Lall, candidate for LA mayor, has a plan

Ritu Jha-

“One thing I will say about my daughter is that whatever she takes on, she will do. She is not just a talker, she is a doer.”

That is what Jessica Lall’s father, Hemant Lall, told indica about her daughter running for the mayor of Los Angeles next year.

The term-limited Mayor Eric Garcetti has been nominated by President Biden for the position of United States ambassador to India.

Hemant Lall

Lall, who is of Indian descent, will be facing over 14 candidates, the top two winners going on to duke it out in the general election in November.

Hemant Lall, who was in the San Francisco Bay Area with a fundraiser for Jessica hosted by Vinita Gupta, a Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur, said that since his daughter felt for the homeless.

“I took her to Delhi, where she saw a lot of poverty when she was young. She said, ‘Dad when I’ll get an opportunity, I will take care of the homeless,” Hemant Lall said, going on to describe how she had served as a student body president at the University of Southern California.

Lall spoke confidently to a small gathering, taking hard questions from donors about the reason she is running, her views on the homeless and opinions on ways to address rising crime.

“I am running for mayor of Los Angeles because our city needs a leader with a bold vision and the ability to manage our way out of the multiple crises of homelessness, housing, and the pandemic that we are currently facing,” Lall said. If elected, she will be the first woman, the first mother of a young child, and first South Asian to serve as mayor of the city of 3.9 million.

Lall said she was uniquely prepared to lead Los Angeles through these crises, and cited her experience, and executive leadership skills, having worked on pressing issues both inside and outside city hall.

She told indica that her unique professional experiences and deep understanding of Los Angeles’ challenges made her uniquely prepared to serve as the next mayor.

Currently, Lall is CEO and president of the Central City Association (CCA), which focuses on the future of urban centers like downtown Los Angeles. She said she has built coalitions to push for solutions on homelessness, housing affordability and to support good jobs and opportunities in the city.

“I also bring experience that can help our city recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic,” Lall said. “Working in the mayor’s Office of Economic Development following the great recession [in 2008], I worked directly with small and large businesses. I saw firsthand where the city government can step up and where it should step back.”

She added: “Equally important, the city’s next chapter is deeply personal for me as I raise my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter in this city.”

Reflecting on mental health and drug issues in Los Angeles, Lall said she understands this.

“I also lost my younger brother to mental health and substance abuse issues, so when I see so many people suffering on the streets, I see my brother and family’s pain,” she said. “I will work tirelessly to bring mental health and addiction resources to Angelenos that need it most.”

Lall said that, if elected, she would address homelessness differently.

“We have more than 40,000 people that are homeless in our city, and that number continues to grow,” she said. “As mayor, I will bring aggressive, informed and consistent leadership to this crisis and establish a comprehensive citywide strategy so that everyone is working together, towards shared outcomes.” She then outlined a seven-point homelessness action strategy that plans for many housing types, evaluating the creation of a public health department to deliver mental health services and address the legal implications of how the city manages its sidewalks, streets, parks and other shared public spaces.

“Los Angeles has studied and analyzed problems for years. What we need right now, is a bold leader that will put ideas into action,” Lall said.

Asked her thoughts about the call to defund the police and addressing rising crime, highlighted by the series of mob lootings in the city, she said she takes public safety very seriously, seeing it as one of the city’s fundamental responsibilities.

“I believe in investing and supporting our first responders,” Jessica said, adding that all Angelenos should be safe in their communities, and that police have an important role in accomplishing that.

“Like so many issues, this issue is personal to me, as my home has been broken into twice,” Lall said. “We need to look at our broken systems that contribute to crime: get people back to work and embrace community-based programs while being unwilling to tolerate organized crime.” She also called for a police department that operates with accountability, justice and community partnership.

She said her views were molded by the late Warren Bennis, a professor at the University of Southern California, and her father, who instilled in her the importance of community service from an early age.

“I knew that whatever careers I pursued, service to others would be my guiding value,” Lall said.

She said that she also hoped to promote diversity.

“Like many Angelenos, this city is my chosen home,” she said. “It’s a place that celebrates diversity and a place where you can turn dreams into realities. Diversity, opportunity and creativity are shared values that unite us. Every neighborhood is part of the fabric of the city, and so is every Angeleno.”

Lall said her record showed she could come up with innovative solutions and build strong coalitions to get things done.

“As mayor, I will bring new voices into the conversation and harness their experiences and expertise to move our city forward,” she said.

Gupta, who hosted the event, told indica, “I want to support people whose voices I care about. I know her father very well [as someone] with high integrity and [Lall and her father as] people we can trust, people who are unifying, whether you are a Democrat or Republican.”

Gupta said that, like her, Lall is a pro-business person, while also caring for people – the have-nots and the homeless.

“We all should applaud the younger generation taking the initiative in politics. Just her entering the race is important and that is why we decided to host her,” Gupta said.

Asked why Lall had joined a crowded race, Luke O’Dea, Lall’s husband, said it took a long time for them to decide what to do. It was in February that she started talking to a consultant about forming a campaign team.

Puja Kapoor, one of the attendees, said, “The reason I am supporting her is that I love her ideas. They are very practical. [She] seems to have a plan, She understands the [homelessness] problem and has a solution.”