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Recall Nithya Raman

GUEST COMMENTARY--An effort to recall Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman was launched yesterday, according to a group calling themselves the Los Angeles City Council District 4 Neighborhood Coalition.

I have been key in starting the initiative to recall.

I have lived in Los Angeles City Council District 4, for the most part since 1994, and I believe Raman is not the right representative we need for our area, at this time.

Raman seems a nice person, based on my limited interaction with her. But in my view, she is not cut out to lead 250,000 constituents from the San Fernando Valley to Silver Lake at a time as precarious as this. And as one poster wrote recently on NextDoor: Tom LaBonge is, without certain, rolling in his grave.

Think back to Raman’s campaign.

It wasn’t about Council District 4 (CD4). It was “Nithya For the City,” and nearly every time Raman talks or has a spokesperson talk for her, her message always winds its way back to her penchant for talk therapy for the homeless or buzz words related to racial injustice and equity.

CD4 Residents care about homelessness and issues of equality, for sure, but also about bread-and-butter issues like potholes, crosswalks and big-box stores usurping Mom and Pop’s.

Perhaps Raman should have run for mayor? Like former President Donald Trump, she believes that she, and she alone, can fix the city’s debilitating homelessness crisis. She can’t and there’s nothing heroic about ignoring her constituents trying.

Since she took office, I have been closely monitoring her engagement with constituents: a late launching website; a virtue-signaling transition team; inexperienced staff hires plucked from her campaign; and premature departures from constituent Zoom meetings–before 7 p.m.–to manage her children, she says.

Like him or hate him, you never heard LaBonge in the 15 years he held office say, “Sorry, I gotta go. Got to put Mary-Cate and Charles to bed.” Nor have you ever heard that from Eric Garcetti or California State Assemblymember Laura Friedman. And what if you don’t have children? Does that mean you don’t get a pass, like Larry David once complained?

For these concerns, of which I have previously editorialized, Raman’s chosen spokesperson, Jesse Zwick, was quoted by another local news outlet that my concerns were “sexist.”

Huh? I am a mother who raised two sons while working as a journalist, publishing a newspaper and running a business. I never once considered using my children as an excuse to get out of work or tough questions or situations.

I’ve thought long and hard about his comment–because I wanted to give Zwick the benefit of the doubt.

But it turns out, it’s the same old “agitate-ism” from someone who thinks differently than I. It’s sad. The only thing I can say is that I, and other CD4 constituents, demand professionalism of our councilmember. And being such is a 24/7 job.

Sorry!

BTW: If you had told us during your campaign you were going to sign off each night at 7 p.m., you may not have gotten those 7,000 or so extra votes that gave you an upset over incumbent David Ryu.

While we are speaking of “wokeism,” one must look into Raman’s own privilege: her childhood in the leafy suburbs of Boston to Harvard, where she met her husband, Vali Chandrasekaran, a writer and producer of the hit TV show Modern Family.

She also landed at MIT where were she received a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning, straddling co-founding the poverty data driven research firm Transparent Chennai. That firm’s name, however, has now been taken over by an Indian Cricket club. And we’ve yet to find proof that Raman has ever “urban planned” anything, but for a few academic papers.

But, listen. If I get any of this wrong, don’t blame me. Raman apparently scrubbed her Linked-In pages (yes pages) prior to running for office and when I asked during the campaign for a CV or resume, I was denied.

In an interview last fall, she did tell me she was embarrassed to divulge she and her husband had investments in Alphabet and Comcast, which she had to disclose to the city when she filed to run for office. She said after filing the paperwork, they immediately divested themselves of these holdings.

Is this good or bad? What is the point of taking actions only because others are looking?

Raman only had such holdings due her husband’s prominence in Hollywood. She relocated here from India in 2014–where she had returned after MIT and then seems, with the help of her husband’s connections–had a mash-up of odd jobs prior to winning office, including: a year or less with both the city of Los Angeles and Time’s Up Entertainment and a quickly abandoned start-up selling diabetic-related hosiery.

In there somewhere she had twins–a boy and a girl. And if you’ve not met them you can do so on a recent Twitter post where Raman stages them–eating snacks and all–in front of a cell phone camera, while she talks about the lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles. She posted this soon after I called her out on using her children as unwitting props.

She doubled-down when faced with criticism. That’s what she does.

