Where Does The Community Go From Here?

Villaraigosa's mayoral candidacy puts me in a tailspin

By Alfredo Martinez
Published on LatinoLA: August 10, 2004

Where Does The Community Go From Here?

The Latino community has historically suffered from inadequate representation, which has contributed to creating the social problems that many Latino communities face today. Living in El Sereno, I have grown to be accustomed to being misrepresented and not getting the resources necessary for my neighborhood to establish a healthy environment for my family and I to feel safe walking our own streets. As big as an issue that it might be today, there are still several elected officials who have a track record that demonstrates their true and honest commitment to the constituents who they serve. So now that the upcoming Mayor?s race looms over us, I have become unsure as if that really exists today.

I am somebody who keeps an ear to the ground as to what is taking place in government, which lately has involved James Hahn associated to pay-for-play politics in City Hall or Schwarzenegger realizing that running California is not as simple as being a Kindergarden Cop. My main concern at the end of the day is that I want to make sure to bring enough money to the house to pay the mortgage and provide food and simple luxuries for my family. But all that changed when I had a young lady come to my house in February of 2003. She introduced herself as a volunteer for the Villaraigosa for City Council Campaign, and that she wanted to talk to me about how she felt that Antonio Villaraigosa can make my community a better place. I expressed to her that my concern was that he would stay in Council for a little while and then go off to a bigger position. I figured that a man who served as Speaker of the Assembly cannot be satisfied with dealing with the basic service needs of the community. She caught my attention when she said that he promised to serve at least a full term, so I decided to give her a few minutes and see what I could find out about this man.

After my conversation with her ended, I decided to get more information and went down to the gas station. I didn?t go to get gas, but rather to visit the campaign office that Villaraigosa had set up on the lot. After getting more information and keeping up on the news, I decided that Villaraigosa was going to work hard to make my community a better place. I was excited when he won, and it didn?t take long for my family to notice the difference in the quality of service that his staff provided to that of the previous Councilmember, Nick Pacheco. The streets felt safer, the neighborhood looked cleaner, and the general feeling in the area was that better times were on their way.

Villaraigosa spent slightly over a year working hard to prove to everybody that he was in office to take care of business. Whether it was at toy drives or food drives, he or his staff were always there, ready to give a helping hand when needed and offering it before it was asked of them. At one point, I even decided to call his office and see if they could help me with a pothole that had been in front of my house for years. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my pothole was gone within a week. Finally, my faith in politicians had been restored. For the first time in years, I actually felt that the needs of the little people were being properly addressed.

Now we arrive to August of 2004. After Villaraigosa had released a 1 year report that tells the entire community of the great accomplishments that his office did in their first year of office, I find out that his first year of service might be his last as Councilmember. I wake up in the morning to read my copy of the LA Times, and I see the headlines read ?Villaraigosa Joins Race?. I cannot begin to tell you all the questions that came up in my head when I read that. Everything from ?Did Antonio lie to me?? to ?What is El Sereno going to do now??

After I finished my breakfast and began to calm down, I started to think about what really mattered in relation to Villaraigosa?s declaration of intentions to become Mayor of Los Angeles. The fact that he promised to stay in office for a full term was not all that important to me. In the workplace, it happens many times that the people hired for a job do not stay for the full term of their commitment for one reason for another. We as a people always look to find a way to move up the ladder, and we should not hold it against Villaraigosa for wanting to do the same. Many can argue that he made a promise not to run (I included), but the big picture at hand makes me believe once again as I did 4 years ago that he will better serve Los Angeles as Mayor than Hahn has, or any of the other candidates would if given the opportunity.

What I do hold against him is getting us use to a level of service that might be gone as quickly as we got accustomed to it. I grew up under Art Snyder, not really understanding as a youth what it meant to have somebody represent you at any level of government. As a teenager and young adult, I saw Richard Alatorre represent our area rather well. And then as a married man and a father, I saw Nick Pacheco ignore my community and ultimately paying for it by suffering a humiliating defeat. When you have somebody who brings together a staff together like Antonio Villaraigosa, a staff that has gone beyond the call of duty to prove to everybody that they genuinely care about the communities that they work in, you can only hold some anger against him for wanting to take that away.

I have little doubt that if Villaraigosa succeeds in becoming Mayor of Los Angeles, that most, if not all of his staff will go with him to the Mayor?s Office. What that leaves us with is a new Councilmember and new staff, most of which the active residents throughout the district have little if no relationship with at all. People, who are dedicated to work hard to improve their community, like those individuals who serve on their respective neighborhood councils or on the local homeowner associations, have spent the last year developing relationships with the staff that we as the community go to when we need help. Most people don?t think to call the Assemblymember, the Congressperson of our area, or even the Mayor?s Office for help. The Council Office is our direct level of exposure to local government, and we need to feel comfortable with the people who work at that level when we need help on matters that might be more personal than the garbage man skipping my green trash can on trash day.

This is the reason why I have had the same doctor for years. This is why I have gone to the same mechanic when something was needed for my car. When people invest time and energy to develop relationships like this, it?s just not fair for the community to have to start from scratch with these field representatives and have to learn their moods, their working habits, and how dedicated they are day in and day out to taking care of the community's needs.

So I end with this simple question for my Councilmember: What measures are you going to take (if you win and become Mayor) to ensure that the residents of the 14th Council District do not suffer in the quality of representation because of your career ambitions? If you can answer that question for me, you can surely count on my vote for Mayor. Regardless, I wish you the best of luck my brother and I hope to see you on the campaign trail.

About Alfredo Martinez:
Alfredo is an average Joe who works as Financial Planner and enjoys a good poker game on the weekends.

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