Election results have been tallied for the Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council, and the elected executive board, including a USC student, consists of new faces ready to tackle issues concerning the local community.
Shawn Simons will be returning as president of the neighborhood council but will be working with a new executive board. Ashley Ramos, a junior majoring in political science, will serve as one of the two representatives for Area 3, the area that includes North University Park.
Ramos will be replacing Samantha Foley, a senior majoring in political science and international relations, and Daniel Wu, a senior majoring in Los Angeles urban studies, both of whom were appointed to the council and served for a year.
Though a number of students showed interest in running for the council, Ramos is the only one who followed through with the election process. Ramos said she decided to run because she thinks serving on the neighborhood council will be a good experience and could be a starting point for her to learn more about city planning and urban development.
In her new position on the council, Ramos said she hopes to be a link between the university and the community.
“As far as what I would like to do on the council is just to keep an open line of communication between the university and residents,” Ramos said. “It would be really good to just have everybody in the neighborhood kind of have a say in the Master Plan since it affects so many people.”
Although Ramos will graduate before her two-year term on the council ends, she said she plans to go to graduate school at USC, which will give her the opportunity to stay on as an active member of the council.
Two of the main issues the executive board plans to address this term include creating a community benefits package that will present concerns about the Master Plan to the university and city hall and ensuring that recreational activities for South Los Angeles children will continue. Parks and libraries, Simons said, have been struggling amid the city’s stark $212 million budget deficit.
Simons said she is currently working on a budget proposal with the mayor’s office to identify strategic partnerships for parks and libraries through neighborhood councils.
“I think this is going to be a huge piece of the puzzle in South L.A. … Those services are so desperately needed for the youth in our area,” she said.
The new executive board will also be working on the council’s outreach efforts, especially because it wants to be accessible for community members who will be affected by budget cuts.
“We need to make sure people know who we are and how they can get in touch with us … When there is a crisis happening, we need to mobilize our area and amplify our voices,” Simons said.
The council, however, will face challenges in reaching these goals.
Simons said the new board is going to have to be very smart about how it allocates money and look for new ways to reel in funds. The Los Angeles City Council has cut $40,000 of NANDC’s funding because of the deficit, she said, and during the next fiscal year, starting in July, the council will be starting at a zero dollar balance.
The two outgoing USC student representatives said they have high hopes for the council after what they were able to achieve during their time.
Foley, who served for a year on the neighborhood development council, said one of her biggest accomplishments while on the council was lobbying to move the local farmers market from Shrine Place to University Avenue.
“That’s been awesome because students go up and down that street all the time, and it’s an area [where] community members also feel like participating. It’s accessible to both groups,” she said.
Foley and Wu also worked to launch public forums aimed at gathering opinions about the university’s Master Plan. Those forums began last month and will continue in the coming weeks.
Wu said serving on the council was a great experience and gave him the chance to work with community members and also to observe interactions between members.
The new executive board will host its first steering committee this month to help identify some basic principles as well as approve appointed positions.