Los Angeles City Council member David Ryu spoke at UCLA Luskin about his journey to elected office and goals for reforming local government at a Jan. 27 Learn at Lunch gathering hosted by Public Policy. Ryu, who immigrated to Los Angeles from South Korea at age 6, said he took advantage of strong public schools — including UCLA, where he earned a bachelor’s in economics in 1999. As a young man, Ryu believed “government is something you protest, not work for” — until six years working with Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke showed him the power that local officials wield. “If there’s a problem and they have the will to do it, they actually have the power and the resources to get it done,” he said. “Holy cow, sign me up.” Ryu later became the first Korean American, and only the second Asian American, to serve on the City Council. At the Luskin School session, Ryu fielded questions about parking requirements, bus-only lanes, campaign finance reform and a universal basic income. Most of the conversation, however, centered on Los Angeles’ struggle to house its people. “It’s a humanitarian crisis,” Ryu said of the city’s 36,000 homeless people, as well as thousands more who can barely cover their rent. Ryu said he is pushing to amend Los Angeles’ “antiquated” city charter, which contributes to scattershot housing policies. Ryu, a member of UCLA Luskin’s Board of Advisors, was accompanied by his legislative and communications deputy, Jackie D’Almeida MPP ’19.
View more photos from the Learn at Lunch event on Flickr.