Sometime in 2017, she then co-founded SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition–short for Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Atwater and Hollywood–an organization that could provide no proof of deliverables during Raman’s leadership there. By the way, Times Up couldn’t either. I asked. A couple of times.

All we do know is that SELAH was where Raman was picked from obscurity by Jessica Salans, a Bernie Sanders devotee and co-founder of Ground Game L.A., who ran, but failed to win the seat for Los Angeles City Council District 13 in 2017.

With their far left-leaning ideology, those attuned to Ground Game L.A. were ideologically in tandem with the Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles (DSA-LA), who later endorsed Raman in the 2020 race. In her endorsement questionnaire, Raman said she was not yet a card-carrying member of the DSA, but that her values and theirs aligned.

If you wonder what a DSA-LA endorsement means, look no further than their website and the larger organization’s goal to infiltrate all levels of government including at our hyper-local neighborhood council level and city council.

DSA-LA members are anti-capitalism, anti-prison, anti-police, pro Critical Race Theory and pro all sorts of free stuff for everyone, taxes be damned. It’s all about the equal distribution of wealth and ensuring “marginalized” communities–essentially everyone but white males–are promoted to the front of the line. During DSA National Conventions they even have something called “Progressive Stack” to ensure this. If you are curious: YouTube: 2019 DSA National Convention. It should be an SNL skit.

And Raman, is just the tip of the iceberg.

As far as immediate crises go that scream recall, Raman, in her few short months as an elected official has already seen a few and handled them poorly.

She took at least two neighborhoods of CD4 by surprise in February with a letter she wrote to the city’s Planning Commission to up-zone streets in both the Sunset Square neighborhood of Hollywood and that of Los Feliz Village. In both cases, she never consulted with the constituents of those areas of which she represents. They weren’t happy.

Then came the media attention of a homeless encampment in Los Feliz, which was started off by an editorial I published April 9th and then picked-up by 640AM radio, the Federalist and the local KABC affiliate, which just ran an update May 4th, including on-camera interviews with the Los Angeles Police Dept. and media-shy Ms. Raman.

In short, a homeless encampment on Hollywood Boulevard at Berendo Street–across from Barnsdall Art Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site–has been taken over by the La Mirada Locos street gang during the pandemic.

Nearby residents have documented hundreds of photographs and dozens of videos showing drug deals at all hours of the day and night at the site and tagging, which has led to a turf war with another gang, White Fence, a notorious gang from Boyle Heights.

Some claim the LML, as they are known, have been taxing legitimate homeless persons at the site just to keep their tents up on the sidewalk. At worse case, LML forced homeless women, I’m told, into prostituting for the right to do so.

As we have editorialized before at the encampment have been loaded guns, propane tanks and stolen goods–from bicycles to TV screens. A slit in one of the tents is where meth drug deals are made.

So, what is an elected official to do when a homeless encampment takes over an area? And what if drug dealing and other crimes have occurred at the site?

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell dramatically changed the discourse in March when he orchestrated a clean-up and removal to shelter for over 200 homeless persons at Echo Park Lake. Yes. He was taken to task by his actions by some.

But the real issue is he took action. As such, nearly all those at that encampment–begrudgingly or not–took a lifeline to shelter and Echo Park residents got their park and peace of mind back.

Raman could do the same at Berendo.

She could use the power she wields to declare the area a public nuisance and a safety emergency and force anyone homeless there to either take shelter–which has already been offered time and time again.

Meanwhile, she could also negotiate with the owner of the empty property at the site to install hazards–think planters along the sidewalk–which would allow full access by those with disabilities, as is required by law, but would signal the days of the gang homeless encampment are over.

Nithya: Constituents have asked, for months, for help on this issue. LAPD has made arrests there many times, but can only do so much due to homeless civil liberties lawsuits and COVID-19 restrictions.

But, we know you can do more as evidenced by what O’Farrell did on a much larger scale in March.

You won’t. You’ve been asked many times.

It is for this reason you should be recalled from office.

In all my adult-life living in CD4, I have never seen–or heard–so many truly worried about the state of our district and if no one else will speak up, I will.

This editorial was edited for clarity at 8:50 a.m. May 6, 2021 and at 10:51 to add information about California State Assemblymember Laura Friedman.

(Allison B. Cohen is the publisher of The Los Feliz Ledger, where this perspective was first posted. She can be reached at losfelizledger.com.)

-cw