Ridley-Thomas, Raman reflect on their first six months

| July 29, 2021 | 0 Comments

Councilmembers Nithya Raman (CD4) and Mark Ridley-Thomas (CD10) were part of a slate of new City Council members to be sworn in for a fresh term at the end of last year.

The Chronicle asked both of our new representatives about their first six months on the job.

NITHYA RAMAN speaks at a recent groundbreaking ceremony to restore trees on the upper Vermont median leading into Griffith Park.

Nithya Raman

Q: What was your biggest surprise since taking office?

A: “I think the biggest surprise for me would be something that I talked about on my campaign — which was made much more clear to me once entering office — how deeply our system for homelessness response is broken. Often city services have departments that will conduct the work at hand with or without a council office. That’s not the case for homelessness response. I knew some of that coming in, but I was surprised with how broken the coordination is on the issue.”

Q: What has been the biggest challenge?

A: “I took office at the peak of the COVID crisis. My first day was Dec. 14, during a major surge, when it wasn’t safe to come to City Hall. And most difficult, I was not able to engage with constituents in person. That was the biggest challenge of all. In recent weeks, we’ve been able to conduct more meetings, and not only has the job become easier, but also the joy has come back to the work. To me, there’s nothing more joyful than to meet with constituents.”

Q: While in office, what are two accomplishments that you’ve started and finished?

A: “This is a little bit of a cheat, because I technically didn’t start it, but the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance recently passed. When the ordinance came to the Housing Committee where I am vice chair, I was able to add a number of amendments that strengthened the ordinance with further definitions of behavior that qualifies as tenant harassment, and a ban on raising rent for rent-stabilized units that become vacant as a result of tenant harassment violations.

“Something else that I’m particularly proud of is my participation in the budget process this year. Thanks to our advocacy, we were able to restore the Dept. of Recreation and Parks operations and maintenance budget to allow for 140 lost positions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to be refilled.”

Q: What are two items that you’ve started while in office, but need more time to finish?

A: “The first item is the issue that we’ve talked about so much, homelessness. We have made an incredible amount of progress, and I’m proud of what we’ve done so far. We have created a two-person homelessness support team, which is purely devoted to tracking the homelessness response. We are filling the gap by helping to coordinate in our office between city agencies for services in Council District Four. Another item is identifying opportunities for affordable housing construction. That process is very, very long. I’m proud that we’ve identified two sites that are city-owned lots, and we’ve kick-started that process including community engagement. Additionally, we’ve put forward a motion that speeds up the process on how approval is given that will hopefully put this kind of housing at the front of the line.”

MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS is dedicated to establishing a Right to Housing.

Mark Ridley-Thomas

Q: What was your biggest surprise since taking office?

A: “I remain deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. To date, only 52 percent of Latino and 43 percent of Black individuals have received at least one dose of the vaccine and, as a result, people of color also represent an outsized share of the cases and deaths from COVID-19. We must work harder to find effective ways to earn the confidence and cooperation of communities of color, or we will face a prolonged pandemic and more unnecessary deaths, predominantly among people of color.”

Q: What has been the biggest challenge?

A: “There is no greater threat to our city and our moral consciousness than homelessness. Data has shown that more than 41,000 people in Los Angeles on any given night are experiencing homelessness, and roughly four people die on our streets every day.

“This is why fighting homelessness is my highest and most important priority, and why we must fight to create a Right to Housing for every man, woman and child in our city. I have focused on establishing a framework for establishing this right … [and am working on] putting a plan together on how we may begin to implement this vision, which we anticipate being before the Council this fall.”

Q: While in office, what are two accomplishments that you’ve started and finished?

A: “When I first took office last December, I made a commitment to serve the residents of the 10th District.

“During this short time, I have hit the ground running. My team is working with People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), The People Concern and LAHSA [Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority] to house unsheltered individuals living in Mid-City and Koreatown, including at two Project Roomkey sites.

“I also worked to bring key stakeholders together to complete the Lafayette Bridge Home Site, which now provides interim housing to 72 men and women who experienced homelessness in the surrounding neighborhood, and we will offer a range of supportive services.

“I have committed an additional $1 million to continue addressing homelessness through ‘Encampment to Home’ initiatives in Mid-City and Koreatown, which will not only deploy more outreach workers to help transition unhoused people off the streets, but also provide resources to engage businesses in detecting signs of homelessness in their communities, and give them resources on how to respond.

“I am also investing funds in job training and employment for the formerly homeless, eviction defense services and launching a universal Basic Income program for low-income residents. We must build a more equitable system on multiple fronts, including homelessness prevention.

“Next month, I also plan to open the South LA Homeless Outreach and Coordination Hub on Western Avenue and Washington Boulevard, where outreach teams will be based and be able to provide timely service to those in need.”

Q: What are two items that you’ve started while in office, but need more time to finish?

A: “Over the course of the past year over 22,000 [people have been housed, but] for every 207 people we house each day, 227 people become homeless anew.

“I am dedicated to establishing a Right to Housing within the City of Los Angeles so that addressing this crisis doesn’t just rely on political pressure, but becomes an obligation on government to which it is required to respond. [Additionally,] I have introduced a motion to begin the process of creating an antiracist framework for the City of Los Angeles. My hope is that this motion will move us forward in identifying solutions to advance racial equity for the long-term.”

By Helene Seifer and Billy Taylor

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Category: News

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