Compton native Tomas Carlos takes big step
Native son Tomas Carlos says his business acumen and willingness to work together with other city officials will advance progress in Compton Editor’s Note: Compton District 3 candidate Tomas Carlos says he has been preparing for
Native son Tomas Carlos says his business acumen and willingness to work together with other city officials will advance progress in Compton
Editor’s Note: Compton District 3 candidate Tomas Carlos says he has been preparing for a run for the council seat for 20 years. A devout man of faith, Carlos said he had to wait on direction from God before he took on the challenge. But if you ask anybody what they know about Carlos, they will tell you he is a Compton native who matriculated at its schools from elementary through high school, graduating from Compton High in 1987. They will tell you that Carlos has organized soccer leagues, mediated peace between rival gang factions through sports, aided neighbors in need, and for more than 28 years has worked diligently to contemporize his community as a design architect specializing in the design, management, and construction of numerous commercial buildings.
Now Tomas, 48, is ready to serve as councilperson for the Third District, applying his business acumen, grassroots organizing experience, and work with youth to help improve the quality of living in the City of Compton. The following Q&A offers a glimpse into his vision.
Compton Herald: Provide a sketch of Tomas Carlos, who you are.
T.C.: [My family] moved to Compton in 1978. I grew up in Compton, went to school in Compton, played Little League in Compton, got in trouble in Compton, got saved in Compton.”
Compton Herald: You’re a seasoned Compton native, someone well groomed in the city’s culture. Now, you want to take on the difficult task of governance. Why and when did you decide to embrace the challenge?
T.C.: When I decided to run, it wasn’t today, it wasn’t last month, it wasn’t six months ago — this has been in the works for the last 20 years. I’ve seen that the Third District hasn’t been taken care of properly [since] Mrs. [Yvonne] Arceneaux left. I don’t see new development in the district — no new buildings, no new construction, no business sense.
There’s Alondra Boulevard, a main thoroughfare. There’s an airport and you have an empty lot that’s acres that hasn’t been developed. My belief is that you need to generate money. Business generates money. Once you have money, you can do a lot of things, like provide jobs.
Compton Herald: Narrow the focus to key strategies for change in the Third District
T.C.: I’d like to bring in a medical clinic that specializes in care for seniors and [military] vets. I don’t see that in Compton. I’ve seen Urgent Care, but I don’t see specialized care for our seniors and our vets.
There are many empty lots, a lot of blight. That needs to be taken care of.
Compton Herald: How important is to have the cooperation of the mayor and other councilpersons to get things done in your district and throughout the city?
T.C.: Very important. You need three votes to pass anything. Over the past year it has been rare to see something come to the table and you could get a unanimous three votes and it passes on the first [talley]. It’s disheartening to see that the mayor cannot get the support to move the city forward.
Compton Herald: How do you circumvent that?
T.C.: On the council you need to show what you’re doing and why. Don’t turn it into a pet project. I’m not about pet projects. I’m for projects that are good for the city, first and foremost the Third District. If I can make things happen in the third district, it’s a trickle-down effect. If I can do something to help the other districts, I’ll do that. But right now I don’t see that happening. It’s not working. Everybody is on their own agenda. This is a city run by a council. It is not a city run by an individual. It’s not a dictatorship. We need everybody to work hand-in-hand to get [the city’s business] done.
Compton Herald: People in general take political office for granted. Everyone is an armchair quarterback, confident they can uphold and execute the often difficult disciplines of mayor and councilperson — hence gadflies. Personally, I believe holders of these offices should possess at the very least a college degree and more than a cursory understanding of the world of business. How does your background and experience in architectural design give you insight into the complexities and intricacies of city politics, management, and contracts, for instance?
