South LA Leaders Aim to Mobilize Community Members
On Tuesday, September 11, our Interim General Manager, Grayce Liu, visited the board meetings of the Empowerment Congress Southeast, Harbor Gateway North, and Voices of 90037 Neighborhood Councils in South Los Angeles. Those councils will have their elections on October 20th and candidate filing closes a month earlier, on September 20th, but so far, few candidates have come forward.
She thanked council board members for their dedicated service to their communities and offered the Department as a supportive resource. Council leaders recognize that they have not achieved all that they intended to, but they are optimistic that the energy of new community members could advance their goals.
Community and Neighbors for Ninth District Unity (CANNDU NC)
Community and Neighbors for Ninth District Unity president Sylvia Penman, based near Florence and Central, said, “My mind is on my young people, right now.” Her group recently hosted a large street festival on Avalon Boulevard with hundreds of members of the community in attendance.
Penman hopes that the festival helped the council connect with young people in the community. She hopes that some of them will be inspired to step forward and serve as the next generation of leaders, working to make their community better and safer.
Park Mesa Heights Neighborhood Council
Ted Thomas, president of Park Mesa Heights Neighborhood Council, echoed Penman’s sentiment, saying, “It’s going to be their neighborhood, so they should be making decisions. Thomas’ council has had superlative success in the region, gaining a seat at the negotiation table on community issues, such as rail construction on Crenshaw and the Endeavor shuttle tree removal preparations.
Thomas asserts that he has “a good board and everybody does their job.” The key to his success has been going out and talking to people in the community. Thomas stresses that for other councils seeking to replicate his group’s success, “you have to get out and talk to individuals.”
Empowerment Congress Southeast Area Neighborhood Development Council Empowerment Congress Southeast President, Esther Montellih, has been involved with her council for seven years. Montellih encourages anyone interested in improving the community to consider joining the group.
Recognizing the power of a collective voice, Montellih got involved with her Neighborhood Council because, “I was always complaining about problems in the neighborhood. Then I realized that if I joined a team of people, I would have a stronger voice. If we all can come together, we can do a lot more than when we’re by ourselves.”
Montellih has lived in the same South Central home for 50 years. Many of her friends have moved out of the community, and they ask her, “Why are you still here?” Montellih explained that despite the many changes she has witnessed in her neighborhood, she remains to improving her community.
Montellih hopes that her neighbors will at least feel comfortable coming to meetings to present suggestions on ways to better their community. “I’m always looking for some way to improve my community,” she explained, “I would like to listen and hear what ideas people have.”
Inell Woods, another member of Empowerment Congress Southeast, agreed that the council could do better by its community if more stakeholders came out to the meeting to present their concerns. “We don’t know all the problems,” Woods explained. “They could come forward to tell us about their problems and we could help them.”
Woods was part of the council’s formation committee and has been involved for over ten years. She explained that in the early days, the council succeeded in getting the city to clear garbage from blighted areas, install crosswalks near schools, and make improvements at the local Green Meadows Recreation Center.
Woods explained that she got involved with the council because, “I wanted to do something for my neighborhood that the city officials weren’t getting to.” “Many of us have now gotten older,” she said. “We’re trying to encourage other members to come forward to be a part.”