By Paul H. Seo
The author is councilmember of Rancho Palos Verdes and deputy attorney general for the California Department of Justice.
As a child of Korean immigrants, I am very familiar with the concept that it takes a village to rear a child. However, seven months into my tenure on the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council, I am finding out that this adage also applies to fulfilling my duties to my neighbors who elected me in November 2022.
I knew prior to being elected that serving on the city council would require a lot of time and sacrifice away from my family because I would have to sit on subcommittees, join external organizations, and travel to ensure that Rancho Palos Verdes had representation.
I also knew being a city councilmember required me to navigate balancing my duties as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice, husband, and a father. Yet, I did not anticipate that one of the most critical elements to finding success and carrying out my responsibilities would be the importance of my relationships outside of my own city council.
I have been fortunate enough to have opportunities in public service and civic engagement for most of my life. I served in civic organizations as a youth, served the United States as a Captain in the U.S. Army, and also was elected as a Central Committee Member for the Los Angeles Democratic Party and an Executive Board Member for the California Democratic Party.
Through these various positions, I had the opportunity to build relationships and expand my network with Members of Congress, California State Assembly Members, California State Senators, Los Angeles County Supervisors, Los Angeles City Council Members, and local labor unions.
As I delved deeper into the pressing issues in Rancho Palos Verdes, I realized that we did not have all the resources on the local level to meet all our needs and it would call for much more collaboration with other levels of government.
A prime example of this is the Portuguese Bend landslide which happens to be the largest landslide in North America. The landslide in Rancho Palos Verdes has continued to move roughly eight feet a year in some spots which poses an imminent threat to the surrounding homes.
By leveraging my existing relationships, I was able to raise the awareness of the consequences of the landslide and have meaningful conversations with our state and county elected officials in trying to find funding, $33 million to be exact, for our long-term solution to mitigate the landslide issue.
Analyzing solutions and composing policies gave me first-hand experience and understanding that members of municipalities must have strong and personal relationships with other levels of government to be effective and actually address the pressing issues.
These relationships with different levels of government and local leaders allow councilmembers to cut through, at times, extremely bureaucratic channels and deliver essential services to residents including building infrastructure, providing public safety, maintaining water and sanitation, promoting economic development, and overseeing land use and zoning.
Having strong relationships, which in part is your village, helps local city councilmembers advocate for their communities as well. When these relationships are rooted in one’s village, they facilitate opportunities for city councils to have a seat at the table of discussions of issues that may have a big impact on the local level.
Los Angeles County consists of 88 cities and has a population larger than many states, so it is imperative that municipalities are part of conversations surrounding topics like public safety, housing, energy, technology, etc.
What I know now for sure is that the needs of Rancho Palos Verdes or any other city cannot be accomplished alone by a single person or entity. Just like it takes a village to rear a child, local municipalities can only find sustaining success by collaborating with other levels of government and stakeholders.
By taking the time to build and keep relationships, city councils can increase their chances of success and make a positive impact on their communities. I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to be a living example of this truth and will continue to work diligently to expand the village for Rancho Palos Verdes.