Traci Park Inaugural Speech, December 11, 2022

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CD 11 Councilmember Traci Park

Thank you all for being here on this glorious winter afternoon.

And special thanks to LMU, my alma mater, for holding this ceremony and to Antonio
Villaraigosa for doing the honors today and for the wonderful introduction.

I also want to thank all of my family, friends, colleagues, and constituents who made this day possible.

It’s thrilling to see so many people who matter to me, gathered here for a single purpose – to publicly uphold our commitment to the peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to another.

Every time this happens, at any level of government, it reinforces our great democracy. And that’s something we can never take for granted.

And for me, it’s very fitting to be sworn in as a public servant here, because Loyola Law School taught me so much about the power of legal advocacy to change lives.

Since childhood, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.

And as I pursued my dream through middle school, high school, and on to college, one of my greatest inspirations was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

My other great inspiration was Matlock.

Seriously.

I mean, who doesn’t want to brilliantly defend justice, week after week, and deliver results in under an hour?

Of course, my awe for Matlock’s TV character eventually faded into nostalgia for his down-to-earth common sense – but RBG continues to burn brightly as a guiding light for me.

Justice Ginsberg’s groundbreaking accomplishments as a pioneer for change are as inspirational as the words she chose to describe them: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

But RBG has been an inspiration to me not just because of her incredible 27-year career on the Supreme Court, but just as much because of WHO she was and what she had to overcome in her life.

She lost her mother the day before she graduated from high school and became one of only 9 women at Harvard Law School with more than 500 men.

She was once asked by the dean of the Law School, “why are you at Harvard taking the place of a man?”

Her story – a story of persistence and never taking no for an answer – is something that has guided me throughout my life.

I was raised in a working class family in Apple Valley. My mother was a school secretary and the president of her union, and my late father was a US Army Veteran and lifelong member of the Communication Workers of America before he passed away in 2005, when I was just 28 years old.

After my parents divorced, my mom raised me on her own for a lot of years. I watched her
work long hours, and struggle financially to support us both, often sacrificing things she wanted so that I could have everything I needed. We collected dollar bills and pocket change in a jar on the kitchen counter – our Friday night pizza and movie fund.

I was taught the value of family and hard work at a very young age. In my community and in my family, nothing was given to you. You had to work for everything that you had.

This is something that Mayor Villaraigosa knows all about – being hungry and driven to go
beyond any expectations that others have for you. Fighting for what’s important and, just like the Notorious RBG, never taking no for an answer.

No one in my family had ever gone to college before, but somehow, it was always assumed that I would. We didn’t have the money to pay for it, but I was determined to find a way. So, I started waiting tables when I was just 16, stockpiling dollar bills in a shoebox under my bed. By the time I graduated, I’d saved a few hundred dollars, which seemed like a small fortune at the time. It was just enough to pay for gas and roadside motels on my long road trip to Baltimore.

I worked two jobs in college [Johns Hopkins University] to make ends meet and borrowed heavily to pay the rest. I worried about the debt, but I knew that this was an investment in me, and my future, and that the hard work would pay off.

I came back to LA in 1997, and started law school, right here at Loyola. I was broke, and had to borrow more, and work even harder to pay the rent. I struggled to make ends meet, but law school was my dream, so I dove in deep.

My time at Loyola prepared me well to fight for those things I cared about, and to do it in a way that lifted up the people and communities around me. I learned to think critically, to ask hard questions, to evaluate facts, and construct compelling arguments. I learned there were two sides to every story, and that the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. I learned how the legal system yields decisions that impact us all – especially when lawmakers get things wrong.

I’ve had a successful legal career for more than 20 years. I wasn’t interested in politics and I certainly wasn’t a political insider. But when I saw what was happening to our Westside, I knew that something had to be done – that someone had to fight for what we cared about.

So we started this campaign almost two years ago in a front yard in Playa Del Rey. A few of us friends and neighbors sat down to talk about the problems. We had no idea what we were doing, but we believed we could make a difference.

I was a first-time candidate, with no political experience, no ties to City Hall, no database of donors. I was taking on the power of incumbency, the establishment, and a system that isn’t hospitable to outsiders like me. Early on, people told me I was crazy, that I would have no chance.

But we kept going.

That first meeting in Playa del Rey turned into a hundred more, and a remarkable thing
happened – people flocked from every corner of this district, ready to go to bat for their values, united in a vision for responsible leadership and a better Westside. We put away the politics to focus on pragmatic solutions.

We fought our way through a tough primary and an even harder general election, where people who had never even met me and trolls on the internet said awful things about me.

But even in the darkest days of the race, we never let the detractors get us down…because they were outnumbered by all of you. And you all have always been what this has been about for me.

It was you, the people here today and tens of thousands more just like you, from Palisades to Brentwood, Venice and Mar Vista… Sawtelle, Playa Del Rey – and YES Westchester, it was all of you who stood by me and believed in me. You lifted me up when I felt like I couldn’t keep on going. You were there for me in a way that I will never forget and will always be thankful for.

