Los Angeles City Council District 15 is one of the most economically diverse or as some would call it, one of the most lopsided council districts in all of Los Angeles. The north end of the district covers the Watts community, one of the most densely populated and lowest income communities in all of Los Angeles, but then, the district heads south, literally carving a thin borderline between Gardena and Compton, and then Torrance and Carson, and finally opening up to San Pedro, which includes the Port of Los Angeles and Terminal Island.
The current city councilman is Joe Busciano, who has now focused his sites on running for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2022. Busciano’s decision of not seeking reelection has now created an opening for whomever is interested. With the race over a year away, one man who has decided that he does want the job is Tim McOsker. McOsker, who is an attorney by trade, has been a long-standing servant of both the district and the City of Los Angeles.
While there is no question McOsker has the experience and reputation needed to serve on the city council, what makes his run for public office interesting is he is a man who has spent a lifetime record of serving the city and the community in which he hopes to be elected by from behind the scenes, and now has decided he is ready to serve from a leading role.
District 15 has never been seen as a “Black Seat” and the largest part of the district is predominantly populated by White voters. But many of the most critical challenges that face whomever represents the district are in the heart of the Watts community, where the population is overwhelmingly African American and Latino, and the struggles they face on a day-to-day basis are highlighted because resources, that for whatever reason, never seem to make their way up the 110 freeway and into the Watts community.
McOsker, who is a lifelong San Pedro community member, has dedicated his career to improving the quality of life for all Angelenos. He has had a long history of serving San Pedro, the 15th council district, and all Angelenos in many critical leadership roles. He has over three decades of experience in government, including as Chief of Staff and Chief Deputy City Attorney for former Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn.
The LAWT had an opportunity to sit down with McOsker (although via Zoom) to better get to know this well-respected community servant and leader, as well as, better understand his vision for the 15th Council District in general and the Watts community in particular. The interview started with a very simple question, “Why does Tim McOsker want to be the councilman of Los Angeles 15th Council District?” This question brought a smile to McOsker’s face. He started with the answer, “My wife, Connie, is totally supportive of my run for office.” But then, the 59-year-old attorney expounded on the answer by explaining he was born and raised in this district, and that he comes from a family that has been committed to public service.
His brothers both worked as firefighters for the City of Los Angeles and his father worked for the federal government on Terminal Island. He says he has been blessed to learn the importance and impact he can have on his community via public service and government service by working closely with Hahn Family. He explained how working with Jimmy Hahn in both the City Attorney’s office and Mayor’s office gave him a first-hand understanding on the role city government plays in the daily lives of its citizens. McOsker says he learned much about working in the district from former 15th council representative Janice Hahn who fully supports and has endorsed McOsker for the position. “It was an honor for me to do the work I did under Jimmy Hahn. I always loved this city, but I also fell in love with public service,” stated McOsker.
He says after serving for several years in city hall, and then working 20 years in public service as a lawyer representing folks who were dealing with government issues, he says the timing just felt right. “When Joe announced he wasn’t running and from the encouragement of friends and family, and after spending years working so much in the community, being involved in education in issues facing LAUSD, in working on issues involving health care and the hospital system he says he fell in Love with local politics all over again. “It came at the right time in my life with my kids out of the house, my wife spending so much time on her job working in homeless services,” he stated, feeling this was the right time.
Tim McOsker understands that many of the issues facing the Watts community at the northern end of his district are much different than the issues he is facing at the districts southern end in San Pedro. How do you bridge the issues of the Watts community with the issues facing the San Pedro community?
“The 15th district has opposite anchors at each end of the district. I see’s bridging the gap to these two anchors as an extraordinary opportunity to bring equity and justice to public service and an opportunity in the 15th to re-tilt and realign the opportunities for justice and for jobs and for services to the northern reaches of this district. He says unfortunately, this either hasn’t happened consistently or it just hasn’t happened all.
Tim McOsker says he is committed to the Watts community. He says a good example of this commitment is his weekly participation with the Watts gang task force. Currently, he attends weekly Zoom task force meetings and says he believes his attendance in these meetings is important because it gives him an opportunity to hear the issues, the concerns, the needs of those community members that are involved with the task force. He looks forward to the days when he can be physically present at task force meetings and other Watts community events. McOsker believes “Justice will not come to the district until it comes to Watts” and believes that the measure of his success as a council member will be tied to Watts and he pledges to bring justice to Watts.
But McOsker is not running to only represent Watts. District 15 is a large and vast district, but he says that the issues that face Watts are many of the same issues that face other parts of the district as well. He says that housing, homelessness and homeless services are issues across the district and across the entire city. He believes that the entire city needs to urgently work to provide shelter to the homeless but not lose site of the work necessary to also create permanent housing at the same time.
