First-place finisher & Venice local Erin Darling talks frankly with Yo! Venice about, homelessness, climate change and the upcoming runoff versus, fellow attorney & Venetian, Traci Park.
By Nick Antonicello
If one had to bet that Erin Darling, a former member of the Venice Neighborhood Council and civil rights attorney would finish first or second in the June 7th Primary, that would have been wishful thinking at best.
But he did it and rather easily at that!
Getting into the race last and having 1/10 the financial resources of Traci Park, one of the first of the major candidates to announce, Erin Darling has surged into the lead with a carefully crafted and targeted message that has resonated with voters to the surprise of most political observers that his inclusion in the November runoff is not only a political shocker, but may tell the strength of progressives moving forward in this race to succeed the polarizing and controversial incumbent, Mike Bonin.
A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a BA in History in 2003, Erin Darling received his JD in 2008 as a Bridge Public Interest Fellowship and immediately became a staff attorney for the Eviction Defense Network representing low-income tenants in litigation proceedings. He then went on to work with the Impact Litigation Project, representing plaintiffs in three class-action lawsuits that included the United Farm Workers.
In 2014 Darling became a Deputy Federal Public Defender representing indigent defendants in the Central District of California and in 2017 formulated his own law offices representing plaintiffs in civil rights actions where a young woman was sexually assaulted and molested by staff at a juvenile detention center as well as two women sexually assaulted by staff at a county-run jail facility. His practice centers on representing indigent defendants facing federal criminal prosecution.
Married with a son, Darling is a life-long resident of Venice where he was elected twice as a Community Officer and who’s Dad served as a member of LUPAC (Land Use & Planning Committee) of the Venice Neighborhood Council.
Claiming himself “sixth in spending, first in votes,” the first-place finisher sat down with Yo! Venice on his win and how he plans to remain in first and become the 11th Council District’s next representative on the Los Angeles City Council:
HOW DID YOU FINISH FIRST?
Darling was enthusiastic about his first-place finish, having only 1/10 the resources of the “right-of-center, law and order” candidacy of Venice neighbor, Traci Park.
“Democracy is important, elections are fragile.”
Darling emphasized a volunteer network of supporters who walked door to door and pressed the flesh even in pandemic conditions with what he believed were not “fear-based” solutions, especially when it came to the issue of encampments and Darling believes there must be a “pathway and pipeline” to remove individuals from the streets of Venice and the rest of the district.
“I’m fighting for tangible results.”
WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT FROM MIKE BONIN?
While Darling has the Bonin endorsement, he believes his approach to constituent services and building community consensus will be in stark contrast to the incumbent.
Darling indicated he would be substantive and courteous with his dealings with residents whether they agree or not.
“I want to talk in-person, one-on-one. I will engage every community and neighborhood.” Darling acknowledged non-returned constituent calls and emails was wrong and noted this personal frustration why “people were pissed.”
Darling said he was committed to respecting a citizen’s time and opinion.
Darling is committed to having members of his staff reside in the place where they represent the council office.
“We will provide basic constituent services effectively and timely. I want my Venice Deputy to live in Venice,” noted Darling who is committed to a “48-hour turnover and get back” to residents registering complaints to his council office should he win.
“He [Bonin] waited too long and these issues (homelessness in particular) began to metastasize. It was too little and too late. I will be pro-active.” Darling also emphasized other endorsements he has received such as the popular California State Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica who was reelected with no opposition on June 7th.
HOMELESSNESS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. ARE THESE YOUR PRIORITIES?
Darling emphasized over and over again the need to address homelessness and climate change as the two most important issues facing Los Angeles and CD-11.
“I’m a housing attorney. The encampments represent an institutional failure that ‘enforcement only’ solutions do not work. We have 50,000 unhoused citywide. Most homeless want off the streets and we do have those who are service resistant, but we can do much better.”
Darling pledged to work with thought leaders on the subject of homelessness and will promote an open and honest discussion on how to solve this ongoing street crisis.
