Kendrick Lamar isn’t the only one with a love for Compton. Aja Brown lives by her dedication to make Compton a better place for its residents, having become the city’s youngest elected mayor in 2013 and won her reelection this past June.
The LA Times reports that Brown won 60 percent of the votes in the recent election, according to preliminary voting data. In the process, she beat one of her predecessors, former Mayor Omar Bradley, who was found to have misused city funds. The charges were thrown out on an appeal, and he’s awaiting a retrial. Brown, on the other hand, isn’t waiting for anything.
Before Brown’s mayorship, she created and oversaw Compton’s Apprentice Program, which hires city residents for public improvement projects. She also co-founded a nonprofit, Urban Vision Community Development Corporation, aimed at erasing generational poverty.
As soon as Brown took office in 2013, she got to work mending the toll that the past government corruption had taken on public funds. That year, Vogue reported that Compton was $40 million in debt. Brown corrected that claim, saying, “It’s really only 20 million. There were a lot of duplications on the books. We have a very fiscally conservative accountant now. We’ve managed to restructure the debt, reduce the interest on our bank loans, and right now we have a budget surplus.”
This year, economic growth spans both public and private sectors. “We have a funded infrastructure plan for the city of Compton, not only for today but for generations,” said Brown. “We’re going to be able to pay for new roads, parks, streetlights. We’ve had a surge in economic investment, from national stores moving into the city to small businesses launching here.”
Moreover, crime rates have declined while Brown’s been in office. She took on gang violence with gang intervention programs. She reported: “We worked with community organizers, our local law enforcement, and former and current gang members to figure what we needed to have safer neighborhoods. We created programs for gang intervention. We launched specialized workshops geared towards that population.”
Brown also banned hourly motel rentals to reduce domestic human trafficking, and she condemned other industries that foster such activity. Brown cited record low homicide rates as proof of changing times.
Brown sees her biggest current challenge as changing how residents view their hometown and themselves as members of the community. “I think perception is so much more powerful than reality. A young person believes that they’re disadvantaged or that they’re behind the curve or that they’re ‘less than,’ then they’re always going to feel that way, and they’ll act that way,” explained Brown. “In Compton, that’s the biggest thing for us; we need to overcome our own perception, our own sense of the limitations on what we can and cannot do.”
In particular, Brown wants to see more women free themselves from limitations. “I focus every day on what I can do to step forward, to step up, to lift up young people, especially young women,” said Brown. “I have always believed women have so many natural leadership qualities. They just need opportunities and access. This is the generation that’ll make it happen.”
If the changes she brought to Compton in her last term seem revolutionary, just wait to see what she does with this term.
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