90011: Vernon And South L.A. Residents Down On Politics
This story is part of a Neon Tommy Special Report that follows 2012 campaign money in L.A. >>>
Out of the 103,882 residents of zip code 90011, which spans the city of Vernon and parts of Southeast Los Angeles and Florence, three stand out from the crowd.
Jesus Galguera-Garcia, Salvadore Munoz and Charisse Bremond are the only people who have contributed money to a 2012 political campaign, according to website OpenSecrets.org.
Apart from Galguera-Garcia’s $2,500 donation to Janice Hahn last March, Munoz’s $1,500 contribution to the Republican National Committee and Bremond's $1,000 to President Obama, virtually no one has made a political donation in the 2012 cycle.
Residents say it’s simple math.
"We, as the little people, we suffer," said Michael Robinson, a security guard at an outlet store and a long-time resident of the area. "We don't have the money."
Most in South Los Angeles don't have "enough money till the first" of each month, he said. "Then everyone has to spend it all on their bills and food."
Robinson stands on the street corner and is a familiar sight for many South Central residents. He said he's worked the security gig for eight years and makes $8 an hour.
"This job alone won't pay my car bill," he said. "And I haven't even told you about my other bills."
Robinson, who has lived in South Central since 1958, said things were better when he was younger. Central Avenue had been the epicenter of jazz culture in Los Angeles; now, a jazz-themed public park sits in between a flood of liquor stores and textile factories.
"Man, I cry all the time when I think about the good times we used to have," he said. "When it came to the 2000s, I didn't know what the hell was going to happen."
"I don't care about what's going on up there [in Washington D.C.]," said J. Ali, another long-time South Central resident. "It's no help to us black folks."
"The government should be doing a lot more," Ali said.
Both Ali and Robinson expressed mixed feelings over President Barack Obama and his performance as a leader.
For Ali, Obama "was all right when he first ran" but changed after he took office.
"Now, I won't vote for nobody -- no white, no black, no polka-dot," he added.
"I feel like Obama has delivered," said Robinson, "but I feel like the Republicans are trying to do everything to stop him from following through."
"I don't think it's fair," he added. "They [the Republicans] want to keep things the way they are."
The 90011 zip code is home to the city of Vernon, which has had its share of controversy. Most of Vernon’s 112 residents work as Vernon city officials and live in subsidized housing, making the industrial city both the landlord and supervisor to its residents. The city employs 55,000 workers and hosts 1,700 businesses.
From 1980 to 2006 Vernon city officials were appointed, not elected, while outside challengers running for Vernon city posts were evicted and cut off from the power grid.
Allegations of widespread corruption have landed city officials in jail and have led to calls in the California State Assembly to dissolve the city; a bill proposed by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez sought to do just that, but failed to go through. The State Senate rejected the bill in August 2011.
Los Angeles Wave carried comments from the Vernon Chamber of Commerce following the ruling:
“We are extremely pleased and grateful that the Senate rebuffed Speaker Pérez and his ill-conceived legislation that threatened tens of thousands of California jobs and businesses,” chamber President Marisa Olguin said. “If passed, AB 46 would have resulted in the loss of 11,620 California manufacturing jobs. We applaud and support those senators who took the brave stand against the speaker and his tyrannical methods.
“The Vernon Chamber and its business leaders believe that fixing Vernon through substantive reforms is the answer instead of a disincorporation or annexation.”
Residents have expressed deep pessimism over the state of governance in the United States as well as in their immediate area.
"This society is run by a very shallow government," said Ali. He said he believed elected officials were corrupt and were involved in more subversive elements that the government kept hidden from the public.
Robinson also felt times were hard for South Central.
"I really don't feel things are right around here," he said, shaking his head.
Reach Special Project Reporter Aaron Liu here.
Reach Special Project Reporter Hannah Madans here.