Editor’s note: This is one of several articles in a series of profiles on Westchester/Playa Del Rey Neighborhood Council candidates that Patch will be running leading up to the election.
What would you prioritize if you were voted in?
There are a couple of issues I feel are a priority right now. LAX expansion is probably one of the top ones, and I support the council’s recent recommendation for plan 2 and 9. But I also see new development coming to the Westchester/Del Rey region in both building and construction, as well as reconstruction of preexisting structures around the neighborhood as attrition and age motivate the replacement of some of the complexes around us. I live in an area (District 2) that is predominantly condos and apartments, surrounded by upscale homes and middle income homes. I impressed how the neighborhood has been able to maintain its sense of community in spite of the urban factors that often plan against it.
I lived and worked in Playa del Rey for over 11 years, as an LMU student and high school teacher, and I have lived in Santa Monica's beach community for over 15 years, so my experience of seeing how local issues were handled is fairly extensive.
One issue the locals talk to me about here in District 2 are the speed of the cars traveling down Manchester, and can we slow them down because of safety concerns with children? (A few moms with little ones are big on this). The solution may be to install more signals which is what has been done in other communities. It worked.
Other issues would be to support the growth of both the high schools that are right next to my district....Westchester Science Magnets and St. Bernard. Both schools are trying to redefine themselves, and the success of both doing so will ultimately benefit the community as more local students enroll in these two institutions. Both schools have had major declines in enrollment. This year, Westchester just ranked as the highest improved school in the entire district (and probably the state of California) with a 42 api rise. That's impressive. As a parent with children in the local schools here, I have a vested interest to want to help.
I would love to see a Del Rey/Westchester shuttle….like Santa Monica has, something that allows residents to travel to key locations in the community.
I also see the upcoming need of more oversight in the construction zones that are going to be popping up around the district. Can you reface the community and not hinder the safety.
Who are your primary supporters?
My primary supporters are everyone from the lifeguard at station 44 on the beach who I've chatted with….to the librarian at Loyola Village….to the raven down at the wetlands. (But ravens don’t vote). I talk to a lot of the local residents in my district and some of the local business owners and I've been asking them what their needs are, because that pretty much defines what the neighborhood council is supposed to be about. A lot of college students live in District 2, a lot of business people, airline or airport employees, business employees, school parents, you name it. Some have different needs based on their lifestyle. But they all pretty much want to live in a safe, friendly, well functioning and clean environment.
What issue do you feel most strongly about and what’s your position?
Coming from the education sector, I feel very strongly about reinvesting in the schools in our district. With the remarkable budget cuts, I see all sorts of areas that need to be supported. All three schools (Paseo del Rey Grammar, Westchester, St. Bernard) right next to my district neighborhood have community outreaches and fundraisers. They need to be supported. And the schools themselves need to impress on their students and parents that they are part of the community when they go to school here. That brings responsibility and awareness.
What's one thing most constituents don't know about you?
I like to walk around the neighborhoods where I live. Not drive. Walk. It's a lost art. Because you don't see a community unless you walk around it. You see its people and buildings and design. For a district that is predominantly apartments and condos we have a fairly nice aesthetic. How we build more community in district 2 beyond on own buildings might be an intriguing challenge in the years ahead.
Why did you decide to run?
I decided to run because I spent a lot of time working on a newspaper interviewing a lot of US Congress members about domestic and international issues. After a while I began to feel there is not only a need to help improve the quality of the representatives, but by offering your time and energy, you can at least make the system better. I don't claim to be any genius when it comes to solving problems. I think, however, that I'm a good listener. We need more of that these days.
Gregory Heffernan is running for District Seat 2, a four-year term. To read more candidate profiles, click here.