federal prison), and former Councilmember Jose Huizar, now sitting before a federal judge.
  • An expression of voter dissatisfaction with their council representatives led to attempts to recall councilmembers Raman (CD4), Bonin (CD11), and DeLeon (CD14). Two efforts were dropped, but the Bonin recall may actually go to the voters in the Spring. 

The electorate is unhappy. The question could be: are the hungry young progressives electable? 

In the coming months, many new, often progressive, candidates will be asked by voters to justify why they would pick them instead of sticking with some of the the men and women now holding leadership roles, but that progressives feel may not be the right fit the future of LA. 

CityWatchLA interviewed Dulce Vasquez, a potential impact player who is running as a young, progressive candidate for CD 9 (where Curren Price is the incumbent) to get her take on a possible paradigm shift for how LA starts to be governed in the next few years. 

CW - What would you like the power shift to look like?

DV - This district (CD-9) has been shut out of the democratic process. I am one of more than a handful of not just millennial but progressive candidates on the upcoming ballot. We saw, in last year’s historic win by Nithya Raman (CD4), that it's possible for candidates that don’t have political background to challenge incumbents. That gave hope that you can be an average citizen with passion and a desire to fix something. This is what democracy is all about. 

CW - Can you be more specific?

DV - I’d like to see the council think bigger about issues. Los Angeles needs a strategic plan. A mayor and a council on the same page for how to tackle big issues like homeless, transportation, housing, and the criminal justice system. Elected officials need to take a “care first” approach. Some of our problems are systemic. They are not due to a lack of trying, but to a lack of support. 

CW - How do we get there?

DV - We need to completely revamp our city council and most of our elected bodies. The city council has to represent  the population  through gender, demographics and age. You see a slew of younger progressive candidates. Forty-three is the youngest councilmember age, The average age of a city resident is thirty-five. 

CW - What kind of candidates are needed?

DV - There are lots of folks making decisions that have not experienced some of what they’re trying to solve for. We need a new energy with more progressive values. The beauty of the fact that a lot of the candidates have never worked in politics before is that they are unencumbered by old ways of thinking. 

CW - What kind of campaigning will you be doing?

DV - What stands out to me about my campaign is that we will be doing door knocking and phoning like everyone else, but we will add to that text banking and the use of social media. We will do tabling when you set up a table at business corners, etc. 

CW - Can you describe your donor base?

DV - I think about money and special interests. Because of their money sources, incumbents wash, rinse, and repeat without needing to go to the people. I’m leading my campaign how I think they should run, meaning only taking contributions from individuals. It’s right there on my website: “#TeamDulce doesn't accept any corporate or PAC contributions. We rely 100% on grassroots fundraising from generous supporters.” 

CW - What makes you the right candidate to be elected into that environment?

DV - I feel that my values and background are representative of my community. 

CW - What’s your website address?

DV - https://www.dulcevasquez.com/ 

 

(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 [email protected].)