New LA City Councilwoman Nithya Raman on why she got into politics and what she aims to accomplish

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“I think this changing of the elections and the work that campaigns did to get the word out about the importance of local elections — really had an impact in getting those progressive values reflected in the election results,” says Nithya Raman. Photo courtesy of Nithya Raman.

One of the most closely watched races from last week’s election was City Council District 4, which has about 250,000 residents and covers Griffith Park, Silver Lake, the Hollywood Hills, part of Koreatown and more.

David Ryu held the seat over the last four years. And incumbent City Council members don’t often lose in LA. In fact, it’s been almost two decades since that last happened. 

But Ryu’s challenger, Nithya Raman, attracted an outpouring of progressive support. Hundreds of young campaign volunteers knocked on tens of thousands of doors. And Hollywood joined, with actresses Natalie Portman and Busy Phillips throwing their weight and money behind Raman. Bernie Sanders even endorsed Raman. 

It all worked. Raman, an urban planner from Silver Lake, is now the incoming City Councilwoman for District 4.

Raman tells KCRW that homelessness led her to think about running in the first place. “That was what pushed me to run. But I do think that the broader thesis of the campaign was bigger than that. It drew from my work on homelessness, but it really looked at the city as a source of incredible power.”

She says LA has done a poor job of providing services to those living on the streets. “We have less than a quarter of the shelter beds that we need for our broader unhoused population here. … If you were experiencing homelessness … in most parts of the city outside of Skid Row and maybe a portion of Hollywood, we had made it almost impossible for you to find the resources that you needed to get out of homelessness.”

Raman says she saw a disconnect between the policies coming out of LA City Hall and the progressive values she voted on at a national level. 

However, she says this election was unique for its high voter turnout. “We had an opportunity in this campaign … that many more people who have more progressive values were already at the polls. And I think this changing of the elections and the work that campaigns did to get the word out about the importance of local elections — really had an impact in getting those progressive values reflected in the election results. And I think that will be a very durable change for LA going forward.”

Credits

Guest:
Nithya Raman - LA City Council member representing District 4

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel, Angel Carreras