Why Should I Be Elected? – L.A. City Council District 5
By Sam Yebri
For many families like mine, Los Angeles was always a beacon, the proverbial “shining city on a hill.” Yes, for some, the allure was show business or the sunshine and beaches. But for many like us, Los Angeles was a refuge, a land of safety, hope, and endless possibility. A city of angels with a warm and generous embrace.
My Los Angeles story began 39 years ago when I was a year old. My parents and I landed at LAX, among many refugees with unpronounceable names from far-flung lands across the globe. We were fleeing religious persecution, revolution, and war in Iran. We had nowhere to go. Two young asylum-seeking parents arrived with a toddler, a few suitcases filled with clothes and Judaica, and a humble dream for a better life.
Los Angeles enabled that dream to become a reality. We found an affordable one-bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles and a good public school. Every few years we would move to a larger apartment and an even better public school. This continued a few times until we were blessed to put down roots in Westwood. I walked every day seemingly without a care to our local elementary school on Fairburn Ave and became a Bar Mitzvah at Sinai Temple down the street.
Unfortunately, this dream was not a reality for everyone. The anger that exploded in April 1992 in the streets of Los Angeles revealed the ugly truth that not everyone was treated the same. With our school closed, the evening news became our teacher, highlighting issues – about race and policing, about poverty and justice – that still remain unresolved. My passion to address the issues that the Riots revealed made me return home to Los Angeles after graduating from Yale. Over the last two decades, I rolled-up my sleeves and have tried to do my part to help Los Angeles – as a lawyer, non-profit leader, business owner, and City Commissioner. I started my own firm and advocated for the rights of workers, tenants, and refugees. I have advised startups and small businesses. I have served on the Los Angeles Civil Service Commission, on the board of the Friends of Westwood Library, and on the board of ten different non-profit organizations. I co-founded 30 Years After, which engages thousands of immigrants and first-generation Americans in civic life. I have fought to build housing for adults with special needs, represent our city’s most vulnerable, root out hate and antisemitism, support our libraries and parks, and help prevent gun violence.
Many things have changed, some for the better. L.A.’s air is cleaner and the record homicides from the 1990s seem like implausible statistics.
But much has changed for the worse. Having grown fourfold in population in those three decades, Los Angeles has left so many Angelenos behind, including more than 40,000 who experience homelessness every night. Addiction and mental health grow unchecked on our streets and parks. Wages have stagnated for most while lavish wealth grew for a small few. Meanwhile, seniors and families of all backgrounds have grown increasingly fearful for their safety. And so many of our beloved small businesses have disappeared, including places where my family as new Americans tasted our first donut (Stan’s in Westwood) and first pastrami on rye (Pico Kosher Deli).
What changed the most may be our sense of optimism about the future of Los Angeles. Many see Los Angeles as ailing and broken. Meanwhile, those we have entrusted with the sacred duty of caring for Los Angeles have let us down. They have fiddled as our city’s condition has worsened – or they have been too busy stealing from Los Angeles, enriching themselves or their family members. They have allowed unhoused Angelenos to suffer on the streets while they take too long and spend too much to build badly needed housing. They have ignored the oil wells under our homes. They have watched our streets and sidewalks crumble.
For this, Los Angeles deserves an apology, from all of us. We let Los Angeles down. We delegated our responsibilities to poor caretakers. Los Angeles deserves our attention, our care, our love. Los Angeles deserves what it gave my family 39 years ago – hope. Los Angeles was there for so many of us when we had nowhere to go, and now it’s time for us to be there for Los Angeles.
Here’s how we are going to do it. We will bring urgency to our homelessness crisis by constructing shelters, tiny homes, prefabricated affordable housing, and mental health and addiction facilities faster and more cost-effectively, now. We will offer services and shelter to bring our unhoused neighbors indoors, off the streets and out of parks, now. We will improve how we are policed through reform and restructuring while keeping our neighborhoods safe and rejecting calls to defund and demonize our police officers. We will reform our campaign finance, ethics, and planning systems to root out corruption. And we will restructure every city department from street services to parks and libraries to sanitation so we receive first-class municipal services truly befitting a world-class city.
It is time. Time for us to elect a leader from the community, who loves the community, and who will fight tirelessly for the residents of the 5th District to live in a better, greener, safer, more vibrant Los Angeles. Time for us to elect a leader who from Day One has been clear and consistent on their positions. Time for us to elect a leader who will deliver win-wins for the community. Time for us to elect someone who understands what our small business owners experience. Time for us to elect a leader with private, public, and non-profit leadership experience. Time for us to fire those neglectful and corrupt caretakers and be there for Los Angeles ourselves to nurse our beloved City back to health.
At its core, Los Angeles is still young, healthy, and vibrant. Whenever we have been down, we have always gotten back up stronger. Los Angeles is still the greatest city in the world, that shining beacon of hope and opportunity. I would not dream of raising my four young kids outside of its warm embrace. We will seize this opportunity in June to turn things around, and we will do better.
Sam Yebri is a longtime community and non-profit leader, attorney, small business owner, refugee, husband, and father of four young children who will fight tirelessly for the residents of the 5th District of the City of Los Angeles. https://samforla.com/