Beverly Press: Ryu uses first 100 days to ‘change the conversation’

Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, recently celebrated his first 100 days in office. He visited the offices of Park Labrea News and Beverly Press for a question and answer session with the editorial staff. 

The following is part one of the discussion with the councilman regarding his time representing the district, the response to mansionization and management of the Greek Theatre.

Councilman David Ryu, said he is happy with what he accomplished in 100 days in office. (photo by Gregory Cornfield)

Q: What are you most proud of so far about your time in office?


A: “I can’t pick what I’m more proud of, so I’ll name a few. The interim control ordinance (ICO) to prevent mansionization is one.

“I did not think that we were going to be able to do it in the first 100 days, but the communities are so organized. There are still a few communities like Laurel Canyon that also want the ICO. But Brookside, Sycamore Square and Sherman Oaks – they did so much work. They helped mobilize the community and got [their] buy-in and input and all the necessary steps for us to move it through. And because of their support we introduced it in record speed. That’s what you call collaboration.”

Ryu also listed the creation of the discretionary funding task force and the work he did to secure more financial security for Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics as other proud moments while in office thus far.

“I’m very excited that we’re even talking about the Olympics and the possibility of the Olympics coming here, which I totally support. But looking back at the ‘84 Olympics – which was the most successful in the history of the Olympics – [the city] did it right. It made a profit. But now it’s a different time and I want to make sure that we hold true to those fiscal accountability measures because it’s taxpayer dollars at risk. And I want to make sure we have community input.

“So, I was able to question that, and change the conversation with that, too.”

What has surprised you most about holding office and being a council member?

“For as much as everyone thinks that city hall is inefficient with bureaucracy and red tape – which exists – I was very surprised at the family of departments and actual staff and how creative and dedicated they are with the outside-the-box thinking that they have. It’s not a bunch of people sitting around doing nothing. If it wasn’t for the amazing work of the people working at city hall, the city wouldn’t function.

“But they are understaffed and need more resources. They have all these great ideas that have not been implemented yet. And that’s where my role is as the elected body, to be able to move some of these things. Some of [the ideas] we can do right away, others might take some time. But it’s about pushing the ideas and the agenda forward. There’s no lack of ideas. It’s a matter of giving the folks on the ground the resources and the ability to get it done.”

What have you learned about District 4 as a whole since you took office?

“The whole reason I ran was because I knew District 4 is different than any other district. We have an active citizenry in these predominantly residential areas. It’s a highly organized, highly involved and engaged citizenry, and I expected nothing less. I think we’re starting to show folks that their voice does matter, that participation makes a difference.”

What problems have come to your attention that you didn’t know about before taking office?

“There’s a lot, but nothing that we can’t solve. I have to admit, a majority of my time, a good 60 to 70 percent of what my staff and I do, is spent explaining what has happened in the past with decisions that were made before I got here. A lot of people were misinformed or not informed at all. It’s explaining to them what has happened, what decisions were made, and going forward with what’s going to happen.”

What have you learned from your constituents?

“I’m learning from them all the time. It’s about meeting with the experts. If we’re working on water conservation issues – yes, I consider myself an environmentalist – but I’m going to consult with the water conservation experts. Or when it comes to traffic, I’m going to meet with the experts on traffic and with the department of transportation, engineering bureau and all these folks that know it better. To make an informed decision, you have to talk with the experts.

“When it comes to community issues, who knows it more than the “expert” for that community – the people who actually live there? They can juxtapose a traffic study, and say, ‘well yeah, this traffic study says this, but I actually live here, and you actually can’t go that way.’

“It’s about on-the-ground intelligence and information and I learn tremendously from the community all the time. Which is why it’s important to have dialogue.”

You proposed stricter campaign contribution rules for Los Angles city elections in an effort to restore trust in local government. What do you expect to come from your campaign donation restrictions request to the Ethics Commission?

“I found out early on talking with several of my colleagues there were a lot of questions. So instead of getting a second, I pulled the motion back. I took it to the Ethics Commission to get it to the experts.

“Instead of me explaining what my opinions and thoughts are, I thought it would be better to come from the experts who know about ethics and campaign finance. I submitted it to them so they can study the proposal, get all the questions answered, and make a presentation to city council.”

Ryu said several of his recommendations came from an Ethics Commission report and he used ideas regarding campaign donation restrictions that were adopted in other cities.

“The great thing is that they’re [considering] it. That’s what I promised to do – to change the conversation and start a dialogue in city hall. This is something that wasn’t even discussed.

“The whole point of it was, people are saying, ‘I can’t trust government.’ How do we restore faith in government? Current campaign finance regulation – yes, L.A. has one of the more strict ones – still isn’t enough.

“Being better than someone else doesn’t necessarily mean we’re doing all we can. I’m saying we need to be held to a higher standard. That’s why I presented it. Will it get passed in a month? Will it get passed in ten years? I don’t know. But it surely won’t get passed if we don’t start talking about it.”

What are your thoughts on the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) “open venue model” to manage the Greek Theatre? What have you learned from RAP’s report in response to your motion? How is the transfer of management as a whole progressing?

“This is one of the things where 70 percent of my time is spent explaining what works, what hasn’t been done and what’s going on. A lot of people still think that [the decision to give control of The Greek to the city] can be reversed. But it was one of these decisions that was made airtight before I even got here.”

Ryu said RAP could have done a better job informing the public.

“But they’re not a P.R. company, they take care of parks. So you can’t blame them. But there was a huge disconnect between what they were trying to do and what people thought they were trying to do. That’s what my role in council office is, to intervene and explain to folks.”

Ryu said one of the main issues he learned was constituents thought that the city was going to take over for the venue and operate it outright.

“The city is not operating it. The city is hiring a management company to operate it. The city has direct control, but we’re hiring professionals who know how to do it.”

Ryu said he collected all the concerns from the community, added some of his own, and presented a motion for RAP to report on the open venue model, which the department did in August.

“And I’m going to put all their feet to the fire and make sure that all these concerns are addressed. And if they don’t address them properly, we’ll see what’s going to happen at the end of the year. It’s a one-year contract. But everything that I’ve heard from the department – I like what they’re presenting. I hope they’re successful. For Rec and Parks’ sake, I hope everything that they plan to do, and project to do, happens.

“If it does, it means the community is going to be happy because they will see no difference in the venue and noise. And they’re going to see better traffic mitigation and better community engagement. They’ll make more revenue, and I’m going to be auditing that as well to make sure. Everything that Rec and Parks is projecting to happen, with more revenue, better community outreach, better public safety, it’s great.”

Next week, Ryu discusses homelessness and infrastructure.

(Story originally published by The Beverly Press, written by Gregory Cornfield)