Reporting by Valentina Guevara-Hernández and Carol Martínez
Jamie Tijerina is the youngest candidate to throw her hat in the ring for the Los Angeles City Council District 14 seat, which City Councilman José Huizar will vacate next year.
Unlike candidates Mónica García and Kevin de León, who are also running for the District seat, Tijerina is new to politics. At 31, she says she would bring an unconventional viewpoint to the post. “I’m not a politician,” she says. “I’m a scientist with an MBA who understands facts, data, and the real world.”
Tijerina’s single mother raised her in the Northeast and Eastside Los Angeles communities of Highland Park, Lincoln Heights and Garvanza. She studied biological sciences as an undergrad at Drexel University and went on to get a master’s degree in business administration there. She works as a scientific researcher at Caltech.
Tijerina has served on the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council as president and director at large and also chaired the Culture and Equality Committee.
Boyle Heights Beat interviewed Jaime Tijerina live on our podcast, Radio Pulso, about her decision to run and her plans for the district. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.
BHB: Tell us how you got involved in city government.
Jamie Tijerina: When I finished grad school, which was in 2015, I came home to the neighborhood, and I noticed there was a lot of change happening. I really just wanted to find out what was happening, what was going on and why all these changes came about. I realized the only way to do that is by getting involved with your community. I knew about the neighborhood council system. Highland Park has one, and there was an open seat that came about, and I put my hat in the ring for it.
“I’m not a politician. I’m a scientist with an MBA who understands facts, data, and the real world.”Jamie Tijerina
BHB: Why do you think that your age and perspective will make you a good candidate for the seat?
JT: I think there’s a lot of issues that are not being sufficiently discussed. When we talk about gentrification and displacement, one of the things that is not being discussed is how the student loan crisis is actually part of this issue and contributing to the fact. People who grew up in the neighborhoods can’t afford to move home to the places they knew and loved and grew up in because their student loan debt is too high, and the rent is too high. So I think we really need to talk about that and other issues that also affect young people in very specific ways.
BHB: Can you tell us about your experience as a woman in city government and how you think you will make a good fit for the CD-14 seat?
JT: In general, women are underrepresented in local government. But in the most recent election for Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, the vast majority of people elected were women. I personally felt that I was able to advocate for specific issues that affect women disproportionately, for example, being able to access community meetings.
“Being in science I actually saw how policy can actually affect what kind of research gets done, what kind of research is funded… Latinos are underrepresented in research, and that could mean that the issues that affect us are not going to get researched.”Jamie Tijerina
BHB: How do you think your background will make you a good fit for the District 14 seat?
JT: I think that there are a lot of issues that are common in both communities [Boyle Heights and Highland Park], especially when it comes to needing more representation in general, a lot of health disparity issues. Being in science I actually saw how policy can actually affect what kind of research gets done, what kind of research is funded. For example, Latinos are underrepresented in research, and that could mean that the issues that affect us are not going to get researched.
BHB: Highland Park has experienced a lot of gentrification. What lessons can you share about what happened to Highland Park and how to prevent it from happening in Boyle Heights?
JT: To the issue of cultural and historic preservation, we can make sure that we all understand and are fully involved in the processes that happen. I think having robust organizations, both nonprofits and community organizations, and groups that are keeping their eye on what’s happening [is] really important in making sure that we preserve the history of Boyle Heights and the Eastside and really all of these areas of Los Angeles.
BHB: Affordable housing is a big issue in the neighborhood. Do you have any plans to address that issue in District 14?
JT: I think making sure that rent-controlled housing that’s protected currently is preserved. Also, that it’s possible to create things like accessory dwelling units so that way people can have family members live with them on their property. Making sure that it’s easier to use what is already existing to accommodate the people who are there and the people who want to be there. Also making sure that new development is done with the approval of the community, making sure that they are involved in the process.
BHB: How do you plan on gaining the trust of the Boyle Heights community? JT: Transparency and accessibility are important to me, and I think the people of Boyle Heights would be able to appreciate if they can come to a meeting, even if it’s just once a month, after work hours, to voice their opinions in person. Just making sure that the people are involved as best as possible every step of the way.
Listen to Tijerina’s interview on the “Radio Pulso” podcast here: