By Sergio Berrueta
East Los Angeles College Students for Political Awareness (ESPA) Club gave the opportunity for the public to hear and speak to local mayors in the area this past Thursday.
The “Local Elected City Leaders” event was created by club leader Joseph Nunez who wanted to bring politics to new generations of those who are bored with politics.
“The aim of this event is to hopefully inspire students at ELAC to go and be engaged in their local politics. That’s why we reached out to the mayors of Maywood and Cudahy to try and represent the students that come here,” Nunez said.
Nunez and his friend Christopher Cruz started ESPA after attending a city council meeting and being surprised how young the Mayor of Cudahy Chris Garcia was.
Garcia was elected after the city of Cudahy faced the same problems of corruption that Bell began facing. Garcia was on the city council and heard about how the city council’s problems from rigged elections to harassment of citizens.
“That’s why I never got into local politics. All this happened in national news on CNN and all over Facebook,” Garcia said. “I took this as a sign to start getting involved in the community.”
Garcia started to run for office as he saw the citizens of Cudahy up-in-arms in frustration over the issues that started to come to light.
Garcia started off in community college and went on to transfer to University of California, Los Angeles and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
“There were camera crews, media and I was just sitting in the back of the room just analyzing. After the meeting, I saw citizens who were angry-said ‘let’s talk’ and pulled them aside. That’s when I started the community organization,” Garcia said.
Being an activist beforehand, Garcia used the knowledge he had to eventually win a seat in the council and become mayor.
“Eleven candidates were in the elections and I was lucky enough to get the most votes to get there,” Garcia said.
Mayor of Maywood Oscar Magana’s path to being a mayor was much different.
“We (him and his brother) were watching 2004 Democratic National Convention and we were excited to hear John Kerry speak, but before he spoke, a young guy came out to speak,” Magana said. “He gives this speech that left me floored. I looked to my brother and said, ‘That man is going to run for president and when he does, I want to volunteer for his campaign.’ That man was Barack Obama.”
In 2007 when Obama began to run for election, Magana took the opportunity to get involved to volunteer for the campaign.
“I was walking door to door, talking to people and it was filled with teenagers, senior citizens, black people and Hispanics. It was a beautiful thing,” Magana said.
Magana organized a group to help him campaign and lost on his first try. By his own luck, the next time he ran, he won.
Both expressed their opinions on why voting matters alongside Dean of South Gate Educational Center Al Rios.
“Who participates? Those who are reaping the benefits for participating. If you think about it, it is the people that have business with the city. Those economically well off are voting. Those that need to be voting (minorities) are not participating,” Rios said. “They should be the ones participating. Instead, they are being taken for granted.”
Magana asked the crowd who is registered to vote in the next election.
Few raised their hands.
“If you didn’t raise your hands, you should be ashamed of yourself,” Magana said, “I understand some in this room might not be old enough to vote, but you are doing a disservice if you haven’t voted.
At the end of the event, a 10-minute question and answer session started with free pizza handed to those in attendance.
The Mayoral Event was hosted at the S2 Recital Hall. ESPA can be found at ELAC ESPA on Facebook.