Saturday, January 07, 2012

Our Last Chance To Bring A New Voice Comes  Jan. 17
By Diana L. Chapman
Practically the minute I heard police officer Joe Buscaino was running for the  Los Angeles Council Seat vacated by former Councilwoman Janice Hahn, I was leaping on board before any other candidate had a chance to file.
“Don’t you want to wait to see who else is running?” my husband asked. I didn’t.
My instincts told me Buscaino had a strong shot to win just through the sheer volume of residents who personally knew him through his work as a compassionate Los Angeles Police senior lead officer, or as a friend, or as a relative since he only has 500 family members strong living in the Harbor Area.
From my perspective, Buscaino, 37, who has two children and a wife who teaches elementary school, seems to have what voters want: a powerful and genuine commitment to the community where he has lived all his life and where he has served as a police officer for 15 years. He focuses on strong family ties and a has a substantial grip understanding what needs to be done to make our communities better.
While his current and only opponent – Assemblyman Warren Furutani contends “no training wheels” are necessary if he wins the Jan. 17 special election, I believe that it’s Buscaino’s fresh face and lack of "career politician" experience that has steered voters in his direction along with his consistent as-a-drum-beat message: “I’ve been in your homes. I’ve been on your streets. I’ve been with your families.”
“I’m not tired,” said Buscaino in his office recently after working day and night on the race. “I’m inspired. It’s been an amazing and inspirational experience of connecting with people and even more so now making it to the run off. This is where the rubber meets the road. We are not taking anything for granted.
“Warren Furutani has big race horses, elected officials who can fundraise for him.”
Furutani does. But Buscaino, who currently is the top-fundraiser, stunned many observers when he became the top vote getter out of the packed primary race.  Eleven candidates lined up in the November 8 election with Buscaino snatching up 5,175 vote, or nearly 28 percent.  Furutani came in second with 4,098 votes, or about  23 percent.
While I have few issues with Furutani, an assemblyman for the 55th District, I’m backing Buscaino because I see something I like more than anything else – a bit of myself and many other residents who have striven endlessly to improve our community and make it a  better and safer place without much help from Los Angeles City Hall.
I see a guy down on the ground with us, aiming for the same things we are and who promises: “I will never forget my roots. My parents taught me that.”
 Whether we live in Watts or San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City or the Harbor Gateway--the communities that make up Council District 15 -- it’s abundantly clear we need a guy who understands our complexities and our issues who isn’t living in some high power cloud looking down upon us.  He’s amongst us, the average Joe.
Already, Buscaino has honed in on what he wants to fix up immediately, such as getting all of Watt’s roads paved, reopening the closed Council Office in  Harbor Gateway-Harbor City, persuading businesses along the Pacific Corridor to work with residents to improve neighborhoods, using $474,000 of state Quimby funds to fix up Ken Malloy’s Harbor Regional Park, known to locals as Harbor Park, where youth are playing flag football “in a dust bowl.”

“You can’t find one blade of grass there,” he said.
His bigger vision: to make Council District 15 “the pearl of the city” that it should already be from Watts with its prominent mosaic towers to encouraging the port officials to not just think “cargo,” but to think people and “make this place a destination, like Seattle, like Baltimore, like New York and like Long Beach to be honest with you,” he explained.
Revamping the dying Ports O Call village – a once thriving New England style retail plaza on port property along the Main Channel of Los Angeles Harbor– would be one of his top priorities. He wants life steamed back into the village that once drew thousands of visitors – and brought jobs -- to the area.
“We are culturally diverse,” Buscaino said. “We have the ability to be the best in L.A. and often times we just feel ignored.  I want people to come here to eat and play and enjoy it. It’s our time.
“It’s again about my love and passion and commitment to the district. It’s no big secret I want to see it improved. I have a vested interest in this place. I am not going to leave. We are staying and we are hoping our kids and their children will stay here too.”
Don’t forget to vote Jan. 17.