Crisis in Compton: Is the City Council shutting down good ideas... just to settle political scores?
COMPTON, Calif. (FOX 11) - Is bad blood between members of the city council and the mayor killing projects that could benefit the city of Compton and its residents? Some people say yes, and the evidence they point to is a video that has surfaced showing Councilwoman Janna Zurita explaining why she turned down a proposal by Compton resident Chico Brown.
Chico is a former gang member who raised half a million dollars to invest into the city of Compton. His idea was to unite rival gang members with a background in construction to rebuild and restore parts of Compton that desperately need it.
"I got guys from East Side Crips, Pirus and Hispanics working together to rebuild this city. I went to the Mayor, 'Do you think this is possible?' She said, 'Yeah, write up a proposal,'" Chico said.
He wrote up the proposal, and suddenly gang members who couldn't stand each other before were excited to work together for the betterment of Compton.
General contractor Derrick Amos said, "It seemed to be a no brainer to go to the city, 'Hey, we got this money, we got these guys that want to come back and repair some of the damage that they've done over the years. They want to show the young folks that gang banging isn't the way to go.' It was a slam dunk."
But what they didn't know is that the City of Compton, according to many residents, is in crisis and Brown's project was caught right in the middle of political infighting.
When he presented his proposal, Councilwoman Janna Zurita, Tana McCoy and Councilman Isaac Galvan voted against the proposal.
Chico was devastated.
He said, "After that happened, we just sat around like, man this is terrible. How could you do that to the people of Compton?"
Chico believes the answer to that question was captured on camera. He had been filming his proposal for a possible documentary. This exchange with Councilwoman Janna Zurita was captured in a public setting in council chambers right after his project was voted down.
Zurita told Chico, "That's what you get for fucking with Aja. That is what it is."
During the exchange, Zurita made it clear, she doesn't like Aja Brown, the Mayor of Compton.
Zurita: "This is her whole project!"
Chico: "She has nothing to do with this!"
Zurita: "Sometimes, it ain't what you do, it's who you associate with. You know that better than me Chico! You know that better than me! I wouldn't support that mother f----- to eat s---!"
When FOX 11 asked Zurita about the infighting, she denied it.
"That's not true! I don't know where you get your facts from but that is not true! I have never, NEVER not voted to pass something to progress the city of Compton," said Zurita.
Compton Mayor Aja Brown said this isn't the first time a project that would benefit the residents of Compton gets turned down by the same council members: Zurita, Galvan and McCoy.
We requested interviews with all three council members on this matter and they all declined.
Brown said the three council members often reject projects if they know she supports them.
"I have experienced bringing on Adidas, bringing projects forward to restore our parks, even to repair our streets and there is a voting block that has voted no against these improvements," said Mayor Aja Brown.
Councilwoman Emma Sharif tells a similar story.
She said, "A lot of the things that I want to bring, or I may suggest, never happen and same things with the mayor because we are not part of the voting block."
Compton City Council is made up of five members. A voting block of three is a majority vote. Zurita proudly talks about her three votes in a video posted on Facebook. She can be heard saying, "They can call it whatever they want to. They can call it gangster, they can call it whatever, but when you have three votes, that's how you get things done."
But is that legal? Not if you ask the Mayor.
"For one person to reach out to other members and confirm their vote prior to the vote happening is a violation of the brown act and that would warrant an investigation," Mayor Aja Brown said.
For the men who wanted to make a difference in their community, the outcome to such a promising project was heartbreaking.
Laron James, a Compton Crip said, "I thought it was BS. I don't see how they could turn it down."
Chico said at this point, he simply wants the truth to be exposed and for the corruption in Compton to stop.