#HomesBeforeArenas; Tenants Rights Activists Announce Lawsuit Against City of Inglewood

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Inglewood City Hall

Author: Joe Brizzolara / June 19, 2018

Earlier Today at a press conference outside of Inglewood City Hall, The Uplift Inglewood Coalition announced they will be suing the City of Inglewood for violation of the California Surplus Land Act. The group claims the City violated the state law—which mandates the prioritization of affordable housing in the development of unused city owned land— by entering into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Murphy’s Bowl.

Murphy’s Bowl is a company controlled by the Clippers. They want to purchase three parcels of city land near the intersection of Prairie Avenue and Century Boulevard to build a new basketball arena.

The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (E.N.A.) on June 15th, 2017. The agreement establishes a 36-month period for a potential purchase to be reviewed and includes a 1.5 million non-refundable deposit to cover the city’s costs of exploring the environmental and fiscal impact of the purchase.  

This is not the first lawsuit stemming from this E.N.A. The L.A. Times reported on a suit brought against Inglewood by the Forum, who alleges that Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. fabricated a “fraudulent scheme” which green lighted Murphy’s Bowl rather than facilitating a competitive bidding process.

The Surplus Land Act “requires a local agency disposing of surplus land to give first priority in a purchase or lease to an entity agreeing to use the site for housing for persons of low or moderate income.”

“People are being displaced because of the development that is happening” said Uplift Inglewood organizer Derek Steele.

Uplift Inglewood is being represented by Katie McKeon, a fellow with Public Counsel. Public Counsel is a nation-wide pro bono law firm. They will be joining The Public Interest Law Project and the law firm Cozen O’Connor in litigating this case on behalf of Uplift Inglewood.

“We wholeheartedly support [Uplift Inglewood’s] goal of promoting equitable development in Inglewood. We want all sectors of the community to enjoy the benefits of economic development,” said McKeon.

“The city should be using every tool at its disposal to create safe, stable, affordable housing.”

“The Surplus Land Act requires cities and counties to notify certain governmental agencies and affordable housing developers whenever there is surplus land available,” explained McKeon.

One press conference attendant asked whether there is an Affordable Housing developer already lined up if the courts do decide to invalidate the arena agreement.

“It’s not our job to find the affordable housing developer,” said McKeon. “It’s the job of the city to follow state law and offer it to developers.”

Behind the event’s speakers, group members held signs reading “Save Our Community” and “#HomesBeforeArenas”.

Along with this lawsuit, Uplift Inglewood is currently waging a rent control initiative. Steele says that they have collected the signatures (above the minimum required) which are currently under review by the County. If certified, Inglewood residents will vote on whether to add an amendment to the City’s Charter which would cap rent increases. 65.3% of housing units in the city are rentals according to the 2016 Census.

Last Night @ City Council: Proposed Charter Changes and Watering Woes

Last Night @ City Council is a weekly report on the goings on of Long Beach’s City Council by Forthe.Org. This weeks features contributions from The Sprawl Chief-Editor Joe Brizzolara. Matters discussed include: proposed Charter Amendments that could dramatically alter Long Beach’s electoral process (the creation of a Citizens Commission charged with redistricting and an end to a term limits exemption for write-in candidates) and Water Department; an appropriation of funds to combat homelessness; and debate concerning the browning of the city’s green spaces.

Excerpt:

The Council last night held the first of three special meetings required to get five mayor-proposed amendments of the city charter on the November ballot.

The first amendment proposes to establish a Citizens Redistricting Commission in order to address long-running gerrymandering of council district boundaries. Under the current system, city staff develops new district maps, which then go before the council for approval.

If passed, the new amendment would create a commission of citizens who would be charged with redrawing  districts that would replace the current ones in 2021. The districts would have to be geographically compact, utilize natural boundaries, and keep neighborhoods intact.

