Jan Perry, District 9 City Council Candidate
This is a partial transcript of Jan Perrys interview with the L.A. Weeklys 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 didnt 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 dont 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. Ive seen a lot more construction of houses. The social service support. I am very outspoken about how were treating people who are homeless. Im trying to attract more public, private and partnership opportunities to bring more amenities to people in the southern part of the district. Ive done very well on street paving. I also feel like we were playing catch-up. Im glad that were doing well but I dont 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: Youve been involved in city government for a long time. Is it running better, worse or pretty much the same since youve 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 havent 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, were 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 didnt 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: Im guessing that they were probably worse. L.A. WEEKLY: Why do you say that? JAN PERRY: Because we didnt have the rapid response even before that. The level of accountability is higher than it was before. I think theres greater public scrutiny now than there was before. I think constituents are more demanding and more conversant in whats right and whats 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. Theyre a lot more aware and alert on how to organize and get information. I would say that its better, but I would also say it was probably really bad before. Theres a lot of collusion. Back when I first started, people would carry files out of the City Clerks 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 whats going on in City Hall for a decade or two? JAN PERRY: I dont know if its an anomaly. I would say that its 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 mayors 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: Doesnt the Comptroller ultimately sign the checks? JAN PERRY: He was in the Comptrollers 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 its 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. Thats 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 Councils responsibility to give them a hard time, to grill them? JAN PERRY: Not a hard time, but we should look at them, yes. I dont 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 wouldnt 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 Im asking, I feel that based on my own experience its something that needs to be said for the record. Because thats what I feel is part of my obligation. L.A. WEEKLY: What is your chief concern about Building and Safety? JAN PERRY: We cant 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: Thats 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 couldnt make a prediction. L.A. WEEKLY: A hundred? JAN PERRY: Maybe less than a hundred. I dont 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 thats supposed to be there is there, or whether its been transferred elsewhere? JAN PERRY: No. The only concerns Ive 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 theres 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 Im 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 dont 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. Were at 50,000 people downtown now. Many of them have beds, but about 10,000 of them dont. Thats 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 theyre 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 its a bad idea. L.A. WEEKLY: In order to best serve them by concentrating services? JAN PERRY: No, I dont 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 werent ready for young men to come home, after having been sprayed with chemicals. We werent prepared for that, and we werent prepared for women going into the military and being injured. Mothers who were injured and have kids. We probably werent 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 thats what our 10-year plan to end homelessness is supposed to do. I hope were not discussing it for 10 years. Ideally, with the members in the group who come from the surrounding cities, thats what we should be trying to accomplish. Ive expressed this at our meetings, not only in written form but verbally - certain areas that lend themselves better to having women with children. Skid rows not that area. I could see areas where its 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 cant go on that street. That didnt 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, theyre 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 theres something going on at Rec and Parks? JAN PERRY: Ill tell you why I have a problem with Rec and Parks, and Ive actually talked to the Comptroller about this. Its 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. Ive asked for an audit of this before, and I havent 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. Theres this constant struggle to give preference to the neighborhood group. Now, that is a really big issue for me, okay. Thats a very, very big issue for me because the people are paying fees, and its not being reinvested back in the park but thrown into a pot. I cant even track where that money is going - L.A. WEEKLY: Where do you think its going? JAN PERRY: Im not quite sure. I have asked ... L.A. WEEKLY: Wheres the money? JAN PERRY: I dont know. Thats what I want to find out. It makes me very angry. Ive 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: Whats the total budget? I dont know. I have no idea. I had it in my office, but I dont know. Off the top of my head I dont 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, Ill get it for you. Its in the profits so the money goes back out of the fund. The answers there will be in documentary evidence, and thats just plain difficult to get. L.A. WEEKLY: Tell me about it, because so far I havent 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 doesnt mean Im not going to keep doing it. L.A. WEEKLY: You might have better luck in some places. JAN PERRY: Sometimes. Im gonna tell you something and I dont really care whether you believe me. I wont say the case, but its an active piece of litigation. But, that wont 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 dont do that after-hours stuff, okay? Im 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: Lets talk about their efforts to bring in an NFL team - JAN PERRY: I think its 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 dont necessarily look at it as ones bad and ones good. This is where I am now at this point in time. L.A. WEEKLY: Weve heard a lot of tension during campaigning and wondered... JAN PERRY: Out here, thats politics. L.A. WEEKLY: Dont 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, Im sorry. We dont 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. Youre facing a lot - but theyre 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 Ive been pretty impressed with what Ive seen. I think in my perspective, its 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, thats 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 its actually very helpful I think theres 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. Id like it to get higher. I want to get people excited. L.A. WEEKLY: Dont you think that the next representative will be one of these newcomers from downtown? JAN PERRY: I dont know, you have to be able to represent to get elected. A lot of people who dont know the district think that if you just run around the party downtown youre going to be elected. Thats not happening. A lot of people can say that everyone downtown is rich. And everybody in south L. A.s poor. They dont know the district. That doesnt scream like, I dont know what Im talking about. Okay? Skid row and then go over to Vermont Square and youd think you were in - So, what Im 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 thats what I want to see when a person comes after me. Youre going to see me talking about that a lot. So, basically, Im not interested in somebody who - pulls a lot of crap.
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