“Don’t rate my performance as a councilmember based on what I do. Base it on what I deliver.”
If the number of projects Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino (’00, B.A., communications) has taken on is any indication of what he will deliver for his council area, District 15, then his constituents will likely rate his service quite high.
“My love for people, being on the ground and delivering core city services drives a lot of the work I do. I really love groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings, because it shows what people working together can do to build something that’s positive and important for our communities,” said Buscaino.
District 15 includes the Port of Los Angeles and the communities of Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Watts and San Pedro, where 40-year-old Buscaino was born and raised after his parents emigrated from Italy in the early 1960s.
Buscaino, a Democrat who was elected to the council in 2012 to fill the vacancy left by Janice Hahn, was re-elected in 2013 with 83.33 percent of the vote, one of the largest margins of victory in L.A. City Council history. He is currently the city’s youngest councilmember.
“That 88 percent was a statement that people want change and are looking to a new generation of leadership to make it happen,” said Buscaino, who was recently asked to join the U.S. Department of State’s American Council of Young Political Leaders.
With two sisters and his wife, Geralyn, working as teachers, Buscaino says public service is not only a calling, but is infused in his family’s “DNA.”
“My parents rooted in me the importance of faith, family and giving back to the community—just doing good for others,” he said. “My family environment has influenced the way I treat others and those I serve.”
Buscaino went to work quickly after his election. He was appointed chairman of the Public Works Committee, which has oversight of the Department of Public Works—the city’s third-largest department. He sits on L.A.’s Public Safety Committee, providing oversight of the L.A. police and fire departments, the city clerk’s office, the Port of Los Angeles and the Emergency Management Department.
The Public Safety Committee is a good fit for Buscaino. Prior to his election, he was an LAPD officer for 15 years, where much of his community service and direct public engagement began. As an officer, he created such programs as the Teen Community Police Advisory Board, which works with teens to problem-solve and break down barriers between police and teenagers. He also served as a senior lead officer in his hometown of San Pedro for six years.
“I haven’t left behind the kind of work I did in the LAPD, I’m just doing it at a higher level,” he said. “I now have the opportunity to craft the policy and improve the quality of life for my constituents.”
Throughout his district, Buscaino is backing several community development and restoration projects, including plans for the redevelopment of the 700-unit Jordan Downs apartment complex in Watts, once considered to be the most violent housing complex on the West Coast.
In Harbor City, he is directly involved in the $110 million cleanup and redevelopment of Machado Lake, one of the most difficult lake restorations in California.
In San Pedro, the Port of Los Angeles is spending $50 million for critical infrastructure projects linked to the redevelopment of Ports O’ Call Village.
“We’re bringing San Pedro’s waterfront to life,” said Buscaino. “There is so much interest in investing there. And why not? It’s the most affordable coastal city in the state.”
Buscaino, who graduated cum laude from CSUDH, credits the university for much of his success as a public servant, and has clear memories of what he learned on campus, particularly from emeritus communications professor Richard Turner’s leadership class.
“Look at me today. I’m a communicator, working with a number of community organizations that focus on public affairs around Los Angeles,” he said. “That’s pretty much Communications 101 from Cal State Dominguez Hills.”
Wearing his passion for community service on his sleeve has already begun to open doors for Buscaino.
“There was an opportunity for me to run for Congress and I was told I would have been a viable candidate,” said Buscaino, “But I thought, ‘Where can I have the most impact?’ And I knew it was at the local level. My future in politics is here, in Los Angeles.”