Firefighters and carpenters, members of the faith community and the arts community, local neighborhood activists and elected officials from throughout the region, and volunteers from every walk of life turned out Saturday, December 14th for Mark Ridley-Thomas’ official City Council campaign kickoff.
The mood was festive at campaign headquarters on Crenshaw Blvd. Earle’s Grill fed more than 200 people, and Lula Washington dancers and drummers opened the program with a celebratory performance.
Asked why they supported MRT, a recurring theme from those who came out was the absolute necessity of having experienced leader represent the 10th District. The serious issues facing both the district and the city as a whole — homelessness and affordable housing, economic development and environmental sustainability — should be addressed by someone with a proven track record.
Elise Buik, CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, reminded the crowd of MRT’s experience and leadership tackling homelessess.
Under his leadership, 36,000 formerly homeless people have homes, Buik told listeners.
“Who else can point to the affordable housing and supportive housing they’ve built?” she asked. “Who else can point to the thousands of people they have brought indoors? Who else has collaborated nonprofits, with private developers, with the City, County and State to make progress where none had been made?
Freddy Escobar of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles, Local 112, added that while the Supervisor’s record on homelesness is well known, workers throughout the city and county have benefited from his leadership on labor issues.
“It’s not just firefighters who support MRT,” Escobar said. “It’s all of the working men and women of this city. The L.A. County Fed supports him, and thousands of workers who count on labor unions to ensure they are paid fairly, work in safe conditions and are treated with dignity, support him too.”
Pastor Xavier Thompson, senior pastor of the Southern Missionary Baptist Church, told the crowd that MRT is the epitome of a servant-leader.
“This is a man who is tried and tested,” Thompson said. “He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.”
Every community in Los Angeles shares similar struggles, said Nayon Kang of the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, and MRT’s support has been crucial to their work.
“One of the things that really stand out to me about him is his concern for the most vulnerable people among us,” she said. “KYCC does a lot of work on supportive housing for homeless people, and this is an area in which he’s been a huge champion. Huge.”
Marcos Sanchez and Stephanie Uy, president and vice president of administration of the Los Angeles Young Democrats, emceed the event, noting that the Supervisor received the L.A. County Democratic Party endorsement last week with a unanimous vote.
“Hey, I’m still a young Democrat!” MRT declared, taking the stage.
Then he noted that he is frequently asked why, after serving in his current position on the Board of Supervisors, is he running for City Council.
“You know why? Because I love this work.”
Recent polls show that Angelenos are virtually unanimous in ranking homelessness as the number one issue in the city, and MRT said that would be his primary focus.
“This is the moral crisis of our time, and we cannot allow this to become our new normal,” he said. “But working together, we can — we absolutely can change the conditions in the 10th District and across our city.”
Adding that he was taking nothing for granted in the campaign, MRT wrapped up by again thanking supporters.
Drummers from the Hwarang Youth Foundation closed out the program. Then MRT headed out with the crowd to walk a precinct, knock on doors, listen to residents’ concerns, and remind them to vote.