Seeking Balance with Isaac Kim

The special election to replace La Nury is in full swing and UpintheValley has reached out to all the campaigns. First to respond is Issac Kim, small business owner, Columbia University graduate, political first-timer, and as it turns out, a neighbor.  He joined me at MacLeod for some cheerful talk about purpose-driven politics. Isaac is relentlessly cheerful. We got substantive and he was open about the evolution of his thinking and the elusiveness of certainty in policy questions.

What has surprised you the most so far?
The importance of fundraising. How many people have you heard say “if I were on the council I would do this and I would do that,” but no one actually steps up. No one does it. Now that I am running I understand why. I thought with the short four month window it wouldn’t be as important. But I’ve been blessed to have a lot of volunteers of successful campaigns including from Kenneth Mejias campaign for instance. They came up with the logo of the phoenix encapsulating the rebirth of our district, a fresh start. I don’t want to be for just Asian people.

I want to gain the trust of our community by doing the small things right.

That’s one that rarely gets attended to because the districts are so big.
I would love to expand the number of council seats. To be honest its very hard for one person to help 200-300,000 people, let alone fight corruption.
If you could give us your three policy objectives.
My three tiered platform is to redefine the role of council member. To be less political, more of a good and helpful neighbor. The second would be to regain the trust of the community. That’s as simple as having a virtual town hall once a week. Where people don’t want to use the Windows 95 service portal, or their emails aren’t getting a response, they can log in on Thursday evening and speak directly to me about their issues and I will be honest with them.
To be clear, a weekly availability to the constituents online?
Yes. The third thing would be to restore the health and well being of the district, that everything from public transportation to climate. If you look around the district, the majority of bus stops don’t have shade. People who take the bus are more vulnerable, frequently older. We can put some shades up at bus stops for them. That’s a low bar. We also should subsidize Wi/FI accessibility for low income people.
Do you support ending the eviction moratorium?
A tough one. I did support the one that just passed, in terms of extending it a bit further. But it can’t go on forever. This is the last warning, the last buffer. Its a band aid solution for a lot of people who might have been in trouble.
Does someone have the right to get off the bus from Ohio, pitch a tent on the sidewalk, declare residency, start collecting county benefits?
Another tough one. I would have to say yes, but only because I don’t think homelessness is a crime. There may be one off cases, but no one really want to be on the streets. Or they are just different. For the vast, vast majority, they don’t want to be there. Even if they say differently in the moment. Or they tried getting services before and the system let them down. Those might be the people saying they are refusing help at this exact moment. In general no one wants to be on the streets.
We built Tiny Home Villages to be compliant with the Boise decision. But they are not being utilized. Can we compel any homeless camper within half a mile radius to accept shelter? 
Yes. I would do everything we can to compel them short of forcing them.
If carrots aren’t working, what is the stick?
I just don’t think we can force someone into something they just don’t want. On the other other hand there are situations, troublemakers, people doing something totally illegal or causing a lot of trouble . I don’t think you’re going to get them into a tiny home. The more realistic situation is they are taken to a program, a clinic, some mental health facility.

Do you support care courts? The parallel legal system for mental health?
I would have to look into the specifics of that.
Theres a local measure to ban sleeping or drug consumption on the Metro system. 
I definitely support no drugs or sleeping. I believe the police budget just for the Metro is more than the Metro’s revenue so if they are not enforcing that, if that still an issue, we need to revise that whole budget because its not working.
On the issue of crime. Shoplifting up to $950 being de facto legal…
Wow. I didn’t know that. I’ll be honest that is something I never thought of.
They go into stores and fill their carts and security lets them walk out. You can’t call the police, they no longer enforce misdemeanors.  Would you lower the felony trigger to say, $100?
Yes. Definitely. You can’t stay in business and take a thousand dollar loss every day. We need to set a precedent. People can’t always think that is always okay. That they will always get away with that. It’s a fine balance. We can’t have public safety without the public’s trust. Whether its the police, or whoever it is. we all have to act with reasonability. And if something is unreasonable, like stealing at that level we need to confront that. That will also increase the public’s trust.
What is your response to people who would say you are supporting the police, the carceral state. It’s crypto-racist…
I have friends who are cops. They are good people. Do we have shitty examples of bad policing? Definitely. The phrase “de-funding the police” is terrible marketing. I hate even saying the words. I’m not about either expanding or retracting the budget. Like any business, the budget needs a review. A real business will do that to find efficiencies.
People like Antoinette Scully want to de-fund.

If you really think you are going to defund the police in the next five years, you’re crazy.

