Talking face-to-face to almost 30,000 voters during the course of a winning political campaign gave newly-elected Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson a very clear picture of some of his constituents’ key concerns.
The 8th District councilman surprised many insiders by claiming the South L.A. seat with 62.33 percent of the ballots cast. He also won without enduring a run-off against any of the other candidates some may have considered more likely winners.
Harris-Dawson took the oath of office July 1, after discovering that, contrary to what the political pundits might suggest, the most important and urgent need for the people in his district was for city hall to treat residents with respect and to take care of the basic needs a municipal government is supposed to handle. That entails cleaning up the streets, trimming trees, nuisance abatement, graffiti removal and doing it in a way that is coordinated and strategic.
So, as he gets ready to start his new job on July 28 after a two-week break, Harris-Dawson is preparing to work with his constituents to determine what needs to be done first, with the least disruption to people’s lives.
At the same time, the longtime community activist said he understands that he must balance the immediate and individual needs of residents in his district with the broader necessities and requirements of people in the entire city—finding jobs that pay enough to live on and getting to those places of employment.
This requires debunking myths about safety in certain areas and helping retailers understand that there are communities with the kind of disposable income that will entice them to relocate to the area, Harris-Dawson said. It also requires pushing banks to change how they look at business and expanding on the capacity to partner with small companies.
The former CEO of the Community Coalition also said it is critical to look beyond district lines and cross-promote local resources, such as the small business development center in the 9th District at Central Avenue and 42nd Street, as a citywide resource that everyone is encouraged to use. This also means sharing information and resources.
Harris-Dawson has already begun to address some distinctive district challenges, such as a homeless encampment at 86th Street and Broadway. One of the ways he is dealing with it is by enforcing city ordinances, such as the requirement that empty lots must be fenced. Such actions, coupled with making sure that city-owned facilities are maintained, can go a long way toward demonstrating the respect that residents want to see.
The new 8th District councilman is also planning a series of town hall meetings that will be held during an eight- to 10-week span beginning July 21 and continuing throughout the summer. Constituents will have an opportunity to learn about the councilman’s priorities and how to access basic services. Constituents will also get the chance to voice their own concerns. Interested residents may contact (213) 473-7008.