Ed Reyes Interview Transcript

This is a partial transcript of Ed Reyes’ interview with the L.A. Weekly’s editorial board. As with all of the candidate interviews, it has been only lightly edited and has not been fact-checked. L.A. WEEKLY: We heard from one of your opponents about a fire at a church that caught fire, and there was a meeting last night. Did you go? ED REYES: I did go. I had the LAPD…We had the fire chief there, as well as the people in charge of arson. we had the ATF and the FBI there. It was a very emotional meeting. It was very clear that the personnel involved with arson…since we failed to perform in a manner that was required. What we did is, after he visited the church, he was supposed to have called the emergency unit. L.A. WEEKLY: Who is this? A firefighter? ED REYES: One of the firefighters. What he did is he ended up calling the arson investigators that essentially wouldn’t have been picked up until Monday, instead of calling the emergency number. If he had called the emergency number, he would have had responses from a special unit from LAPD. There was a period in which churches were being targeted. So, he didn’t do that. And as a result, him thinking he had followed through with what he was supposed to do, he left it at that. And he left everybody hanging and waiting. L.A. WEEKLY: It was a stupid mistake. ED REYES: Absolutely. L.A. WEEKLY: Your opponent said that no matter how it happened, there was a role for the councilman that he knew about the fire. ED REYES: That’s the big assumption. I find out on Monday morning. It sat dormant for two days. Meanwhile the community is in turmoil, upset, and they feel abandoned. And no one shows up. L.A. WEEKLY: When was the fire? ED REYES: I think it was Saturday evening. L.A. WEEKLY: No one called you. ED REYES: No one called me. L.A. WEEKLY: No one called you on your cell? ED REYES: No one called me on my cell until Monday. So yesterday we have the meeting, and we had about 45 minutes of testimonies from the community. Frankly, it goes deeper for me because this is the grammar school I went to. It’s where I got baptized, where I learned, where I had my Communion, where I got married. My staff let’s me know Monday. We call up the captain and the fire department personnel, and they all apologize. They didn’t do their right procedure, and they didn’t call the right person. We explained to the community that we did fail and I’m part of that city family that failed. That I should have been more responsible, but how could I have been if I didn’t know? L.A. WEEKLY: There are people who had said the problem with Councilman Reyes is that he’s got his head in the clouds over city-wide issues, and he’s sort of estranged from the district, from the neighborhood. And this instance where a weekend goes by sort of underscores that argument. ED REYES: Well, I could see how they would postulate that way, ‘cause when you talk about community who is it that you turn to? They were people that demanded that I…I told him I was not going to do that, he said you’re going to have problems with me. They’re going to go after you. These are the same people who started a whole process of defamation of character. They went after me in a very personal way. These are the same people who are catechism teachers, who send out flyers into the community saying that AIDS began because gays are having sex with gorillas in Africa. I’m trying to find a copy of that flier. These are the same people that have been after my wife and my kids. It’s been a very emotional issue for them. I keep telling them that this is not about a lifestyle issue. I keep saying it’s a health issue. It’s a public health issue. But it’s been falling on deaf ears in a core group of those people. I think it’s born from that whole effort. L.A. WEEKLY: So you’re saying that all of this essentially goes back to the issue of this wall that memorializes Latinos united with AIDS that... ED REYES: Absolutely. L.A. WEEKLY: All this anger has to do with the AIDS wall? ED REYES: That is where it began. From there they got together with some folks and now I’m taking away open space. When in fact I’m adding close to 95 acres of new open space here in the city. This is the same area in which crime has gone down dramatically. The same area where I brought in new sidewalks. Took out the old trees, brought in new trees. We brought lights to Lincoln High School. First time they have night games in Lincoln High School. The same place where we got many development improvements to Lincoln Park. We drained the lake. These are the same people that are resisting me putting in the kind of equipment that would help children who are essentially resigned to live in wheelchairs. So they could enjoy the park in a nice setting. These people resisted that. They feel my staff and the foundation is a big headache. Everything I did was never right. It all started with the wall. They’ve been very tactful. They’re very smart. They’ve been approaching the issue, and they are painting it in a certain way. They went to the Public Works Department, and asked for equipment to clean around the school. They did not contact my staff. It has been very divisive. Last night, I told them that this is my parish, this is my school, so here’s what I’m doing. I said this hurts me as much as it hurts you. It’s unfortunate that one individual in the fire department failed to follow procedures. But the fact that we’re here today and tomorrow and next week. Next week I want to be putting forth a motion for a 15 thousand dollar reward to find out who did it. There was an accusation that kids on skateboards were the ones that committed this crime. According to the parents of those kids, ‘cause after the meeting I had a very angry father coming up to me and asking me why are you going after our children? Why are you going after kids with skateboards just because they dress a certain way? I said that no one’s doing that. We have a detective on the case. We have folks who are investigating this, and we want to get to the truth. So we cannot penalize our young people any more than we already have. We need to change that image, and I agree with the gentleman. I said, look, come to my office, bring your kids, I’ll bring the senior officer, I’ll bring the officers, and we’ll work out whatever problem they’re having with you. It’s not the environment I need or want. But underlying all this is the homophobic tendencies of folks like these that come off with these accusations when I am very proud of my record. I can demonstrate it through documents, through funding and through programs, all of what we’ve been doing. I am very proud of our work. And his accusations and his assertions are based on the desperate person