Curren D. Price Jr., Los Angeles city council member for the 9th district, dined with and spoke to students at the Harris Dining Hall Tuesday evening about his political career.
The event was organized by USC Professor Philip Ethington, the faculty master of New Residential College. After dinner, Price spoke about his experiences in public service and his agenda for the 9th district before taking questions from students.
“You don’t get into politics to get rich,” Price said. “You have to be in it for the right reasons, and genuinely care about the community.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Price graduated from Morningside High School in Inglewood, Calif. where he served as the student body president and said he was encouraged by his parents to be engaged and involved as a student. He spent a year at San Francisco State University — a hotbed for political activism in the late 1960s — before attending junior college and eventually transferring to Stanford University where he earned his bachelor’s degree. From there, Price went on to Santa Clara University where he earned a law degree.
The city council member said he was always attracted to politics and community engagement and had planned to join the Carter administration through its office of international trade. After Carter lost the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan, however, those ambitions were cut short. Nevertheless, Price still moved to the capitol and spent several years working in the telecommunications industry during a period of rapid growth of satellite technology.
Eventually, he moved back to Los Angeles and began his political career after defeating an incumbent council member in his home city of Inglewood, Calif. and worked his way up to the State Senate when he was encouraged to run for the seat in the 9th district. Since assuming office in July 2013, Price said his focus has been on the economic revitalization of the district and the restoration of civil services.
“We had people who couldn’t go out in their backyard because trash was piled so high in the alleyway,” Price said. “How can you live like that?”
He noted that as part of the “Clean and Green” initiative, over 1000 tons of debris have been removed from around the district, the equivalent of 20 garbage trucks.
“We want to encourage people to rely on civic services, and ensure that those services are being delivered,” he said.
He also spoke about his efforts to attract new businesses to the district, including a new shopping center at Central Avenue and Slauson Avenue, the first new center in 50 years. In addition, he said he has been working to revitalize parts of the district, such as Central Avenue, that have historical and cultural significance for jazz in particular.
“The district is open for business, but not business as usual,” Price said.
The 9th district encompasses a large portion of South Los Angeles, including LA Live and USC. Price said it was important for the university, the largest private employer in the area, to take an active role in improving the community.
He said that USC is a “tremendous economic engine” and can be a resource for the community at large, urging the university to do the same work it does in the surrounding area “across the freeway.”
“I’m not too worried about USC and LA Live, they can take care of themselves,” Price said. “I’m worried about the people on 48th and Broadway.”
Students in attendance enjoyed the candid nature of the discussion.
“I really liked how intimate it was,” said Sam Deutsch, a freshman majoring in political economy. “You could feel that he really cares about the community, which is nice to hear from a politician.”
Andrew Morris, a freshman majoring in cognitive science and mathematics, enjoyed how he touched on the surrounding community.
“I was glad that he spoke about the hopelessness that people in the district have felt,” Morris said. “As USC students, we aren’t really faced with that unless we cross the street.”