T.C.: I’ve been doing architectural design for 28 years. My emphasis is commercial buildings. I do designs, management, and have done budgets for I don’t know how many projects like schools and retail centers. If you can bring experience to the city council, you know that the contacts, the developers — they’re looking at Compton as a place to do business. But they’re not willing to come in because they don’t feel the right people are sitting on the dais. They don’t see change happening as fast as they’d like to see it happen. In business the longer you wait the more it’s going to cost, so [the council] can’t afford to have any setbacks when they start a project. If a contractor has a problem with project because he can’t get his plans permitted through the city, why isn’t the councilperson involved with the process? That’s not really their forte. They don’t know construction; maybe they don’t know business so they shy away from it.
I was at council meeting a few weeks ago and the issue was brought up about hiring a contractor who was already [in the city], who already had equipment on the ground. The council did not vote on allowing this contractor, who was already, to help out with the potholes. People have to understand that construction is not like flicking a light switch and its going to happen tomorrow. There’s a process. Financing has to be in place, first and foremost. When you have the money in place, you’re ninety percent done. Then you have to get the plans approved. Then you have to make sure that you have a contractor aboard and the contractor has to make sure that his contractors are OK. Before you even lay one brick, it could take anywhere from one month to six months to a year depending on who’s on that team. It could take as long as three years.
Compton Herald: Because a project is stalled doesn’t always mean that the mayor or council is deliberately holding up the project as a political ploy?
T.C.: No. Not at all. It’s easy to blame everybody because a project is not moving forward. If you go to Urgent Care to see a doctor and the doctor can’t see you right away, it doesn’t mean they’re not doing their job. You just can’t see it. What I have failed to see [in Compton] is a council that can come together to move the city forward. The pot holes is a big issue; why not give the contract to the guy and extend it. The contractor had already been approved because he was doing work in Compton. He was there. They didn’t extend it. It died on the floor because it couldn’t get support. It couldn’t get three votes to start the process because two councilpersons wanted to put it back out for bid. The issue I have with that, the longer you wait the more it’s going to cost [the city]. That doesn’t make sense because people on the dais don’t understand construction. Maybe they were making assumptions, but what came across is the council was not willing to come together to move the city forward.
Compton Herald: There are many variables that interplay in running a city. Fiscal management, jobs, a host of things, not the least of which is the social scape. What about the problem of wayward young people — the males in particular — and gang activity for which Compton has an undeniable extensive history? New businesses won’t find Compton desirable if that persists.
T.C.: Three months ago three Hispanics were killed two blocks from my house. Before that, a gentleman was killed a hundred yards east of me, and another guy was killed a hundred yards west of me. My home was broken into. I was the victim of a home robbery. I know we need to [reach] our youth, but how do you do that? We can save our youth by providing activities — after school activities, safe activities, leadership activities, religious-based activities. You’ve got to have a mentoring program. Right now, I believe our youth are lost because there are no mentoring programs. We need to get our youth involved with men from Compton, and we need the men to step up.
Compton Herald: Is the gang problem out of control?
T.C.: It could get out of control. It goes in spurts. People die and it stops for a while and people raise their thumbs. People go on the news and say ‘we’re doing great, we’re doing great’ then we get another murder and it seems we’re not doing so good. But that’s not the truth. We have had success and setbacks.
Compton Herald: How would you impact the problem?
T.C.: We have to get to the core of the problem. It’s easy to say it’s gang-related. Well, why is it gang-related? I spoke to one gang member who said to me — “Tomas I need a job.” A week later I learned he got indicted in Pasadena on burglary charges. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to touch this guy in time. He was crying out for help. Now, he’s incarcerated. This is not just a gang issue. It’s a people issue, a survival issue. That’s what it’s about. They’re just trying to survive by the only means they know how.
Compton Herald: What’s your outlook on Richland Farms, a special sub-section of the Third District with historic significance in the city and Los Angeles County?
T.C.: I moved into Richland Farms about 20 years ago. There’s a special connection between the residents of Richland Farms. They’re about farming, helping one another, they’re about survival. But there are some who don’t belong in the neighborhood that are making Richland Farms look bad and I’ve been working with the city and [have worked] with previous councilperson to clean up the area. We’ve been featured on NPR [National Public Radio] and PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] because it is a treasure. And we need to take care of it. As the old saying goes — by the time it’s gone it’s too late.