L.A. African American Councilmen Vow to Collaborate to Improve South L.A.
Although Los Angeles is a sprawling city, the majority of African Americans still reside south of the 10 freeway. Within that huge geographical area lies Council Districts 8, 9 and 10, all represented by Blacks who are seizing the opportunity to work together for the good of their constituents.
Council President Herb Wesson (CD 10) along with Council members Curren Price (CD 9) and Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD 8), recognize that collaboration will be the key to bringing more resources and programs to South L.A.
“The three of us have the biggest district in City Hall,” said Wesson. “We want individuals in our communities to know that this is a working relationship. With us, we’re committed to put our best foot forward and let the people know.”
Price added, “We’re looking at 8, 9 10 – how does it impact us three? We know we have a broader city, we know we have other resources, but we want to leverage our own relationships, our own knowledge of what’s happening on the ground, and our own commitments to really make a difference in the community that we’re representing.”
Already, the three Council members have united to address common issues such as homelessness, jobs, clean streets and community policing. Their positions on important Council committees greatly strengthens their ability to direct policies and initiatives that impact African Americans as well as all people in the combined districts.
“One of things resounding in the community when I was running was, ‘You all owe it to us to get along,’” noted Harris-Dawson. “I take that very, very seriously and so do my colleagues. We communicate with each other.”
Wesson, as Council President, makes committee assignments. His appointments include Price as chair of Economic Development, a member of the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee and the Homelessness and Poverty Committee where Harris-Dawson will soon assume the chairmanship.
Also, Harris-Dawson serves as vice-chair of Planning, an important committee responsible for approving new businesses and construction throughout the city. As for Wesson, he chairs the Rules, Elections, Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhoods Committee and the Ad Hoc on the 2024 Olympics Committee.
In these roles, the Council members can put unity into action.
For example, Wesson and Price joined with Mayor Eric Garcetti to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Also, all three are emphasizing improved public services and youth activities for South L.A. residents.
While these issues resonate in Black neighborhoods, they are also concerns shared by all citizens.
“A lot of what we do transcends race or background. There are certain things all people in our districts are concerned about. So, when we raise the minimum wage or put focus on homelessness or things of that nature, we’re helping everyone,” said Wesson.
Harris-Dawson observed, “None of our districts are monolithic in terms of race and none of our problems are monolithic. If a couch is sitting on a corner for 10 months, it doesn’t disappear if someone from a different race or class drives by. It’s a problem for everybody and we work hard to solve it.”
Regarding police-community relations, Price and Harris-Dawson held a joint town hall in South L.A. this past July to respond to the increase in fatal police use-of-force incidents. LAPD officials, faith leaders and community organizations came together with elected officials to discuss solutions.
“We were there in a unified force representing the city,” Price said. “That was the first time people had seen that kind of collaboration at that level. It just underscores the importance.
“We are very sensitive to shootings, beatings, about the treatment people get at the hands of the police. These are Black and Brown, primarily. We have a vested interest in making sure things are done right.”
The Council members also hope to work with Black Lives Matters – L.A. (BLM) in moving forward on this issue. Over the past year, BLM has been extremely vocal in demanding action from Mayor Garcetti, the L.A. Police Commission and the LAPD to make tangible changes in police interactions with African Americans.
“The three of us are looking forward to the opportunity to sitting down with them and maybe helping come up with some goals that would be obtainable,” added Wesson.
Wesson acknowledged that BLM has rightly raised the profile of use-of-force incidents and Price said he welcomes the group’s active involvement and engagement.
“I think, even in Los Angeles, most of the establishments agree, ‘We’ve got to do something, something has to happen.’ The question is what and when and how to move that point more aggressively,” noted Harris-Dawson.
Looking towards the future, the Council members agreed that collaboration would always be the first step in their efforts to bring improvements to South Los Angeles. Whether the concern is jobs, police-community relations, public services or homelessness, they aim to work in concert to find answers.
“Collectively, the three of us represent one of the most powerful times for African Americans. Unity is important and we’re trying to set that example and hope our constituents will too. Together we’re much stronger and can do much more,” said Wesson.
Price insisted, “We’re each committed to improving the quality of life in our districts, for expanding opportunities for those we represent and we realize, together collaborating, we have a better chance of success, of marshaling the resources.”
“If we can stay unified and committed,” said Harris-Dawson, “we can have a dramatic impact on people’s quality of life, not just now, but for generations to come.”