I had a long phone call with Damian Carroll. He’s running for State Assembly in the 45th district. I don’t live in the 45th district so I can’t vote for him or knock on my neighbor’s doors but I can share his message with you. Curiously there isn’t a date set yet for the election but it’s coming up this fall so I wanted to give him an opportunity to reach some of you. I hope this interview sparks some curiosity and at the barest minimum gets people out to vote.
JG: This is a very different election in that it’s a special election and I can find very little about it online. Why does it even matter? When is it?
DC: Good question! I’m sure the last thing on most of your readers’ summer to-do list is “vote in yet another election.” This won’t be a jam-packed ballot like the 2012 Presidential election or even the recent LA City Mayoral and City Council run-offs. This will be an election affecting only a single Assembly District – the 45th (map)- in the West San Fernando Valley, where Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield was recently elected to L.A. City Council. He’ll be sworn in on July 1st, and the Governor will then call a special election to fill his vacated Assembly seat. We don’t know the exact date yet, but it will be in either late August or September of this year.
Despite its low profile, this race matters to everyone in our community. The next Assemblymember to represent the 45th District will influence how our entire state funds and operates our public schools, universities, transportation systems, health care programs, infrastructure needs, public safety as well as environmental protection for potentially the next decade. I am running for Assembly because as a father, a husband and longtime activist, I have a vested interested in the San Fernando Valley’s future. Additionally, my extensive public service in state and local government make me the most qualified candidate for the job. You can learn more about my background and legislative priorities by visiting my website, www.DamianCarroll.com.
JG: I don’t live in the 45th district, why should I care about who is elected there?
DC: Our shared concerns don’t stop at an Assembly district’s border. Like many of you, I live in one district, work in another and drop my kids off at school in a third. That’s why our Valley legislators must work together as a team to bring funding to our region for public transportation and freeway improvements, for teachers, nurses and firefighters, and projects to improve air and water quality. Even if you live outside of the West Valley, you can help elect a candidate who understands the challenges of our whole community and has a record of breaking down barriers to solve problems.
JG: Talk to me about a few of things you’ve done by working with neighborhood councils.
DC: For the last three years I’ve served as District Director to the City Council’s number-one supporter of Neighborhood Councils, Councilmember Paul Krekorian. I’ve worked with neighborhood councils to build parks and playgrounds, secure Safe Routes to School funding, install new traffic signals, address homelessness, beautify neighborhoods, preserve open space and educate voters. That’s why I am proud to have the support of Neighborhood Council leaders from Woodland Hills/Warner Center, Northridge, Reseda, Encino, West Hills, Sherman Oaks and many more.
JG: Okay but doesn’t this remove you from the neighborhood? Will you still represent small areas if you’re up in Sacramento?
DC: I’ve dedicated my professional career to serving neighborhoods around the Valley and have built strong relationships with community leaders throughout. Government doesn’t work if it loses touch with the everyday concerns of voters. My family and friends are here in the district and I consider this community as an extension of myself. Even if I have to be in the Capitol a few days a week, I will always make sure that I am present and available to the residents of the San Fernando Valley.
JG: What distinguishes you from the other candidates? There are quite a few candidates?
DC: I think the most important distinctions are 1) I am the only candidate in the race with kids in public schools and 2) has the experience in state government needed to get things done in Sacramento. Being an effective legislator means having the ability to navigate Sacramento’s levers of power. In my time serving under former Assemblymember Mike Feuer and State Senator Jack Scott, I assisted in passing critical legislation on education reform, gun control, consumer rights, environmental protection and senior care. I’ll be going to the State Capitol equipped with the tools to succeed.
I’ve also built a good deal of trust with voters because they know I’m playing for the same stakes. As the father of two young daughters and the husband of a teacher-librarian, I have a personal stake in improving our educational system. Our family plays at the universal playground at Lake Balboa, goes hiking in the hillsides of Chatsworth, takes rides on the Orange Line to shop at Warner Center and visits the pumpkin patch at Pierce College. Just like many of our neighbors, we worry about rising cost of housing, how to pay for college and to save for retirement. The choices made by the State Legislature in the next few years will affect my family and yours, and I’ll be passionate advocate on all of our behalves.
