Newly elected Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman has beat out former City Councilmember David Ryu for the seat in the 4th District. 

The district encomapases parts of the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, both Hancock and Griffith Parks, and more. A former executive at Time’s Up Entertainment, Raman tells Inside the Issues she won the seat by building a campaign that was designed to attract people who were already planning to vote in the general election and were interested in voting down-ballot.

What You Need To Know

  • L.A. City Councilmember-elect Nithya Raman has won the seat in the county’s 4th District, beating incumbent David Ryu

  • The area encompases the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, and both Hancock and Griffith Parks

  • Raman maximized support by utilizing people voting in the general election and getting them excited about voting down-ballot

  • She utilized door-knocking, text-banking, flyers and more in order to get her name out into the public

“We did that in a primary through an extensive door-knocking operation and in the general through every COVID-safe way of doing outreach that we could possibly think of,” she explained. “Everything from dropping lit with handwritten post-it notes on it from tens of thousands of postcards that were sent from volunteers to residents of the district, phone-banking, text-banking, and even street art and banners that flew from people's homes or in prominent places in the district.”

Engagement with the public on local issues was important for Raman’s campaign as they built momentum off of advocacy groups like CHIRLA, the Sunrise Movement, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, and other groups working on social justice and other issues that matter to L.A. residents.

“I think we also were responding to a moment in L.A. history when the challenges facing LA are unignorable," said Raman. "I mean, homelessness is everywhere. It is in every single neighborhood, it is one of the most visible aspects of living in Los Angeles. Over these last few months, as we've had wildfires across the state and our air has gotten so much worse, I feel like we are facing a climate crisis. We are just up against it. And so, in many ways, the arguments that we were making to people that local government mattered, that we had tools that could help us respond to these challenges more effectively than we had been already, the groundwork for people to care, had already been laid by the work of these organizations and by the crises that I think they were encountering in their day-to-day life.”

Social media played a huge role in getting her message out through shareable videos that people could help spread in an attempt to inform others.

“And through the volunteer effort in the campaign, we also created a community of people who cared about these issues, and I think creating that sense of community, bringing people in, that really does do a lot of work in lighting that fire and in spreading the word,” said Raman.

The coronavirus pandemic presented a unique set of challenges for her campaign, forcing her team to find ways of getting her name out into the public.

“I think COVID necessitated innovation, right?" said Raman. "If it weren't for COVID I think we would have just had the largest door-knocking operation, ever. We would have been twice the size of what we did in the primary and we would have been everywhere. I didn’t come from a political background. I didn’t have a name that people knew already, and we had, because of the nature of Los Angeles, because of the kind of district that District 4 is, which has a lot of people who are involved in the entertainment industry and artists within it, we had a lot of that talent among our volunteer pool, and so it was just a very natural outgrowth of both the goals of the campaign and the kinds of people who were involved in helping.”

The former urban city planner said she is looking forward to taking her ideas and solutions to the council in hopes of improving her district.

“I brought to the table a really fleshed out set of policies and ways of approaching some of the big problems L.A. is facing, already, through the campaign, and so I think I bring to this some real clarity around what I think are potential solutions to some of the issues that we are dealing with," she said. "I am, however, very, very conscious of the fact that I'm entering into this position at a time when L.A. is facing a massive fiscal crisis, and where I have a lot to learn from my colleagues that I'll be joining soon, about the challenges that they faced as they’ve tried to address these issues in the past that will be heightened by this fiscal crisis.”

As the co-founder of the homeless nonprofit, SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, Raman has long advocated for those without a home. One of her campaign points was to transform the delivery of services to those who are homeless as well as many other solutions.

“I think there’s a range of interventions that need to happen that address homelessness on the whole, including increasing the number of shelter beds, more cheaply, more effectively, increasing the number of affordable housing units more cheaply and more efficiently than we have been doing, but I do think changing how we deliver services is a key part of this that I haven't heard being given the focus that I think it needs," Raman said.

“Here in Los Angeles, once you're experiencing homelessness in most parts of the city, even today, even with increased investment and services, it is still very hard to get access to the resources that you need to start your journey off of the street,” she added. “We still continue to rely on police far too often in our response to homeless encampments in neighborhoods, and I think we should be leading with outreach and services first, and we should be leading with outreach and services that are really anchored at the neighborhood level, where outreach workers and mental health case workers are given the opportunity to get to know every person in a particular neighborhood who is experiencing homelessness and who is really tasked with working with them to move them into services and into housing.”

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