Heading into the April 4 Special Election to fill the vacant LA City Council District 6 seat, the Sentinel had the opportunity to sit down with candidate Marisa Alcaraz, who we are strongly endorsing, to ask pointed questions on the issues that matter most to all Angelenos.
This is a critical race that is going to have a great impact throughout the City of Los Angeles in light of racist audio recordings released last October that brought shame to City Hall and prompted former Council President Nury Martinez to give up her seat.
Born and raised in District 6 and with a wealth of political experience behind her, Alcaraz possesses a strong understanding of the needs of her community and prides herself on being the one that is primed and ready to take on the challenge.
“I’m the only candidate in this race with significant experience who can deliver on behalf of working-class families,” said Alcaraz. “I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life as a public servant in local government with a clear focus on policies that address environmental, social and economic justice. I want to take my experience and bring it back to the district I live in and that I raise my young daughter in.”
Alcaraz is the daughter of a retired union carpenter who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Her mother grew up in the Valley and is a retired Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse. Their jobs afforded them the ability to provide for her and her two siblings, realizing their own version of the American Dream.
For these reasons, she places great value on the labor movement and has dedicated her career as a public servant in local government, working alongside unions to pass initiatives that benefit working-class people such as the Hotel Living Wage, $15 Minimum Wage, Guaranteed Sick Pay, Hero Pay and Fair Work Week.
“From the time I was young, my parents instilled a moral obligation to live a life in service to others,” stated Alcaraz. “Working in public service has given me the opportunity to create a greater quality of life for residents, as well as leave a lasting impact in our neighborhoods. This is something I am looking forward to bringing to District 6.”
BIGGEST CRISIS OF OUR TIME: ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS
With the homelessness crisis bearing down on the City of LA, Alcaraz has been working toward creating solutions to combat the urgent need and vows to work with new leadership to continue her efforts.
“The City is making strides under our new Mayor’s leadership and emergency declaration, but there’s a lot more work to be done to get ahead of the issue. With my breadth of knowledge, I will be able to bring the resources needed to combat the crisis in CD 6,” said Alcaraz. “I’m confident that with our new regional approach and a renewed commitment from our local, state and federal partners, we will be able to get more people off the streets and into care and services.”
As part of LA City Councilmember Curren Price’s leadership team, Alcaraz is helping to bring more than 3,700 units of affordable and homeless housing to South Los Angeles. If elected, Alcaraz stated that she plans to make property acquisition and building of more affordable and permanent supportive housing a key priority along with expanding outreach teams and advocating for more mental health workers on the streets.
Alcaraz said that she believes Mayor Bass’ emergency declaration will allow the City to build more housing faster to more effectively resolve the homelessness crisis. Under the Mayor’s leadership, she added, the City is in a better position to perform emergency hires and collaborate with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). As the State, County and City renew their commitment to tackle the crisis of our time, Alcaraz is optimistic that taking a regional approach is the answer to getting the unhoused housed.
“We need to have the support and cooperation of all levels of government, particularly the County, which is in charge of delivering services to those experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues,” Alcaraz added. “If the County cannot step up services, then I believe the City should consider creating its own Health Department.”
IMPROVING OUR ENVIRONMENT
As the Environmental Policy Director and Deputy Chief of Staff to Councilmember Price, Alcaraz has been the architect behind the scenes creating some of the most historic policies and advancing environmental equity.
She has advised the Councilmember on key environmental issues affecting Los Angeles communities, including the recent ban on oil and gas drilling, and the elimination of single-use plastics, both of which will help the city in achieving its ambitious sustainability goals. Alcaraz reiterated her commitment toward the creation of local green jobs with livable wages while expanding clean energy job training.
“We need an urgent, all-hands-on-deck approach to address environmental City policies that prioritize equity,” said Alcaraz. “We must make LA environmentally and economically sustainable, and that includes expanding our green economy with middle-class jobs, as well as energy and climate policy that reduces our air pollution output. I will be a diligent watchdog on attaining the City’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035 and shutting down the systems that have caused our climate catastrophe.”
Alcaraz emphasized that she will be focused on converting the city away from fossil fuels for energy while expanding clean energy sources, expediting efforts to have a sustainable water supply, and adopting common sense land-use policies that promote open space accessible to all with buffer zones around pollution sources.
“I am single-minded and determined about finding the funding needed to protect our people and our planet, clean our air and water, and help my communities get what they need. I have a long record of success at it,” Alcaraz stated. “This fierceness is what I will bring to make my home District more livable.”
A GREENER LOS ANGELES
Alcaraz currently works in District 9, a community that has been historically overlooked and neglected with lack of access to green space and clean air. She has made it a mission to change the trajectory of underserved communities by helping to secure more than $60 million for local recreational parks and open space. Now, she’d like the opportunity to do the same for District 6.
“For far too long, District 6 has been left behind and I want to ensure that we shift the narrative so that our community gets the fair share of resources to enhance the lives of our families, friends and neighbors,” Alcaraz said.
One of the initiatives that Alcaraz is most proud of is her efforts to transform underutilized spaces in the South LA 9th District into green, clean, accessible spaces. “The Green Alley Network” promotes community resilience and recreational opportunities by converting 11 underutilized alleyways into community assets that capture polluted stormwater and serve as safe walking and biking paths for residents. These projects also incorporate native and drought-tolerant plants to help beautify neighborhoods, light-colored pavement which reduces urban heat and displays public art.
“These are tangible results for the City of Los Angeles that I have delivered, and they are the kinds of initiatives I will continue to pursue on behalf of Council District 6,” she exclaimed. “There’s so much potential in our San Fernando Valley communities and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and lead!”
WORKING ON BEHALF OF MARGINALIZED AND VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES
For over a decade, Alcaraz has been focused on reducing poverty, expanding safety nets and protecting our most vulnerable families throughout Los Angeles.
A champion for women, people of color, immigrant communities and workers, she is leading the charge on progressive policies, and this includes Basic Income Guaranteed: Los Angeles Economic Assistance Pilot (BIG:LEAP). The one-year program, the largest in the nation, has provided more than 3,200 families with $1,000 – no questions asked. Alcaraz made it possible to get the $40 million citywide initiative off the ground and she hopes that it can serve as a model nationwide.
“I believe in the principles of opportunity and providing economic prosperity to all Angelenos,” Alcaraz said. “With equity at the heart of everything I do, my work on BIG:LEAP has opened the doors to hope and is helping create a solid future for local families.”
“If I’m elected, I will continue to push forward an agenda that puts the needs of our families at the forefront,” stated Alcaraz.
Her commitment to underserved populations extends into immigrant communities. Over the years, Alcaraz worked to secure more than $3 million for free immigration legal services. Her leadership has resulted in improving access and education to low-income mixed-status families.
“The fight for immigrant rights continues, and CD 6 needs someone who understands the struggle that our diverse communities face,” said Alcaraz. “Our communities are stronger when families are kept together, and I want the opportunity to expand on the work I have been doing.”