By Martha Ramírez

Los Angeles residents were asked to show their L.A. pride during a town hall Thursday morning devoted to survey results that show what matters most to Angelenos.

The “Vision Poll,” a partnership between the California Community Foundation (CCF), the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and the Los Angeles Times, asked 1,500 Los Angeles County residents to answer a series of online questions about life in in the region –ranging from the climate, to transportation, education, crime and the future.

“It’s a way to bring people together and to demonstrate that we have much more in common than our differences, and that we really do care about one another,” said Antonia Hernández, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, during the meeting at St. Sophia Cathedral’s Huffington Center.

The poll revealed an unexpected disparity in how different ethnic groups see themselves and Los Angeles in the future. Forty-three percent of Latinos said they thought things would be better in L.A. County in five years, while 49 percent of whites felt that the quality of life would be worse.

“The thing that stood out the most is how the poorest and the people that struggle the most are the most optimistic, and the people who have the most are the most cynical,” Hernández said. “The question is how do we get the people who are the most cynical to see that there’s a lot of hope in dealing with the issues, whether it’s transportation, whether it’s housing, we can address those issues if we do it together.”

Another survey standout centered around community engagement, which showed that most Los Angeles residents want to give back, but don’t know how, according to Dan Schnur, who led the poll and is director of the Unruh Institute.

“Angelenos are motivated to get more involved in their communities,” Schnur said in a written statement. “What they need is…someone who can help them to see how they can make a real difference.”

At the town hall, the CCF announced it is pledging $1 billion over the next decade to L.A. County nonprofits that will tackle those issues by empowering parents to be leaders, helping organizations build low-income housing or providing grants to community clinics, among other projects.

“This is a very practical, result-oriented effort that we’re trying to do, this is not just pie in the sky,” Hernández said. “Just giving away money isn’t enough, we have to measure the results, we have to talk to the community. Change doesn’t come easy, but we have to try.”

Help for the Eastside

Hernández, whose own roots are in East L.A., talked about how Eastside communities could benefit from the foundation’s gift.

“People from East L.A. would benefit most by being able to access other resources,” she said. “We’re survivors. Sometimes we don’t know that there’s other people in other places that can help us, whether it’s our children’s education… whether it’s pushing for more services in their community by participating and voting, by connecting them and letting them know that they’re not alone.”

“We might not have the resources in East L.A., but it’s a very holistic, connected community. I think that East L.A. has a lot of resources to share.”

Community voices

Approximately 400 people attended the invitation-only event, which kicked off with a theatrical presentation by six Los Angeles residents representing all walks of life –a grandmother, an artist, a college student, a former gang member, a recovering drug user and a man from Watts who raised his son to be a man of good.

They shared what’s important to them, who they are, where they live and what makes them Angelenos.

At 62, Ceci Dominguez, of Elysian Valley, is a first generation Angeleno. A working grandmother, she wants her 18-year-old grandson Ricky to get a good education. She’s also concerned about her neighbors’ well-being, gentrification and development. She’s hopeful the poll will lead to change –a sentiment shared by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“We are still optimists and that’s what I drew from this,” Garcetti said. “We are doers and we are dreamers. Here in Los Angeles, in contrast to Washington, we’re inventing things, we’re passing things, we’re doing things.”

“We’re (helping the undocumented) even though immigration reform has stalled and is dead in Washington. We’re doing things like passing a half cent sales tax to build five rail lines…because we want to change the way we live in the city, so I think people get it, I think they’re willing to vote, they’re willing to volunteer,” the mayor added.

For his part, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said he believes residents should take action if they want to see a difference. “I think the survey results are instructive and informative,” he said. “If you want a better community, you have to come out.”

Representatives from various Los Angeles organizations –including the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), the Neighborhood Music School in Boyle Heights and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)– also reacted to the findings and offered suggestions on how to make things better.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint and took place from September 14-24.

For more information, visit the poll information page.

Survey highlights

  • Blacks and Latinos were shown to be the most involved and engaged in their communities and displayed more optimism about their future and the county’s.
  • Most Los Angeles residents don’t trust the government.
  • The number one reason Los Angeles residents said they don’t get involved in their community is because they don’t have time.
  • Most Los Angeles residents believe they’re more likely to make an impact on their own, rather than as a group (e.g. by conserving water or recycling more often).

-Courtesy of Dan Schnur, director of the “Vision Poll” and of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC

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