City: Lakewood
Position Seeking: City Council

Question 1: Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts) while growing up and its impact on you.

Art in its many forms has always been a part of who I am and how I express myself. Music in particular has had a dominant place in my life. At about 10 years old I picked up the saxophone, and immediately fell in love with the performing arts. Later in my education I played in the school jazz band, wind ensemble, and marching band—I even held the position of Drum Major in the marching band. Late in my high school years I picked up the drums. For about 5 years I played drums in a rock band that played several electric and acoustic shows per weekend, culminating with a sold out show at the Roxy Theater. Even now that I’m a full time high school social studies teacher, music is my outlet and my passion. My appreciation for art stems from this personal experience, and if elected I would strive to encourage art in its many forms.

Question 2: What do you believe the role of City Council should be in developing and supporting the region’s arts and cultural infrastructure?

Developing and supporting local arts is a vital role of city council—one that I see a need for improvement in Lakewood. In my opinion, forming a citizen-based commission tasked with this purpose is an easy and necessary first step. This commission could be comprised of residents from all walks of life and representing several art genres to develop plans to enrich the arts in the city—particularly aimed at engaging our youth. Culture and arts events help to forge a sense of community among city residents, and therefore city council can play an active role in sponsoring and promoting local art events throughout the year. Effective outreach is critical to support the arts. As of now, Lakewood city council has an almost zero presence on social media, which hinders their ability to engage with younger and tech-savvy folks. My goal to improve the city’s communication and outreach with residents would allow for these events for be more effectively promoted and encouraged.

Question 3: What’s your vision for the city? What role, if any, does art and culture play in advancing that vision?

As a high school teacher who is constantly pushing our youth to get more involved in shaping their communities, my overarching goal is to scale up that effort and democratize the city of Lakewood—to get more people involved in several different ways. This means improving voter turnout, which was a disappointing 13.78% in Lakewood last election. This means spearheading a social media and local high school outreach campaign to energize our younger residents to get involved in shaping our community. This means actively soliciting the advice and opinions of labor unions and local businesses before passing ordinances that would impact them. And this means lowering or eliminating barriers to government accessibility and transparency. Art is a form of expression, which means it plays an integral role in realizing these goals. When our residents participate in art and culture programs and events, and when they see members of city council actively encourage their products and performances, it creates an environment that is conducive to improving civic engagement.

Questions 4: A recent report by the Otis College of Design found that 1 in every 6 jobs in LA County supports the creative sector and economy in Los Angeles County. If elected, how will you aim to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy and the artistic community that it supports?

Step one is communicating the importance of the creative sector and economy in LA County to the community—to both residents and businesses alike. If elected I would aim to collaborate with organizations like Arts for LA to ensure that the significant impact that art has on society is effectively communicated, supported, and safeguarded from budget cuts. Step two is to create and maintain a commission specifically tasked with supporting this cause. As a teacher, specifically as a teacher of a Title I school, I find that building positive relationships is the best way to bring people together and educate effectively. As a council member I would maintain this approach to build a positive relationship between local government and the arts. I am inspired by local leaders who have made a difference in the past, including the experience of leaders like Bernie Sanders who as mayor elevated the arts and worked hard to transform the city of Burlington’s relationship with its youth by vigorously promoting artistic and cultural development. I aim to continue that effort in the city of Lakewood.