Residents of Boyle Heights came together to share their personal experiences on employment, education and next year’s mayoral elections at a town hall meeting at Legacy LA Thursday night.
The United Communities of Boyle Heights, a loosely knit coalition of five local nonprofit organizations, hosted the event to give residents a forum to express their feelings about issues important to them.
Event coordinator Elizabeth Blaney said that education and employment, along with the mayoral elections, are important issues to residents and to the coalition.
“We want to understand what residents want from the candidates,” she said.
The meeting was designed to have residents not only discuss the issues, but come up with viable solutions.
“What we’re trying to do here is to start a dialogue now,” Blaney said. “We want to have residents tell the candidates, ‘Here’s the problem, and here’s the solution.’”
One tactic the coalition used was to separate attendees into small groups to create a more relaxed atmosphere where they could discuss their ideas freely, explained Isela Gracian, another event coordinator.
Each group then selected a representative to address the crowd. Most speakers expressed disappointment with the lack of jobs and access to quality education. Gracian said they will now use the stories as a basis on how to proceed.
Long-time Boyle Heights resident Francisco Vasquez said he was very happy to have the opportunity to join other residents in uniting their voices to affect change in the community.
“Together we are stronger,” he said. “A larger group has a larger voice.”
Thursday’s event was the second of three community meetings the coalition is planning, leading up to a meeting in January which will focus on the mayoral race.
Ana Gomez, community engagement coordinator for Proyecto Pastoral, said bringing residents together from different areas of Boyle Heights could have an effect on the May elections.
“Residents have the possibility of impacting who the next mayor of L.A. will be,” she said.
The mood of the event was optimistic and celebratory, as most speakers were well received by their peers at the podium.
Coalition organizations include the East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Union de Vecinos, Proyecto Pastoral, Inner City Struggle and Legacy LA.
Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published at several publications throughout Southern California.