The City of Inglewood is where “The only thing that’s changed is everything,” according to its website. True, there have been a lot of changes recently: The K Line runs through the city on its way to the airport; the Kia Forum hosts big concerts; the Youth Orchestra of L.A. and the Girl Scouts Greater Los Angeles have set up shop in the city; and the Rams and the Chargers are playing in its new SoFi Stadium.
And more changes are coming: a new 18,000-seat basketball arena is being built; the city will host an NCAA championship bowl in 2023; and later, the opening ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics will be celebrated there.
Even with all this, incumbent Mayor James Thurman Butts, Jr. is facing five challengers in next month’s election. On Feb. 1, 2011, Butts was sworn in as Inglewood’s 12th mayor. While completing the aforementioned changes, he was re-elected Mayor of Inglewood with over 83% of the votes cast in 2014. He was again re-elected in 2018.
OW spoke to this November’s six candidates — James Butts; Raina Carrillo; Fredrisha Dixon; Angelique Johnson; Chika Ogoke; and Miya Walker — and asked each some questions about Inglewood.
Q: The entire city is nine miles wide, but during the housing crisis, there have been some new apartment developments going up in the area. With construction of the entertainment facilities, it’s rumored that many Inglewood residents have been priced out of living in the city, though there are some older rent control units that give long-term residents some protections. Comments?
Butts (https://joinjamesbutts.com): In spite of new housing developments being constructed including the one at Beach and Hyde Park, rumors circulate that long-time residents are being priced out of the city. Butts dismisses such criticism as possibly racially motivated, and directed at a minority dominated metropolis of Black and Brown people becoming “too big for their breeches,” in the eyes of outsiders. He notes that soaring real estate prices in his town are on par with the rest of Los Angeles County.
“Yes, we do have good property values, and we’re happy about it.” he said.
On his website, Butts further exclaimed: “Inglewood residents like what they see and want to continue on the path of self-determination while creating generational wealth for their children and grandchildren. Promises were made by me when I ran and Inglewood residents can see the results everyday.”
Carrillo (https://www.rainaforinglewood.com): “I have been canvassing door to door for my campaign and 90% of our residents that I have spoken to are not happy with the gentrification and the displacement,” she said. “Affordable Housing is being misused because these new apartments are very pricey. I plan to create permanent housing and redefine what real affordable housing should be. I called to check on a new building for a three-bedroom apartment, and it was $3500 a month, which is insane.”
She is very concerned about Inglewood’s cost of living.
“We see prosperity in Inglewood on a daily basis: Luxury cars, townhomes, and people lined up for concert tickets that cost hundreds of dollars, but we also see that the minimum wage is still the minimum of $15 per hour. All this money coming into the city is not translating into a living wage for its households.
“We have to provide well-paying jobs to our residents, we need to ensure contractors are hiring our residents and we are not being overlooked on paydays in this city.”
Dixon(https://fredrishadixon.com): Dixon, an activist, community organizer and legal professional, has an eye on creating more social service programs to help reduce homelessness. If elected, she wants to fund social services, including Mental Health Programs, and establish an emergency shelter equipped with social workers and access to necessary resources.
“I want to create avenues for Inglewood businesses to benefit from the visitors coming into our city to patronize our entertainment centers,” she said. “I want to be mayor because I love my community and want to help my constituents have the best quality of life they can possibly have.”
The city economy is foremost on her agenda.
“In order for our local economy to flourish, we must ensure that our residents have access to not only jobs, but long lasting careers.,” she said.
To that end, Dixon would provide access to trade training and educational programs for adults and believes that once there is an expansion of education and social service departments,
“We will create careers for hundreds and eventually thousands of Inglewood residents,” she said. “When I am elected I will also amend our rent control program to include all Inglewood renters and be permanent. I will also create a path to homeownership for Inglewood residents who would like to become homeowners, without paying inflated housing costs.”
Johnson (www.inglewoodstrong.org): “He set a tone that outpriced people,” she said, referencing Mayor Butts. “Eventually, there’s going to be a shift, there’s going to be empty apartments and empty homes because they’ve outpriced themselves. The stadium does not improve your quality of life. The residents of inglewood cannot even afford a ticket.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Johnson ran for an Inglewood city council district seat. As a write-in candidate, she garnered 1,700 votes.
