LOS ANGELES — In November Former State Sen. Holly Mitchell became the second African-American woman ever elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors after handily defeating former Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson.
Mitchell assumed office in December and has embarked on addressing issues facing residents in the 2nd Supervisorial District. Mitchell spoke with a reporter about her vision for the district and her priorities to address homelessness, and how her office can assist struggling business as the COVID-19 pandemic nears its one-year anniversary.
2UG: What are you looking forward to accomplishing as the new supervisor for the 2nd District?
HM: Ending the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted all our lives and continues to disproportionately impact the residents of the 2nd Supervisorial District is my top priority. This means ensuring equitable access to testing and vaccines and investments in the 2nd District communities that carry the brunt of this pandemic.
The fact is we have a convergence of crises that require an integrated response. We will have to continue to multi-task because the longstanding injustices before COVID-19 have only exasperated in this pandemic. I believe we have an opportunity to make a generational impact and go beyond recovering to survive but instead to thrive. This is what I want to accomplish.
A unique aspect about being an elected official is that you know the end date for your job right when you begin. I can potentially serve up to 12 years if the residents of the 2nd Supervisorial District give me the honor to do so. This means I have a set window of time to make a substantial impact. I am most eager to implement solutions that have a qualitative and quantitative impact on ending the crisis of unhoused residents, dismantling systemic racism and ensuring we are creating a more equitable L.A. County.
2UG: I have noticed you made it a point to introduce yourself to the various residents in District 2, through phone calls during their respective City Council meetings. Is this a new approach to a more cohesive working relationship with your constituents?
HM: This isn’t a new approach for me, I value collaboration and understand how important it is for all levels of government to be working together to tackle the issues before us. I reached out within my first days as supervisor because it’s important that my colleagues and constituents know I am here to work with them — and we have some serious work to do.
There are over 2 million residents, nine major cities and dozens of unincorporated communities within the 2nd District alone. This will be an ongoing component for how we’re able to move our district and county forward, together.
If there are any constituents looking to reach our office I can be contacted at HollyJMitchell@BOS.LACounty.Gov or you can visit my website at Mitchell.LACounty.Gov
2UG: The 2nd District is home to some of the county’s most underserved populations. In regard to the homeless situation how will you work with the current administration to move the program forward, to get our unhoused neighbors into the newly purchased motels or hotels? Do you see this as an “easy” fix to the homeless issue?
HM: There is no easy fix for our homeless crisis. When we discuss this issue, we are talking about a myriad of factors that can cause someone to become unhoused. This includes leaving an abusive relationship, not being able to pay medical bills, battling a substance addiction and everything in between. At the top of this list is a lack of affordable housing.
Our solutions must account for the real life challenges our residents are facing and be adaptable to serve people at different stages of this crisis. Project RoomKey is just one example for providing immediate housing, it is not the full answer, but it does serve a valuable role in utilizing existing temporary housing infrastructures (i.e. motels and hotels) to get as many people as possible off the streets. I will continue to advocate for this program to be one of our tools in the fight to end homelessness.
The 2nd Supervisorial District accounts for the highest rates of unhoused residents. To give you some perspective, Black women only account for 8% of L.A. County’s population, yet we are 20% of L.A. County’s homelessness population. Addressing this crisis is a top priority for me and here are some initial steps I have taken that our team will be expanding on:
Protect renters and homeowners: I was proud to have voted to extend the moratorium on rent payments to protect tenants facing income insecurity due to COVID-19. I also authored a motion to help preserve the diversity of small property owners by ensuring there is an equity framework for how L.A. County is allocating resources to protect homeowners who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
Awareness and advocacy: My office is dedicated to ensuring residents know their rights and have access to the resources they need to protect themselves. I recently partnered with Stay Housed L.A. County, the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and a coalition of organizations on the forefront for tenants’ rights to ensure residents were connected directly with the organizations and legal support they need to stay housed.
Expansion of shelters and proven community-based solutions:
Thankfully there are countless community and faith-based organizations that have been stepping up to meet this challenge with homegrown solutions that are effective and culturally resonate with the communities they serve. I recently co-authored a motion with Supervisor [Hilda] Solis to help strengthen the impact of faith-based groups throughout the county that are helping to prevent and combat homelessness.
2UG: Many businesses, particularly minority owned, have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. A 37-year business in Inglewood made the news for nearly going out of business had they not received community support through donations. It shows there is a huge demand for outreach to the community on how to not only compete for funding opportunities but to ensure there is equity in the fund’s allocation. How can your office be off assistance to the business community?
HM: There are so many businesses with similar stories of trying to weather the COVID-19 storm while keeping their families safe and doors open. I feel confident with the new Biden-Harris administration that we will be able to get additional federal funding which is necessary to support our small businesses. Last month I was proud to join the L.A. County Workforce Development Aging & Community Services Department in highlighting that the county distributed $46 million in CARES Act federal funds to over 1,400 small businesses. My sentiments remain the same. This is great to celebrate, but we know more must be done. $46 million must be viewed as the floor and not the ceiling.
My office can be of assistance by hearing directly from small businesses on what their needs are, amplifying information about funding applications and how to apply, and advocating for increased federal and state funds to meet the disproportionate needs in L.A. County. We will also continue to partner with WDACS and the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to disseminate information about these vital resources to small businesses in the 2nd District.
DCBA has a comprehensive disaster relief website for any small businesses, nonprofits, workers and/or tenants/landlords that have been economically impacted by COVID-19, please visit: https://lacountyhelpcenter.org/
The road ahead will not be easy but there is hope with the vaccine. We still must do everything in our power to stop the deadly surge so that we can get back to fully experiencing the small businesses and organizations that make up the unique cultural tapestry of L.A. County.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.