It’s not really in my nature to get political. I tend to keep my head down, do my work, ignore the chatter and move forward. So it was out of my comfort zone to attend two events last month; first a “Meet & Greet,” for City Council nominee Katy Yaroslavsky followed by a panel of the four candidates running to represent District 5 (that’s us). It’s easy to gloss over these smaller, city-level elections in favor of the glitzier national ones. I’ll admit I don’t always vote when the ballot is so localized, waiting instead for the bigger elections with more recognizable names. But after some time, you realize that the local elections are often more impacting than whoever is running for President. One of the problems I’ve noticed is unless you’re willing to put in the work and really get to know who the candidates are, you’re in a sense throwing away your vote because you don’t know anything about whose box you’re checking on the ballot.

The City Council plays an integral role in our city. Paul Koretz had represented our area for several years, and while he had a few fans, there were many more constituents who were thoroughly frustrated by the job he was doing. To be fair, though, it sounds like a difficult, thankless job in which he was most likely met with angry, irritated constituents complaining about a multitude of issues that were not getting addressed. I imagine the list of problems is triple the length of actual solutions and no matter how altruistic the reasons of becoming a civil servant may be, it’s easy to leave the position feeling depleted and frustrated by lack of action, too. So, to that end, I applaud anyone who is attempting to be elected and take on this role next. It’s not an easy thing to do but from what I witnessed, the candidates all seem to have the energy and passion to do the job well.

But what exactly is the job in the first place? (and don’t quote me, I’m no expert!)  In broad strokes, the City Council is responsible for creating and enacting laws for the city. They’re like the legislative and judicial branch all in one. Each councilmember represents his/her district and together they try to create laws and budgets to benefit their constituents. The mayor works closely with the council and it’s imperative that councilmembers work together in order to create consensus to get the mayor on board with what they want to do.

Councilmembers also take existing city laws and budgets and try to massage them into better serving their community. Because the city of Los Angeles is so huge, our councilmembers often need to work with various L.A. County organizations, reaching across different individual bureaucracies to access resources. They also should be well versed in acquiring available funds on the state and federal levels to help pay for what we need.It was interesting to hear the panel of candidates tackle the biggest issues currently facing our District 5. They each had about ninety seconds to address everything from how to handle the increasing homeless problem; how to create more affordable housing; how to fix traffic headaches and ensure pedestrian safety; how to tackle climate change; how to increase/decrease the roles of police officers; and basically how to better the lives of millions of people from east of the 405 to Koreatown and south of Mulholland to Palms. It’s a huge undertaking and whoever gets the job definitely has his/her work cut out for them.

But now comes the fun part! Between today and the primary on June 7, take a minute to research the four candidates and see who resonates closest with you and who you would like to be your representative on the City Council. Here are the four people running: Jimmy Biblarz, Scott Epstein, Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Sam Yebri. They each have comprehensive websites that detail their professional backgrounds, government experience, where they stand on the issues and how they’ll go about solving them. Then, you may want to find out the next time they’re speaking and try to catch them in person. At the event we attended for Katy Yaroslavsky, we talked at length about crime and how it feels as though the criminals are emboldened to commit these acts because there doesn’t seem to be any real consequences to their actions. She told me about her plan to get more support for police officers and reallocate the mental health and homeless calls to qualified professionals in those fields, thereby allowing officers to patrol more often, arrive quicker and concentrate on why they wanted to be police officers in the first place: to keep our neighborhoods safe.

I wish good luck to Katy and all the other candidates. They are taking on a herculean task by just running for this particular office and no matter who ultimately wins, I’m glad there are those willing to put themselves out there just to help make our city (and community within the city) a better place for all.