This week's final count for the L.A. city election confirmed there will be a runoff in the first Council District, which stretches diagonally from Northeast L.A. to the Pico-Union neighborhood.
The May 21 runoff matches longtime Sacramento lawmaker Gil Cedillo against Jose Gardea, chief of staff to the outgoing council member, Ed Reyes, who is termed out of office. The district includes areas that are being gentrified, such as Highland Park, and others that have serious, longstanding problems.
Eddie White manages apartments in the Westlake District near MacArthur Park. As president of the local neighborhood council, he hears residents' complaints. In recent years, as Westlake grew safer, getting graffiti and alleyway debris removed had been the big problems. But it seems gangs and intimidation tactics are making a comeback.
"They've taken over apartment buildings," White said. "Now they're knocking on people's doors inside apartment buildings, extorting money. Now I'm hearing a lot more of that, and that's disturbing."
White wants to see his council member doing more to build more community involvement and create jobs.
"We have good kids who go to school, they don't do drugs, they don't join gangs," he said. "They graduate high school, and there's no jobs. There's no work. What do they do?"
Quality of life issues
Cal State L.A. political science student Luis Antezana has served on the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council. In this election, he's thinking about quality of life issues: "Crappy sidewalks, potholes, lack of funding for our parks, our streets not being clean enough — those are the basic things you see everyday."
Antezana is undocumented, so he can't vote, but he's trying to influence neighbors through his volunteer work helping kids prepare for college. He gives Cedillo the edge for his work helping undocumented young adults through the California Dream Act.
In a more upscale part of the First District, Martha Benedict of Montecito Heights wants a council member who can press Caltrans to straighten hazardous dogleg offramps on the Arroyo Seco Parkway.
"We've had many fatalities, people flying into the river because they didn't cut that turn right and those safety issues are just being ignored," Benedict said. "Other parts of the city have freeway problems like that addressed, but for some reason they've never been addressed in this area."
Benedict wants a councilman who will preserve undeveloped hilltops and improve open spaces such as Debs Park and the Audubon Center. She leans toward Gardea because he's already involved with those projects.