who’s trying to run against me. And it’s all politics. It has nothing to do with reality. I’ll be very blunt with you, after my kids were attacked, after my wife was attacked, I stopped going to that church on those Sundays. Because it had come to a point where my kids didn’t want to go to that church because they get harassed by these people. And so I’m going to another church right now. But now we have a new priest who is willing to be proactive. ‘Cause when I brought it to the previous priest’s attention, these issues, instead of the archdiocese dealing with it, they took Father Gabriel out of there. And they brought in an interim priest. I brought it to his attention, and got no response. The same person that provided that flyer is still teaching catechism there. L.A. WEEKLY: You’re supporting Hahn for the election for mayor. How come? ED REYES: He asked me last year in November. And I said yes at the time because at that time I was convinced that the field was going to be limited, knowing that Antonio was not going to be running. Because that’s one issue I just want to address up front. There is a litany of issues that he supported my requests to help my district. And a little of that has not been seen in many, many, many years. And those are very real. So the end result is tangible. It’s not verbage, or rhetoric, he just got it done. L.A. WEEKLY: Do you think he’ll win the election? ED REYES: I think he’s the candidate to beat. L.A. WEEKLY: What kind of mayor would Parks make? ED REYES: I think Parks would be a pragmatic mayor, but I also believe that there is the needs of the working force. I would wonder how he would do in that realm. I think Antonio is a great person. I think he’s done a lot for my district. He’s a friendly member, and I think he’s an inspiration for many Latinos. L.A. WEEKLY: Where do you stand on that last issue? Hotels turned into condos or apartments? ED REYES: I think that’s a very complicated issue. I think we have to separate the SRO facility, and what it does for people on the last rung. The people that are trying to keep from having to live in bushes and under the bridges. I think there’s a significant housing issue there. The other element there is that you have to understand what that means. At a time when we’re supporting a major hotel for a convention center, and we already have this other trend of hotels being changed into residences, I mean you’re going in two opposite directions. So I want to know what the facts are. What is the number being affected by this change? Where is it happening? What are the impacts locally? Those are two questions I have to answer. Once I get that type of understanding, I’d like to make an informed decision. ‘Cause right now we’re talking about two ends of the spectrum, and raising two different environments. I need to understand the facts. I don’t think anyone has that yet. L.A. WEEKLY: Assuming you’re reelected, what do you want to look back and say, “I’m responsible for that.” If there was just one thing. ED REYES: We need park spaces. Creating new gateways into our communities and the inner city. By revitalizing that corridor, it will be something that will last for the next 50 years. It’s changing the character of these inner city neighborhoods. L.A. WEEKLY: Then what? What are you going to do next? ED REYES: My wife and my kids are really razzing me about that. One of my kids wants me to go into higher education. My daughter wants me to run for office in the state. So between my oldest daughter and my oldest son, there’s a heated argument in the house right now. L.A. WEEKLY: Meaning like for state legislature? ED REYES: She’s looking at Assembly and the Senate. L.A. WEEKLY: How old are your oldest daughter and son? ED REYES: Well my daughter’s 16 and my son’s 14. L.A. WEEKLY: So then they know everything. L.A. WEEKLY: Are you confident that your voice can find a planning director? And have you talked to the mayor about any particular names or anything? ED REYES: I was able to influence the job description that’s being expected of the planning director. I’ve opened it from a national search to an international search. The notion of a Midwestern mentality dominating the planning concept and planning discipline doesn’t work anymore. I’ll be part of the interview process. I’ll be part of the decision making process. I haven’t heard any names from him. What I do know is that we need to find someone who’s proactive, and who’s willing to engage the Homeowner Association with the council, as union. And talk about the hard decisions that have to be made. We need to make every neighborhood in the city accountable to their responsibility of providing housing for the people in Los Angeles. And that has to be done as soon as possible. So I’m going to be very aggressive on that end. L.A. WEEKLY: That’s almost an impossible job. ED REYES: You don’t have to move a bulldozer. You understand the character issues of each neighborhood. There are specific plans for a reason. Community plans for a reason. You start looking at the layers of all the zoning and regulatory issues that we have. I believe a strong director will be able to understand those realities. This is what we can provide. This kind of support. But this is where we spend the envelope, and this is where we are able to be optimistic - in these kinds of infrastructure issues. That’s the beauty of L.A., it changes from community to community, neighborhood to neighborhood. The level of ownership of each area varies from place to place. The question becomes, how do you start combining those interests into one city? L.A. WEEKLY: Would you run for mayor? Is that totally out of the question? ED REYES: To be mayor you need a lot of money. I don’t come from money. I come from immigrants. I come from laborers. I come from the first generation Chicano who got out of that hole and came back and is trying to change that. L.A. WEEKLY: You don’t have to use your own money. ED REYES: Who with money would want to give me money? When they start thinking what are you going to do to my money? I’ve seen some great people run for mayor, and I’ve seen what they go through. I don’t want to shortchange myself, but right now life is too short. I’ll be hitting my fifties by the time I get out of the council, and I don’t want to insult anybody at that age. I want to share some life with my kids. I would consider mayor at one time if I knew it was real. If the base came up and I stepped up and people were there with that kind of support, it wouldn’t be out of the picture. But I would be realistic about it. I don’t have delusions of grandeur. You know, I know where I come from and I know what I need to do.


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