The city’s Cambodian community has been both a main target of discrimination in redistricting, and a leader in the fight for it, as was acknowledged last night by the mayor and the public… Read More

Not “C”-ing Eye to Eye in Irvine; Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Measure C in Irvine

Irvine Civic Center.jpg

Author: Joe Brizzolara / June 11, 2018

Last Tuesday, the voters of Irvine overwhelmingly passed Measure C. The measure will require a 2/3rds majority on its City Council to place a new tax on a ballot for voter approval. Measure C was the only one of three measures to be approved by voters in Irvine last week, with Measures B and D failing. The final vote count is 76.6% yes and 23.4% no.

The measure was supported by a majority of the Council, the Irvine Taxpayers Association, the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, and the Orange County Taxpayers Association, which lobbied to have it placed on the ballot.

Measure C was placed on the ballot back in February with a Council vote of 3-5. Councilmembers Jeffrey Lalloway and Melissa Fox voted against placing it on the ballot.

Councilman Lalloway wanted to hold off until November, fearing that its fate might get conflated with Measures B and D which proved unpopular with voters.

Councilmember Fox argued that a 2/3rds requirement could prove difficult during hard fiscal times for the city when new revenue needs to be generated quickly. She also points out that since the taxes need to be approved by voters, a 2/3rds requirement will hinder residents being able to weigh in.

“We will not always be in the same situation that we are in now,” said Fox in her comments before the vote.

“I want to respect the ability of the residents of the future and the councils of the future to vote in a majority [for a new tax].”

Mayor Don Wagner proposed the measure and agrees with Councilmember Fox about one thing.

“Ms. Fox is right, this will make it harder to raise taxes in the future. That is exactly its point. Is that a valid criticism? No, that is the strength of the measure.”

Councilmember Lalloway, a Republican, emphasizes that if the Measure had been placed on the November ballot (when he will be up for re-election) he would have supported it unequivocally: “We should not look to raise the taxes of our residents. Ever. There’s plenty of revenue and when there are tough times the city needs to tighten its belt and not try to raise taxes. We also have a contingency reserve that can be used in tough times. That’s what it’s for.”

Carolyn Cavecche is the C.E.O. of the Orange County Taxpayers Association and was Mayor of the City of Orange during the ‘08 financial collapse. She remembers hard times when the city was hemorrhaging revenue. Ultimately, she believes that if a city is in great enough need for new revenue they should have no problem getting 4 councilmembers to sign off on it.

“If a tax is really needed, than four [councilmembers] are going to be in favor of it.”

Currently, all “general law” cities require a 2/3rds majority for new taxes to be proposed. General law cities run on state laws while “charter cities” have a charter which establishes laws unique to their city. Of the 10 charter cities in Orange County, 4 have now passed charter amendments that establish a 2/3rds requirement. Along with Irvine, these cities include Anaheim, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach.

“We are one of the few cities in California that doesn’t have this protection and it was my thought that we ought to have it,” says Mayor Wagner, who proposed the measure.

The 2/3rds requirement went into effect when voters passed Proposition 62 back in 1986. Orange County overwhelmingly voted yes on 62, with around 67% of votes in favor. The law extended this requirement to General Law cities alone, hence the current push to pass amendments in charter cities.

While the Orange County Register’s assertion that there was no “organized opposition” to this measure seems largely true, the group Irvine for Responsible Growth did oppose the measure. Most of their efforts were focused on successfully defeating Measures B and D, but Janis Morris, an organizer with the group, penned an op-ed for their website arguing against its passing titled “I JUST DON’T ‘C’ IT.”

According to the City Clerk’s office, “No direct argument against the proposed measure was filed.” Morris says that she inquired about submitting a rebuttal to the argument in favor, but was unable to because no argument against (the first step in the process) was submitted before the deadline.

She draws attention to the subtle math of a 2/3rds requirement in a five person legislative body: “We pass everything on a majority of 3 votes out of 5. That’s 60%. “C” in reality will require 4 of 5 votes, or 80%.”

“We can declare war with a smaller percentage,” Morris dryly asserts.

But Cavecche finds this argument facile: “That’s just math.”

