EDITORS NOTE: This is the second part of a lengthy interview conducted by reporter Noemí Pedraza last month with Kevin de León. In this second installment, the councilman-elect addresses the coronavirus and its devastating effect in Boyle Heights, and responds about the possibility of a mayoral race in 2022.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
BHB: I’d like to move on to the coronavirus crisis. Do you think that the lack of representation at City Hall has left CD 14 without resources that could help the community combat the pandemic?
“It is a no brainer… you need to saturate [communities like Boyle Heights] with COVID-19 PCR examinations on a continuous basis, they need to provide antibody testing, as well as PPE equipment and tracing as well. And I have seen a lack of leadership from the public health department.”
KDL: What I will say is that I am very frustrated with the lack of leadership from the LA County’s Public Health Department when it comes to a lot of hotspots throughout the city of LA, but in particular Boyle Heights. It is a no brainer. In densely concentrated areas, where we have multi generations living under one roof, where we have a lot of poverty, where we have a lot of hard-working individuals who must work to survive, where [people] have a lot of pre-existing health conditions, where we have a large disparity between the haves and have nots, where we have, a lot of poverty… you need to saturate [communities like Boyle Heights] with COVID-19 PCR examinations on a continuous basis, they need to provide antibody testing, as well as PPE equipment and tracing as well. And I have seen a lack of leadership from the public health department. Boyle Heights [is] a community that has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
I call it the three-way tsunami. The first wave was when we had the shelter-in-place edict and virtually shut the economy down. The second wave is the high infection rate, and disproportionate mortality rate. And the third wave will be all the devastating cuts that will be made at the local county and state levels, because there’s no revenue coming into the coffers. And if there’s no revenues coming into the coffers, then all of a sudden there’ll be major cutbacks on programs that are so critical for communities such as ours.
There have been people making very critical decisions that I don’t believe did so in a strategic manner. They really have to concentrate an extraordinary amount of resources in communities such as Boyle Heights. And I say the LA County Department of Public Health, because the city does not have a Department of Health. That is under the jurisdiction of LA County, and that falls on the responsibility of the current public health director.
BHB: Councilman Gil Cedillo just recently announced a program where he was using some of his discretionary funds to provide resources for people in his district. CD-14 doesn’t have a council member right now doing anything. Aren’t there things that a councilmember could be doing for the community, that no one is doing?
KDL: That is true, but the vast majority of responsibility falls on the shoulders of LA County. What you see from CD 1 and Gill Cedillo, and perhaps other council members, is in addition to. It’s a layer or two above and beyond what the county is doing, because of the void of leadership at the county level.
At a micro level, if you wanted to say that the current council member is not using his discretionary dollars to deal with the issue COVID-19, that’s a fair question. If I were there, I would have contributed a large amount of money to dealing with antibody testing, in purchasing food for families who are desperate, especially our undocumented families who are not eligible for unemployment or any federal care dollars that have been coming down the pipeline.
BHB: What are some of the first measures that you hope to take once in office to help combat the crisis?
KDL: One of the things that I want to tackle, which I’m already trying to tackle right now, are the evictions, by supporting Proposition 21. And being a cosigner of Prop 21 along with Dolores Huerta. It’ll be on the ballot this year. When the moratorium [on evictions] expires, unless folks have the money saved up to pay for three, four or five months of back rent, there’s going to be a whole wave of evictions and therefore folks living on the streets.
BHB: You mentioned that you began your political life during the protests over proposition 187 back in 1994. Did you think about that during the recent unrest following George Floyd, and what changes have you seen in the Latino community since then?
KDL: There are similarities in terms of protests and tens of thousands of people on the streets raising their voices and indignation to an injustice, a history of injustice. And we’re living it right now under the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
“My record speaks for itself. I’m not into gimmickry, I’m into results. I’m not into political performance theater. I’m into results. And my record demonstrates those results.”
The George Floyd murder is clearly an inflection point that deals with the historic pattern of abuse from local law enforcement agencies throughout the country. But it gives us an opportunity to reexamine the practices of abuse of our local law enforcement as well. There have been improvements in our LAPD, which has a historically sordid history… but it’s clear that we need to do much more.
This is a wonderful opportunity also to sort of reimagine the kind of district that we want, the kind of city that we want. This is an inflection point. So, it’s an opportunity that we can’t lose, we can let it slip through our fingers. This is an opportunity to re-examine and to revision, the kind of city that we truly want to be part of.
BHB: During the election you were criticized for not pledging to serve a full term as a member of the city council, through 2024. I’d like to ask you now, are you planning to run for mayor in 2022?
KDL: Right now, I don’t have any plans. I plan right now on being a great CD 14 council member representing my constituents. I think the criticism came from my opponents.
BHB: Why didn’t you pledge to serve a full term, like the other candidates?
KDL: Because my record speaks for itself. I’m not into gimmickry, I’m into results. I’m not into political performance theater. I’m into results. And my record demonstrates those results. And on March 3, you looked at the numbers. I think they spoke for themselves.
Read the first part of the interview:
The councilman-elect talks about winning the March primary and gaining the trust of CD-14 residents