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.