Hugo Soto-Martinez returns for a second time to chat with us about the upcoming vote for leadership in the neighborhood over the next four years. Hugo performed well during his primary contest against L.A. City Council incumbent Mitch O’Farrell for L.A.’s 13th district, when almost half of the area’s voters chose him as the next Council District Representative; nearly 42,000 voters came out for the contest, of whom Hugo’s campaign captured at least 41% to Mitch O’Farrell’s 32%. Our convo touches on protections for renters and property owners amid gentrification, climate change, Karen Bass’ candidacy for mayor, and more. Vote-by-mail ballots arrive to mailboxes around October 8th, 2022; and Election Day in Los Angeles is Tuesday, November 8th, 2022.


pink stars on gray tiled street sidewalk

Six days before the June 7th Primary in L.A. County, 9 out of 10 voters remain missing

As of May 31st in L.A. County, less than 500,000 ballots were returned to the registrar, while more than 5.1 million remained in voters’ hands (8%); the single-digit rate was not far removed from California’s as a whole on the final day of May 2022. Statewide, about 2 million ballots were returned for the June 7th primary, while about 20 million remained in voters’ hands (10%). For voters in central L.A. like yours truly, there were at least 32 different contests to consider, from state senator, to governor, to county judges, local city council-members, and more.

Less than 500,000 ballots of 5.6 million for the June 7th primary were returned in L.A. County by May 31st; Political Data, Inc.

Today, our voting systems technically provide equal access to voters across categories of ethnicity, gender and age, but there’s much to be said about their providing equitable access to voters within these same categories. Consider that of the 5.1 million ballots across L.A. County still in voters’ hands, as recently as 2020, about 13% of people in the county, or 1.3 million people, were officially living in poverty. For California as a whole, as recently as 2019, at least 6.3 million people were living in poverty.

Our voting system, greatly influenced by those of the ancient Greeks and Roman empire from over two millenniums ago, continues to emulate some of their shortcomings as well; both Greek and Roman voting events barred women, enslaved people, and foreign-born citizens from participating. Today, L.A. County bars potentially 1 million undocumented folks in its boundaries from voting, while also failing to provide special privileges for voters from its most under-served communities, including women of color, single mothers, formerly incarcerated people, immigrants, and more.

It’s also evident that in the elections of the Roman empire, those whose votes counted most were the propertied class, something the Greek philosopher Aristotle identified in his Politics (350 B.C.E.) as “timocracy.” In the Roman philosopher Cicero’s Republic (from 129 B.C.), his description of the the 6th Roman King’s classification of society illuminates their ancient system further:

“[A]fter choosing a large number of knights out of the whole people, Servius divided the rest of the citizens into five classes, and separated the older from the younger. He made this division in such a way that the greatest number of votes belonged, not to the common people, but to the rich, and put into effect the principle which ought always to be adhered to in the commonwealth, that the greatest number should not have the greatest power.”

Cicero, On the Republic – Book 2 (129 B.C.). Translated by C.W. Keyes (1928)

But not every facet of these older systems was so restrictive or exclusionary. For example, did you know that the Greeks actually compensated people who traveled from other towns to Athens’ center to participate in their Assemblies, or what today we would consider conferences or conventions?

With this in mind, consider that if we borrowed just 1% of Cali’s unprecedented $98 billion surplus from 2021, we’d have at least $975 million on hand, or about $154 to compensate each of approximately 6.3 million of California’s poorest voters to participate in the state’s elections. And if we took 2%, we’d have nearly 2 billion, or $309 for each of them.

From some experience, yours truly can tell you that there are far more single mothers across L.A. County and the Golden State interested in $300 than in deciding on Sacramento’s next Insurance Commissioner. But if we were to include both items in a single package, where participating in the former leads directly to the latter, the results could be game-changing for this “most democratic” state of the United States.


L.A. Mayors Ball: 1913 – 2022

How time flies. Below, from left to right, are 15 L.A. mayors over a 100 years and then some.

Henry Rose, 1913 – 1915. Charles Sebastian, 1915 – 1916. Frederick Woodman, 1916 – 1919. Meredith Snyder, 1919 – 1921. George Cryer, 1921 – 1929. John Porter, 1929 – 1933. Frank Shaw, 1933 – 1938. Fletcher Bowron, 1938 – 1953. Norris Poulson, 1953 – 1961. Sam Yorty, 1961 – 1973. Thomas Bradley, 1973 – 1993. Richard Riordan, 1993 – 2001. James Hahn, 2001 – 2005. Antonio Villaraigosa, 2005 – 2013. Eric Garcetti, 2013 – 2022. Gina Viola, 2022 – 2030, perhaps?

And from our latest at Making A Neighborhood: “There’s also no telling just what the city’s first non-male mayor in its nearly 241 years in existence could achieve for voters with a term or two onto 2030, and all the more so given L.A. city hall’s historically inequitable—and often compromised—structure in any case. But given Viola’s strong position on divestment from incarceration for L.A.’s most vulnerable communities—especially Black Lives—a policy that’s also gained increasing momentum at the voting booths over the last decade, it sure is something different for the city and its neighborhoods in generations; in fact, with the data and ground-game in mind, it’s an unprecedented opportunity.”

Mail-in ballots arrive this May 9th, 2022. And Election Day is June 7th, 2022.