Newly elected City Council Member Nithya Raman has now been sworn into office in three different ways…and attended her first City Council meeting today as a voting member.
Making It Official
The first of Raman’s oath-takings was in an unofficial private ceremony last Wednesday, with her husband, Vali Chandrasekaran administering the oath of office, and her children playing happily around them in a City Hall courtyard. Yesterday, Raman posted a video of the intimate ceremony on Twitter:
Last week I was sworn in as a member of LA's City Council. It wasn’t a conventional ceremony, but the moment was of so much significance to me and my family.
Today is my first day. To all the people who brought us here: I’m so grateful and humbled to be on this journey with you. pic.twitter.com/foQLYk2Bkj
— Nithya Raman (@nithyavraman) December 14, 2020
According to Raman’s press representative, Jesse Zwick, Raman was more officially sworn in via a private Zoom ceremony last Thursday, so she would be ready to serve in her position starting on Monday of this week.
And then today, during her first official Council meeting, Raman was sworn in again in a more public, but again unofficial, ceremony.
After today’s council meeting oath, Raman made an introductory speech before introducing two motions later in the meeting. In her opening remarks, Raman thanked her fellow Councilmembers for their welcome, and the city of Los Angeles for welcoming her many years ago:
“I am an immigrant to the US. I was born in Kerala, India, and I have lived in a number of different places since then. But it wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I finally felt I had come to a place that would be home for me. This is the only city where I have ever really felt truly at home. It’s the place where my husband and I chose to have a family and to raise our children, because I know they will always be welcomed here. My husband is also of South Asian origin – he is a son of Madurai and Tirunelveli, and I am a daughter of Thrissur and Thirvananthapuram – I now get to represent you. I would never have run for office in any other city. I simply would not have dreamed it was even possible anywhere else. That is the power of America – and especially of LA.”
But while Raman praised LA’s strength and diversity, she also noted what she called its growing “tolerance for suffering,” saying:
“Economic forces are pushing people out of their homes, out of the city, and onto the street. Not just newcomers — families who have been here for many decades — in particular working families, so many Black and brown families, families of color, who are facing pressures that amount to a form of racial banishment…
…I feel the weight of this moment so heavily. It hangs on my heart. The suffering being felt all over this city right now is with me every day. But that’s also why I’m so grateful to be in this seat, on one of the most powerful city legislative bodies in the country, right now.”
Raman summed up her position by calling it “such a joy, such an overwhelming privilege” to join her Council colleagues “in a position to help people in this moment, to create needed policies, to create networks of support, to govern in coalition with all of you.”
(You can read the full text of Raman’s remarks here.)
Later in the meeting, Raman introduced the first two motions of her Council tenure, both of which address homelessness, the issue that has centered both her election campaign and her remarks to various community groups in the days since the election.
The first of Raman’s two motions today aims to shift the work of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) from a mostly reactive response to homelessness to (as Raman described it in a letter to constituents after the meeting) “one that is proactive, consistent, and geographically grounded, where the same caseworkers regularly return to the same encampments, get to know each of their clients by name, and are accountable for their progress towards housing.”
Toward that end, the motion calls for the city to “review…how teams are managed and coordinated; the amount of time and funding resources allocated to outreach programs; where in the city these outreach efforts are taking place and with what consistency; how such outreach efforts are coordinated with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Department of Health Services; how and what kind of data is shared about these efforts with the city; how funds and time are distributed between proactive and reactive outreach efforts; and solutions and opportunities to align outreach programs in a manner that would most effectively serve persons experiencing homelessness.”
The motion also requests that the city report on “all city funded outreach contracts and services, both proactive, reactive, and those available on an emergency basis, which are carried out by either the County, LAHSA, or the City.”
According to Raman’s follow-up letter, “Unlike our current system, in which the majority of outreach occurs in response to complaints and often accompanied by city employees in Sanitation and armed officers within LAPD, proactive outreach has been shown to expedite the path to housing and services, expand data collection, maintain cleanliness, and improve relationships between unhoused people and their housed neighbors and local businesses. Most importantly, regular contact from caseworkers helps build meaningful relationships of trust, which are essential to the work of helping someone from a tent into a home for good.”
Raman’s second motion today was “about building the kind of place I and my former colleagues at SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition have long sought” — asking the city to identify sites and funding for a CD4 “navigation center” where “an unhoused person can use a restroom, take a shower, store their belongings, or speak to a social worker who can help them secure shelter or medical treatment.” Raman said in her community letter that many non-profit organizations serving the homeless in Los Angeles have successfully used such centers, with “hygiene, storage, and caseworker services” to establish relationships with clients and “direct many of their guests into stable housing and treatment.” Raman noted that the City has previously funded such centers in North Hollywood, San Pedro, and South Los Angeles, and this motion, if passed by the full Council, would bring a similar venue to CD 4.
And finally at her inaugural Council meeting today, Raman also signed on as a second to a motion introduced by other Council Members to encourage the creation of more workforce housing in the city.
Meanwhile, in her letter to the community after the meeting, Raman closed by noting that she is “assembling a CD4 Volunteer Corps to harness the incredible volunteerism of our campaign into doing good across the district.” Raman said 796 people have signed up for the corps so far, and she invited anyone who might be interested (whether or not they live in CD4) to sign up here.
Raman concluded her written message by telling her constituents across the district that “I have heard your voices on the campaign and I hold them with me as I enter City Hall. I’m so humbled that you’ve given me your trust, and I’m so excited to begin this journey with you.”