“We could have said 4/5ths but the reason we don’t is because one, 2/3rds is the general term you use (at the state level) and [two], we don’t know that Irvine is going to stay at a 5 person council. The city of Anaheim just went from being a 5 person council to a 7 person council.”

“2/3rds is just the standard that is used.”

Cavecche points out that Californians are leaving for other states with lower taxes and this measure is meant to curb that problem.

“The burden to live in California is huge.”

Cavecche couldn’t point to an example of a tax proposed in Orange where the 2/3rds requirement (Orange is a general law City) had a critical effect but she did point to an instance in Westminster in 2016.

Westminster was in hard fiscal times and was relying on cuts and its reserves to stay afloat. Councilmember Margie Rice proposed a new sales tax to place before the voters. Because his vote was critical to secure a 2/3rds majority, Mayor Tri Ta was able to secure a 6-year limit on the tax. Cavecche believes it’s highly likely that with only a 3 member threshold, the Council would have likely sent a tax to the voters that would have been in perpetuity.

“There are councils where it’s hard to get the 2/3rds threshold and I [do not] think that’s a bad thing.”

Mayor Wagner acknowledges that the amendment’s effects are meant to be long term.

“This isn’t to fix a problem, this is to stop a problem from happening in the future.”

Morris has a different reading.

“This is clearly a solution in search of a problem.”

Rhetoric or Reality: Different Shades of Blue Gunning For Long Beach CD-7 Seat

Milrad vs Uranga Cover

On the left, Jared Milrad, from his film “30 to Life”. On the right, Roberto Uranga at a recent City Council meeting. Edited by: Kevin Flores / FORTHE media.

Author: Erin Foley, Joe Brizzolara, Kevin Flores, Andrew Carroll / June 4, 2018

Long Beach’s City Council District 7 goes to the polls on Tuesday to choose their councilmember. No candidate was able to secure 50 percent or more of the vote in the April 5 primary election, so Tuesday’s runoff will be held between the two top vote earners. They are incumbent Roberto Uranga, who received 49.2 percent of the vote, and Jared Milrad, who got 30.3 percent. We interviewed both of the candidates, took a look at the issues of the race, the mudslinging between the opponents, and their campaign finances. This report is a collaboration between FORTHE Media and The Sprawl.

Resumes

Uranga has lived in the district for over 35 years and has worked for the city for 29 years. This includes a 14-year stint on the Long Beach Community College District Board. His wife, Tonia Uranga, served two terms as councilmember for District 7. Along with the City Council, Uranga also serves on the California Coastal Commission.

Jared Milrad has lived in the district for a few years. His resume includes interning for former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, organizing for the Service Workers International Union, and doing fundraising for the Obama presidential campaign. He also has a film production company and was featured in a Hillary Clinton campaign video, which garnered him national attention.

Both candidates have referred to themselves as “progressives” and seem to represent two sides of Long Beach. Milrad’s squeaky clean presentation and socially liberal and environmentally focused messaging has echoes of Robert Garcia’s pre-mayoral campaigning days. Uranga’s long standing connection with his district and organized labor has given his campaign a more old-school democrat air.

Uranga has received endorsements from many organizations and individuals that hold serious political weight in Southern California including: the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Association of Long Beach Employees, and California Nurses Association. Some key political endorsements include: Congressman Alan Lowenthal, State Senator Kevin de León, and Assemblymember (and former Long Beach Councilmember) Patrick O’Donnell. He’s also been endorsed by Mayor Robert Garcia. Garcia spoke at a recent Get-Out-The-Vote event at the Uranga Headquarters—nicknamed the “House of Labor”—and gave a glowing endorsement.

Milrad’s resume has been an issue of contention in this race. From a Uranga mailer: “Milrad claims to be a business owner and public interest attorney … Milrad’s ‘business’ just received its license a few weeks ago and he isn’t credentialed to practice law.”

At the time of publication, Milrad refutes this claim on his website: “Jared has never been a licensed or practicing attorney, and he has never claimed that he is. Jared has only used the term ‘lawyer,’ which has colloquially been used to describe an individual with a law degree.”

