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UCLA employees Raag Agrawal, Jacob Wasserman to appear on NWWNC ballot

Raag Agrawal and Jacob Wasserman, both candidates for the North Westwood Neighborhood Council’s worker stakeholder seat, are pictured. The race is the only contested seat in the council’s May 4 election.

By Matthew Royer

April 12, 2023 12:15 a.m.

Two candidates running for the worker stakeholder position in the North Westwood Neighborhood Council election will face the voters next month in the council’s only contested race.

Raag Agrawal and Jacob Wasserman are both UCLA employees running to represent the worker stakeholder position on the council that represents Westwood Village and UCLA to the Los Angeles City Council.

Agrawal is a doctoral candidate at the UCLA-CalTech Medical Scientist Training Program, and Wasserman is a research project manager at the Institute of Transportation Studies. Both candidates are endorsed by Streets For All, an LA-based transportation advocacy group focusing on pedestrian and bicycle access, with each scoring 100% on its endorsement questionnaire. Both are running on platforms with a focus on increasing the accessibility and safety of transportation programs available to students and community members in Westwood.

Voters can head to the polls or send in their mail-in ballots by election day on May 4. Registering to vote for neighborhood council elections is a different process than general elections because of exceptions made for nonresident voters, such as students who are community interest voters and employees who work in Westwood. Additionally, citizenship is not required to participate in neighborhood council elections.

Students and community members can register to vote and request a mail-in ballot by April 15 using the city clerk’s website.

Raag Agrawal

After moving to the Westwood area over three years ago and participating in the Student Researchers United-United Auto Workers strike last year, Agrawal said he was inspired to run for neighborhood council to advocate for housing and transportation issues through a medical lens. If elected, he said he plans to serve as he finishes his medical student doctoral program at UCLA-CalTech, where he is studying human genetics with a focus on improving cancer care for patients with prostate cancer.

Agrawal, who is also a Columbia University alumnus, said after living in New York, England and India, he has experienced how efficient, quality transit systems can positively impact people’s lives.

“The system is not really thought of as public transportation,” Agrawal said. “It’s thought of as like a welfare system for the poor, and it’s treated like that. It’s not a true way to get around LA.”

He added that, if elected, he hopes to advocate for the expansion of transit services in Westwood, including a heavy-rail line and an on-campus stop for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor.

As a renter who lives in graduate student housing provided by UCLA, he said he is concerned with how the housing crisis affects students in Westwood, adding that he will have to find non-university housing soon, since the university limits graduate student housing to three years per student.

If elected, Agrawal said he will place an emphasis on finding solutions to alleviate the housing crisis and will advocate on behalf of students who are forced to commute long distances, live in their cars or couch-surf because of the lack of affordable housing in Westwood.

“It’s completely unacceptable for a developed country,” he said.

While Agrawal acknowledged he did not realize that he could have run for the candidateless graduate student stakeholder seat in the election, he said that he feels it is better to run in a contested election to show the importance of giving the community a choice between different candidates.

Jacob Wasserman

A longtime community participant of the NWWNC, Wasserman said he is ready to take the next step and serve on the council he has already dedicated his time to if elected.

A graduate of the Luskin School of Public Affairs and Yale University, Wasserman has worked in city government in New Haven, Connecticut, San Francisco and the LA Department of Transportation prior to joining the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, where he is a project manager helping research public transit and other mobility issues.

Wasserman said working in city government and being involved with the neighborhood council has provided him with the resources to understand how change is created between council members and the community.

“I sort of see change happening at the local level as a way that, you know, in my spare time, I can make the most difference, and I hope others get the same message as well,” he said.

Wasserman added that, if he is elected, he would also like to ensure that the basic needs of the community are met, including adding painted crosswalks and curb cuts and organizing trash cleanups.

Wasserman currently serves on three committees for the NWWNC, including the Planning and Land Use Committee, the Transportation and Safety Committee and the Homelessness and Community Health Committee. Last month, his work on the Transportation and Safety Committee included the council endorsing a heavy-rail option and a direct stop on campus for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor and endorsing Streets For All’s Westwood Connected plan, which would create improved pedestrian spaces and protect bike and bus lanes in Westwood.

Wasserman said his goal of creating a space for LA Metro to take the neighborhood’s demands seriously is connected with his plan for increasing the council’s visibility if elected.

“The local government can be boring, but it’s incredibly influential,” Wasserman said. “The way that it’s most effective is when it’s most visible and most pertinent to the lives of the people who live in the area.”

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Matthew Royer | National news and higher education editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
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