While this is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, it is also a pivotal moment in the history of Los Angeles. Although it is a time of crisis, we need to use it as time of great opportunity, a time to breathe new life into the marvelous minority communities of South-Central Los Angeles. In short, we need to embark on what may be called an Urban Marshall Plan designed to expand political power to minority communities and to promote fairness in the distribution of public resources. This is an opportunity to bring new hope to the poor and underserved who are suffering the most in these times of crisis, as they do in all times.
We must start with the City Council. In the city council, Watts can no longer be unnaturally chained to San Pedro in Council District Fifteen. San Pedro dwarfs Watts in population and the great economic power stemming from the Port gives San Pedro outsized political weight. Moreover, the people of the two regions have little in common. Therefore, the old political chain that binds these two regions must be cut and the political noose choking Watts must be sent to the dustbin of history. Watts needs to be freed and politically reborn by incorporating it into Council District Nine. Watts must become the master of its own fate.
Moving Watts to CD 9 will be a new beginning politically and socially. A move to CD 9 will enhance Watts’ political voice and will be our contribution to the civil rights struggles of past generations. We should embrace this opportunity for political reform just as the great civil rights leaders of the past embraced the opportunities presented to them and changed the way we live together legally and socially. Bringing Watts home politically will help level the playing field and give minority Angelenos a better chance to elevate their lives. An invigorated Watts will usher in an era of magnificent opportunity for its growth and development. Watts will be better able to plan its own development, in its best interest, preserve its historic sites, and blossom as a world-famous ethnic community.
Los Angeles has a small city council for a city of four million people. Eight of its fifteen members can make vital decisions regarding construction and resource allocation. Did you know that in 1965, Watts had 34,800 residents. 55 years later, it has just under 40,000 while the population of Los Angeles has nearly doubled. Watts is choking in its current configuration.
This leaves great power in very few hands. While enlargement of the council, by creating additional districts, should be considered at some point, reform can begin immediately with re-shaping what we already have…putting Watts in Council District Nine. It is a baby step to fairness but by embarking together on this Urban Marshall Plan, beginning with Watts, we can soar together, as proud Angelenos, to new heights of greatness.
What time is it? Fifteen to Nine.
Tim Watkins, President & CEO, Watts Labor Community Action Committee
Mark Ravis, M.D., J.D., M.P.A., Attorney, Public Interest Law and Civil Litigation