If that’s the headline, is that going to hurt you?
Maybe. But it’s the truth. For people who are reasonable and logical are like: “that’s not happening, that’s not realistic.”
Unchallenged rhetoric can have a discretionary effect on policing even if the laws remain the same. Police can just stop enforcing things.
Yes, but I think a lot people who were saying defund the police have changed their rhetoric. For example Eunisses Hernandez, who used to be an abolitionist. She’s changed to lets re-invest. Lets reimagine.
Let’s pretend there is a guy standing in the street with his shopping cart, no shirt, no shoes, speaking in tongues, holding a crowbar, blocking traffic. Do you think it’s viable to send a psychological team, rather than the police? Unarmed officials without handcuffs or police powers?
A crowbar could be a weapon, so no. If there is nothing in his hand, then yes. This is one of those things that is discretionary. I’m not saying in all situations don’t send guns.

Looking at the candidates, I see six people sharing the progressive lane, broadly defined. The person who claims the angry homeowner lane is going to take a big chunk of the vote by default. The public is tired of being scorned for expressing normal impulses about disorder. 
I understand that. That’s a fair feeling. I think a lot of people do.
I see an opportunity for someone who wants to go down that road. But I don’t want to influence you. (laughter)
I think a lot of my stances are semi-geared towards that, but at the same time not. What has surprised me as well is having to re-examine and come to understand what my views really are.
Is there anything you’ve changed your mind on since getting in the race?
This might bite me in the butt but I put my foot down on (Ordinance) 41.18. The tag line being homeless people can’t be within 500 feet of the school. Of course its much more overarching than that, but thats what sounds really bad, if you explain it that way.
Are you in favor or opposed?
As written now, it’s not allowed. I would actually repeal and replace 41.18, and this is the biggest surprise to myself as well.

I’ve been yelled at by both sides, including my parents, but to be honest, at the end of the day I don’t believe Jesus would kick homeless people off the streets because they are 500 feet from a school.

At the end of the day the data doesn’t support that there is necessarily so much violence and terrible things happening to children due to proximity of encampments. I’ll be honest, it’s the hardest choice I’ve had to make.
Los Angeles has had a very fossilized politics for decades. Suddenly this year a DSA breakthrough in the party machine: Hernandez, Hugo Soto-Martinez, and Kenneth Mejia. My question is: are we going Venezuela?
No. I would not say so.
What is the reassurance to the middle of the road voter who is wondering what the hell is going on? Why doesn’t it matter that DSA people are winning?
Why doesn’t it matter? For starters I don’t consider myself DSA at all. I’m a small business owner. Walking into some of these union endorsements, I’m like, “well I’m not getting this one. I’m walking into hostile territory but I’m here.” The left and the right, it’s just emotional.  You say one thing that might make sense and they hate you for being you. I thought I was a moderate Democrat,  but when I reflect on it issue by issue it turns out I’m positioned as progressive, and to be fair, that sort of comes as as surprise to me. It’s a process of self-discovery. We need to chill the f— out. Build relationships. Talk to people who don’t agree with you.  You might surprise yourself. That’s the attitude we all need to move toward, especially now.

18 thoughts on “Seeking Balance with Isaac Kim”

  1. Well, I applaud him for doing the interview but he’s very naive. The DSA will crush him. As for Eunisses Hernandez, I think she talked “abolition” to get elected, and now “re-invest” to reward her supporters possibly by hiring “ambassador” types, for instance.

    You know, I drove up the 5 one day this week. Somehow the app I chose was set to avoid highways, so I drove from East L.A. to Woodland Hills by side streets. Really interesting, so I did the whole trip that way. L.A. is full of natural beauty and wonderful neighborhoods, but they are being strangled by zealots in government. Wise up, Angelenos, and use your vote strategically. The DSA will not save you.

    1. To the DSA point, it’s early, but a little ominous. I want to believe that the duties of office will cause some of these people to ameliorate their positions. However part of the new era consists of DSA mobs banging pots and pans at Council meetings and stalking people outside their homes. Until we establish some legal curtilage against this, I’m afraid the hecklers veto will prevail.

  2. Maybe it’s generational but I like the modesty of his stances. He doesn’t bark too much, or overpromise, or say something ridiculous like “we need all students to succeed” or “safer streets for everyone.” We are so far down in the urban quality of life that anything would be an improvement.

    Here is my wish list:

    1. Prohibit trash camping.
    2. Increase fines for property owners who do not sweep their sidewalks in commercial areas.
    3. Protect bus riders with better shading at bus stops.
    4. Drastically increase the amount of housing being built along commercial streets.
    5. Bulldoze unused parking lots and turn them into parks or urban farms run by families who get tax free credits from the city. “Melendez Family Park”
    4. Build new LAPD Van Nuys headquarters directly on VNB so that the police presence is visible and people feel safer.