When we pressed Uranga’s campaign, they did not produce proof that Milrad had called himself a “public-interest attorney,” like they say in their mailer. However, they pointed to language from the Bar Association that frowns upon anyone calling themselves a lawyer if not practicing law.

Mildred apparently refers to himself as an “attorney (non-entertainment)” on a profile that appears to be self-written on a networking site for people in the entertainment business.

On the matter of business ownership, Milrad claims that as sole proprietor of “A Show for Change” he was not required to file with the California Secretary of State. He purports to have filed a “Doing Business As” (DBA) with Los Angeles County in 2016 which was accepted by the Long Beach City Clerk as proof for his ballot designation as “Small Business Owner” in this election. Neither of the campaigns responded to requests to substantiate their claims.

Another sore spot in this election has been Milrad’s hammering of Uranga for his attendance record. He has stated that Uranga is the “second-most absentee councilmember.” Uranga claims that the numbers are off and that he’s actually the fourth-most present Councilmember. The Press-Telegram reviewed Milrad’s data and found that he had accurately counted missed votes when cross-checked with documents provided by the City Clerk. Both claims appear to be accurate. Uranga has missed 4 meetings in the last 8 years, making him fourth most present Councilmember by that standard.

District 7 is composed of stark socioeconomic contrasts. The eastern portions of the neighborhoods include middle- and upper middle-income households. Across the Los Angeles river, is the West Side, a collection of dense, working-class neighborhoods. Neighborhoods in the east part of the district, like Bixby Knolls and Los Cerritos, have a median household income around 40 percent higher than the West Side. Statistics like this have made some question whether the city invests resources equitably throughout the district.

Issue 1: LGB Airport

The effects of the Long Beach Airport on noise pollution is a significant issue in this race. Many residents who live in the flight path of the planes complain about the loud noise they are forced to live with. This was one of the concerns that stopped the airport from going international last year. Stacy Mungo (CD-5), whose district encompasses the airport, filed a motion to halt a staff recommendation that the airport add a federal inspection station for customs and immigration. This would have allowed for international flights. Uranga voted in favor of the motion.

Milrad has criticized Uranga for not doing enough to enforce a noise ordinance that fines airliners like Jet Blue for late night flights that cause loud disturbances. He believes that in addition to fines (which he says might need to be raised) the city should also consider penalizing offending airlines with the loss of terminal slots. A proposal currently before the airport advisory commission may do just that, which Milrad says he supports.

Uranga voted in favor of upholding fines leveled against Jet Blue by the City. He stated in an email that he does “not support any changes that may have the possibility of jeopardizing the noise ordinance” and does “support holding airlines accountable for their violations to the noise ordinance, including harsher penalties.”

Issue 2: I-710: Reckless Expansion or Modernization?

Expansion of the 710 Freeway has been a pressing issue in this race. Milrad claims that along with increasing congestion and pollution with more roadways, the 710 Freeway expansion would displace hundred of residents that live along its path. During a forum at the Petroleum Club on May 23, Uranga said that it is not an expansion but rather a “modernization” that will not displace people as Milrad is claiming.

“I have never been in favor a 710 [Freeway] expansion that includes displacement,” said Uranga.

Uranga chaired the I-710 Oversight Committee and voted in favor of Alternative 5C. This proposed expansion was ultimately approved by Metro. Along with adding a new lane, 5C will add dedicated truck lanes, new air quality standards, bikeways, and walkways.

Uranga is proud of his tenure on the Oversight Committee, saying: “I worked with Mayor Garcia, the MTA, the Port of Long Beach, and other entities to ensure that improvements were made to the 710 Freeway that will not displace any residents, that will greatly improve vehicle safety and that will also bring $200 million to fund zero and near zero emission trucks that utilize the I-710 corridor. It will separate trucks from vehicles and make the 710 [Freeway] safer to travel without [the] trucks versus cars scenario we have now.”

However, Milrad doesn’t believe that the freeway is the way to the future.

