In his “Our Own Inauguration Day” post, Professor Jacobson highlighted the importance of politics at the local level.
University of California – Los Angeles student Ramsey Ugarte agrees, and is trying to convince his fellow students to get active in city and state matters.
Pension reform, bankruptcy, bureaucracy, drug legislation and inflated administrative pay.
With these topics, I could be writing about any level of government, but here I address our very own Los Angeles City Council.
While nearly identical problems are faced by governments across the country, the city council of Los Angeles presents a unique venue for students to become directly involved in important issues that undoubtedly affect them, such as sales taxes, drug legislation and, more broadly, the city’s finances.
March 5 marks the date of the city council election for District 5, which includes Westwood in its jurisdiction. The race pits incumbent Paul Koretz against Westwood Neighborhood Council board member Mark Herd.
At this point, the nature of the race seems clear – Koretz has raised almost $150,000 while Herd runs a much smaller grassroots campaign, which has raised just under $150, according to the most recent count by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
However, this election’s tale amounts to much more than a longtime council member running against a local activist with seemingly low odds of winning. Even if Herd is simply able to bring attention to issues that have not been addressed and demand a change to the status quo, as he plans to do, he will have run a successful campaign.
Students may often feel alienated from state and national politics despite their firm convictions. City council should be viewed as a more approachable sounding board for legislation because of its size and immediate proximity.
These local elections should be taken seriously and candidates should not be running unopposed, or else we risk letting current trends continue. Candidates such as Herd are important checks on the establishment to enable much-needed debate.
But if pension liabilities fail to motivate students, the city council also has far reaching legislation that could complicate civil liberties – most notably a 2012 ban on all marijuana dispensaries that has since been repealed.Frankly, the city is plagued with many issues.
Ugarte concludes with encouragement for other young Americans to get involved locally.
Now is the time for students to speak up and address regional and national issues at a more local level.
The city’s current path is unsustainable and change is needed. Hopefully this election will provide a stage for intelligent debate on the course of our city’s future.