By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
When Hernandez approached Pacheco, the new councilman had a crossing light installed within weeks. That signal, in this man's eyes, ranks Pacheco with King and Chavez.
Startling, perhaps, but it's the type of thing Pacheco supporters point to over and over. Traffic signals. Street paving. The shutdown of a freeway offramp to 18-wheel diesel trucks that spewed fumes over a residential neighborhood. A leadership institute to educate residents on the ins and outs of working with City Hall.
Later — after Padilla enumerates for the crowd the value of having a representative like Pacheco in charge of the council's Budget Committee, after Valley Councilman Dennis Zine weighs in with support, after school-board member Jose Huizar promises "¡Vamos a ganar en marzo!" and after Pacheco's close friend, chief of staff and top campaign aide Lloyd Monserratt shouts out, "Go team!" — Pacheco is gazing confidently out the window of a sport utility vehicle as it pulls up to the corner of Mathews and First Street. Monserratt is at the wheel. In the back seat are another campaign aide, Pacheco's mother and his aunt.
"This is my street," Pacheco says as he hops out of the car on Mathews. "These people know me. They grew up with me."
As Monserratt drives off to check up on another group of campaign walkers, Pacheco grabs a stack of campaign brochures from his mother. The two chat briefly in Spanish and divvy up the street, his aunt and his mother heading south, he and his campaign aide walking north.
In between knocking on doors and courting voters, some of whom knew him as a boy, Pacheco points proudly to improvements he has made.
"This alley," the councilman says, "was never paved before. Now it is. Look at Michigan Avenue. First time it's been re-paved in decades. That's my grammar school right there, brother. Look how we blocked off that street. We put a skateboard park there. Made more sense for these kids than a tennis court, which it replaced. One of my goals now is to get rid of that blue microwave tower."
"Our people want to work, we want to get things done in the city," Butcher says. "With Nick in charge of the Budget and Finance Committee, he helped us figure out how to pave more miles of street than we've ever paved before. We've fixed more sidewalks. And somehow he figured out how to raise a hunk of money to open up a drop-off center in his district for couches and other bulky items so people can take them there instead of dumping them on the road."
Butcher is especially effusive about the drop-off center because of how Pacheco handled the labor issue. Five or six people work there, paid not with city money but with funding from Homeboy Industries. But the city has agreed to gradually take them on as city workers — union workers — so Butcher didn't lose jobs for her ranks.
"Every possible issue got addressed," Butcher says. "That's what local politicians are supposed to do."
A month after the kickoff walk, Pacheco is again knocking on doors in Boyle Heights, this time on streets farther away than the one where he grew up. These more distant neighbors ask what he has done for them. In his view, he is ready.
"I say, well, first, you can see that I paved a lot of streets that never have been paved before. Of course I'm not done, I haven't done all of them. Second, I got an injunction against KAM" — a former tagging crew that turned into one of the Eastside's more violent street gangs.
"And then the third thing I point out is the Evergreen jogging track, where we're converting the sidewalk around the cemetery into a collegiate-style track. And that pretty much seals the deal right there. Because I tell them, well, these are three things off the top of my head."
At other doors, and at candidate forums, Pacheco reminds voters that he was a deputy district attorney and points to his role last year in working with City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to establish neighborhood prosecutors around the city to help residents combat quality-of-life crimes. He pushed through a funding measure to hire the 18 lawyers at a time when the mayor was demanding budget cuts and had approved a hiring freeze.
His trusted chief of staff, Monserratt, died unexpectedly last month while recovering from surgery, but one of the best tributes to Pacheco's power and Monserratt's organizational skills came during a City Council memorial for the staffer. When Pacheco called on his staff to stand with him, and other council members saw how much bigger his crew was than anyone else's, several of them let out a collective, unrehearsed gasp.
Pacheco says that for much of his first term he has worked to get his district up to the level where it should have been had past representatives done their work. In the next term, he says, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, Mount Washington and neighboring communities will become the envy of the city, with the best streets and sidewalks, with community-leadership training — if he is re-elected.