“So, you know, we’re not Beverly Hills. We don’t want to be Beverly Hills. We’re Inglewood. Inglewood is a small town,” she said, noting that some grocery stores and family entertainment like bowling alleys have gone away. “We got rid of all the things that made us a decent community.”
Ogoke: The biggest issues Ogoke wants to address include turning more of the city’s assets into affordable housing; redoing the rent control bill for a lower percentage;
“I do know a rent control bill was passed in Inglewood, but residents are still complaining it’s not enough. Aside from turning more of the city’s assets into affordable housing, I am interested in going back in to give residents a rent control bill with numbers they are satisfied with.”
He also wants to increase revenue for small businesses, which he feels will lower city taxes.
“This entails Inglewood Tour Bus & Electric Scooter Vendors for Forum/So-Fi events,” he says in his online comments. “I also want to develop a grant for social media marketers to promote small business.”
The candidate also wants to establish grass roots programs geared toward youth, which entails grants given to non-profits for after school programs in Morningside and Inglewood High that would teach musical instruments and skilled trades.
Walker (www.miyaformayor.com): As someone who has worked in governmental affairs and public relations, Walker’s platform is set on making Inglewood’s residents a priority.
“These apartments, I’m sure, will be in demand at the rate our city is growing,” Walker said, noting that trying to meet demand for housing is an issue in Inglewood, as it is throughout California. “That’s where I believe we can require developers to include affordable units in these developments. We need more affordable units for residents here.”
Walker wants to bring residents together to solve some of Inglewood’s quality-of-life issues, including traffic congestion and transparency into government processes.
“I believe that we have an obligation to maintain our rent control so that we can help the most vulnerable in our city,” Walker added. “This is a largely working class community. We need a place to stay that is safe and reasonable.”
Walker believes that her election will give Inglewood a new opportunity to re-imagine the city as a place where business development and community growth go hand in hand.
“After watching Inglewood become a magnet for developers – it is time to enrich the daily lives of residents so they can also prosper,” she said. “I want to work closely with developers to ensure they serve as good partners that are aligned with our desire to boost economic development while preserving the culture and integrity of our diverse communities. Together, we can make Inglewood a better city to live in and a great place for visitors to enjoy.”
Q: Do you have any plans to reduce the number of negative outcomes between police and civilians?
Butts: During his interview, Mayor Butts noted that he began his career in public service by joining the Inglewood Police Department in 1972, and rose to lead that one and two other, separate law enforcement entities: the Santa Monica Police Department (15 years), and as head of public safety for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). He said he has the ability to mentor and collaborate with law enforcement professionals, and to foster positive relations with the communities they serve.
Carrillo: The candidate believes Inglewood needs fresh ideas, representation, transparency, and accountability. Born and raised in Inglewood, she has been a community leader for more than 20 years and said Inglewood residents have the tools, experience, determination, and courage to promote a vision of community.
“Being a certified gang interventionist, I believe in CBOs, ‘community based organizations’ where non-profit organizations, city hall representatives, law enforcement, gang interventions, and church leaders come together to create open discussions and relationships for all of us to find a common ground in our community,” Carillo said. “When I become mayor, I will make sure to revamp the law enforcement system and build a bridge between law enforcement and the community.”
Dixon: Dixon believes Inglewood needs a new direction at city hall. She’s running for mayor to put “people over profits and politics.” Dixon was sparked to activism following the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. She has called Inglewood home for the past seven years.
The city economy is foremost on her agenda. “In order for our local economy to flourish, we must ensure that our residents have access to not only jobs, but long lasting careers.,” she said. To that end, Dixon would provide access to trade training and educational programs for adults.
“There must be no ambiguity in the Inglewood Police Department when it comes to justifying law enforcement actions. The people of Inglewood deserve nothing less,” Dixon said in response to the OW question.
Johnson: Being raised in Inglewood, Johnson believes that the mayor of a city sets the tone of the city. She said that though she doesn’t have anything personal against Butts, she thinks the city deserves someone who will listen to them, create and visit neighborhood block clubs. “‘Cause we’re all in this together, you need to be part of the conversation and come up with good, viable solutions that work for the majority of the people,” she said.
“About a month or so ago, they had a law enforcement night by Inglewood High School. I talked to a police officer. ‘I know you don’t live in our city, but I need you to act like you’re a resident,’” she said. “The mayor is an ex-policeman. He’s all about giving orders, not taking compassion.”
