Endorsement: Nithya Raman for CD4
Four years ago, an unknown “director of development” (i.e., someone who raises money) supported by Korean-American business moguls, defeated a large field of similarly unknown candidates to become the newest member of the Los Angeles City Council. His name was David Ryu, and the contest he won was Council District 4, which includes the World Headquarters of Michael Konik Industries.
During the campaign, Ryu made many nice-sounding promises that sounded vaguely like “reforming” our corrupted City. He promised he would heed the counsel of the volunteer Neighborhood Councils in his district and not approve new developments they disapproved of. He promised to oppose the grossly over-sized construction project planned for 8150 Sunset, at Crescent Heights. He promised to refuse money from real estate developers, protect our children, make our streets safer, and anything else that sounded like it could get him elected.
Then he was elected. The string of broken promises and abrupt about-faces — guess who voted to approve 8150 Sunset? — began. And they haven’t abated since.
Look around. In the four years Ryu’s been in office, how do you feel he’s handled homelessness? Traffic? Crime?
The slick mailers that litter our door stoop announce that Ryu’s “the only candidate endorsed by the LA Democratic Party” as well as our sensationally ineffective Mayor. If you think that’s the mark of a “reformer,” you may safely continue watching MSNBC and ignore this column. Indeed,Ryu has proven himself yet another establishment politician who claims to represent the will of his constituents but, in reality, serves at the pleasure of his benefactors and patrons. That’s why he’s breaking his pledge and taking money from people connected to real estate projects in his district. That’s why, despite months of hearings and lawsuits and unequivocal decrees, after promising to respect Neighborhood Council directives Ryu ignored the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council and allowed the reinstatement of a so-called “Friends” group who attempted to build a basketball court in Runyon Canyon — with a sponsored logo.
We could go on and on listing Ryu’s fraudulence. We could tell you about the emails he sent from a private address alerting his fellow Councilmember, the odious Mitch “private meetings with Crossroads Developers” O’Farrell, of big-money donors seeking a meeting. We could tell you about how he’s currently attempting the absurd trick of presenting himself as a “progressive” when, for the past four years, he’s been an ally and travel companion of Eric Garcetti and a supporter of the failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. We could tell you how he’s being “groomed” by Democratic Party hacks to hold higher office in spite of accomplishing almost nothing while in office.
But instead of cataloging David Ryu’s phoniness — and that would take a while — we introduce you to an excellent alternative.
On March 3, we will be voting for Nithya Raman for City Council District 4.
Unlike Ryu, who’s about as centrist as they come, voters in Sunset Square and environs can elect a true progressive, with a track-record to prove it. A mother of two, Raman is an urban planner educated at Harvard and MIT, and a longtime community activist fighting for the least among us. Prior to her arrival in Los Angeles, Raman started Transparent Chennai, an organization assisting residents of slums to create data that supported their advocacy for resources like running water and basic sanitation. In 2014, she worked for the City Administrative Officer of Los Angeles. In her time there, Nithya wrote a report detailing how the City was spending more than $100 million on homelessness — the majority of which was spent jailing our neighbors, rather than helping them into stable, permanent homes with access to services.
In response to a growing population of people experiencing homelessness in her own community, Nithya and a group of neighbors started SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, in 2017. SELAH has organized regular outreach programs,bringing hot meals and showers to a region of the city severely lacking in such resources. The coalition has enlisted hundreds of volunteers to become educated about and involved in the growing homelessness crisis. Nithya also continues to serve as Co-Chair of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council’s Homelessness Committee.
This past year, Nithya served as executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment, the women’s rights movement furthering equity and safety for women in the entertainment industry. She endorses Bernie Sanders. (As of this writing, Ryu does not.)
Raman has a pattern of doing righteous work, advocating for those least able to fend for themselves. Compassion appears to be one of her core values. Nonetheless, she’ll surely be the target of the same fear-based smears leveled at our next president, since Raman, too, is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Sunrise Movement, and most other major progressive organizations.
The problem in my affluent neighborhood, of course, is that we like to tell the world we’re “progressive” and social justice-minded, but secretly we wish for our comfort and privilege to remain undisturbed. So we end up voting for candidates like Ryu, who are closer to regressive than reformer. Indeed, certain well-respected voices in the Sunset Square area have announced they will hold their nose and support him (and slam Nithya) for reasons of expediency and political convenience. The status quo seems to be working wonderfully for them — homelessness, traffic, crime — so why change?
For those of us in CD4 who wish to be represented by someone who heeds the will of stakeholders, not only political donors, someone who brings genuinely progressive ideas to the discussion, Nithya Raman is a long-awaited, greatly appreciated alternative.