Jan Perry, District 9 City Council Candidate

This is a partial transcript of Jan Perry’s 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: You are endorsing Mayor Hahn for reelection. How come? JAN PERRY: He has been extremely supportive of everything that I have tried to do over in the Skid Row area, and helping to make sure that I get enough focus and service support for some of the newer and existing social service providers. He didn’t bale when I asked for help on getting year-round funding for a shelter off Broadway. He was a real good partner in helping me get that done. He has been very supportive, and not only just in words but in deeds. He has a very strong personality. I don’t actually know him very well on a personal basis. L.A. WEEKLY: What kind of changes have you seen in the district over the last four years? JAN PERRY: I would like to think that a lot of changes that I see in my own district are the result of my direct action. I’ve seen a lot more construction of houses. The social service support. I am very outspoken about how we’re treating people who are homeless. I’m trying to attract more public, private and partnership opportunities to bring more amenities to people in the southern part of the district. I’ve done very well on street paving. I also feel like we were playing catch-up. I’m glad that we’re doing well but I don’t rest on that line. You know? Obviously, we need to do more. L.A. WEEKLY: Have you created a non-profit entity? JAN PERRY: Have I created one? No. L.A. WEEKLY: You’ve been involved in city government for a long time. Is it running better, worse or pretty much the same since you’ve gotten involved? JAN PERRY: I started in 1990. There are certain things that are better. From a field perspective, I think we are better at dealing with particular concerns, and tracking them through the system. Because then we provide the better-quality services to the communities. I think we haven’t maximized our use of the planning department. I hope that we can get somebody who really understands from a planning perspective, how to be proactive in redrafting specific plans, rather than our having to be reactive. How to help us more in a systemic way. Recycling centers are the things we need to work more on. We have a better method for accounting. I think if you look in the areas such as Public Works, we’re probably doing better. Because we have better systems in place to track the contractors we use and track what they pay and the benefits that go along with it. If something falls through the cracks, if there is something out in the field that is not satisfactory, I usually get in immediate contact or an immediate response from someone in one of the unions coming to tell us. That didn’t happen before. So I think that is an improvement. L.A. WEEKLY: At the harbor, and the airport, the Department of Water and Power, were things ... JAN PERRY: I’m guessing that they were probably worse. L.A. WEEKLY: Why do you say that? JAN PERRY: Because we didn’t have the rapid response even before that. The level of accountability is higher than it was before. I think there’s greater public scrutiny now than there was before. I think constituents are more demanding and more conversant in what’s right and what’s wrong. And able to ask for it. More people understand now with The Freedom of Information Act — not just activists. Even I would say some high school kids. They’re a lot more aware and alert on how to organize and get information. I would say that it’s better, but I would also say it was probably really bad before. There’s a lot of collusion. Back when I first started, people would carry files out of the City Clerk’s Office and take them to their offices. If somebody wanted to come and find something later, it was always gone. Then there was no process for tracking where the files went. Those were official files out of the vault. L.A. WEEKLY: So is the Fleishman Hillard situation an anomaly? Or typical of what’s going on in City Hall for a decade or two? JAN PERRY: I don’t know if it’s an anomaly. I would say that it’s an egregious example of lack of oversight by ... L.A. WEEKLY: By? JAN PERRY: I would say by all the departments that review it from the bottom to the top. Ultimately, the mayor’s office is the manager, or the administrator of the city. But, there is a chain of responsibility. A chain of accountability. And everybody has a piece of that. L.A. WEEKLY: Doesn’t the Comptroller ultimately sign the checks? JAN PERRY: He was in the Comptroller’s Office when I initiated the request for payment of the bill. Not only do we have to have the expenditure approved even before we have the bill. But that they know that it’s what we should be spending our money on. We get the money, and we work with staff. They do whatever they have to do, and it gets passed all the way up the food chain before we get the bill paid. That’s the way it should be. Sometimes it drives us crazy ’cause it takes a long time. The vendors call and scream and holler. But when you do business with the city, we have to do things the right way, too. I think anybody who has oversight authority has to be able to accept responsibility for - L.A. WEEKLY: When somebody comes up for confirmation with the Department of Water and Power, is it the City Council’s responsibility to give them a hard time, to grill them? JAN PERRY: Not a hard time, but we should look at them, yes. I don’t categorize that as a hard time - L.A. WEEKLY: Should confirmation for an additional term be denied people on the Water and Power Commission who do not have direct responsibility, but were on the board and in a position to have oversight? JAN PERRY: I wouldn’t be uncomfortable with that. That harkens back to an earlier discussion, when we were talking about the neighborhood council. When I say things they might sound obnoxious or picky because I want the record to show that I did ask, and that I was concerned. Even though it may not appear to be a big deal at the time that I’m asking, I feel that based on my own experience it’s something that needs to be said for the record. Because that’s what I feel is part of my obligation. L.A. WEEKLY: What is your