McOsker believes that the entire city missed an opportunity during the pandemic to really speak to the community. “One of the concerns that a number of people have raised is how the housing projects are moving forward in Watts. The important thing for me and other elected officials to do is speak and listen to the community, to speak with the community early and often to understand their concerns and issues that they are facing” stated McOsker.
He says we need to create opportunity where we are spending money on both permanent housing as well as housing for the homeless. “At every state of the process, we must seize on the opportunity to engage the community in the planning process, in the entitlement process in the building, and in the operations of development. As a councilman, it will be my job to bring the full range of services offered by the City of Los Angeles to the communities I serve. Not just some services to Watts and others to San Pedro, that every community deserves and needs the full menu of services, from tree trimming to street cleaning, from social services to re-investment in the community. In Watts he envisions an opportunity to create, where new investment is a real opportunity and with these opportunities we can create and invite new business investment in Watts the same way the city does and will continue to do in other parts of the city that haven’t always made their way within the Watts community,” he said.
The other issue that McOsker focus a lot of time and thought towards is public safety. He says that public safety and creating business and housing opportunities go hand-in-hand. I see it as extraordinarily important in Watts and every community that a community’s health, safety and public safety are engaged together to make for better neighborhoods.
Another major part of addressing public safety comes out of the mayor’s office. A thing that McOsker knows a lot about since he served as the Chief of Staff to former Mayor Jimmy Hahn. He likes the fact Mayor Garcetti called his budget the “Mayors Justice Budget” and thinks that is a good name for all that the mayor is trying to address in this budget. He says “Mayor Garcetti responded well to the confluence of crisis that we find ourselves in.” He likes Mayor Garcetti’s plan and work to address homelessness, he supports the guaranteed income program, but points out that this program is a very small amount in comparison to Los Angeles huge budget, he supports the $500,000’s the reparations commission has set aside. He thinks all of this is important to the city but points out that all of this is important to Watts as well.
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn supports McOsker’s pursuit for a councilmember for District 15. “Tim McOsker has spent decades working for the people of the 15th District. From Harbor City to Watts, and San Pedro, Tim is a lifelong CD-15 resident. Fighting for this community is in his DNA. During the pandemic, Tim fought tirelessly for the people of Los Angeles, spending his weekends volunteering to help our most vulnerable— keeping people fed and safe. Tim was my brother, James Hahn’s right-hand man when he was Mayor and is like family to the Hahns. I’m proud to support his campaign for City Council District 15,” Hahn said.
One of the most highly contested issues facing whomever is going to be the next councilmember of the 15th district will be the possibility of carving out new districting lines that will remove Watts from the 15th council district and make it a part of either the 8th (Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson) or the 9th (Councilmember Curren Price) district. One of the leading proponents of this redistricting effort is WLCAC President Tim Watkins (as previously published in The Los Angeles Sentinel & LAWT). Watkins believes that by moving Watts into a district where the demographics, issues, and priorities are more aligned and united, will provide more and better resources to the overall Watts community.
When asked about the movement to redistrict Watts, Tim McOsker shared these thoughts. “When a community stalwart like Tim Watkins suggests moving Watts into the 8th or 9th district, I am not going to second guess him. It is a perfectly good suggestion and I would not oppose it if the redistricting commission came back with that suggestion. But I also think that another answer is to have a public official (councilman) committed to providing all of the resources of the government to the community. To prove and demonstrate to that community that it cares about that community and respects the community and empowers that community in the same way it has empowered other communities,” he said. McOsker says one thing the residence of Watts can be assured of is that he will support Watts no matter what comes out of districting, whether Watts is his district or not.
The run to be the next representative for the 15th council district is still a few months away, but Tim McOsker believes he will be the next city councilman of the district. Early on, he secured the endorsement of former district councilwoman, congresswoman and current Supervisor Janice Hahn. He has the support of Watt’s Icon, “Sweet” Alice Harris and democratic, community and labor organizer, Jimmie Woods-Gray, as well as Connie Rice, who he worked closely with on the consent decree following the LAPD Rampart scandal.
Tim McOsker is a man ready for the big stage and is prepared to do the work necessary to not only garner the needed votes, but also to do the job after he gets the votes. He is a family man with five adult children. He says he has a reputation as a plain-spoken guy, an honest guy, and a guy who comes to the table willing to listen with a desire to do what is in the greatest good of all. One thing is certain, Tim McOsker wants to be the next city councilman for the 15th district of the City of Los Angeles.