CD13 contest is a full house

By Aaron Blevins, 1/24/2013

Candidates tout experience, community involvement


Voters in Los Angeles City Council District 13 will have an abundance of candidates to choose from during the city’s Primary Election in March, as a total of 12 candidates are running for the office.

Last week, Park Labrea News and Beverly Press profiled four of the candidates, and this week, we present interviews with four more.

Robert Negrete

Negrete, 40, has worked as the district director for state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) for the last 10 years, though he has also worked at the city level and for other state legislators. In fact, he said his political career began as an intern for City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District.

Robert Negrete

Negrete was born in Atwater Village, and has lived in the district his entire life. He said he has been active in the community for several years, especially in projects such as the L.A. River clean-up.

“I love where I live, and that’s one of the reasons that I’m running,” Negrete said, adding that the district is full of distinct communities, and that he has a vested interest in keeping the communities safe. “I want to preserve what makes this district very, very unique. I want to make sure we celebrate that.”

Boosting the local economy is very important in the district, as it creates jobs, additional income for constituents and more revenue for the city, Negrete said. He said the city must also continue to support and encourage its businesses.

Negrete said some areas of the city — and the district — do not get a fair amount of resources to trim trees, repair sidewalks and fix streets. Some areas of the district have been neglected over the years, and he would like to change that, he said.

“It’s not fair that some areas have resources, and some don’t,” Negrete added.

He said his political experience should help him achieve his goals, which also include allocating public safety resources to some of the district’s crime “hot spots.” The Los Angeles native said he knows how to make the “gears of government work for the people.”

“I’ve been doing that my entire career,” Negrete said. “I think my experience is going to be a big plus.”

He has been endorsed by Padilla and the Anahuak Youth Sports Association.

José Sigala

Sigala, 43, owns a public relations firm and has worked with the city council and the Legislature for nearly 20 years under several legislators, such as Richard Polanco, Marco Firebaugh, Rudy Bermudez and Richard Alarcon.

José Sigala

He formerly served as president of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, and said that if elected, his main priority will be ensuring that each neighborhood in the district stays clean, healthy and vibrant.

To ensure that goal, the new city council member should focus on public safety, protecting core services and economic development, Sigala said.

The Los Angeles native said he would like to maintain the current levels of funding for the police and fire departments, while also investing in afterschool programs to benefit children.

“I want to make sure our kids have the opportunity to stay off the streets and stay out of trouble,” he said, adding that he would also work to expand neighborhood watches.

Part of Sigala’s vision is to shift city abatement funding into the public safety budget so that the funding for some services, such as street cleaning, pothole repair and graffiti removal, remains in tact.

The Echo Park resident said a culture change is needed in the city departments that manage small businesses. He said city hall just needs to get out of the way.

“For me, it’s important to note that city hall doesn’t create jobs. Small businesses create jobs,” Sigala said, adding that he would like to expand Hollywood film tax credits and reduce fees for pilot productions. “Hollywood is a very important part of the district.”

He declined to list any endorsements, saying that he is proud of the local commitments he’s secured.

Sam Kbushyan

Kbushyan, 32, is the executive director of the Immigrants Charitable Foundation, an organization in East Hollywood that advocates for immigration reform and supports and empowers immigrants.

Sam Kbushyan

He currently resides in East Hollywood, and said he has lived in the district his entire life. Kbushyan said he has been active in the community for a long time, which has led to his city council candidacy.

“The constituents and stakeholders have pulled me in and encouraged me to run because they think I’m a natural fit for this district,” he added.

Kbushyan, too, would like to focus on small business development and creating jobs. He said many of the city’s small businesses that leave do so because of high rents, which suggests a need for additional tax breaks or business incubator programs.

“We need to definitely find partners who are property owners as well as developers who will work with the community,” Kbushyan said, adding that the city should expand its business improvement districts (BIDs) and enterprise zones. “BIDs are very important, especially BIDs that are anchored with property.”

Furthermore, the city should push for equal access to education, he said. Kbushyan is on the LACER afterschool program board and said he would focus on education and vocational skills training.

He would also like to reduce traffic, add affordable housing, improve the environment, beautify streets and expand green space.

“We have a densely populated community here … [and] there is no park space,” Kbushyan said. “We definitely need more of these pocket parks.”

He has received endorsements from John Perron, president of the East Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; Jorge Rodriguez, executive director of the Green Stage Alliance; L.A. Mission CEO Herbert Smith; and Erick Munos, East Hollywood Neighborhood Council board member.

Alex De Ocampo

De Ocampo, 33, is the director of the Saban Family Foundation, an organization that benefits large-scale nonprofit projects. He has worked at the foundation for 11 years, having served the last few years as director.

Alex De Ocampo

Ocampo was born and raised in the district, and currently resides in East Hollywood. He said the district has seen a lot of changes over the last few years.

“There’s been progress, but I also want to make sure we don’t digress,” Ocampo said.

He hopes to spur economic development in the district and create jobs for those who live there. Ocampo said his “strong business acumen” will be beneficial during his candidacy.

“I think as a city councilman, you have to be the chief salesperson,” he said, adding that city hall should track businesses, reach out to business owners and create relationships to promote the district.

Ocampo also wants to provide incentives for businesses to thrive and streamline the permitting process. He said the city should not place any large-scale taxes on businesses, but instead promote tax holidays.

The East Hollywood resident has a lot of faith in the efforts of afterschool programs, having spent time in such programs as a child. Ocampo said they benefit poor, hard-working parents while keeping students out of trouble; therefore, the programs should be supported.

“Education doesn’t stop right when they leave school. It’s our responsibility to make sure that they’re safe,” he said, adding that funding for the fire and police department should be protected as well.

Ocampo is a fan of neighborhood councils, having been involved with the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council in the past.

He said city leaders should empower the councils, find additional ways for them to get involved, provide them information and resources, and ensure that their recommendations are heard.

“That’s where I really got involved in the community,” Ocampo said. “I think they serve a great purpose in small community projects.”

His endorsements include the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and California State Controller John Chiang.



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