Marqueece Harris-Dawson has a vision that he intends to become a reality. As the new councilman for Los Angeles’ 8th Council District, Harris-Dawson aims to transform his area into a destination for residents and businesses.
By focusing on key priorities, Harris-Dawson believes his vision will become an actuality in the sprawling district that houses more than 200,000 residents and extends as far north as 22nd St. and Western Ave., as far south as 117th Street and Vermont Avenue, as far east as Pace Avenue and E. 103rd St. and west to S. La Brea Ave. and Stocker St.
The enormity of the area and diversity of its challenges might shake a lesser man, But Harris-Dawson is confident he can accomplish his goals in partnership with his City Council colleagues, city departments and community leaders.
“Number one, we’ve got to have responsive government. When people call, they have to know they’re going to get an answer by a human being that knows something about where they live and that their problem will either get resolved or there is clear communication to them when it will be resolved or why it won’t be resolved,” he said.
To ensure responsiveness from his office, he added, “We’re putting together a really dynamic team, hiring people who grew up in the district or are long-time residents and have a lot of experience, both in the city and the community.”
Quality jobs for residents are also important to Harris-Dawson, who wants to make sure that residents of the 8th District apply for jobs when the city does targeted hiring.
“We’re bringing dozens and dozens of new (city) employees every budget cycle and sometimes between budget cycles. I think it is in the interest of our community to have employment.”
In addition, Harris-Dawson plans to work closely with Metropolitan Transit Authority, University of Southern California, AEG, Kaiser Permanente, and other firms to increase the number of vendor contracts to local South Los Angeles businesses as well as summer job programs for teens and young adults.
Citing another top agenda item forHarris-Dawson is improving the appearance and quality of life in the district by establishing “clean and safe corridors.”
“I want to make sure that our intersections that are traveled by the most people are clean and safe and become investment opportunities for people who are developing viable businesses. Sidewalks are done, graffiti painted, trees are trimmed, that businesses are not engaged in contributing to blight.
“We think those things, taken together, will not just create quantitative change, but also create qualitative change and you’ll feel entirely different about this intersection,” he said.
“Those things make a difference in your quality of life. They change not only the outlook of long-term residents, but they change the outlook of young people as well. When young people see that things can get better, I think it changes their whole trajectory.”
Thanks to his background as a community activist and organizer, Harris-Dawson is skilled in recruiting people to support a cause and he believes that experience will aid him in engaging constituents to participate in realizing his vision of the 8th District.
“What’s nice about Los Angeles is [that] no one will stand up and say, ‘Things are bad, and I don’t really care how they look.’ It’s a good environment. It’s a better environment for us than we’ve seen historically. We must capitalize on that as much as possible.”
And Harris-Dawson is encouraging residents to join him in his efforts.
“One important thing I want Sentinel readers to know is that we need you more involved now more than ever. One of the things I fear is that people will say, ‘Oh, we got Marqueece in, so that’s great,’ and that’s the end of it.
“Our power and influence on the City Council is based on our willingness and our ability to bring people power to bear. So, we need your involvement. I encourage people to come to City Council meetings. People underestimate the power of speaking during public comment and raising an issue because others are listening. We need to be a district where people should expect to see us there when important things are being discussed,” insisted Harris-Dawson.
“We also need you at your block club meetings, active in your church, active in your fraternity or sorority or whatever it is you are involved in, social or justice organizations. We need you involved. We need you at the table to hear your voice.”