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February 7th was a very interesting evening at Williams Hall on the historic Barlow Hospital campus in Echo Park. Los Angeles City Council Districts 1 and 13 fall within Echo Park's borders, and the 10 candidates sat at the front of the room in anticipation of the upcoming March 5, 2013 election, taking turns telling the audience of at least 80 what they will do for the community, if elected.
Echo Park area residents had submitted questions to the candidates. Among the issues discussed were affordable housing requirements of SB 1818, the future of Elysian Park and Barlow Hospital grounds which are being eyed by developers, drug dealing, gangs, medical marijuana dispensaries and narrow hillside street zoning regulations.
First District candidate Jose Gardea, who grew up in Echo Park, told the audience: "This is home to me. We must protect Elysian Park at all costs. We need jobs in this city, but not at the expense of good development. As council members, we have to represent you."
Gardea currently serves as Chief of Staff to First District Councilman Ed Reyes. Reach him on twitter at @joseaGardea.
Candidate Emile Mack of Council District 13 is a 34-year veteran of the Los Angeles City Fire Department, and currently serves as commander of the city's South Division. His priorities, he said, are boosting the economy, public safety, development and the quality of life. As for the developers who want to take over the area: "Their interests don't decide mine. My responsibility to to represent you." Find out more about him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EmileMack.
William Rodriquez Morrison, candidate for District 1, is self-employed and believes in "affordable housing based on peoples' income." To the opposing developers he says: "I can't be bought." He said one of his goals, if elected, is dealing with gangs: "To get gangs off the street, they should be kept out of jail and given a chance to learn a new vocation." To send him an email, click here.
For some time, drug dealing has been going on involving gangs on the steps of Fargo Street. Ed P. Reyes, of District One, has served on the city council since 2001. To deal with gangs, he wants to develop parent centers to support and empower parents: "Empowered parents equals empowered children and hopefully, one less gang member."
The candidates also had other proposals to better the community if elected on March 5th. Roberto Haraldson has lived in Council District 13 since 1986. In 2001 he started his own agency in Silver Lake for visual talents, Farmers and Artists, Inc. His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/robertoharaldson.
He said: "Our community needs to grow with talent from our community. The real value are the people who are here. We need to choose candidates who have the courage to go through a really difficult time and make a lot of unpopular decisions that may not get them re-elected."
Dr. Octavio Pescador, a professor at UCLA, is running for a District 13 seat. A father of three, he told the audience that "if you have no jobs, you have no opportunities. Gangsters command power, and lack of opportunities is what draws neighborhood kids into them."
He envisioned a bright future with education, diversity and tolerance. "We have not reached the apex of our possibilities. Los Angeles has its best days ahead." Reach him @octaviopescador.