chief concern about Building and Safety? JAN PERRY: We can’t get service in the southern part of the district, in the way we get it in the northern part of the district. L.A. WEEKLY: Is Building and Safety routinely by itself? JAN PERRY: That’s because the general manager has done a very good job working with development. L.A. WEEKLY: How many buildings are there in your district? JAN PERRY: Ballpark? Far too many. I couldn’t make a prediction. L.A. WEEKLY: A hundred? JAN PERRY: Maybe less than a hundred. I don’t want to make up something. L.A. WEEKLY: Have you heard anybody raising concerns about the housing trust fund? JAN PERRY: In what sense? L.A. WEEKLY: Whether the amount of money that’s supposed to be there is there, or whether it’s been transferred elsewhere? JAN PERRY: No. The only concerns I’ve ever heard raised are people outside wanting to come in and do a deal with the housing…and not quite understanding how it works. L.A. WEEKLY: Are landlords more or less interested in investing? JAN PERRY: Do you mean investing in existing properties, or building new ones? L.A. WEEKLY: Both. JAN PERRY: Let me break it down to you like this. With a new school coming online in the southern part of the district where there’s been about 11 of them running now - and about 20 more to come. As those schools come online, I see a lot more activity in those neighborhood people. Either with renovating, reinvesting and in some cases building more housing. And even with people who build for themselves now. So I do see that happening. As you go north of the 10, movement has been incredible. Also changing is the amount of new construction. There still is a lot of new construction with the 20 percent component for affordable housing within those projects. L.A. WEEKLY: What kind of horrible housing do you feel you have to help people get out of? JAN PERRY: The 3,000-a-year that I spoke of earlier is in a skid row community. That is housing designed for people who are homeless, or people who have special needs. In some of the new constructions sites, in helping to develop those projects, we try to create an opportunity for open space. Always the support services onsite, particularly services geared towards mental health, family reunification. L.A. WEEKLY: Does the conversion of downtown put additional pressure on you to address the issue of affordable housing? JAN PERRY: Affordable housing is a citywide problem, not just in that area. I also think that I’m fortunate, because a lot of the people who come into that area, particularly San Pedro, they are not necessarily the first to develop it - you would not know whether that was market rate or affordable to people who were formerly homeless. L.A. WEEKLY: Should they live there permanently? JAN PERRY: A couple things. I don’t believe we can permanently institutionalize the problem. I think the whole region needs to carry its responsibility for homelessness. Which is why I dumped on Santa Clarita when they wanted to bus their homeless people down here. We’re at 50,000 people downtown now. Many of them have beds, but about 10,000 of them don’t. That’s from Chinatown all the way to the 10 Freeway. I think we can have a fully integrated community. There will be some people who are always at risk of becoming homeless. L.A. WEEKLY: Should they be concentrated? JAN PERRY: If they’re there now, and they love the community, and they want to stay then they should stay there. As for concentrating it ... L.A. WEEKLY: As a government policy? JAN PERRY: No, I think it’s a bad idea. L.A. WEEKLY: In order to best serve them by concentrating services? JAN PERRY: No, I don’t think concentration does that for people. I think it creates a ground-zero effect, where then an area may be overwhelmed. For any number of reasons. Some of it is cut from federal funding, and some of it is not having enough resources to keep pace with emerging problems. We weren’t ready for young men to come home, after having been sprayed with chemicals. We weren’t prepared for that, and we weren’t prepared for women going into the military and being injured. Mothers who were injured and have kids. We probably weren’t prepared enough for fallout from domestic violence as related to drug dealers. L.A. WEEKLY: Should part of it be to find a way for surrounding communities to absorb some of the burden? JAN PERRY: Ideally that’s what our 10-year plan to end homelessness is supposed to do. I hope we’re not discussing it for 10 years. Ideally, with the members in the group who come from the surrounding cities, that’s what we should be trying to accomplish. I’ve expressed this at our meetings, not only in written form but verbally - certain areas that lend themselves better to having women with children. Skid row’s not that area. I could see areas where it’s maybe more green areas. L.A. WEEKLY: So there are now more people who see homelessness as something that needs to be eradicated? JAN PERRY: No, not eradicated. It needs to be ... L.A. WEEKLY: Dispersed? JAN PERRY: Yeah, that we need to spread it out. We need to spread out the responsibility. There was a historical practice by the city, of containment, you know. The police would say, “You can stay on this street, or you can’t go on that street.” That didn’t solve the problem. L.A. WEEKLY: What departments do you see as having problems? JAN PERRY:I think the fraud thing stands on its own. That one has legs on its own. If you want to talk about problems, if you want to talk abut departments that ... well those departments, they’re its own revenue generators. There is always a need to make sure that we always have a really engaged level of scrutiny there. The opportunity for fraud there is probably much higher than just a regular department. So harbor and airports ... DWP. L.A. WEEKLY: Do you suspect there’s something going on at Rec and Parks? JAN PERRY: I’ll tell you why I have a problem with Rec and Parks, and I’ve actually talked to the Comptroller about this. It’s a big problem for me. These soccer leagues pay fees to play in parks. Some of the soccer leagues come from Huntington Park, or wherever. Some of them are adult leagues. We have these municipal sports committees for each