- FRANCESCA FRANCO
Kenneth Mejia: Bringing financial literacy to Angeleños in the race for LA City Controller
LOS ANGELES — Kenneth Mejia, a certified public accountant and housing justice activist from the San Fernando Valley, finished the primary election with a nearly 20-point lead over his opponent, Councilman Paul Koretz, and is looking to secure a win as Los Angeles City Controller in November.
“I feel very humbled and honored by the amount of support,” Mejia said. “I think people are excited to have someone represent them who is qualified, who is an outsider and is already doing the job of providing transparency and accountability.”
Mejia, who garnered 43% of the vote in June, has used his campaign to provide accessible and relevant information to Angelenos, including free online maps of affordable housing units, Los Angeles Police Department traffic and pedestrian stops, and locations where residents are more likely to receive parking tickets. His platform includes prioritizing public housing, ending homelessness, and combating climate change through results-driven financial and performance audits.
Among Mejia’s main objectives is spreading financial literacy, empowerment, and education to community members.
“If you understand where the money is going, then you have more power to talk about these issues,” Mejia said. “Right now, that’s very difficult because a lot of people don’t know where to find this information.”
The City Controller is one of three offices elected every four years by a city-wide popular vote. As the elected paymaster, auditor, and chief accounting officer, the City Controller oversees three major divisions: Audit Services, Accounting Operations, and Financial Reporting and Analysis. Although the City Controller cannot make decisions on the budget, they can provide recommendations and additional insight on the effectiveness of City departments, programs, and expenditures.
“It’s important for people to understand because this position is very powerful,” Mejia said. “We’re essentially in charge of letting people know where their money or taxes are being spent and if it’s being spent efficiently or effectively.”
Since entering the race to replace Controller Ron Galperin, Mejia has called for more financial transparency and accountability in the City government and the reallocation of funds away from police and toward community resources.
“The People’s Billboard,” which sits at the corner of Olympic and Crenshaw boulevards, is Mejia’s most widely seen project. The billboard compares the City’s financial investments in the LAPD versus housing, transportation, and homelessness.
“When people talk about funding and the police, it can be a very charged subject, and that’s why this position is important because you can show people numbers objectively,” Mejia said.
While LAPD funding dipped slightly in the wake of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the department’s overall budget continues to grow. In June, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an $11.8 billion budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, bringing LAPD’s total funding — which includes operating costs, salaries, and pensions — to $3.2 billion.
But crime rates in Los Angeles have not declined, Mejia says. Rather, as LAPD’s overall budget increased over the years, so have crime rates. He emphasizes the need for more community-based alternatives to police that invest in housing, education, and healthcare.
“We don’t ignore that crime is a problem, but we have to be honest about how to combat it,” he said.
Mejia’s campaign resonates with many Angelenos. One thousand volunteers, ranging from high school and college students to seniors and grassroots community organizers, have joined the campaign to assist with phone banking, fundraising, canvassing, and communications.
A win in November would make Mejia the first Filipino elected official in the City of Los Angeles and the first Asian American Pacific Islander elected to a city-wide position. He hopes to inspire the youth and debunk the widely held misconception that AAPIs and Filipinos are quiet when it comes to politics.
“Having a Filipino in a diverse, representative political body really shows that you can win as a minority. You can bring your set of life experiences to the table and when you’re fighting legislatively or, in my case, digging through the numbers,” Mejia said.