At just 26 years old, he wants to get affordable housing and more educational programs for his community

Elizabeth Alcantar recalls that when she was in high school she was the second most outstanding student on the campus. However, not even this position allowed him to obtain more advice from the counselor.

He explains that there was only one counselor for university subjects who served almost 200 senior students at Elizabeth Learning Center in the city of Cudahy.

"I spoke very little with the counselor … If I who had good grades could not see it, what could the other students expect?" He questioned at that time.

So after graduating in 2011, the young woman decided to advocate for education and began meeting with students to provide them with information related to university and vocational schools.

Little did she imagine at that time that this step would lead her to get so involved with her community until she became a city councilor in the city of Cudahy in 2018 and two years later as mayor of the place – at 26 years old.

Cudahy is a city of 35,000 inhabitants, located southeast of Los Angeles where 95% of the inhabitants are Latino and 50% are immigrants.

Alcantar, is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, has two younger brothers and has always lived renting places with her family, first in Huntington Park and then in Cudahy.

Therefore, he said he knew the hardness of having to pay the high rent of the house.

“And since we don't have rent control (in Cudahy), the owner raised the rent up to three times a year in a‘ legal ’way, raising it 9.5% instead of the 10% required per year,” said Alcantar. "In Cudahy 80% is a tenant."

Let's do it

While Alcantar was studying at Cal State Long Beach, he became more involved in civic, political and educational activism. He decided to be commissioned in Cudahy, where he said he had constantly seen injustices that were done behind closed doors.

"Once they nominated a councilor in just one day, without announcing to the community … For me, the problem was not with the person they elected but with the process," he said.
Experiences like that motivated her to run for councilor and in 2018 she won the position.

Elizabeth Alcantar has been involved with her community since her teens. (Supplied)

At that time, few believed in her tenacity as they considered her too young for the position. However, the young woman continued to get to work and presented her first two proposals.

These included temporary rent control and protecting tenants against eviction without a specific reason.

Although Alcantar did his job showing all the housing data and carrying dozens of tenants who talked about the injustices they faced, both measures were rejected by the city council in a 3-2 vote.

"It is because there (in the Council) everyone is homeowner and not everyone understands exactly one tenant," said the young politician.

This was the first time that many residents were able to identify with their councilor who was a tenant as well as many of them.

Cudahy City Council members are part-time employees and earn a salary of $ 600 per month, which is why everyone has regular jobs.

Alcantar has been a community education organizer at the Coalition for Immigrant Human Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA) for two years and has a degree in political science and sociology from Cal State Long Beach.

A plane tests its tenacity as a leader

The young woman said she was nominated by the then mayor of Cudahy, José González, to serve as mayor. He won by a vote of two in favor, one against and one abstained.
She swore as mayor on January 7, 2020 and had not even spent a week in her new position, when she faced an unfortunate situation.

On January 14, and in broad daylight, a drizzle-like liquid – which was later determined to be jet fuel – fell on schools and neighborhoods in southeastern Los Angeles, primarily affecting Cudahy residents.

The plane that left Los Angeles Airport (LAX) heading to Shanghai, China, was forced to return due to mechanical problems. However, before making his emergency landing, he had to get rid of a certain amount of fuel.

"I still didn't have my first meeting as mayor when I started receiving notifications on my cell phone of what was happening," Alcantar recalled.

"When we saw where it is that airplanes can throw gasoline, it clearly specifies that it cannot be done in populated communities and Cudahy is a very populated community."

Elizabeth Alcantar was sworn in as mayor on January 7, 2020. (Provided)

So without further delay the mayor contacted the Delta airline and demanded that they immediately clean the areas affected by the fuel spill.

"We also sent people to the community clinic in the area and AltaMed for review," said the mayor. "In a period of three days we held a community meeting to inform the community of what was happening."

He added that on the same day of the incident, Delta sent equipment to clean the fuel of schools and parks but that from there they have not followed up to know the health of the people.

"We are asking you to reimburse us for the money we spend paying extra time and those are expenses that leave the city," Alcantar said. "Also the expenses of the emergency community meeting must be recovered."

Leaving a legacy

The mayor said that she has learned quickly how her work works and that she is willing to continue giving her face for all the inhabitants of her city.

Each member of the City Council of Cudahy can serve a maximum of two terms, of four years each, and between this period can be nominated as mayor of the city serving a period of one year.

Alcantar said she plans to leave as legacy more affordable housing and healthier neighborhoods.

He wants residents to feel safe and get involved in the community, that tenants are not evicted and that there are more parks and educational programs.

“Young people are changing the narrative and through social networks. I constantly find out what's going on in my community (for the platforms), ”he said.

"I am more accessible and I see that older people communicate more with me on Facebook and Twitter and young people on my Instagram account."


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