park. They basically decide how the fees are going to be spent. I’ve asked for an audit of this before, and I haven’t really gotten an answer yet. But it appears to be the money is not spent back in the parks from which it is generated. It also appears to me that first preference is not given to people who live in the community - and that preference is given to those activities which may generate the greatest amount of fee time. There’s this constant struggle to give preference to the neighborhood group. Now, that is a really big issue for me, okay. That’s a very, very big issue for me because the people are paying fees, and it’s not being reinvested back in the park but thrown into a pot. I can’t even track where that money is going - L.A. WEEKLY: Where do you think it’s going? JAN PERRY: I’m not quite sure. I have asked ... L.A. WEEKLY: Where’s the money? JAN PERRY: I don’t know. That’s what I want to find out. It makes me very angry. I’ve been asking for a long time. Ed and I introduced a motion about it. Ed has the same problem, you know? L.A. WEEKLY: What budget is there for the parks? JAN PERRY: What’s the total budget? I don’t know. I have no idea. I had it in my office, but I don’t know. Off the top of my head I don’t know. L.A. WEEKLY: Could you give me a rough estimate? Do you have a cost breakdown? JAN PERRY: I have a breakdown now. If you want, I’ll get it for you. It’s in the profits so the money goes back out of the fund. The answers there will be in documentary evidence, and that’s just plain difficult to get. L.A. WEEKLY: Tell me about it, because so far I haven’t been able to find out... JAN PERRY: Well, I have the same problem. L.A. WEEKLY: You and I should get together and commiserate. JAN PERRY: That doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep doing it. L.A. WEEKLY: You might have better luck in some places. JAN PERRY: Sometimes. I’m gonna tell you something and I don’t really care whether you believe me. I won’t say the case, but it’s an active piece of litigation. But, that won’t really ... ’93? Okay. L.A. WEEKLY: It started in about... JAN PERRY: Sometime between ’93 and 2000. There was a file on a piece of litigation that actually involved some of the apartments we were talking about today. And I asked ... L.A. WEEKLY: Apartments? JAN PERRY: It disappeared for three years. And I ... L.A. WEEKLY: Was it talked about in closed session? JAN PERRY: No. Actually that was never in the document. I personally went looking for ’cause I kind of knew where it was. I don’t do that after-hours stuff, okay? I’m not sure how they did that anyway. But, I could not locate it, and then after 2001, the file is back in the vault. L.A. WEEKLY: Let’s talk about their efforts to bring in an NFL team - JAN PERRY: I think it’s unfortunate that they seem to have some bias. I think whatever old perceptions the NFL may have had about the area are wrong. L.A. WEEKLY: Do you think more cops can solve their problems? JAN PERRY: Some of it. The level of violence and gang activity is so high, particularly in the 77th and Newton divisions. We need help. L.A. WEEKLY: What about the root causes of the violence? JAN PERRY: The root causes of violence need to be addressed. Obviously we need more jobs for older adults who are engaged in gang activities. Jobs, sports, after school, and adult mentoring program. I kind of look at this situation and I have to take care of the people. And I don’t necessarily look at it as one’s bad and one’s good. This is where I am now at this point in time. L.A. WEEKLY: We’ve heard a lot of tension during campaigning and wondered... JAN PERRY: Out here, that’s politics. L.A. WEEKLY: Don’t you dish around the water cooler at all? JAN PERRY: Other people might. L.A. WEEKLY: What kind of place is that to work? JAN PERRY: Well, I’m sorry. We don’t have a water cooler. L.A. WEEKLY: What are your views on LAUSD? JAN PERRY: I have been pretty impressed with the teachers - you got to want to be there. You’re facing a lot - but they’re creative. I spend a lot of time getting free tickets and free things and giving it to the teachers to take the students places. But I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve seen. I think in my perspective, it’s changing in a positive way. L.A. WEEKLY: Do you find that they tend to want to help themselves more or are they looking for someone to solve their problems? JAN PERRY: I personally preach that you need to understand how to take care of it. So, that’s a message I repeat over and over again. Some of the people were involved in organized activities - you have block clubs. Not only are they interested in how the city operates, but they want to learn more and it’s actually very helpful I think there’s a real search for that knowledge. L.A. WEEKLY: How is your campaign coming along? JAN PERRY: I am running a very active field operation. I have a high turnout. I’d like it to get higher. I want to get people excited. L.A. WEEKLY: Don’t you think that the next representative will be one of these newcomers from downtown? JAN PERRY: I don’t know, you have to be able to represent to get elected. A lot of people who don’t know the district think that if you just run around the party downtown you’re going to be elected. That’s not happening. A lot of people can say that everyone downtown is rich. And everybody in south L. A.’s poor. They don’t know the district. That doesn’t scream like, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Okay? Skid row and then go over to Vermont Square and you’d think you were in - So, what I’m looking for is somebody who says, you know what - whoever comes after me, you always have to - I expect the people to be very well educated. We have to be able to communicate. If possible to be able to communicate in more than one language but at least be highly receptive to that and to have a track record that demonstrates that. I have an agenda for the people of the 9th Council [District] because that’s what I want to see when a person comes after me. You’re going to see me talking about that a lot. So, basically, I’m not interested in somebody who - pulls a lot of crap.


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