Ogoke: The candidate wants to establish a police-ride-along program to enhance communications between the IPD and residents.
“I studied sociology in college, and I am aware there is apprehension on both the civilian and the peace officer side,” he said. “I plan to counteract that with programs like police-ride-along programs where both parties can see things from the other’s point of view. In turn, that should make officers more comfortable with civilians, and civilians more comfortable with officers.”
Ogoke noted that the police department does occasionally have events at pop ups, where people in the community can meet officers face to face, but he feels this is not enough.
“We need to take a more aggressive approach, with students, especially high school students, forcing the issue, more of a one-on-one to build better relationships where people get a chance to really see them,”
Ogoke believes that kind of experience can help bring the community and the police department closer.
“We all come from different walks of life,” he said. “My idea is to merge them, while they’re actually working. Give people on both ends more of a social understanding. I think that’s where the divide is. It’s like two different cultures.”
Walker: She has lived in Inglewood for seven years and is primarily known for her extensive work as a leader in higher education. Walker believes that she’s ready to serve as Inglewood’s “chief executive bridge-builder” because of her ability to work with decision-makers, employees, and stakeholders to address complicated issues.
Walker believes that Inglewood needs to change its trajectory right now, since the entertainment district has been built. She is particularly interested in stabilizing the Inglewood Unified District, as schools have been in receivership for 10 years.
Walker feels that most police don’t have proper training to handle people with mental illnesses and a different strategy is needed. Other community agencies must be involved.
“Having spoken to our residents, people are obviously concerned about crime and about this uptick that we see in incidents,” she said. “My belief is that it’s going to really take more than our standard law enforcement personnel to help with public safety.”
Q: There is one hospital in Inglewood — Centinela Hospital Medical Center — is it a concern?
Butts: The nurses at Centinela Hospital Medical Center picketed on April 27, 2020 over conditions including understaffing and the failure to meet California’s safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratio, resulting in inadequate patient care. Butts observes that since he doesn’t actually work there, he has no practical knowledge of the situation, but in his own experience as a patient he has received excellent care.
Carrillo: “Centinela Hospital is dear to my heart because I was born there. I believe the hospital lacks many resources, therefore it isn’t working at its full potential. From my understanding, it is a fully functioning hospital, and as mayor, I plan to advocate for the hospital for more resources.”
Dixon: “In a city the size of Inglewood (roughly 110,000 people), we must have a modern and proficient medical facility to serve the resident’s needs.”
Johnson: “It used to be number one… all the athletes used to go to Centinela,” she said, noting she misses Daniel Freeman hospital, where she used to work as a candy stripe volunteer. “We took out a hospital to make million-dollar homes. We forgot about the people. What kind of a city disrespects schools and hospitals?”
Ogoke: “On one or two occasions, I do recall waiting in the emergency room for a very long time. Perhaps they’re short staffed. My mother is an on-call nurse at Centinela. I imagine they call her in when they’re short-staffed. It must be tough for them since Daniel Freeman hospital in Inglewood closed down,” he said. “From what I’ve observed, and my experience at Centinela, I think it’s understaffed.
Walker: “My understanding is that they’re fully working. There was a demonstration about nursing staffing,” she said. “The pandemic has hit Black and Brown communities and taken a toll on the healthcare system… if that’s at play at Centinela, that would not surprise me.”
Q: Any statement on those electronic billboards? Have you heard complaints?
Butts: In recent years Butts has supervised the placement of electronic billboards around the city. He believes these billboards have made it easier for people to navigate the growing number of amenities Inglewood has to offer.
Carrillo: “Personally, as a resident, I am not a fan of electronic billboards. It’s an eyesore because it’s too huge. But I believe Inglewood is reaping benefits from the billboards being placed all over the city.”
Dixon: Dixon cites this as part of the on-going beautification of the city.
“It will be a focal point of my tenure as mayor to keep Inglewood streets clean, safe and beautiful,” she said.
Johnson: “You know what I call them? Television for the homeless,” she said. “They’re distractive, and who really pays attention to them?”
Ogoke: “Wow, those electronic billboards are like TVs,” he said. “I hope no one crashes, trying to watch those billboards while they’re driving.”
Walker: “This is an unpopular opinion, but they don’t bother me so much,” she said.