Culver City city council candidate Freddy Puza is the Director of Community Relations at Loyola Marymount University, where he has worked for 17 years. He spoke to the News about his political credentials and what he feels he would bring to the council.
“In this role, I work with neighbors, local businesses and government entities on strategic initiatives in order to build strong relationships with the community and to further the university’s positive impact in the region,” Puza said. “Prior to my current position, I worked in graduate recruitment and marketing and communications. I’ve served as the co-chair of the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association, president of the Staff Senate, and I co-founded an anti-racist group for faculty and staff members. I have a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from Cal State Fullerton and a master’s degree in English Literature from LMU.”
Puza first became interested in politics when he came out as gay in the late 1990s.
“I learned about the political, structural, and cultural forces that prevent members of the LGBTQ+ community from accessing resources, opportunities, and receiving equal rights under the law,” he said. “I realized that the way to create a more just society was to get involved politically and to advocate for change. My passion to help the LGBTQ+ community evolved into a desire to help all people to survive and thrive, and doing my part to create a more equitable and sustainable world.”
He also volunteered on Skid Row for many years, helping the homeless community.
“Direct service is compassion in action, but the organizer of the group I worked with taught us about the need for both justice and compassion, and that had a profound impact on my understanding of ways to make a difference,” Puza said. “For example, structural issues cause homelessness, and we can work on addressing these issues at the local level, as well as partnering regionally. My experiences on Skid Row inspired me to apply to serve on the Culver City Committee on Homelessness, which I was a member of for three years. I was then appointed to the Culver City General Plan Advisory Committee, which gave me a more comprehensive look at how the city operates and a vision for the future.”
Puza has long been active in Culver City community groups too: Fox Hills Neighborhood Association, Protect Culver City Renters, Culver City Community Conversation, Culver City Democratic Club, Culver City Community Coalition, Culver City Action Network, Culver City Historical Society, Culver City Police Department Civilian Academy, and Leadership Culver City.
He said that his biggest achievements so far include protecting local renters. “As a member of Protect Culver City Renters, I’m proud of the work I’ve done to help bring rent control and tenant protections to Culver City,” he said. “Almost half of our city’s residents are renters, and a significant percentage of those renters are Black, Indigenious, or people of color, and they are severely-rent burdened. Per the Costar Group, since 2010, rents in CC on average have increased 65% or 70% per year, yet wages have increased minimally, if at all. It’s so important to preserve our existing stock of affordable housing and to prevent displacement, especially for families, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.”
He also co-organized the first Culver City Pride Ride & Rally in 2021 and this year. “Although attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community have changed dramatically since marriage equality was legally recognized, our rights are still under attack across the country, especially for our trans brothers and sisters, and non-binary folk,” he said. “Everyone in the city needs to feel welcome, safe, and free to be themselves. We embrace diversity only when we celebrate our differences and uniqueness.”
As for his platform, Puza is running on Sustainability, Diversity and Community Well-Being.
“Sustainability: Closing the Inglewood Oil Field, electrification of all new construction and transit, and improving energy efficiency in all city operations,” he said. “Supporting the expansion of the Sustainable Business Certification Program. Making alternative mobility improvements and assuring greater connectivity. As we address climate change we can be a leader in protecting the health of all community members. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Values: Ensure voices heard least often are represented and prioritized in all policy-making. Assure that budget decisions reflect our commitment to equity. Acknowledge and make amends for historical wrongs, and re-create our community as a place where everyone can thrive. Community Well-Being: Housing, Mobility, and Public Safety; meeting our Regional Housing Needs Assessment goals by making it legal and feasible to build a sufficient supply of housing, including affordable housing, providing protections for renters, and housing our unhoused neighbors. Embrace Vision Zero fully. Allocate resources in our budget so that we’re able to support all members of our community to thrive and provide public safety that actually makes everyone safer.”
Finally, Puza feels that the current members of the City Council have been through some challenging times, particularly due to the still ongoing pandemic.
“I’m impressed that the city has been able to remain financially solvent, and appreciate the concerted efforts made by our council to plan for and address the significant local pension shortfall.” he said. “(Measure RE has proved to be valuable to that end.) Culver City has been able to mitigate many of the negative impacts of pandemic because of the strong leadership of our council and a great deal of hard work by city staff. Our city council has made progress in a number of areas, including mobility, housing, and sustainability. For example, they were able to secure funding and move forward with the Project Homekey motel conversions. This will provide temporary and permanent housing with wraparound services for up to 76 individuals who are unhoused in Culver City by the end of 2022. We should applaud these successes, while continuing to build on the progress that’s been made.”
He does say, though, that the differences between members is stark.
“There is no denying that there are differences among council members regarding the need for change and the desire for things to remain the same,” he said. “Sticking with the status quo is easier than embracing change. But in order to meet the challenges of this moment, we must be willing to face the reality of changes that are already in motion; we have many more employees in Culver City, and they need homes. Climate change is happening so we need to make Culver City friendlier to pedestrians, wheelchair users, bicycle and bus riders. Caring about diversity, equity, and inclusion means we need to change the way we create public safety that meets the needs of everyone in the community. It is inevitable when people discuss important issues that people are passionate, but as we implement changes, we need to be respectful and patient with one another. I think there is always room to grow. In particular, I think the city council should increase communication about what is going on in the city and do more community outreach to include more people in the process.”
Go to freddypuza.com for more info.