Mayoral Debate To Headline Empowerment Congress

A Los Angeles City mayoral candidates forum will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, January 19, at the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium as part of the 21st annual Empowerment Congress Summit. The Empowerment Congress, a civic engagement organization, is widely regarded as the forerunner to the Los Angeles neighborhood council movement. Founded by then Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, its mission is to educate and engage the public, teaching Los Angeles-area residents how best to access and influence government.

This year the summit is devoted to helping citizens make an informed decision when casting their ballots on March 5. Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Gruel, former Assistant United States Attorney Kevin James, and technology company executive Emanuel Pleitez are confirmed to participate.

Issues of particular importance to South Los Angeles and the African-American, Latino and Asian-American communities will be addressed at the event—something that sets this forum apart from other mayoral debates. Candidates also will discuss their plans for the future of Los Angeles as it relates to jobs, economic development, transportation and financial sustainability. A press availability will immediately follow the forum.

“It is crucial for citizens to exercise their right to vote, but it is equally important to be well informed,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “The Empowerment Congress debate will give residents of the Second District and the entire city an opportunity to hear the candidates out , make up their minds and and then cast their ballots.”

For the first time in its history, the Summit also will be live-streamed. Residents throughout Los Angeles and anywhere in the nation, who have an interest both in civic engagement and the city’s mayoral race, will be able to watch the event in real time at: In addition, the public is invited to submit questions for the candidates through the supervisor’s website or, as they register for the event, at

The morning plenary session will be followed by afternoon workshops on topics such as civic engagement, neighborhood councils, and coalition building.

The Empowerment Congress was born in the aftermath of injustice and violence: the beating of Rodney King, the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers responsible and the wave of destruction that swept throughout Los Angeles. Under Ridley-Thomas’ direction, a budding neighborhood improvement effort – initiated before the civil unrest — was formalized into the Empowerment Congress, with the motto Educate, Engage, Empower.

The dynamic coalition of neighborhood groups, residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and community leaders now serves over 2 million residents in the Los Angeles County Second Supervisorial District, which reaches from Koreatown south to Carson, and Playa del Rey east to Compton.