“In 2018, we shouldn’t be widening freeways anymore,” says Milrad. “It’s a relic of the past. We know that when we widen freeways, every single time, it increases both traffic and pollution.”

Milrad favors investing in public transportation (such as light rail) over expanding the 710. Along with environmental and congestion concerns, Milrad points to a State of California Department of Transportation report on Alternative 5C, which concludes that “at least 400 people will be displaced.”

The report in question states: “Alternative 5C would result in a total of 158 nonresidential relocations and 109 residential relocations. Based on an average of four persons per residential unit, alternatives [would] result in the relocation of approximately 436 residents.”

Ernesto Chavez, Metro’s highway program director, told the Press-Telegram that a majority of affected units would be in the City of Commerce, not in Long Beach. Because Metro has not yet secured funding for the project, the Board of Directors has advised them to focus on smaller upgrades first. This will lower the amount of units affected. Chavez said that any relocation is at least a decade off.

Milrad believes that other improvements need to be made. These include mandated zero-emissions trucks (which is slated for 2035, but which Milrad says should come sooner), heightened barrier walls (which is included under alternative 5C), and a dedicated truck lane (also included in 5C). Other issues not addressed by Metro, Milrad says include an increase of “open space” in District 7 (with more trees resulting in a decrease in carbon emissions) and a build-up of the Atlantic Avenue and Alameda Street corridors.

Taylor Thomas, from East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, believes Metro’s plan, which Uranga supports, doesn’t go far enough to protect the communities around the project.

“[…] When you read the EIR (environmental impact report), even when you read the motion that the Metro Board put forward, it doesn’t bring us the zero emissions that communities asked for and need. It is still missing a lot of the components that would make it a holistic project as well as the components that the Metro Board passed in 2015.”

District 7 includes part of the I-710 corridor known as the “Diesel Death Zone” where pollution from trucks coming and going from the ports and rail yards is rampant, causing the surrounding residents—mostly communities of color—to have the lowest life-expectancy in the city and an increased rate of serious health complications, such as asthma and cancer.

And now displacement could be on the horizon for some of them, Taylor said.

“People’s homes are absolutely still in danger. The way that the Metro Board and even some of our City Council framed it was, ‘There’s not going to be any displacement in the early action projects,’ but that is not the entire project. When you look at what’s codified and actually what’s going to happen and you look at the Metro motion, there’s no directive to completely eliminate displacement.”

Milrad points to Uranga’s vote on Alternative 5C as proof of his bias favoring oil companies that have donated to his campaign.

“I think we need someone who’s going to serve our community, not outside special interests,” says Milrad.

Uranga sees it differently: “Some folks are content to do nothing about the 710 Freeway, including my opponent, but I know that we can improve the freeway without displacing residents.”

That is yet to be seen.

Issue 3: Homelessness

Milrad believes Long Beach should follow the the City of Los Angeles’s lead and build more supportive housing, along with assigning caseworkers to every homeless individual.

He points out that this system has worked in other cities such as Salt Lake City and will save money in the long run when accounting for a reduction in public safety costs such as arrests and emergency room visits. A study done in Los Angeles County supports this conclusion. Milrad considers homelessness a “human rights issue.”

Uranga says he shares his opponent’s compassion for homeless people and points to his record as proof that he is willing to take unpopular stances in order to provide them with services. This includes the opening of a mental health center in District 7 that he says was met with criticism by residents but which he ultimately supported.

Another accomplishment Uranga cites is the creation of additional beds for homeless veterans at Villages at Cabrillo, a residential community in District 7 that offers permanent and transitional housing for those affected by homelessness. He also touts a homeless task force recently created by Mayor Garcia, which teams city officials with service providers to consider new tactics for battling homelessness, however, he did not specify his role in it’s creation and is not himself on it. He also says he supports the creation of transitional housing and the use of housing vouchers.

Rene Castro, with the Villages at Cabrillo, says that of the 75 units that Uranga is referring to, most are “straight affordable.” This means that those who have successfully applied for the program are only required to pay 30 percent of their income to rent. Other units have “intensive case management” meaning the applicants have a disability that requires an individually assigned case worker. The facility is modern-looking, more akin to a building on a college campus than public housing.

