L.A. WEEKLY: What do you consider your greatest hits as councilman?
NICK PACHECO: Well, you all know, the 14th Council District is the one in which, in 1999, the council member announced his retirement from politics. And for a couple years, pretty much, the district seemed a little abandoned, just not being maintained and taken care of. So, the first priority I had was to make sure that we brought back a sense of relationship with the district. So, one of the big things that I focused in on was an activity where people would be involved. We did what’s called a community cleanup program. It came from constituents who felt that the streets in the district were just plain dirty. And the last three and a half years, I would say it would total about 3,600 volunteers.
I also started the Neighborhood Leadership Institute. I have three staffers who, all they do is organize. Whether the problem is a drive-by shooting, or whether it be someone selling narcotics, I have a fundamental belief that one of the things that we have to do is not show fear to our gang members. So, the way we do this is, if an incident occurs, or if someone complains about activity in the neighborhood, we organize. We basically try to get people to take pride in their community.
So, for example, we did little things in the neighborhood that helped us. There was a senior who lived there, who always had gang members go through her property, jumping a broken fence that she had. So, through community activism, and volunteers being prepared to defend [and] secure her home, we made a perimeter of her home — and that took down, eventually, the whole pass-through of the gang members.
One of the important things that we all recognize is that, if we’re really gonna make a difference, we have to provide gang members with options. And so right now we have a $20 million, four-year program that’s been in place for two years now, working and giving our youth alternatives, especially when they drop out of high school. And so we have about 14 of the families going through that program.
How about on the economic development front?
Right now our industrial sites are about 98 percent filled. Right now we’re really just at the point where we’re starting to develop tools and really offer the options and choices. If someone comes in and says, “I’m interested in this location,” we can get on the computer, work with a real presentation, and walk through it. We can get a visual of the entire corridor with their project in place, the whole aesthetic.
What about the riverside? What’s going on in the river area and what are you pushing for there?
Right now, I have really only pushed on the river zone a sort of huge park. One of the things I’ve been working on is to try and get a football stadium in the city of L.A. So we have a site that the Community Redevelopment Agency has recognized as one of the plan sites for redevelopment, the junkyard row on Mission, where you see big mounds of rock and debris. So that’s the site right there. The idea is to combine that site with the river and create a long parkway, and do Rose Bowl-like parking for games and have green space.
How do you feel about being challenged for your seat by Antonio Villaraigosa?
I think it’s very divisive in terms of having to put people in awkward positions. There are a lot of people who know both of us who are really torn. Since I took it over, we’ve also been able to create a lot of new improvements. But no one is guaranteed their office. It’s not a birthright. I believe I’ve earned the job.
You’ve supported a trust fund for affordable housing. What was your role in getting that accomplished? So when you say you got it, you mean you joined the yes votes in city council?
The only person [among its supporters] that Richard Riordan would return a phone call from was Nick Pacheco. Jackie Goldberg and the mayor were not talking. … I have made affordable housing a big issue for my work as former chair of the housing committee, but crime is the top issue in my district.
What is your role as far as education and the school district?
What I’ve been doing in terms of education is really with after-school programs. Another good thing that we’re doing is partnering up with some of the schools in improving the library.
What distinctions do you draw between yourself and your opponent, Antonio Villaraigosa?
It comes down to a couple of things. I really demonstrated that I have chosen to be a public servant. I dedicate my life to the district. I really focus on getting in there and doing those basic pothole calls — whether it’s a cleanup or whether it’s affordable housing or a neighborhood prosecutor program. That is the primary objective of a council member. When you contrast this with why he was running for mayor, I think I have a better match for that district.
Are you saying that fixing potholes and having a larger vision for the city are mutually exclusive?
Well, I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, but I think in terms of what the competition puts out in terms of what the top priorities are. You can have a citywide vision, for example; you can be successful like I was with the affordable-housing trust fund. But I think when it comes down to rolling up your sleeves, I think I have a splendid track record in what I’m talking about … I really choose to be a public servant. This is my way of giving back.
How has Jimmy Hahn done as mayor?
I would say he’s done okay. I think he struggled with what type of mayor he wanted to be. I think he really admires the legacy that his father left in terms of being a sort of roll-up-your-sleeves pothole type of politician and really wouldn’t want to emulate that, but I think he also recognizes that the new Los Angeles has got a brand-new vision coming out of the mayor’s office. So I think he’s still in that middle area of trying to figure out which type of mayor he wants to be.
Did you endorse the right guy in the mayor’s race when you endorsed Hahn instead of Villaraigosa?
I got traffic signals in my district. I got great support when it comes to the projects I’m working on.
You’re saying your alliance with Hahn created a debt of gratitude to the benefit of your district?
Yeah. And that’s important because ultimately our endorsements are about what’s best for our district. I mean, it’s not what’s best for Pacheco; it’s what’s best for who I represent. So it’s really been a great relationship, been very helpful on a lot of our projects.
So you could say your endorsement was available to the candidate who made the best promises to your district.
Sure. But I would say that when you look at the two candidates at the time, it was clear that Jim Hahn [was the right choice] because of his experience, his knowledge of the city, and all of the relationships he has built into the whole network.