It was a big day for Walter Gonzalez, a 52-year-old Westlake District resident who voted for the first time Tuesday at the City View Villa assisted living facility.
Gonzalez, who came to Los Angeles from Nicaragua 29 years ago and later became a U.S. citizen, said he had never voted before because he didn’t feel like his vote counted. He said he was compelled to vote in the Nov. 6 election because he is a passionate supporter of President Barack Obama.
“I wanted to vote because I thought it was important. It’s important to be part of the process,” Gonzalez said. “I needed to go. I wanted to support President Obama. I wanted to vote because he will make things change.”
The Election Day event at City View Villa was two-fold; it served as a polling place and hosted a town hall meeting with City Councilman and mayoral candidate, Eric Garcetti, 13th District. Garcetti addressed the concerns of senior citizens, from public transportation and better coordination of senior services, to sidewalk repair and recycling.
“There are a lot of cracked and broken sidewalks in the area that make it hard for people to get around,” said Sycamore Avenue resident Corbin Russell, who attended the town hall meeting.
Garcetti added that he has aggressively tried to repair as many sidewalks as possible in the 13th District, but currently there is little available money. He said the city’s 311 phone line approach has worked, where residents notify the city about specific areas that need immediate attention, so crews can complete the most pressing repairs. The council is currently considering ways to fund approximately 1,600 miles of sidewalk repair in the near future, he said.
“We’ve got thousands, if not tens of thousands, of sidewalks eroding, but we can fix it,” Garcetti said. “Twenty percent of all trips in Los Angeles are just walking, so we need to look at ways to make those trips safer.”
The councilman said one possibility for sidewalk repair would be to use Measure R funding, which is generally earmarked for public transportation projects, but could be used for road repair. He said other projects, such as the ongoing repairs to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, are being conducted through a public-private partnership, which could also work in other areas of the city.
The issues of improving public transportation, creating more senior programs in city parks and recreation centers, and putting senior services in one place are top priorities, according to Garcetti. He touted the FamilySource Centers, which offer educational and social services programs for families in one location in the community, as a model for how senior services should be offered.
“Right now there is a lot of information available, but it is in too many different places,” Garcetti said. “Instead of going to many places, I want to make sure seniors have the ability to find what they are looking for in one place.”
With public transportation, Garcetti said he would like to see smaller buses on local routes that operate more frequently to augment the regional bus and light rail lines. Garcetti also said he hopes to boost recycling, and added that the city soon plans to launch a new recycling program for apartment buildings and condominium complexes. The proposal is scheduled to come before the city council either later this month, or in early December.
“We are going to implement in the next year, mandatory recycling for everybody,” said Garcetti, who added that residents should call or e-mail their council representatives if they have specific problems they want addressed. “We are your liaison to all city departments. You elected us, use us.”
Garcetti also encouraged everyone to cast their ballots, and voter turnout remained steady throughout the day at City View Villa. Precinct worker Cecilia Bachicha said nearly 300 people had voted as of 2:30 p.m. on Election Day, and a big surge was expected in the evening after people left work.
“It was a mad rush in the morning. We had a line around the corner,” Bachicha said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm.”
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