‘Tweener’ Sen. Mitchell is poised to do more — as Supervisor

| September 30, 2020 | 0 Comments


State Sen. Holly Mitchell has worked to support the poor and underprivileged from before she was elected, when she ran what was then the largest children and family advocacy program in the state.

“When you look at my body of work as a legislator, when you look at my experience running Crystal Stairs, it really falls directly in the lane that the Board of Supervisors oversees.

“That’s why this makes sense as the next step,” Mitchell told us last month on Zoom about her campaign to represent the Second District on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“I’m a bridge between the old and the new,” she added. She was referring to, among other legislators, former City Councilmember Rita Walkers, who died earlier this year, and former Congressmember Gwen Moore, who died in August.

“I was honored that the families of both of these icons asked me to speak at their memorials. And, I realized I’m sort of a tweener. I was a young staffer when these women were doing these amazing things.”

She’s also younger than her opponent, longtime City Councilman Herb Wesson, and at 6 feet, she’s certainly taller.

But, she sees herself as more than just the next generation. “I perceive myself as an activist policy maker that’s just structurally very different from Mr. Wesson.”

While Wesson served as City Council president, “my path is policy making and to chair budget [committee of the state Senate] and lead those critical discussions around finance for the state as a whole.”

Once de rigueur at City Hall, backroom deals are a throwback to another time, she says.

Her style is more open and conversational, yet, “No one can argue I can’t close a deal.”

Since joining the Assembly in 2010, and later the state Senate — where she was the first African American to chair the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee — she’s authored 118 bills, 90 of which are now state law.

Among them are bills that restore funding to childcare and education. Another helped to reverse treating teens as adults in the juvenile justice system.

Her predecessor, Sen. Mark Leno, has described her as the “moral compass and social conscience” of the Senate, and maybe the whole Legislature.

She now hopes to take that energy, passion, organization and her team to the Second Supervisorial District, which includes the southern portions of Greater Wilshire and Miracle Mile and spreads from Exposition Park to Mar Vista to Compton.

The Second District is the smallest of the Board’s five districts, but its representative stands tall as one-fifth of a powerful body that oversee a $35 billion budget and 10 million people.

Mitchell’s election is endorsed by Councilman David Ryu and present and former Govs. Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown.

Many of the problems today are the same as when she first entered the political scene, starting with a lack of affordable housing, she notes.

“Ninety-three percent of the new housing built in L.A. in the last 10 years has all been market rate… That’s a problem.”

Housing is a “political hot potato… What do we build for who and where?” are questions that keep her up at night.

“It has to be a two-prong strategy. There’s not enough land in L.A., given our 500,000 housing unit shortage, without talking about density…. to build what L.A. County residents need. So it has to be a dual conversation.

“We also have to figure out the role government can play in that dual conversation.”

A duplex owner, she voted for Accessory Dwelling Unit (granny flat)-type “bills that will marginally give homeowners, like myself, opportunity to expand units and expand capacity of the property we own.”

But how we go about fixing our housing crisis is a local issue, which is why she opposed Senate Bill 50 and its later incarnations.

Legislators up north butting into our zoning issues has had an upside, she suggests. “This common enemy has brought people in, in a meaningful way. It has engaged them” like never before in her 10 years in the legislature, she says.

Proposition HHH, which largely requires the approved bond funds to be spent on new construction for permanent supportive housing (versus temporary shelters), has not met expectations, deadlines or budget to solve or even reduce the homeless issue, she argues.

Meanwhile, simpler solutions, utilizing these to house some of the homeless, such as board-and-care facilities, have been neglected. These would have been quicker than new construction and less expensive, she notes.

“I think this notion that we just needed to build… as opposed to looking at all the options available to us… was shortsighted. We need to keep people where they are. We need to talk about incomes. Because, for many people, it’s an issue of affordability.”

A third-generation Angeleno, her parents were social workers, and Mitchell hopes this time to make a difference in a district that has been plagued with unemployment, poor schools and other inequalities.

She observed to us that if even half of the recommendations from the 1965 McCone Commission Report following the 1964 Watts Riots had been followed, “1992 wouldn’t have been necessary.” She was, of course, referring to the 1992 Rodney King riots.

“I am hopeful that, this time, we truly keep the pedal to the metal to experience true sustainable change.”

Deep cuts in early childcare in 2008 are what inspired her to run for office, when as a young mother and CEO of Crystal Stairs, a nonprofit for children and families, she knew first hand what the results of those cuts would be for working families.

“I don’t deny that cuts had to be made in 2008. We were in the Great Recession. My concern was what they were cutting and how. It seemed to me to be a sledgehammer approach versus perhaps a scalpel…”

Another result of all of these cutbacks is the fallback on the police force, she says.

“We have been unfair to law enforcement. We have made criminal justice the backdrop to our failed systems from our lack of investments.”

But, “before we take away money, it’s about how do we stand up these other systems.

“We need to take nonpolicing off their plate.”

Going forward, “the fiscal crisis is going to be devastating, and we, the Board of Supervisors, have to figure out how to balance the budget, how to provide services, and not to the detriment of the people who rely on those programs.”

Visit hollyjmitchell.com.

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Category: People

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