On May 12th, 2022, Community Health Councils (CHC) held a Candidate Forum leading up to the June 7th Los Angeles City Primary Elections. This Candidate Forum focused on the LA City Council Race taking place for Council District 15 (CD 15), the district that encompasses Watts/Willowbrook, Wilmington, San Pedro, and Harbor Gateway. CHC strategically held the Candidate Forum at Bethel SOLA Baptist Church in the Watts/Willowbrook community and invited Watts residents to attend to bring CD 15 candidates directly into a community that has long been ignored by running candidates and elected officials in general. Our goal was to give the folks in Watts an opportunity to have open dialogue with the candidates running for city council in their district and also to give candidates an opportunity to respond to questions that constituents pose and connect with the community they would potentially serve. The panel was moderated by Ryann Blackshere Vargas of local LA news station, Spectrum News. CD-15 candidates Bryant Odega, Danielle Sandoval, and Tim Mcosker provided their perspective on issues important to the Watts community and were available to really listen when community members shared their thoughts and concerns as residents. Candidate Anthony Santich was not in attendance that night.

We were so grateful to be able to host this conversation at Bethel SOLA Baptist Church, which has served as a hub for the Watts community. It’s so important for us to be able to have these conversations on our own terms in our own spaces, and not only in places like City Hall or City Council Chambers that are heavily policed and uninviting. It was imperative for us that this event was held in a space that felt safe and welcoming so that civic engagement, in this instance, felt accessible and people felt encouraged and empowered to express their needs and concerns, or simply show up.

With approximately 20 community members in attendance on-site and approximately 30 joining online via livestream and zoom, Watts community members were able to hear from each candidate and made their voices heard with topics ranging from food security and early childhood education to employment and living wages. CHC is proud to have been a conduit for these important conversations and looks forward to furthering empowering residents of Watts/Willowbrook, and all of South LA, so that residents not only engage in local politics, but create a collective political consciousness and build power beyond the ballot!