90006: South L.A. Immigrants Talk Politics
This story is part of a Neon Tommy Special Report that follows 2012 campaign money in L.A. >>>
I visited zip code area 90006 several times during the past month, trying to figure out what residents think about the 2012 election. The most common answers I got: “Sorry … Don’t know English.” Or “Can you speak Spanish?”
This is an area with a dense population of immigrants. Spanning through Mid City, Mid-Wilshire, Pico Union, West Adams and Westlake, 66 percent of the residents are foreign born. About one-fifth are U.S. citizens, according to city-data.com. More than 73 percent residents speak Spanish at home.
For those who vote, politics isn't necessarily a major force in their lives.
Twenty-year-old Victoria Gonzalez will experience her first presidential election with a right to vote. But she said she is not going to vote for any one.
“Because presidents have things they promise, and they don’t accomplish,” she said. She didn’t give specific reasons for her opinion.
“I just don’t believe what they say,” she said.
Jose Rodriguez, 32, did vote, and said he will vote in November. But he's not sure how he'll be voting. “I have no idea.” Rodriguez said he hasn’t been following news and politics for quite some time.
This diverse part of Los Angeles is not a lucrative one for politicians. A little over $5,000 in contributions have trickled in as of May, according to opensecrets.org. That's one-sixth as much as the average zip code.
According to online Federal Election Commission records, nearly $3,000 came from the top four contributions. The top contributions included a $1,000 donation from Koreatown Plaza President Joong-Nam Yang for William Tong, a Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate; a $1,000 donation by Faith Mitchell, owner of Metropolis Mediations, to Barack Obama; a $500 donation from Mary Coley to Barack Obama; and a $500 donation to Ron Paul by Bryan Michael Turner, a USMC Veteran.
“Economy” and “Fairness” were the two words mentioned often by residents in this area.
Jouseph Vargas is unemployed now. Doing odd jobs from time to time, he relies on his big family to support him and his son. Jobs, he said, is no doubt the very issue he is concerned about most.
“We were like the envy of the world. Now we are in the worst situation ever," he said.
And he is unhappy about the health care system.
“I don’t understand why we can’t have universal health care like many other countries,” he said.
Vargas voted for Obama in 2008 and said he will vote for Obama this year. Because “He is trying to help the middle class. I feel like he’s trying to help us. I’m all for that I guess.”
USC student Carolina Caycedo is a resident. She was concerned about education fairness. “Best programs are offered by private colleges,” she said.
There should be more public universities like UCLA, good and affordable, she said.
“I think there should be wider alternatives. That’s not happening in this country. It should be wider alternatives and public education should be as good quality as private one.”
Seon Choi supported Obama’s plan to tax rich people more because he said it’s unfair that rich people enjoy lower tax rates. He also opposed wars overseas.
“We have to pay a lot, and we didn’t get anything from it,” he said.
Reach reporter Kay Chinn here.