    1. You’re on the front lines, I’m not, so I’ll defer as to the rank ordering. That said, I’m very supportive of his desire for more bus stop shade. (It’s one of those “blocking and tackling” basics that is often overlooked in place of grandiosity.) To this day most “bus stops” in Irvine are a pole in the sidewalk. To their credit, my Santa Ana has over the past couple years installed dozens of modernized bus stops with shade and bum-deterring benches.

  3. What “small business” is Mr Kim involved in? And that Columbia degree…..In WHAT? If he has some silly social science degree, I don’t care if it comes from Columbia or Northridge….it would still carry the same (light)weight with me.

    Much has been said about the problems with our geriatric rulers on the national stage. Undoubtedly true. On the other hand, looking at this five, I would motion that you have to be at least 40 to entertain a council run. A council filled with young activist types is no way to run a city.

    Mr Kim seems earnest enough. But on some of the issues he seems shockingly ignorant, and on others to be as naive as Ned Flanders.

    Lastly: Contact a real estate agent. LA’s on a schneid with no light at the end of the tunnel. I see absolutely nothing on the horizon that would give hope for a change in course.

  4. “There may be one off cases, but no one really want to be on the streets. Or they are just different. For the vast, vast majority, they don’t want to be there.”

    Wrong. The vast majority do want to be there, in your mild climate with benefits both private and public.
    The price of being off the street is curtailing drug use, obeying rules and showing up on time for 30 or more years.

    Nice guy. He is a large part of the problem.

    1. Exactly, they do want to be there. There is nothing new under the sun, and these are the same sort of people we used to regard as destructive misfits. Now we valorize them.

    1. I agree with him and with some of the comments as well. There are homeless individuals who refuse to get help because they don’t stop using drugs and doing criminal activity. There are also others that have live in California and lost their jobs or become ill. They don’t have family to assist. The cost of living is very expensive. They fall through the cracks. Thanks for sharing your article.

  5. And as a service to your 6th District readers….

    —-Meet The Candidates For Nury Martinez’s LA City Council Seat—-

    Of the six, five of them have spent their entire adult lives as activists, community organizers, city council errand boys (or girls), or cogs in the Homeless Industrial Complex, often in combination. Only Mr Kim stands out (he runs an online men’s grooming and skin care business.) Though even he’s a bit worrisome (“….he calls for expanding rent control, “pushing oil drilling out of CD-6,”….)

    Oil drilling? There is no active oil drilling in his district. (I checked. ) There were at most a dozen or so wells ever drilled, all of which were abandoned and capped probably sometime around the Chinatown era. That’s a pure virtue signal. He might just as well have said he supports patrols for encroaching polar bears.

    There’s your line-up, 6th District. You are so hosed.

    1. Nury’s former aide, Imelda Padilla, may prove to be the conservative of the progressive lane, if that makes any sense at all. We’ll see.

  6. “On the issue of crime. Shoplifting up to $950 being de facto legal…
    Wow. I didn’t know that. I’ll be honest that is something I never thought of.”

    I live in Virginia and I know this!

    The homeless are not going to log in for a weekly town hall Q&A, yet the majority of the dialog is empathetic to the homeless and drug addicted with little commentary on improving quality of life and community for those paying the bills.

    “At the end of the day the data doesn’t support that there is necessarily so much violence and terrible things happening to children due to proximity of encampments.”

    God help you all! The fatal logic here is that homeless encampments are at all tolerable in any community. The fact that they exist at all highlights systemic failures of leadership. Where did we stop aspiring to be better and build a better future for our descendants? The lowering of expectations and excusing of antisocial behavior has to reverse if there is to be any hope of solving these problems.

    1. All of L.A. suffers from a representation problem in which candidates pander to activist groups while ignoring everyone else. This phenomenon increases in low turnout elections. It wasn’t that long ago politicians lived in fear of the angry homeowner vote. Remarkably, District 6 was once the birthplace of the Prop. 13 tax revolt. Howard Jarvis owned apartment buildings in Panorama.

  7. I have a belief (let’s be clear, believing something doesn’t make it true) that change doesn’t come in an orderly fashion on a sunny day in June. Change comes when external forces overwhelm the collective inertia. That process is typically messy with all sorts of unintended knock-on effects. Bad systems aren’t necessarily replaced by perfect or even especially good ones. But the shock of abrupt change creates new opportunities for the nimble, crafty and observant. Today’s oppressive entrenched bureaucracies were yesterday’s glorious reformers. This is the sine wave of history.

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