KCET Departures has sought out and collected oral histories from, by our count, nine prominent current and former Southern California elected officials. The political roll-call includes:
Compton Mayor Eric J. Perrodin, Compton City Councilmember Yvonne Arceneaux, State Assemblymember Mike Eng, Congresswoman Judy Chu, former State Senator and State Assumblymember Tom Hayden and President of the Venice Neighborhood Council Mike Newhouse.
The list likewise includes former Los Angeles City Councilmember Ruth Galanter and current Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Ed Reyes. Two more L.A. Councilmmembers -- Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry -- also show up on the Departures pages, although not as oral history providers.
This week, Land of Sunshine takes a tour of the first five* of those politicos' Departures presence. Next week, we'll continue with the City of L.A.'s latter sextet.
ERIC J. PERRODIN, Compton Mayor
Perrodin, also a Compton City Council member, appears in a three-part video series. The below introductory text was written by Tachi Vickers, a Departures Student Producer:
"In the City of Compton, Eric J. Perrodin has replaced his badge with the suit of a politician. Mr. Perrodin, once a policeman is now the mayor of Compton and focuses on city planning, aimed at creating more green space outlets for Compton's youth. As a policy maker, he tries to break down the cultural barriers that plague the community and the remaining problems still lingering in the streets. As a former policeman, Mr. Perrodin was on the front lines fighting the drug and gang infested streets of Compton in the 1980's. More than once he's been targeted by the Barn Yard Crips that reigned in the Richland Farms area."
During his interviews, the Mayor speaks about cultural conflicts, cites the geography and litany of neighborhood gangs and discusses the business of the drug trade. Perrodin also says regarding people with different heritages said by some to be at odds: "I want us to be together, because inside we all bleed the same blood -- red."
The Mayor also tells, as an example of inter-cultural issues becoming civic matters as well, about a particular house in Richland Farms where residents allegedly sold or gave away unpasteurized milk. Additionally, that liquid was allegedly mixed with alcohol. Parking problems arose when unpasteurized milk fans from outside the neighborhood came over seeking the stuff. This, the Mayor explains, caused "consternation" among some other residents. The City set up a Task Force involving undercover law enforcement officers and health inspectors in an attempt to resolve the issue.
YVONNE ARCENEAUX, Compton City Councilmember (3rd District)
Arceneaux's district includes Richland Farms, the livestock and agricultural stretch of land that, simply by existing, continues to captivate, befuddle and tantalize those who didn't previously know about the place.
(Easy way to learn: view the Departures: Richland Farms mural and related content.)
During her interviews, Arceneaux speaks about topics ranging from the idyllic Richard Farms of the past, the remaining opportunities for contemporary farm life within a larger urban setting, animal-related political and land use issues and also the problems caused by some absentee landlords. The Councilmember says:
"To have Richland Farms to remain zoned as an agricultural zone as long as I'm on Council, is something that I would certainly fight for. Because that is why i moved to RIchland Farm and I'm sure that everyone that has animals and enjoy that lifestyle, that's why they're there and we must maintain the integrity of that community. On the other hand, renting out properties for housing of animals, it's not allowed, it's illegal to do that."
MIKE ENG, State Assemblymember (49th District)
Departures: Chinatown covers the distant and near pasts of Los Angeles' Chinatowns -- Old and New -- as well as examines the growth of Chinese-heritage populations throughout the Southland.
Mike Eng, the state assemblymember representing California's 49th District, spoke in part regarding the Chinese communities that form part of his constituency in areas such as Alhambra, El Monte, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino and South El Monte.
Eng's Departures video portrait, which runs prior to each of his oral history segments, shows the Assemblymember sitting at an office desk, flanked by American and California flags, with another American flag framed on the wall behind him. During the video portrait, staff aides enter and depart, leaving papers on the elected official's desk.
In this interview, Eng lays out his family history. His parents were garment workers, working seven days per week, he says. "I also worked in the garment factories beginning at a very very young age."
Eng went to law school and spent time as well at his school's Asian American Study Center. "I began asking questions about where was the history of Asian Americans... and from then on began to develop an interest in giving back to the community."
JUDY CHU, Congresswoman (32nd District)
Congresswoman Chu's Departures video portrait is similar to the portrait of Assemblymember Eng. Chu is filmed seated at her desk, American flag to her right, Calfiornia flag to her left and a House of Representatives seal mounted on the wall over her head.
During her oral history, the Congresswoman talks about an "English-only" anti-immigrant movement that was gaining momentum in Monterrey Park, where she lived. "Immediately, a multi-ethinic coalition formed to fight this. I was part of it. We got the resolution overturned. And out of that I ran for the City Council. I won and I worked to bring the City together."
Chu remained on the Council for thirteen years, then took state elected and unelected positions and then ran for and won the Congressional seat.
TOM HAYDEN, Former State Assemblymember and State Senator
Where to begin? Hayden is a widely known public figure. He's been an author, politician, professor, Freedom Rider and Chicago Seven defendant. He's an ex-husband of Jane Fonda. And he's among the fifty leading progressives of the 20th Century -- according to no less of an authority than the Nation magazine.
During his Departures: Venice interview, Hayden talks, among many other topics, about the "atmosphere of great tolerance" in Venice, but also "a divide." Hayden also discusses battles from the past, still ongoing, about divergent visions for the seaside neighborhood:
"Apart from racial motivation, I suppose, there was a system that was going to inflate property values. the developers were going to try to incorporate Venice into their version of an upscale rich person's community by the beach. and that had to be fought at all cost, in order to save the artists -- the starving artists, so to speak -- the bohemians and the blacks. That's the way it was. And where you lined up on that question kind of gave you your identity. it came down to, virtually, your address."
Next week: The Land of Sunshine political tour continues with oral histories and other Departures material from President of the Venice Neihborhood Council Mike Newhouse, former Los Angeles City Councilmember Ruth Galanter, and current Councilmembers Tom LaBonge, Ed Reyes, Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry.
Videos and photos via Departures.
- A Los Angeles Primer
- Arrival Stories
- Block by Block
- Engaging Spaces
- Green Justice
- I Am Los Angeles