Castro says that Uranga is a familiar face on the 27-acre campus, having recently attended the dedication of a mural. Castro also says that he is often in contact with Uranga’s office, having just recently contacted his chief of staff about agendizing an item for a future City Council meeting..

“I’m proud that we have over 1,100 affordable housing units in the Seventh District and am willing to meet with any group or agency that would like to build additional units,” Uranga said.

According to a 2017 homeless count released by the City, homelessness is down 21 percent from 2015. Between 2013 and 2017, Districts 7, 8 and 9 saw an increase of 7 percent in the percentage of the city’s homeless residing within those districts. In 2017, Districts 7, 8 and 9 contained 30 percent of the city’s homeless population.

“Many in the community believe that homelessness is increasing in the City, when, in reality, what is occurring is a broader dispersion across the city,” the homeless count report states.

Issue 4: Rent Control

With some question remaining as to whether affordable housing advocates will be able to get a rent control initiative on the ballot in Long Beach, residents all over the city are discussing (sometimes heatedly) rent control. Milrad, despite his progressive messaging, has opposed rent control outright. Uranga has taken a middle path, saying he is personally opposed to rent control, but supports a ballot measure that will allow voters to decide.

“I have my own opinion, I am not a rent control supporter. But it’s not my decision,” said Uranga at the forum earlier this month.

Milrad says that his reasons for not supporting rent control are two-fold: it lowers the amount of market-rate units which drives up prices, and it is tied to the unit, not the renter.

The first reason is a standard economic argument often made against rent control. The supply of market-rate units lowers, thereby increasing demand and inflating the price. Milrad points out that this is compounded by the fact that many owners of rent-controlled units convert their units to non-rental units thereby evading the profit reduction of rent control.

The second argument he makes is that, in accordance with existing law that restricts rent control, the economic protections focus on the unit and not the renter.

“The problem with rent control is [that] it’s tied to the rental unit. In a highly mobile society, especially with young people like myself who move around frequently for new job opportunities or school, it just doesn’t make sense.”

This argument rings as particularly tone deaf to Jordan Wynne, a community organizer with Housing Long Beach, which the group behind the current rent control initiative.

“[When he uses] this metaphor [of young mobile renters] he’s speaking about, not only himself, but about gentrifiers in general. He’s talking about the people who are young, educated, typically white, who move into neighborhoods that have predominantly working class and people of color [as residents] and displace them. He’s saying we have to be accomodating to those [new tenants].”

Wynne points out that their rent control ordinance does in fact have renter-tied protections in the form of just-cause eviction. This part of the proposed law lays out specific reasons for a landlord to evict their tenant thereby protecting them from being evicted for purely economic reasons.

If instituted “a tenant cannot be evicted without a valid reason,” Wynne explains. “We are literally working with buildings right now who are facing mass evictions, that’s 10 and 20 families getting evicted at a single time.”

Wynne says that he is unsurprised by Milrad’s lack of awareness of the needs of low-income renters in the district. He believes that Milrad’s connections to the community are lacking and that he’s simply mastered the optics of a community-oriented progressive.

Kevin Shin, a candidate for the seat who failed to make it into the run-off, and Roberto Uranga both made overtures to Housing Long Beach but they received no similar outreach from Milrad, Wynne said. Along with being a community activist, Wynne is a resident of District 7 and says that he has never seen Milrad at an event that was not directly related to the election.

“He’s flaunting a lot of the qualities of being a progressive, of being someone who is a voice forward for change,” Wynne critiques. “But when it gets down to it he’s not actually on the ground, he’s not talking to the people who are doing this progressive work.”

Wynne’s take on Uranga is a leveled one. He appreciates the support the councilmember has given to their initiative (even attending an event and signing the petition), but is also troubled by his opposition to the policy itself. He believes that while Uranga does have connections with the community and personally recognizes the significance of the rent control movement, he is also likely beholden to real estate interests with deep pockets and a vehement opposition to rent control. He views this election as a continued push to get more action from the council on renter protections.

