Entry 4

This morning, I water our garden and eat some breakfast before heading out to Mayberry Elementary School in Silver Lake, where the community and the school have organized the planting of 10 trees. The students sing a song and recite a poem about trees. A volunteer from Tree People—an amazing local group that helped pioneer the concept of urban forestry—leads the kids in a chant: “Trees need people, and people need trees! Trees need people, and people need trees!” Each class will name and adopt a tree that they’ll then watch grow. While I am there, the principal and one of the parent leaders lobby me for speed bumps in front of the school to supplement the stop signs we recently had installed.

At the press conference 

After the assembly, I drive to City Hall and attend an Environmental Quality and Waste Management Committee meeting. At 9:45, I go outside to the steps in front of City Hall. The mayor and two of my colleagues join me for a press conference to protest the Bush administration’s recent rule changes and proposed cuts to the Section 8 housing voucher program. Section 8 is probably the most successful housing program in the history of the country, currently helping lift about 2 million families out of poverty. The administration has proposed a $1.66 billion reduction of Section 8 over the next five years that would put 15,000 families in our city out of housing—many of them would find themselves on the street.

Taking questions

At the press conference, one mother who recently received a Section 8 voucher and made a deposit to secure housing describes, in anger and sadness, what it is like to walk through feces and urine each morning as she goes to work. She shows everyone the voucher that she finally received this year, as well as the housing contract she had signed which will now not be honored. About five television stations and another half-dozen reporters show up. I do a couple of follow-up interviews in English and Spanish.

At the City Council meeting

Afterward, I head back into City Hall. Today’s City Council meeting runs long—until about 2 p.m. During public comment, the farmers who are trying to preserve the South Central Community Garden show up, as do the Milonopolous brothers, two high-school students who for years have been calling for a ban on ammunition sales in the city of Los Angeles. They cite the weekend murder of 11-year-old Bryan Lockley as the reason we should take immediate action to stop the killing.

Later in the afternoon, I have a series of meetings, including one with representatives from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest. Our city is in the process of the largest school construction program in our nation’s history. We are 200,000 seats short of what we need, and, in my district, about half of the children are bused to schools outside their neighborhood. Recent bonds have approved money to build about 150,000 more seats, which is the equivalent of building a school district the size of San Diego. In my district alone, there are currently 15 school construction projects under way, including nine new schools.

Today, the district asks for help locating a new middle school and a high school. My council district includes areas that are the most-densely populated parts of the United States outside of Manhattan, so finding the 14 acres of land necessary for these two schools is challenging to say the least. The sites under discussion include a former mud-wrestling club, a city street lighting yard, and a shopping center. I hope we can find a site that doesn’t result in anyone losing housing.

After the committee meeting (we pass both of the Section 8 resolutions from this morning’s press conference), I drop by a reception at Getty House, the official residence of the mayor, which is used mainly for ceremonial and social purposes. (Mayor James Hahn actually lives in San Pedro, near the Los Angeles Harbor, in a much more modest house.) Facing a highly contested re-election race next March, Hahn is reaching out to the Latino community; he has invited Latino commissioners, community members, and business leaders to join him this evening. We are outdoors, and it is a beautiful evening.

The mayor speaks, mentioning some of the work he has done over the last three years, including a law that recognizes matriculas consulares as legitimate forms of identification in the city of Los Angeles. Matriculas consulares, or consular cards, can be used by noncitizens to open bank accounts, visit libraries, fill out crime reports when they witness a crime, etc. The mayor also cites the establishment of both the city’s first Office of Immigrant Affairs and of a $100 million Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help build more affordable housing. I have worked closely with him on each of these three issues; he deserves considerable credit for these accomplishments.

My last stop is at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. The museum pays homage to Hollywood with a Cheers bar and a Star Trek Transporter room but also runs a school to train young people who are coming out of the juvenile justice system in movie and TV production. Tonight, the museum is celebrating the best developments in Hollywood over the last year.

At 8:30 I drive home, and I count four sofas, one shopping cart, two mattresses, and some tires on Echo Park Avenue. I call my office and ask to have them removed tomorrow. The graffiti situation, at least, appears to be better.