On March 5, USC students and Angelenos will vote in the mayoral primary election, a race that will impact the university’s relationship with the mayor’s office.
If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two primary finishers will advance to the general election on May 21. The race consists of four frontrunners: councilmember Eric Garcetti, city controller Wendy Greuel, radio talk show host and lawyer Kevin James and councilmember Jan Perry.
The winning candidate will serve the city for the next four years, replacing outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has served since 2005.
“There’s an incredible amount of work that goes in to maintaining USC’s relations with the mayor’s office and with the city,” said David Galaviz, the executive director of local government relations for USC.
Galaviz explained that the university serves as a tremendous asset for the city of Los Angeles. Not only is it one of the largest private-sector employers in the city, but the school also trains and educates students who go on to make contributions to Los Angeles.
“It really is in the city’s best interest to work alongside USC, improving both the school and local community,” Galaviz said.
Help from the city takes many forms. City services comprise everything from public safety to street repavement to traffic control, all of which can have a large impact on the university.
“Our partnership with the city helps ensure the efficiency of USC,” Galaviz said.
Some students believe the new mayor should have a more open dialogue with students.
“[The mayor] can start by addressing deeply rooted cultural issues in the Los Angeles community,” said Perry Nunes, a sophomore majoring in economics and critical studies. “Whether that be through something as subtle as addressing these issues in public dialogues and speeches or something as extensive as community-based programming that involves the university.”
Some students believe the mayor’s impact only reaches the community around the campus and does not directly affect them.
“The L.A. mayor has to focus on the community around USC in terms of public safety, education and promoting growth in the surrounding area,” said Brandon Cheung, a freshman majoring in political science.
A method for students to get involved is through internships at the office of the mayor.
“We strongly encourage Trojans to participate in city internships,” Galaviz said.
Over the next few months, USC will work to develop new contacts with city staffers and ensure the preservation of the city-university relationship.
“We’ll enter an interim period of learning and development as the city settles in with its new leadership,” said Craig Keys, associate senior vice president for civic engagement at USC. “We don’t expect to see tremendous changes in policy — at least not those that influence the school directly.”
Keys went on to explain the importance of student engagement in the municipal political process.
“As voters, [students] have the opportunity to shape the future of the city and the quality of life on and around campus,” Keys said.
Though USC is a private institution, city policies can supplement the quality and variety of services accessible to students. Keys said this could include housing and mental health services provided by the city.
“The availability and implementation of city services can have large impacts on student life and experience,” Keys said. “We look forward to building strong relationships with new staff and the successor mayor.”
Many students agree that the new mayor has the responsibility of building new ties with students on campus.
“The new mayor has the opportunity to show USC students how and why it is important to get invested in local politics,” said USG residential senator Maheen Sahoo, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law. “If he or she actively engages with us and with other neighboring institutions in an open dialogue, USC students will certainly learn a lot more about how local initiatives affect them.”