“I have consistently met with both Housing Advocates and Apartment Association members to address this and other issues” says Uranga. “While we couldn’t find [a] consensus, I support the signature gathering initiative led by the housing advocate groups”

And even with his reservations, Wynne said he’ll vote for Uranga.

“Just because I vote for him doesn’t mean I won’t be in his office the very next day saying ‘We need renter protections in Long Beach.’”

Campaign Finance

Through May 19, Uranga’s campaign raised $155,081 and spent $131,261. This excludes independent expenditures from Political Action Committees (PACs) and officeholder account funds.

In that same period, Milrad’s campaign raised $43,446 and spent $70,920, accruing over $26,000 in debt. He did not benefit from any independent expenditures from PACs.

Unions have been Roberto Uranga’s biggest bankrollers. The AFL-CIO dropped over $150,000 in independent expenditures on their door-to-door field program in support of Uranga. The Long Beach Firefighters PAC, Local 372 also threw down just over $7,000 to send out mailers in the district in favor of Uranga.

Though Milrad has accused Uranga of being in the pocket of oil companies, the amount he received from the energy sector, $13,849, is the sixth most before other special interests such as real estate; communications, consulting, and media; and labor.

Roberto Uranga Campaign Contributions by Industry 2017-2018

Milrad received a plurality of his contributions, $12,025, from the 90807 zip code, which includes the affluent Los Cerritos and Bixby Knolls neighborhoods, of which only a sliver resides in District 7. For comparison he received 11 contributions totaling only $1,350 from 90806 and 90810 combined. Those include the West Side, Poly, and Wrigley neighborhoods.

Milrad also pulled $7,500 from donors in Beverly Hills.

The West Side—one of the most poverty stricken areas in Long Beach—didn’t contribute much to Uranga either with only two donations accounting for $1,000 coming from the 90810. Though the difference between contributions from 90806 ($15,600) and 90807 ($10,800) were not as one-sided as with Milrad.

The “Other” category makes up the largest portion of Milrad’s contributors, with most reporting to be either retired or not employed. He also received significant contributions from the real estate sector, including $3,200 from donors connected to Phoenix-based Ensemble Investments.

These numbers do not reflect unitemized donations under $100.

Jared Milrad Campaign Finance Contributions by Industry 2017-2018

Voting Information:

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5th. District 7 includes the neighborhoods of Bixby Knolls, Bixby Terrace, California Heights, Memorial Heights, the Westside, and Wrigley. You can find your polling location here.

Trying to Turn the Blue Wave a Little Green; A Talk in the Park with Kenneth Mejia, Candidate for CA Congressional District 34

Author: Joe Brizzolara / June 3, 2018

This past Monday, Lincoln Park was alive with people. It was memorial day and families and friends gathered to enjoy a warm day in the park. The sounds of kids playing and the smells of meat grilling were ubiquitous. Under some trees and a canopy along Valley Blvd though, a different sort of socializing was going on.

Vegan enchiladas were being served and hacky sack was being played. But along with the normal small talk of a day in the park, serious political discussion was underway on everything from housing reform to drug legalization to healthcare. This is a candidate meet and greet, green party style.

The candidate is Kenneth Mejia. While usually donning a sharp suit (sometimes with a green bow tie) for interviews and appearances, today Mejia is dressed casual: sunglasses, shorts, and a green baseball cap that reads “Mark America Think Again”.

He’s been getting attention on Left media, such as an interview endorsing him on the Huffington Post and interviews with The Young Turks and Jimmy Dore. Cenk Uygur, drawing a pun from Mejia’s previous employer Ernst & Young, called him “Earnest and Young”. The description fits.

If elected, Mejia will be 27 when he enters office. He says that he was inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign to leave a six-figure job in financial services to get into politics and fight for social justice issues.

“[The green party] is essentially the most progressive party, [taking stances] that Bernie was fighting for X100,” says Mejia.

