Making good on a pledge to not be a mayor who just stays in his office, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday joined Councilman Gil Cedillo for a tour of First District neighborhoods.
It was an opportunity for Cedillo to give the mayor a close-up look at programs he has instituted since taking office, especially efforts to remove tons of trash and illegally dumped items from local streets and alleys.
It was also a chance to show the mayor where more resources from the city are needed.
They visited residents, businesses and public spaces in the district that includes neighborhoods running from MacArthur Park to Highland Park.
One of their stops was the Lincoln Heights Senior Center where about 150 people turned out for the visit.
The center’s director, Armando Martinez, told EGP the stop was intended to be a “friendly visit” so the mayor could hear directly from seniors what they need.
Several people told EGP before the mayor’s arrival they were really looking forward to bringing their concerns about public safety, street repairs, education, senior programs and immigration to Garcetti’s attention.
Garcetti’s and Cedillo’s entrance into the senior center was met with loud cheers and a long line of hugs and handshakes before they could make their way to the podium. Both said the warm reception made them “feel right at home.”
Alternating between speaking in English and Spanish, Garcetti said since becoming mayor he has focused on quality of life issues for Angelenos. He noted that Los Angeles’ population is aging, and the city must invest in programs to support seniors, to the delight of the audience.
Lea este artículo en español: Cedillo da un Recorrido de Cerca por su Distrito con el Alcalde de Los Ángeles 
Cedillo said he showed the mayor how he used $1 million of his discretionary funds to clean up some neglected areas of the district: “Don’t the streets look cleaner!” he said, getting applause in response.
Cedillo said he pointed out the importance of having crosswalks and street signals that allow seniors and other pedestrians enough time to safely cross city streets, and don’t just push traffic through faster.
When it was at last time to take questions from the audience, Lincoln Heights resident Pete Sandoval told the mayor he is very worried about crime in his neighborhood, particularly near the senior center.
“There have been a lot of shootings, a lot of robberies, I want them to look out for the seniors,” Sandoval said.
“They recently robbed a lady carrying her groceries right outside,” he said, adding that’s why he has started his own neighborhood watch group.
Garcetti said his office is working to find money to increase police overtime, so, for example, a detective doesn’t have to stop investigating a crime because it’s 5:00 o’clock.
Cedillo said people don’t always realize how cutbacks to services like tree trimming make criminal activities easier.
“We have these lights at parks and along our streets, but the trees grow and the branches cover the lights, creating a dark canopy over the area” where criminal can hide out, said Cedillo, explaining he wants a greater investment in these services.
“We are just beginning, this is a process and is not going to change overnight but we will do it,” Cedillo told EGP, but added the city cannot do it alone, “citizens have to participate.”
Garcetti agrees more revenue is needed to restore basic services. “Unfortunately our economic resources have suffered, but it is important to reestablish programs such as clean streets, and programs for seniors to have the opportunity to live with dignity,” he told EGP.
Please bring more jobs to the city, our youth need them, another senior told the mayor. What are you doing to bring them more job opportunities, the woman wanted to know.
“My first press conference when I became mayor was to announce, not even knowing where the money was coming from, that we would have 10,000 summer jobs for students,” Garcetti said. He said his office is working to increase that number for the upcoming summer.
Several seniors asked the mayor and councilman what they are doing to bring about immigration reform and to get President Obama to halt deportations.
Garcetti said he believes it’s time to adopt immigration reform and said he has opened an Office of Immigration Affairs to help Angelenos address immigration issues.
Cedillo said he sponsored a resolution by the council calling on Congress to move forward with immigration reform legislation, and pointed out that the issue of deportations is in the president’s hands.
“While I support and respect the president on many issues, let’s be clear, he could stop deportations right now by cutting off the funds for it,” Cedillo said.
Asked if he would consider taking Cedillo’s community cleaning project citywide, the mayor said he was very impressed by what the program had so far accomplished, but added that Cedillo had used his office holder funds for the program. “It is something I would certainly encourage other council districts to look at,” but the city does not have the funds in its budget to do it, he told EGP.
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