It used to be, when you said Black Los Angeles, people’s thoughts immediately conjured up South Los Angeles and what Councilman Gilbert Lindsay used to call the “Great 9th District.”

That was where the largest majority of Black Angelenos once lived. Today, that is no longer the case. Integration, affluence and housing affordability have dispersed folk as far away as the Inland Empire, Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita Valley.

Today, Los Angeles’ 8th District has the largest population of African Americans. At the same time, according to a report produced by Beacon Economics called “Los Angeles City Council Districts 2010 Economic Report,” it is also one of the most ethnically diverse. The same can be said for the economics. On the one hand, there are the affluent enclaves of Baldwin Hills and View Park where doctors, lawyers, entertainers and other professionals enjoy homes, neighborhoods and vistas that are definitely the envy of the city.

On the other hand, there are the communities around Manchester and Vermont avenues still left with empty, often trash-strewn parcels of land wrought by the civil unrest of 1992 that swept through the city. There are the neighborhoods around Century Boulevard and Figueroa Street where residents do not have the luxury of walking to a nearby bank, a sit-down restaurant or relaxing at an entertainment venue.

This is also the district that, according to the Beacon report, employs the fewest number of people (41,340) and is home to fewest number of businesses (1,875). This compares to 57,000 people working in 6,568 companies in the 10th District–another area that has been a historical African American enclave.

In terms of income, the 8th District claims an annual average wage of $38,898, which is well below the city average. The district also has the smallest share of gross receipts in L.A., but showed growth in 2005 and 2007 that was called “exceptional” by the 2010 Beacon report.

On the plus side, the Beacon report also noted that the average wage paid in the district has shown strong growth over the last four years, and that includes a 5.1 percent increase in 2009 alone.
This is a broad picture of the environment that candidates campaigning for the 8th District council seat must face.

Those candidates–incumbent Bernard C. Parks, who is seeking his third term; and challengers Forescee Hogan-Rowles, a proven community development expert, and grassroots activist Jabari Jumaane–have been battling for months trying to convince constituents that they are the best persons for the job.

According David Horne, a political science professor at Cal State Dominquez Hills, it will take more than anger at what the incumbent has or has not done to capture the district.
It’s going to take the “A” game, meaning showing residents what and how they can do better than what is currently happening in the district.

There are a number of key community leaders who have already stated their preferences. They believe that one of the challengers–Hogan-Rowles–has what it takes to unseat incumbent Parks.
Following find their comments and thoughts:

Diane Watson
Former Congresswoman Diane Watson, who last election term solely backed Parks, is allowing both Hogan-Rowles and Parks to use her picture in their campaign literature.

“Parks has my picture and my endorsement on his literature; they called, but they never asked my permission. I endorsed him (previously) and helped him raise his first $10,000.

“I told Forescee I was going to allow her to put a picture she had with me in the past and use it, and may the best person win,” said Watson, explaining her dual support.

But her thoughts are with Hogan-Rowles, whom she has followed as she worked with the state Democratic Party.

“She is bright and articulate, and I think it’s time now for a challenge to the incumbent,” continued the veteran lawmaker. “I think the positions they (incumbents) take that are opposed to what the general public wants–like voting allowing (people) to open liquor stores in the Normandie-Florence community. There’s no need to have five liquor stores in one block.”

Watson, who says she has known Hogan-Rowles for 30 years, puts her in the category with leaders like Congresswoman Karen Bass–young and a “wonderful participant and wonderful spokesperson for Democratic values throughout our state.”

Watson believes that the councilperson for the district has to be a strong voice for the community that will back them up when a local planning entity such as a community advisory board votes to cut back on things like pawnshops, guns shops and porn shops.

Maria Elena Durazo
Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, has thrown her considerable union support behind Hogan-Rowles, because of the work she has seen the challenger do while serving on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Board of Commissioners.

“She was more thoughtful about integrating all the interests that we need to care about. Rather than fall in line with a simple way of looking at things. I don’t like to complicate things, on the other hand, you do have to look at the (the whole picture) . . . I’ve been impressed that she looks at all the pieces. She doesn’t get out there for the headlines. She looks to do what is a thoughtful approach.”

Durazo also feels that Hogan-Rowles has the dual knowledge of working with and promoting small businesses and helping these entrepreneurs understand what they need to be successful. The union boss believes the 8th District candidate also has the sensitivity to understand families going through hard times and thinks she will use this knowledge to fuel her drive to bring good jobs into the city, a focus the union is homing in on.

Union backing will help Hogan-Rowles get her story out to the public and the members who live in the 8th District.

Mark Ridley-Thomas
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, former 8th District councilman, and Parks fought a bitter battle over when they contended against one another for the supervisorial position. There is no love lost between the two, so it was no surprise when Ridley Thomas threw his support behind Hogan-Rowles.

“I support Forescee Hogan-Rowles because the 8th District deserves responsive, attentive, assertive and compassionate representation on the City Council, something that has been sorely missing for the past eight years,” said Ridley-Thomas. “I further believe that the people of the 8th District deserve a council member whose positions align with theirs.

“I believe the district with the highest number of organized labor households in the city deserves someone who understands the needs and the aspirations of working men and women and their families.”

Ridley-Thomas said he is also supporting Hogan-Rowles ” because she is interested in representing the people of the 8th District, not trying to save the city at the expense of the people of the 8th District.

“I’ve known her for nearly 20 years, going back to my years on the City Council,” he said, “and she has impressed me with her dedication to this community and also her success as a business and community leader.

“So here we have someone who understands business and job creation and has a record of commitment to small business development and at the same time has good working relations with labor leaders, as well as religious leaders. In Forescee what we have is someone who understands how to work with people with diverse views. That’s why her candidacy is so vitally important.

“She has the whole package, and she is not a hater. It’s time for the 8th district to have leadership that will be respected across the board. She represents a fresh start.”

Curren D. Price
State Senator Curren D. Price has also endorsed Hogan-Rowles. “Forescee Hogan-Rowles has the business acumen and wealth of experience in economic development that is sorely needed to represent the interests of the 8th District during this downturn in the economy,” he said.

“She has been a small business owner and knows firsthand the challenges and opportunities that small business owners face. As the owner of one of Los Angeles’ largest financial services providers, Forescee directed millions of dollars to small business owners and residents of low-income communities across Los Angeles County.

Price said that her service “on the California State Economic Development Commission positions Forescee to be a key player in attracting businesses and jobs to the 8th District.

“Many organizations, including the White House, have lauded her business achievements, and the residents of the 8th District should also recognize that she is the best choice for the City Council seat because of her understanding of and commitment to economic growth and jobs in Los Angeles.

“Forescee has paid her dues,” said the long-time Inglewood-area politician. “I believe she will do a good job and provide the leadership that is required.”

Editors note: OurWeekly, too, is adding its voice to the growing chorus of Forescee Hogan-Rowles supporters, because we believe a change is needed in the district. And that change must come in the form of a leader who has been able to actually get something done because of and in spite of the obstacles that are placed in the path. The district needs a new leader that is willing to stand up for its constituents by actually listening to their hopes, wants, dreams and desires.
The 8th District needs a leader who can, as they say, hit the ground running and never look back.