“Single-payer healthcare. Tuition free college. Cancelling student debt. 100% clean and renewable energy.”

Mejia, along with Libertarian Angela McArdle, is running against incumbent Jimmy Gomez. Gomez first got the seat after then congressman Xavier Becerra stepped down to replace Kamala Harris who left the post when she was elected to the U.S. Senate. Gomez then won out a crowded field in a special election that included Mejia who was, at that point, running as a write-in Democrat.

If Gomez is unable to garner at least 51% of the vote then the top two vote earners will go into a run-off election in November.

Mejia is positive about his chances and excited to be talking about ideas that many established Democrats are not. The district is solidly blue, with only about 9% of the district registering Republican, according to the most recent data provided by the California Secretary of State. This is still significantly higher than Green registration which was around .6%. The last time a Republican was elected in this district was 1980. How does Mejia go about introducing the Green Party to stalwart Democrats?

“I think it’s a matter of people knowing that there are options. A lot of people [in this district] are working class people. 1 out of 4 people live in poverty in this district. They don’t know about 3rd parties. Democrats good. Republicans bad. We’re gonna keep hitting [Democrats] on the issues.”

While most of his messaging is positive, Mejia does point out that Gomez has some unsavory bedfellows, such as pharmaceutical companies, in the way of campaign contributions.

Mejia doesn’t think that Jimmy Gomez is a bad guy, and he votes the right way for the most part. But he questions whether the interests of his constituents will trump his financial backers, especially when it comes to controversial issues like single-payer healthcare. Mejia often notes that almost all his donations come from small donors.

He doesn’t have an exact plan for how single-payer (which would eliminate all insurance companies) would be implemented but he supports any measure (such as California’s SB 562) which would push it closer to reality. He does have a clear answer for why it failed though.

“If you think about it, we’re supposed to be leading the way. We have a blue everything. Why didn’t we pass [SB 562]?” questions Mejia.

“The reason why is because health insurance companies and big pharma have a stranglehold on government.”  

Men and women of all ethnicities and varying backgrounds, college educated and not, make up Mejia’s grassroots team.

Ana Antuna is a 19 year old student activist and resident of Los Angeles. She saw Mejia speak at a pro-DACA rally in October of 2017. After signing receiving a voicemail from Mejia himself, she began volunteering in February of this year.

“I thought wow this guy is really committed,” remembers Ana. “I never had a candidate personally call my phone number and invite me to one of their meetings.”

“Green candidates run grassroots campaigns and accept no corporate money.”

She cites immigration reform and rent control as her most important political causes.

Nathan Duran is also a student volunteer. He canvases in City Terrace and has found support for Mejia’s message in all age groups, but especially young people. He was a Bernie Sanders supporter and became disillusioned with the Democrat Party after the 2016 primary. He cites affordable housing and healthcare as two of his most important issues.

Mateo Nagassi is a homeless advocate and citizen journalist. He became politically active for the first time after the 2016 election. He cites mass incarceration as one of his primary causes, having two brothers that are in prison. His activism has bled into all facets of his life. He works in television and is now focused on generating socially aware content.

“Now, I guess you could say, I’ve become woke.”

While only having lived in the district for 4 years, Mejia says he began working in District 34 back in 2010. He is a member of the L.A. Tenants Union and a board member of the Wilshire — Neighborhood Council. While the power of neighborhood councils is largely representational (“a liaison between the community and the city”), Mejia touts their endorsement of the repeal of Costa-Hawkins. Costa-Hawkins is a state law that limits local governments’ ability to institute rent control. He believes rent control is necessary to protect low-income families from being displaced by dramatic rent increases. Along with Rent Control, Mejia supports large investments in new public housing.

Voting Information:

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5th. Congressional District 34 includes the following neighborhoods: Boyle Heights, Chinatown, City Terrace, Cypress Park, Downtown Los Angeles, Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Koreatown, Little Bangladesh, Little Tokyo, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Mount Washington, and Westlake. You can find your polling place at VotersChoice.sos.ca.gov.