Former California state senate president Kevin de León has been sworn in as the newest Los Angeles City Councilmember to oversee the city’s 14th District, which comprises the neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Downtown Los Angeles, and parts of Northeast Los Angeles.
The area was without official representation on the council since its previous Councilmember José Huízar was suspended in June after being federally charged with bribery, racketeering, and other charges after he allegedly received $1.5 million in bribes by using his position at City Hall. Huízar would have been termed out of his position this year.
De León won the primary in the race in March and was sworn in ahead of schedule this past October. He hopes to ensure confidence in his constituents, following Huízar’s charges. He tells Inside the Issues he understands the sense of mistrust that many Angelenos have with City Hall and the government as a whole.
“This is a time, specifically for CD-14 where we close one chapter and we open up a brand new chapter and we have the opportunity, collectively, to write that new chapter,” said de León. “I think that, with regards to trust, confidence, I think my resume and my accomplishments as an Assemblymember, as a state senator, and as the former senate president of our California state senate, I think speaks for itself. But, nonetheless we roll up our sleeves together and we move forward together.”
His outright win in March has allowed him to get right to work and begin to engage with those in the community.
“Corruption in politics at every single level is nothing new, but uniqueness with regards to having a vacancy for so long given the trials and tribulations of my predecessor is something that’s very different without a doubt. So I’ve made the decision to step in two months prior to the regular schedule, swearing in ceremony, to give leadership to a district that really, really needs it.”
These concerns coupled with the coronavirus pandemic is weighing heavily on the minds of his constituents, he said.
“There’s a lot of panic, a lot of economic anxiety and there’s a lot of angst right now because of where we’re at with the coronavirus because of decline in the economy, because folks are barely able to pay their rent, whether you’re a resident or whether you’re a small business in Downtown L.A. or elsewhere who owe rent to your landlord of your particular business,” he explained. “Clearly, during the most challenging times in our own lifetimes. Economic depression that rivals or perhaps surpasses the Great Depression of 1929, with so many folks who are currently unemployed and unable to pay for food or rent or put clothes on the back of their children.”
Born in Downtown Los Angeles to a single immigrant mother, de León said he never planned to run for office.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever get involved in electoral politics because when I grew up, in my high school, I didn’t have stellar grades or a fantastic SAT score, but, ironically speaking, because of Affirmative Action, I was admitted to University of California at Santa Barbara,” he said.
He’s disappointed at the failure of Proposition 16 on this year's ballot, which would have reinstated Affirmative Action in the state and recently tweeted how the legislation gave him a shot at a higher education saying, “Everyone deserves a FAIR SHOT at the CA dream. Vote #YesOnProp16!”
“I had a lot of folks who took a chance on me and opened the doors and gave me an opportunity. That’s why I believe when you hold elected office, you have access to levels of power that you have to do everything within your power to make sure you open accessibility, you open up the doors to all individuals but particularly to those who historically have been marginalized and who are very vulnerable in today’s Los Angeles, today’s California, today’s United States of America,” he explained.
He won’t stop fighting for marginalized communities and especially those living in his district.
“We need to make sure we speak truth to power by moving policies that improve the human condition for all individuals,” he said. “Having access to opportunity and actually giving a fair shot to everybody. You have to do that with intentionality. You have to do that with a sense of purpose and I believe that when you are in politics that it is your role to do everything that you can possibly, given the time and space that you have, to move policies, to change regulations, or improve upon regulations, or create new regulations that actually provide everyone a fair shot for the California dream.”
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