Even though it has only been a few weeks working in the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, it already feels familiar and routine. Every day, I exchange a smile with a fellow commuter whom I see on the same Metro car on the same 7:50 a.m. train headed toward Downtown, I say good morning to a familiar security officer as I head up the stairs to City Hall.
Yet, I still cannot seem to grasp the complexity that is local government. Every week, I learn a little bit more about the city of Los Angeles. And this week was especially fun-filled, busy, and exciting!
On Tuesday, July 5th, Mayor Eric Garcetti hosted an intimate barbeque for over 250 members of the 96 neighborhood councils in Los Angeles city. The event was held at the Getty House, which is the official residence for the Los Angeles mayor.
The Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, along with the Getty House Foundation, was integral in planning and executing this social gathering. I had the opportunity to staff the event and hear Mayor Garcetti address the many neighborhood council members in a call to action. He encouraged councilmembers to reach out into their communities in active support for three of his mayoral Initiatives:
Welcome Home Project, to educate the community of the status of homelessness in Los Angeles
Hire L.A. Youth, to empower youth through employment opportunities during the summer months
Clean Streets L.A., to prevent graffiti from covering Los Angeles roads
As L.A. is the second largest city in the U.S, boasting over four million residents, it is often up to residents, community leaders who are closely connected to the day-to-day issues and needs of their areas, to effect change.
Through neighborhood councils, they are able to do exactly that. Before the event, I did not know how closely the local government worked with the neighborhood councils to improve their communities, and L.A. city as a whole. For me, this was another example of the involvedness and reach of local government, and a reminder of its very direct and impactful role in our lives.
On Friday, July 8th, I was able get a taste of grass roots organizing through canvassing in East Los Angeles neighborhood Boyle Heights. Canvassing, or going door-to-door to personally engage with individuals, is often used as a tool in get-out-the-vote operations and political campaigns. However, the Office of Public Engagement interns delivered half-sheet flyers to 500 homes in order to raise awareness of the lead contamination in the soil caused by the nearby Exide battery plant.
We were able to inform residents on an upcoming community meeting to discuss the contamination, as well as the steps for clean-up process. In my cohort’s recent trip to the State Capitol, I saw the power of top-down policy. Since I’ve never participated in grass-roots work before, it was an eye-opening experience to see the other side of change, coming from directly the people instead of through state legislation.
At the end of this experience, I am motivated to see what a single person, or a small group of people, can do and hopeful for the eventual impact we could make through sharing this information with the residents.
All in all, I am extremely grateful that I have the opportunity to work in L.A. City Hall this summer. I have the opportunity to witness the diversity of the city firsthand and actively work everyday to improve the city for the better. Can’t wait to see what next week holds!