Former Council President running for Supervisor—call him ‘Herb’

| September 30, 2020 | 0 Comments


Former City Council President Herb Wesson couldn’t agree more with his opponent, he says. What distinguishes them is style. And, he adds, experience.

“I’m an action, in-the-community, frontline kind of a person. And I think that’s what this community wants, needs and deserves… Somebody that is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get the job done.”

Within days of learning of COVID-19, he turned his office into a community hub, delivering food and dispensing face coverings, hand sanitizers, diapers and pet food. And he partnered with senior residential facilities to provide coronavirus testing.

“When COVID hit, I didn’t retreat, I attacked…. I’m a kind of in–your-face, don’t care about titles, call me Herb…,” he told us last month on Zoom.

As for experience, he’ll let his record speak for itself: Six years working for the county, six more when elected to the California State Assembly (two years as Speaker) and 15 years on the Los Angeles City Council, the last eight of which he was president.
“I am optimistic that, at the end of the day, they’ll go with the little fella.”

Termed out of his 10th District City Council seat, Wesson is facing state Sen. Holly Mitchell in the runoff election for the Second District on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

As City Council president, Wesson created a Homelessness and Poverty Committee, and more recently supported boosting the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. (He also helped create the single-use plastic bag policy and straws-on-request ordinance.)

In his district, several homeless facilities have opened, are opening or are under construction. “I think without a doubt we’re doing our share,” he said.

He helped pave the way for Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond that is paying for much of the permanent housing construction underway.

“The major flaw,” he acknowledged, “is the mindset you could build yourself out of this problem….

“We’ve taken a lot of people off the street and put them in housing, but it doesn’t help you if you take 10 people off and replace them with 12.”

Closing the spigot

“If we build affordable housing, then we might have a chance to get in front of this,” along with “rental assistance, landlord aid, small business support — it’s all part of the equation and will be more important than ever going forward — in light of the effects and after-effects of COVID-19. “I’m not just the guy on the street picking up the trash and delivering [food], but also on the council one of the first cities to put in place protection for renters… support landlords… and grants for small businesses.”

A Cleveland native, the 68-year-old is married and has four adult children.

“I believe the two most important days in anybody’s life are the day you’re born and the day you discover why you were born.

“I was put on this earth to help people, be it as a councilman, be it as a Speaker of the Assembly, be it as a youth football coach, which is where I started my public service in this community.”

“I know how to bring people together. I know how to lead, and I know how to get things done.”

A foray for a few years as a stand-up comic taught him pubic speaking skills, which would later prove invaluable as Speaker of the Assembly from 2002 to 2004.

He had been chief of staff to former Los Angeles City Councilmember Nate Holden, a position he also once served for Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Burke. His campaign is endorsed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Rep. Maxine Waters and a host of labor groups, including the teamsters and police.

Besides discrepancies in the health system among people of color, recent protests and demonstrations countrywide highlight issues within the criminal justice system, Wesson noted.

The police are not the problem, he stressed. It’s the system, which sends police to handle mental health and drug problems.

“My effort is to help reform the various systems that don’t provide opportunities equally.

“With the entire country paying attention… I view this as the greatest opportunity for change in this country.

“Being a black guy. Being a black elected official for many years, it’s not always easy to go out and make these huge strides forward. Sometimes what we have to do is, whenever there’s an opening, we’ve gotta take advantage of that opening to move things forward…

“To miss this moment would be a crime, to miss an opportunity to create a world where my grandkids could grow up and not have to deal with a lot of the crap in life that I’ve had to deal with… I can’t miss this moment.

If elected as one of five County Supervisors, Wesson will help oversee services that includes homeless and mental health.

Wesson knows first hand about cracks in the social system. His eldest of four sons is bi-polar; he was “chronically” homeless and suffered with a drug addiction for years.

“He’s sober 11 months,” Wesson says proudly.

What changed was that someone, or many persons, cared.

That is why creating a social network to help people get on their feet is so critical to him, he emphasizes.

He’s also passionate about his neighborhood, and all of our neighborhoods, and has fought Sacramento ardently on several housing bills that aim to rezone single-family neighborhoods statewide.

“If I was in Sacramento I would see the city of L.A. as somebody you could partner with… I think together we could find a way to do that. They don’t dialogue with us.

“This is an emotional issue for me. We’re talking about destroying the residential areas of our community.” He is a longtime Leimert Park resident. “It’s our Larchmont,” he says of the historic neighborhood that is having a resurgence.

If passed, these bills “will fast-track gentrification… people in our areas could lose their homes, and a Wall Street developer moves in and within a matter of months the integrity of my neighborhood is just erased.”

“It’s an issue worth fighting for… I will always be the push back on this, so we can maintain the residential neighborhoods. We have our issues, but this is a city we all love.”


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