JG: Can you affect change in this new role? If you were elected what would the priorities be?
DC: I know that our state government can make positive change because I’ve participated in it firsthand. In Senator Scott’s office I helped pass a bill allowing principals in low-achievement schools the freedom they need to open teacher positions. In Assemblymember Feuer’s office I worked to pass legislation enabling the County of Los Angeles to fund critical transportation projects including the northbound extension of the Orange Line.
It’s easy to be cynical about government but I’ll bring the can-do attitude of the San Fernando Valley to the Capitol to get things done. As your Assemblymember I’ll make sure our Valley gets its fair share of state funding; create pathways to success for the unemployed, graduating students and the state’s underserved populations such as seniors and the disabled; and improve the ability of government to respond to the concerns of everyday citizens. None of these things are easily accomplished, but I have the vision, knowledge and drive necessary to make these priorities a reality.
JG: I know we’ve talked about LAUSD, it’s broken. What will it take to fix it?
DC: As the parent of a first-grader at a high-performing LAUSD elementary school, I’m reluctant to describe the entire district as broken, but there’s no doubt improving educational outcomes for our public school students is job one. With the recent passage of Prop 30, we have an opportunity to move away from the budget slashing of the past decade that created chaos for kids, demoralized teachers, and made parents pull out their hair in frustration. However, that opportunity will be lost if we don’t use that funding to restore trust in the ability of our schools to prepare kids for the 21st Century.
The parents I know want their kids to experience hands-on learning through science fair projects and creative writing, not multiple-choice tests. They know that not every kid can get in the “best” third-grade teacher’s class, so they want frequent collaboration between educators, sharing of best practices, and an open door policy for parent input and ideas. As parents, we want our kids to be safe but not afraid to take risks: to learn to be good citizens, think critically and wake up every day excited to learn. Whether at a small neighborhood school, a huge mega-high school or an experimental charter school, parents want to know that the faculty is working together as a team with a laser focus on educating every child.
As your Assemblymember I’ll make sure LAUSD gets the resources it needs to succeed in the enormous task of educating over 600,000 kids, but never allow bureaucratic inertia to stand in the way of our shared vision for change.
JG: What makes the Valley unique from the rest LA?
DC: My family roots in the Valley begin with my grandparents, whose home in Granada Hills we often visited on holidays. My wife grew up in Tarzana, so when we graduated it was an easy decision to settle down and raise our family here. We’ve made this our home for the same reasons so many others have – good schools, more affordable housing, safe neighborhoods and the friendly, community-minded atmosphere.
I laugh when friends from the Westside or Downtown joke about not wanting to cross Mulholland Drive, because they seem to have no idea how much the Valley has to offer: the delicious food at The Stand and Brent’s Deli, the youthful fun to be had at Sky High Sports and the amazing concerts at CSUN. Making sure we preserve what makes the Valley great as it grows over the next decade is a central part of my platform.
JG: LA is emerging as a hub for technology. As a member of the Assembly can you help make it easier for us to bring in more jobs and talent? It’s really tough being a small business in this town.
DC: Given the volatile economic climate of the past half-decade, it’s a wonder many small businesses have managed to survive. Now, with our economy chugging slowly back to life, it’s time for our government to act in protection of the economic engines still running in our state and grow the jobs of the future.
In Los Angeles, preserving the film and television industry is critical to keeping good local jobs — both the entertainment professionals and the industries that depend on film and television shoots as customers. I support expanding the state’s film and TV tax credit, which studies show not only saves jobs, but actually benefits the state’s budget bottom line.
Going forward, the formula for California job creation is educating a high-skilled workforce, preserving a stable customer base, and building livable communities where new industries will want to settle. California will never have the rock bottom tax rates of states like Texas, but we can and must outdo them in the quality of our schools and the stability of our middle class.