Maria Janossy is a write-in candidate for City Council District 14. Photo by Brianna Pichardo.

Interview by: Daniela Franco and Brianna Pichardo

In addition to the five candidates on the March 3 ballot for the City Council District 14 seat, 52-year-old Maria Janossy is hoping to get votes as a certified write-in candidate.  Unlike the other candidates who had to gather signatures to have their names on the ballot, Janossy said she just had to pay a filing fee for certification, but her name is not on the ballot.

Janossy, who immigrated from Romania at the age of 14, is an immigration attorney, a self-described community organizer and the founder of a non-profit focused on cleaning up streets of Los Angeles.  She also runs the Hungarian Culture Alliance in Downtown Los Angeles. 

Much of Janossy’s interest lies with the mission of her non-profit Clean City Council which has the goal “to restore California’s reputation as the Golden State” and to “make LA clean again”. 

Boyle Heights Beat talked with Janossy about her candidacy and policies she would pursue if elected.  

The interview has been edited for clarity and space. 

Boyle Heights Beat: Can you tell us about your background and any experience you have in city government?

Maria Janossy: I am actually an immigrant to this country. I came from Romania and I’m ethnically Hungarian. My parents brought us here when I was 14 in 1982.  I am an immigration attorney and also a community organizer. In some ways, I got involved with city government indirectly because you know I was trying to clean up our neighborhood and getting the city involved in trying to help us have a safer cleaner environment. The reason why I am running for office is because I am really frustrated that nothing is really happening. I do not feel that the candidates that are running right now would do a good job. It’s like a lot of promises and no action. 

BHB: Why do you want to be a CD-14 council representative?

“Gentrification by itself is really not an evil thing, because on one hand, you bring in jobs. By creating jobs and bringing in investments, it’s obviously good for the community in some ways. Also if the house prices are going up, that is also a benefit from gentrification. But on the other hand, you do not want to displace the current residents. So some kind of controlled gentrification ­–that takes into account the existing culture, the existing neighborhoods, the existing buildings, and the existing heritage of the community. “

Maria Janossy

MJ: Because even though I don’t have any government experience, I’m a problem solver and a very outspoken person and I analyze problems instead of just coming in and promising things. I would first see what the problem is, and find the right solution that in the end, the money is available for it. I wouldn’t just make promises. I mean, how do you promise things that you can not find the money to pay for it.  I would make a difference. 

BHB: What actions will you take if you are elected as a CD-14 representative?

MJ: My first project is the cleanliness of the city. I think that would be, even though it may be just a band aid in a way because obviously the trash reoccurs. It is constantly there, but I mean more regular pickups. There has to be more street services, more trash pickups. But the first step would be to really analyze what the city has been doing for the trash pickups and for cleaning up the city. I think that some of the resources are available. Why are some areas are clean and other areas are totally neglected? 

BHB: How would your background as an immigrant attorney help you represent this district?

MJ: So basically I am culturally very experienced in the sense that I have clients from all over the world. A lot of my clients have a Mexican or Hispanic background. I speak four languages including Spanish. The district is very multicultural and I am very multicultural. I have been trying to get different communities together. I think it is very important that we are not so segregated. The more we know about each other’s background and cultures, the better we understand each other. I think that it is very important to build solidarity between communities or among the different communities.

BHB: You have mentioned you were pushed out of your community because of gentrification. As you know, there has been an ongoing fight by the residents of Boyle Heights to stop gentrification in this community. How will you use your experience of being a victim of gentrification to prevent it from happening to others in Boyle Heights?

MJ: That is a very difficult question. I mean gentrification by itself is really not an evil thing, because on one hand, you bring in jobs. By creating jobs and bringing in investments, it’s obviously good for the community in some ways. Also if the house prices are going up, that is also a benefit from gentrification. But on the other hand, you do not want to displace the current residents. So some kind of controlled gentrification ­–that takes into account the existing culture, the existing neighborhoods, the existing buildings, and the existing heritage of the community. That should be taken into account.  It is such a complex situation. Like I said, gentrification also creates job opportunities. Let’s say a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes moved in, there would be better food options, healthier options, food delivered to the neighborhood and then creating jobs. So it depends on what you’re doing. I mean if you are bringing in a coffee shop with 6 dollar coffee cups, maybe that is not the right approach. But if you are bringing some businesses that would create new jobs, I would not be completely opposed I think to gentrification.

BHB: You’ve stated that you wanted to become an immigration attorney to assist others in their quest for the American dream. How will your role as a CD-14 representative help you achieve this goal?

MJ: As an immigration attorney, I have the specific goal to assist people with their immigration states. But as a CD-14 councilperson, I do not necessarily feel that is part of the job to actually do anything about immigration. But there are a lot of immigration consultants that are committing fraud on their clients. I deal with a lot of those clients that get really defrauded by these so called immigration consultants. One of the things that I would make sure is to educate immigrants about their choices and getting proper legal representation. 

BHB: What are some steps you will take to gain the trust of District 14?          

MJ: I think just from talking to people and explain to them all of my motivations. It is hard to meet everyone. Again without a campaign budget, it is hard to get on TV and make advertisements and all that. But I just believe that the more people that meet with me, I think they will get a better idea for who I am and what the person I am and they would feel more trusting towards me.       

BHB: How do you hope to acquire support from people if you are not as well known as the other candidates on the ballot?

MJ: It is a problem. I am just trying to basically send out a message that I’m here and that maybe I got more creative ways to solve the city’s problems. Hopefully people start to hear about me by word of mouth. I do not have a big budget for campaigning, and advertisements, or free t-Shirts or to give away hotdogs. If I am elected to the council, the first important thing I will do is have a meeting with all the constituents. Different parts of the city have different needs, but we also have the same need –everyone has the need for opportunity and a healthy safe environment.

Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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