Laura: Hi everyone, I’m Laura Max Rose and you’re listening to Women Mean Business, where we’re letting you listen to extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. We’re live at the Women’s Fund Rockin’ Resiliency, Straight Outta Compton Luncheon, and I am here with the Mayor of Compton herself, Mayor Aja Brown. Mayor, thank you for being here with us today.
Aja: Thank you for having me.
Laura: So, tell us about some of the biggest challenges and the biggest achievements that you’ve had as mayor of Compton.
Aja: I think some of the largest challenges are, there’s a segment of people that are committed to maintaining the status quo, and I think that most people have an inherit desire for change, but that requires doing something different, which most people aren’t willing to do. It’s hard to be able to accept different ways of thinking, ways of doing things, and really, even raising expectations. So, those are just some of the largest challenges, but some of the biggest accomplishments that I take to heart is just having such a positive force on the community, being inspiration for our young people, having young people and their families come up to me and say, ‘Thank you so much for really being a positive face for our community. Now I’m proud to say I’m from Compton.’ So, those are some of the things that you can’t really measure, but statistically, I’m really proud of the economic development that we’ve brought to the city.
We’ve been able to drop our unemployment rate from 18% to 8%. We’ve had significant development in reinvestment. Over two million square feet of light industrial has been under construction in the last two years. We also have significant new companies that are opening up in the beginning part of this year, which provide even more jobs to Compton residents. So, I’m really excited about the economic development, providing local opportunities to people, and really making certain that Compton residents have a seat at the table with all of the growth.
Laura: Well, one of the coolest things that I’ve learned about you in the past few hours is that you have really contributed to a significant reduction in gang violence in Compton through mitigation. Can you tell us more about that?
Aja: Just really organically I had a desire to address the hard issues first, early in my term. One of those things were public safety and violence. And so, we had started a community policing task force, which really focused on intervention and prevention measures, and so we started with prevention, and when we began to evolve, I talked to certain people within the community that I believe have influence to help me bring gang members together. So, we had a huge meeting back in June of 2014, and we had the call and people came. And so, we had almost 100 men in our community center. I had everyone sit in a circle, and I just wanted to hear from them; what their challenges were, what they needed to really make changes in their life, and just asked them for an opportunity and for their commitment to help me really make their community safer; not only for them, but for the benefit of our kids.
And they really helped to work with us, and it’s something that’s going to be a challenge for a long time, but we’ve been able to see tremendous growth in that area and Compton is much safer now than it used to be. And I love to just give people context. When we think of Straight Outta Compton, the movie, and that time frame, that was in the early 90s. And at that time, Compton had about 100 homicides per year. Today, we have on average about 25 homicides. When I took office, we had about 38. The next year, with our gang intervention measures, we were able to drop that down to 13. The next year, we had about 25, and currently we are at about 22 for the year. So, we’re still on track to have a great year, but one life lost is too many, so we’re still focusing on bringing additional resources, focusing on the youth development component, and then also doing non-traditional community safety work.
Laura: Well, what incredible progress that you’ve been able to make. It’s an honor to be able to interview you today, Aja.
Aja: Thank you. I appreciate that, Laura.
Laura: And thank you all for joining us today. I’m Laura Max Rose, and you’ve been watching Women Mean Business.
brought to you by