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Neighborhood Spotlight: Glassell Park activist turned city councilman Mitch O’Farrell offers views on politics and the neighborhood

Mitch O’Farrell riding through Glassell Park | Courtesy Council District 13

By BARRY LANK

GLASSELL PARK — Mitch O’Farrell came to Los Angeles to become a professional dancer, not a politician. “It never entered my mind,” said O’Farrell, who grew up in Moore, Oklahoma. “Not in a million years.”

But after moving to Glassell Park with his partner, George Brauckman, in the 1990s, O’Farrell, became a neighborhood activist. He was then hired as a field deputy by former 13th District Councilmember and now Mayor Eric Garcetti. In June 2013, O’Farrell, who once entertained on cruise ships and worked in the restaurant industry, was elected to succeed Garcetti on the City Council.

“Anywhere I have ever lived,” O’Farrell said, “I took an interest in improving my immediate surroundings.”

We asked O’Farrell, who was reelected in March to a second term with 60% of the vote, about his job and life in Glassell Park

What did you learn from this election?

People everywhere want the same things: clean, safe neighborhoods, more affordable housing, historic preservation wherever possible, and improved quality of life — in other words, a city that works for them. Constituents also want to know that I am accessible and responsive, and that we are working legislatively on policy that provides supportive services to our homeless, reduces tenant displacement, grows our local economy, and creates a more sustainable environment. Although Measure S was misguided and failed miserably, legitimate concerns were raised related to growth and development. I will continue to push for a balanced, thoughtful approach to how we grow as a city.

What did you learn in your first term? Did anything surprise you?

I have learned to offer my opinions more carefully and that, as an elected official, one’s intent can be taken out of context so easily with far reaching consequences.

How has Glassell Park changed since you moved there?

My community has changed a lot! Crime has been reduced profoundly. In some areas, Part I Crime (homicides, burglaries, assaults, etc.) have been reduced by over 90%, making neighborhoods much more livable. We are starting to see a few more neighborhood-serving businesses open up and that’s very encouraging too. We are also a lot greener! We built a community garden, and we’ve planted hundreds of street trees over the years, many since I took office four years ago. Soon, we will begin the reconstruction of the synthetic soccer field at Washington Irving Middle School. More improvements are coming!

Fill in the blank: What my neighborhood (Glassell Park) needs is a ….?

A streetscape! And we installed one, with bike lanes and a landscaped, center median on Fletcher Drive. Next, my colleague, Jose Huizar and I are landscaping another concrete median between our Districts on Verdugo Road. We also need more DASH lines in Glassell Park, Elysian Valley, Silver Lake, and elsewhere. I am working on that!

What do you like least about your job?

Sometimes people form very strong opinions without having the facts. We are seeing this nationally, and one of the things I want to focus on during my second term is working even harder to communicate so that I do everything in my power to make sure people have the facts they need in order to make informed decisions.

What do you like most?

I love being out in my district, meeting new constituents, and working with people who care, and who are ready to roll up their sleeves and work collaboratively with me. I also take great pride in the fact that my office has organized more than 40 community walks in the district. All this is a great source of motivation for me to serve, to get better at it, and make more of a difference. I want to do all I can while I’m in this privileged position.

What are your goals for your second term?

I want to continue to increase pedestrian safety while beautifying our streets with improved sidewalks, medians, lighting, greenscaping, and other enhancements to the public rights of way. To continue rolling out the pedestrian activated traffic signals; 12 approved or constructed so far in my first term. We are on our way to developing the first Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) in the City of Los Angeles, and the State of California, at the Los Angeles River. We are also close to requiring, through an ordinance that I initiated, more affordable housing across the city, not just the 13th District, as well as identify a permanent revenue stream for affordable housing production. I also want to strengthen the local economy through my Open for Business reform measures, which will help small business owners create more jobs and exist a little more easily. I want to put City Hall in the business of serving small businesses, not being indifferent or hostile.

Neighborhood Spotlight features the people who live, work and are active in our communities. Know of someone we should spotlight? Submit their names and details here

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