People came out strongly against me because our campaign and this election DID serve as a threat to the status quo. It was a referendum on failure we’ve seen enough of.

I wasn’t elected to sugar coat things or be quiet on the sidelines. You’re sending me to City Hall to fight for the things you care about, and I will never back down.

We will move with a sense of urgency that has been lacking for years now and stop all of the excuses and finger pointing, and we will do it in a way that leads others join us.

This is my pledge to City Council District 11.

As an attorney, I fought tirelessly for my clients. As your Councilmember, I will fight for you as my constituents – whether you voted for me or not.

I will be your voice at city hall and my office will be responsive to everyone in the District who actually wants to fix problems and make things better here on the Westside.

We have BIG challenges ahead of us, but I’ll approach them in a way that leads others to join me in working as a team to advance the issues we all care about.

As I look around our beautiful district, I am humbled by the trust you’ve placed in me. We have incredible assets – from the economic engine that is LAX and the entry point for tens of millions of visitors, to our environmental resources – our precious wetlands, the Santa Monica Bay and our coastline, to our beautiful Santa Monica mountains.

Our cultural and educational resources, hospitality and retail offerings, and vibrant business sector attract visitors, students, workers, investors, and innovators from all over the world.

And yet, in the midst of all this bounty, our District has thousands of fellow human beings
residing in our public spaces without basic services and sanitation. They live in tents and
vehicles. They inhabit broken-down RVs and makeshift shelters. They sleep on streets and
beaches, in parks and neighborhoods.

And as these encampments have grown in size and number, the sanitation and public safety toll on their inhabitants – as well as on surrounding communities – has become completely indefensible.

FOR YEARS, we’ve collected and disbursed hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to solve homelessness, yet FOR YEARS the problems have continued to get worse.

Last month, Westside voters made a clear choice.

You elected me to change things.

We can and we will do better. We will fight for urgent and compassionate solutions that get people off the streets and into safe settings, but I will also fight to keep our communities safe. I will fight to make sure that kids can safely come and go to school, for seniors to access their local Senior Centers, and for safe parks and libraries for families and their kids.

We WILL clean this district up no matter what it takes. That is the mandate that I received from all of you and that will be the top priority of my administration.

From day one, my team of homelessness innovators and problem solvers will hit the ground running. There are no quick fixes, but you’ll hear no more bureaucratic excuses. Together, we’ll set goals and forge real solutions for the Westside.

It won’t happen overnight, but it WILL happen.

As RBG told the New York Times in 2009, “Time is on the side of change.”

We are going to make change, but we don’t have the luxury of time.

We’ll begin taking those steps immediately and we’ll transparently report results.

My job will be to generate new, data-driven practices linked to measurable and successful
outcomes. But I can’t do my job without you. Moving past the status quo is going to require your participation and your continued support. We must find ways to work side-by-side. We won’t agree on everything, but we can start where we have common ground.

There is so much more that unites us than divides us. We all care about the environment and protecting our natural resources.

I’ll prioritize sustainable policies that mitigate climate change, protect our natural surroundings, and improve our economy. We’ll invest in workforce development that supports careers in green and clean-tech industries. We’ll support working families and renters who are playing by the rules and deserve a place in the westside as much as everybody else that calls CD11 home.

I’ll also be a strong advocate for the Westside business community and the needs of its vital workforce – including housing. By building a strong partnership between the City and local businesses, we’ll revitalize our District, boost our economy, and make sure the Westside retains its place as an event destination.

Our District has many competing priorities and viewpoints, and I promise to hear you and learn from you, and to represent ALL the residents and businesses in Council District 11.

In closing, I want to express my heartfelt thanks for the overwhelming number of messages from people all over the District who’ve wished me well and offered their support. Nobody can do this all alone, and your support has meant the world to me in ways that you can’t even imagine.

And while I can’t possibly thank everybody who stood by my side, I do want to highlight just a few people who have been instrumental in this campaign.

To Rick Taylor and the rest of the campaign team, thank you for pushing us over the finish line. I appreciate each one of you and thank you for fighting for me throughout this campaign.

To my volunteers, who gave up their weekends to knock on doors and make phone calls, YOU put in the work that created this moment. Your hard work moved the needle, and this victory belongs to YOU.

To our LAPD Police Officers, Airport Police, Park Rangers, and all of the law enforcement groups who supported me early and stuck by me – I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve been vilified long enough and that stops with me. You have my support and I won’t back down in making public safety a top priority in CD11.

And to our Firefighters… what can I say about our firefighters. You took a chance on me, you believed in me, and you fought for me in ways that I will never, ever forget. You didn’t just show up, you went to bat for me. You demonstrated loyalty in a world where loyalty is a rare thing. When things got tough, you had my back. Now, I’ve got yours.

And finally, to my family and my closest friends. I know this campaign was hard for all of you – we didn’t have as much time together as we would have liked, but you never complained. You hugged me when I needed it, you loved me even when I made mistakes, and your support gave me the confidence I needed to rise for us all.

Now, the campaign is over, the hard work begins. Together, as RBG reminds us, let’s fight for the things we care about, and do it in a way that leads others to join us.

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