LA Observed file photo
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon counts construction cranes as he heads for downtown Los Angeles. It helps him compare booming downtown to his economically depressed and neglected district in Southeast Los Angeles County.
“I lost track at 17,” he said recently at a luncheon of the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, hosted by public affairs consultant Emma Schafer.
Such cranes are rare in Rendon’s 63rd Assembly District, which includes the working class cities of Bell, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, South Gate and a northern portion of Long Beach. The Westside and the San Fernando Valley get the construction, both private and public.
The dining room at the Palm restaurant downtown was packed with the Current Affairs Forum’s usual crowd of lawyers, lobbyists, engineers, government officials and others whose livelihoods depend on construction, much of it related to mass transit. Not many of them, I thought, had been to Paramount recently. Rendon and his Southeast colleagues will have to use all their political smarts, plus mobilize a growing number of younger voters, to attract the attention of the downtown and Westside crowd.
Paramount and the rest of Rendon’s district was farm country early in the last century. Homes filled the farm fields over the years, as did some industry. Population and economic power moved west. So did the political clout and the projects that are built to satisfy high turnout voters.
“Zero court houses” said Rendon, talking about public works in his district. “Zero community colleges one light rail station in my entire district.” The area badly needs mass transit. Five of the nation’s densest cities are located there.
Metro’s spending plan for funds from the transit tax approved by the voters tell the story. Millions will go for transit on the I-405 route over the Sepulveda Pass, conversion of the San Fernando Valley’s rapid bus line to rail and other projects far west of Rendon’s district.
“This disparity of resources is why I started to run,” Rendon said.
He is in the first class of state lawmakers to be elected after term limits were eased. He was elected six years ago, and if he keeps winning elections, he can serve in the Assembly six more years and possibly continue in his influential job, speaker of the house.
That’s plenty of time and power to put some of the construction cranes and their crews to work in Southeast Los Angeles County.