Collaboration is Key

Araceli Hernandez

If someone would have told me that in one week I would have attended four meetings, a historic permanent housing groundbreaking event where I sat behind prominent elected officials, and listened to the Los Angeles City Attorney speak, I would have laughed. However, instead of laughing, I was impressed. My first week interning in the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was beyond anything I could have imagined.  

For my first three weeks I will be interning with the Homelessness and Housing Deputy in District Three. In this past week, through research and meetings, I have learned so much about the subject that I was not aware of. My learning is also courtesy of the ubiquitous acronyms governments use. On my third day I attended a groundbreaking event for a site that when completed would be a place for permanent housing for individuals and families. Not only did I sit behind the LA City Mayor, the District Three Supervisors (current and former), a congressman, and the only female councilmember in the City of LA, but I learned of so many obstacles and considerations needed in order to build homes for an underserved population. Building affordable housing is not as simple as getting a low bid from a contractor and moving people in. There are many questions that must be asked, like “how can integration between the housing residents and community members occur?” or “what are the legal constraints of building a massive affordable housing complex in North Hollywood?” Fortunately, I was able to use the knowledge I learned in my Government in Business class this past spring (a tool which I often find myself using in this internship). This week I also attended a meeting informally known as a “cluster meeting” on health, in other words it was a meeting bringing different agencies that have a stake in health together. It was in this meeting where I could really see the significance of the amount of collaboration needed among the various agencies in order to serve the public. I also realized the magnitude of services to the public. In other words, when there are medical waste programs, there is a lot of coordination involved behind the bins, the flyer, the envelopes, etc. Moreover, when I attended a colloquium on homelessness the idea of collaboration was apparent again. However, it was not just between government agencies, but it was also between government and community stakeholders. In order to be successful in solving issues as a community we must not rely on government for everything, community participation is instrumental in being a part of the solution. Government is a tool and a resource that the public can use.

Being in Supervisor Kuehl’s office has been an incredible experience so far. The people in the office are extremely knowledgeable about their areas of work and seem very committed to change. The office is working to make sure constituents can utilize and benefit from the services that the County offers. I have also been impressed by the questions that are asked by office members in meetings. I wish that constituents could see their interests being represented.

I look forward to the next seven weeks as I learn more about government from the county level. Los Angeles County could be a state itself as it operates with almost a 30 billion dollar budget and over 10 million people. It is easy to get lost in the size of the operation, but I have witnessed collaboration being key towards solving issues.