During a sit-down interview with Dennis J. Freeman, The Bulletin’s editor and publisher, the former City Councilwoman addresses her priorities and being up to speed in dealing with the challenges facing her city. This is the first article of a three-part series of our interview with Mayor Sharif
COMPTON (Compton Bulletin) – There are a plethora of issues the City of Compton is faced with. Mayor Emma Sharif feels she is up to the challenge. In a lengthy interview within the confines of her spacious office at City Hall, Sharif went through her checklist of issues that are currently confronting the city.
Let’s start with public safety. The street takeovers in Compton as well as in other local jurisdictions have become priority No. 1 for many cities to tackle, not just in the Hub City.
“It’s important to know that we are having problems from Northern California, Central California, even down to Southern California,” Sharif said. “All of us are dealing with this issue. All of us right now are looking at different ways at how can we actually address this issue.”
Street takeovers have become such a public nuisance in Compton that city officials, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and local civil rights organizations such as the National Association for Equal Justice in America have railed against this criminal element.
Residents are outraged by the smell of burnt tires and black tread marks left as a lasting neighborhood souvenir. Lives have been lost. So, what are Sharif and the other Compton officials prepared to do about this alarming problem?
“I want the community to know one thing, we are going to continue addressing this issue until we can eradicate it out of the city,” quipped Sharif. “And the other thing that we are doing is towing cars. We’re definitely towing cars. We’re taking the cars. We have increased the fines. We’re giving tickets out to spectators.”
Joining forces with law enforcement, particularly the Sheriff’s Department, has been a big step for the city to take in trying to tamper down the street takeovers, Sharif said.
“What we’re doing now is what we’ve been doing…is working closely with the Sheriff’s Department,” Sharif said. “And what they’ve done is that they’ve gotten additional resources into the city. It’s not gone away. I’m telling you they went away. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But I am saying what they’ve been able to do, they’ve been able to curtail a lot of it. It’s not as many out here now as it was. It’s still here, but it’s not as many.
“What they’re doing is that they are working on different engineering strategies for us…we’re looking at different strategies in order for us to actually be able to implement of what we can actually deter more of from taking place in the city.”
During the 44-minute interview with Sharif, the mayor exuded a warm, motherly tone during the conversation. However, through the frank discussion about city matters, Sharif left no doubt exhibiting the quiet strength that has helped her navigate the channels of politics.
She took over as mayor in 2021. Before her current elected position, Sharif served as councilwoman of the city’s 4th District. And prior to that elected stint, she worked as a trustee for the Compton Unified School District.
So, she knows her way around the city well. When Aja Brown decided to terminate her political career (at least for now) and gave up her reign as mayor of Compton, Sharif threw her hat in the ring to run for the city’s top spot. She won. But running for mayor was not a plan that Sharif had sought to do. She mentioned that she received a phone call about the possibility of running. She promptly hung the phone up.
“I got a call and I said I’ll call you back,” Sharif said. “That’s what I said to this person. I hung up. It took me a while before I was going to make a decision through this…I wasn’t sure. I kept looking at what it was that I was going to be able to do and whether I was going to be able to get anything done. That’s because you have challenges in trying to get things done. It happens all the time. The only thing that I could do is come in here and try to do the best that I can do as far as trying to make sure that I can get some things done here.”