At South L.A. debate, Bernard Parks says he has delivered; Forescee Hogan-Rowles disagrees
Entering the final stretch before the March 8 election, Los Angeles Councilman Bernard C. Parks and his two opponents met for one of their last debates Tuesday night in South Los Angeles, battling over the causes of blight and high unemployment in the 8th Council District and who would be best equipped to address those issues.
Forescee Hogan-Rowles, who runs a nonprofit in the area and has the backing of city labor unions that have spent about $800,000 to boost her campaign, continued to hammer the central theme of her campaign, which is that Parks is disconnected from his constituents and has not done enough to recruit business to a district that has long struggled to attract new firms.
“If we don’t have businesses operating, then we don’t have job creation,” Hogan-Rowles said at the forum sponsored by the Empowerment Congress Southeast Area Neighborhood Development Council. “We are losing our buying power from this community on a daily basis. In order to get to a pharmacy, some people have to go as far as Inglewood. ... We don’t have basic services that we need right here.”
But the two-term councilman noted that his council district was the only one in the city to show an uptick in employment between 2007 and 2009, according to a report produced for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
“That’s not by accident. That’s because we’ve gone out and caused businesses to come to us,” Parks said. “We’ve brought in at least two banks in our community. ... We’ve listened to you and we’ve brought the kinds of services that you think are appropriate in your community.”
Parks added that he didn’t understand Hogan-Rowles’ description of deterioration in the district. He pointed to new streetscapes and beautification projects on corridors throughout the district, as well as upgrades at parks such as adding a synthetic track at Algin Sutton Recreation Center. “I defy you to go on any of these streets and any of these locations and not see the improvements,” he said.
For much of the night, Parks and Hogan-Rowles sparred with one another, sometimes literally over the head of the third candidate, Jabari Jumaane, a firefighter and fire inspector who has worked for the city for 25 years and sat between the other two candidates at the debate. At one point during the steady volley of attacks between Parks and Hogan-Rowles, moderator Jesus Andrade asked if Jumaane had anything to add. Jumaane threw up his hands and said “No.”
The firefighter said the most critical issue confronting the area is apathy.
“People have been marginalized, set aside. They feel that don’t have a voice in their own destiny,” said Jumaane, who said he would set up quarterly meetings in each quadrant of the South L.A. district to hear residents’ concerns. “We need to go to the people and find out -- how do you want your area and your district redeveloped. ... I’m willing to listen.”
Jumaane also encouraged voters not to place too much weight on his opponents' endorsements: “I’m community-based. I’m grassroots. You won’t see any fancy endorsements behind me -- not that there’s anything wrong with them,” he said. “But I’m beholden to the people -- that’s who I listen to.”
-- Maeve Reston
Photo: Bernard Parks, flanked by his two challengers, Forescee Hogan-Rowles, left and Jabari Jumaane, debate Feb. 13. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times