Affordable housing and where to build is critical for those residents that are commuting to the Westside. He believes our workforce should have the opportunity and option to live where they work.
“There needs to be an intersection between affordable housing and commuting.”
“Other cities have done it.”
“Los Angeles must get to 100% renewable energy. LA must become the driving force for renewable energy.”
SHOULD LA PRIVATIZE THE DWP?
Darling opposes the privatization of this bureaucratic city agency.
Darling believes we have had “two decades of inaction” when it comes to climate change at the DWP.
Darling believes because the utility is publicly-owned, it avoided “Enron style rate hikes,” and Darling proposes “democratic local control” moving forward.
Darling will focus on “energy grid” applications and wants to see an eventual exit from fossil fuels.
DEMOGRAPHICS, RENT STABILIZATION AND CONTROL:
There are some 17,000 housing units in Venice and just over 15,000 households of which about 13,000 were constructed before 1999. About 4,000 were built before 1939.
35.24% of homes are owner-occupied while 64.76 are renters.
Some 5,000 self-described entrepreneurs reside in Venice with a median income of $110,258. 65% Venetians have a college degree and 47.14% have never married.
Darling stated the best way to prevent further homelessness is to keep people in their homes. Darling supports current rental protections and is concerned by ongoing gentrification of Venice.
Darling believes his positions regarding rent control and stabilization are on the same page of most residents in Venice and the rest of CD-11.
ARE YOU SEEKING THE ENDORSEMENT(S) OF THE OTHER CANDIDATES THAT RAN IN THE JUNE 7TH PRIMARY?
“I am reaching out. I want to be respectful and give my colleagues space and time, but conversations are happening.”
Darling stated that the primary wasn’t “nasty,” and hopes that remains the case in a one-on-one contest with second-place finisher Traci Park.
“Mike Newhouse set the tone during the primary of keeping things positive and I’m confident that can be the case.”
DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE FOR THOSE RESIDENTS WHO SIGNED THE RECALL PETITION AGAINST BONIN? ARE YOU WRITING THOSE VOTERS OFF?
“I had a conversation with a Recall Bonin supporter recently and I’m not writing off anyone.” According to Darling after speaking with this individual he believes he picked-up a new supporter.
“I want to give every voter a reason to consider my candidacy.”
Darling, who did not support the recall said he is committed to reaching out to anyone who wants to talk about the issues facing CD-11.
“The race needs to be redefined by who is in the race, and I believe the June 7th Primary results bear that out.”
COMPARE AND CONTRAST YOURSELF FROM TRACI PARK:
Darling pointed out Traci Park lacks any appointed, elected or volunteer community experience.
“No local roots.”
“I welcome the contrast.”
“Where is the grass roots connection?” offered Darling who is a life-long resident of Venice who played Little League and surfed the neighborhood beaches as a child and young adult. “I question her judgement [Park], not her character. I have the local Venice roots and the professional experience I believe voters seek,” offered the candidate.
Darling was concerned about the amount of money that is being spent on behalf of Traci Park, a relative unknown until she announced her candidacy last July.
Darling believes the results in the June Primary represented a rejection of “special interest, independent expenditure” funding that for the most part was negative in scope and messaging.
“Lot’s of money against me.”
OVERTURNING OF ROE V WADE:
Both Darling and Park are pro-choice, but it was only former council candidate Allison Holdorff-Polhill who made the impending decision an issue in the June 7th Primary. She is currently non-comital for the November runoff between Darling and Park.
LA DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND LABOR SUPPORT MOVING FORWARD:
Park has enjoyed exclusive support from the law enforcement and public safety employee unions while Darling has secured endorsements from the Westside Young Democrats, Stonewall Democrats, labor icon Dolores Huerta and the ILWU.
Former council candidate Greg Good secured the lion’s share of labor endorsements as well as the LA County Democratic Party, and many believe much of that support seems to be in the direction of Darling, as Park’s background is that of an employment lawyer representing management.
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the race for LA City Council in CD-11 and how it impacts Venice. He can be reached online via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org