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Introducing Our New Co-Produced Podcast On the City Council Member Who Sold Out the Community That Raised Him

[dropcap size=big]R[/dropcap]emember when former city council member Jose Huizar’s home and office got raided by the FBI back in 2018? Huizar was supposed to be the pride and joy of Boyle Heights. Then he was charged last summer in a 34-count racketeering indictment; his trial is next year. 

Our collaboration podcast with Neon Hum Media, Smoke Screen: The Sellout, delivers on a lot of the drama, but it also goes beyond the salacious details. This is more than a story about a corrupt politician that *allegedly* took a million and a half dollars in illicit financial benefits, his alleged brazen deals behind closed doors, his trips to Vegas, the envelopes stuffed with cash the FBI took from his home. Behind the spectacle is a story about how the community of CD-14 fought skyrocketing rents and neglect and a man who allegedly sold them out.

We’re kicking off this series with Nancy Meza, an organizer who was a part of Defend Boyle Heights, and our own Erick Huerta, a writer, and organizer. Meza retells a story of how high school band kids fought gentrification in 2016 and how that sparked the beginning of an anti-gentrification movement. 

Erick Huerta shows us Mariachi Plaza and gives some history of the place. We also get to eat tacos together.

We spoke to local mariachi musicians for this episode, too, and got the story of how they fought a rent increase of several hundred dollars so they could stay where they live and work.

“Gentrification is warfare. It’s a literal war against poor people,” said Nancy to L.A. TACO and Neon Hum Media. Nancy pointed to Jose Huizar’s alleged shady dealings with developers as a prime example of how gentrification is not something that just happens naturally. It’s something that’s meticulously planned—years before the first gentrifiers arrive.

The Sellout is nine episodes in total. The first two drop today and then a new episode every [Taco] Tuesday. In the rest of the season, we dig into Huizar’s political career, how he neglected his constituents, how he fast-tracked luxury developments, and how he allegedly shaped Downtown LA, Boyle Heights, Highland Park, and El Sereno to be primed for gentrification. We also talked to folks who saw early warning signs and one former staffer who was there for some of his closed-door deals. We also spoke to some of his constituents who had to feed hungry neighbors or remove trash on their own, after he got arrested.

The Sellout is produced by Neon Hum Media and L.A. TACO. I’m the host. Lexis-Olivier Ray is my co-reporter, and Carla Green is our lead producer. Catherine Saint Louis is our editor. Vikram Patel is our consulting editor. The associate editor is Stephanie Serrano. The associate producer is Liz Sánchez. Our executive producer is Jonathan Hirsch. Samantha Allison is our production manager. Fact checker is Sara Ivry. Our sound designer is Hansdale Hsu. Eduardo Arenas made our theme music. Other original music by Moni Mendoza.

Subscribe to The Sellout on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. And check back here for more stories, including conversations with the composers of the music featured on The Sellout and more investigative reporting about Huizar.

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