From my family to you and yours, Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving 2020, like so many other special events this year, will be a very different kind of celebration. Most of us will be scaling down and enjoying a considerably smaller gathering, in order to keep our friends and community safer during one of the most dangerous periods of the pandemic. Although this celebration may seem different, Thanksgiving still offers us the opportunity to consider all that we have to be grateful for, even in difficult times.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with the 30,000 dedicated public servants who make the City of Los Angeles function. Faced with unprecedented health risks in doing their jobs, and in the midst of a COVID budget crisis that threatens them with furloughs and layoffs, these outstanding men and women forge ahead every day, devoted as always to keeping our communities clean, safe, and functioning.
When the pandemic struck, 2,000 city employees signed up as disaster service workers, working outside their normal roles and providing emergency service in these hard times. Planners became homeless shelter operators, librarians delivered senior meals, lifeguards operated alternative learning centers for students, and zookeepers became COVID contact tracers. The City and its residents owe them a huge debt of gratitude (https://per.lacity.org/dsw/#thankyou).
It's too easy to take for granted the work that our public employees do for us even in normal times. So I want to tell you about just a few people who are extraordinary examples of the countless men and women who work so hard for us every day. Most people in Los Angeles will never know their names - but make no mistake, everyone in Los Angeles benefits from their service, their dedication, and their expertise.
Therman Calloway leads a remarkable Recreation and Parks team that, despite staff reductions and lack of resources, does amazing work to respond to even the most difficult park maintenance needs.
Sherman Torres is a street sweeping wizard who helped our office modify sweeping routes near schools and launch a pilot program to get more North Hollywood streets swept with limited existing resources.
Rachel O'Leary is the program director of City Plants, and she has delivered countless free trees to our community, coordinates with my office for large-scale tree plantings, and works closely with our community groups to keep our urban canopy thriving.
Brian Gallagher and Steve Rostam are ingenious traffic engineers and creative transportation leaders whose work has saved countless lives while taking on the gargantuan task of keeping Valley traffic moving.
John Sappone has made a specialty of helping our office solve challenging problems dealing with streets and the use of the public right of way, including uncommon requests requiring outside-the-box thinking.
Hector Banuelos in Urban Forestry, despite limited resources and personnel, always manages to accomplish the things that make a big difference in our neighborhood quality of life and in the health of our tree canopy, and he is working closely with our office to get more trees planted and irrigated.
Marina Quinonez and Wendy Delgado of the Bureau of Engineering have worked with our office on our Homeless Services Navigation Center and on five bridge housing projects in my district, and in every case, they have treated each project with dignity befitting someone's future home.
Pablo "Paul" Serrano, East Valley Sanitation yard supervisor, never says "no" -- he handles special bulky item removal requests and deals with piles of debris and items that might otherwise fall between the cracks, working proactively with an exceptional team to keep our neighborhoods clean.
Melinda Geejer works with our office to preserve as many trees as possible when applicants file to remove trees for development projects - her creative work at StreetsLA has saved hundreds of trees in my district alone.
Neil Drucker and his staff worked relentlessly with my office to complete the Whitsett Soccer Complex, new playgrounds at DeGarmo and Valley Glen parks, and lighting and facility improvements at North Hollywood Recreation Center and the East Valley Baseball diamonds, to name just a few.
Silvia Torres and Elliott Kowitz keep our streets and neighborhoods safer by ensuring that street lighting is working and outages are dealt with promptly, an increasingly difficult task given the increase in copper wire theft and vandalism.
Bianca Garcia and Juchell Wardlow, staff at Valley Plaza Park, are tremendous community partners and advocates for youth, and they have collaborated with my office to bring new vibrancy to the park and the neighborhood through events and programming.
Gabriel Ahedo and Cesar Gonzalez, LAPD Senior Lead Officers who work tirelessly to ensure our unhoused Angelenos get housing and essential services.
For every one of the people I've mentioned, there are hundreds more in every department who demonstrate the professionalism, work ethic and commitment to service that marks our city's workforce. And of course, now more than ever, we should all be grateful to the first responders of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department, who have faced unprecedented challenges this year, but who still unflinchingly perform their duties and keep us safe, even at risk to their own safety.
I'm especially grateful for the team of professionals that make up my Council District 2 staff. They are resourceful, innovative, creative, dedicated, hard-working women and men who are constantly making a positive impact for the people of my district and our city. I am proud of them always, but especially during this challenging time.
To all those who serve the city, and to all of the people whom we serve, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.