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Los Angeles County, CA June 8, 2010 Election
Smart Voter Full Biography for Mike Gatto

Candidate for
State Assembly Member; District 43

This information is provided by the candidate

Mike Gatto was born in the Franklin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, to Joseph and Isolde Gatto. His grandfather was a steelworker, who immigrated to the United States at the age of 16.  Mike's father was the first member of the family to graduate college. He became a public schoolteacher and never missed a day of work during his entire forty-plus-year career.

When Mike was almost five, his family moved to Silver Lake. Mike attended Glendale Presbyterian school (in Glendale), Ivanhoe Elementary (in Silver Lake), Our Mother of Good Counsel School (in Los Feliz), and Loyola High School. During his youth, Mike spent many an afternoon at the Glendale Public Library, and won more than a few reading contests there during his summer breaks.

As a child, Mike saw firsthand how important good jobs and public policy are to California families. When times were good, Mike's family was able to live a nice existence. A schoolteacher's salary was enough to provide good healthcare and save a little for college, and there were good parks and good schools in the neighborhood.  When times were tough, Mike's father worked three jobs, including teaching on Saturdays and working nights at Dodger stadium.

Mike's mother, too, instilled in him the importance of a good education and always working to better oneself. When she was in her mid-forties, with three children, she attended night law school and, after four years, fulfilled her dream of obtaining a juris doctorate. Mike's mother was a fixture at her Glendale office until recently, when she retired from the law. Never one to be idle, Mike's mom now volunteers at Glendale Memorial Hospital, and is a familiar, comforting face to patients and visitors alike.

Mike, too, studied hard, and attended Los Angeles City College, UC Berkeley, and UCLA (from which he graduated with a degree in History). While in college, Mike took the bus to school each day, and helped pay for his education by changing tires at the Sears in Glendale. During his time in college, Mike found himself living in a part of town that had little by way of opportunities. It was an eye-opening experience that sparked a lifelong interest in public service, community involvement, and advocacy for the less fortunate.

Thus, Mike's career has been marked by seeking to improve government, or to fill holes where government has failed. His first post-collegiate job was working at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, which provides free legal advice for those in need. There, Mike came to understand the power of the justice system and government to either help or hurt local families. With this new awareness, Mike took a job with a Los Angeles City Councilmember, helping people who had been having problems obtaining adequate service from a city department. During his tenure with the city, Mike also worked on the Blue Bin pilot-program task force, which implemented Los Angeles's successful and widely used recycling program.

After working on a variety of other campaigns and causes, including serving as "Sergeant at Arms" for the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee, Mike took a job with United States Congressman Brad Sherman, who represents the San Fernando Valley and Burbank. There, he helped people who were having a difficult time getting a federal government agency to act on their request. Mike found it very rewarding to get results for people who had not received the help and attention they deserved while trying to navigate through the maze of government. Mike also worked to bring to fruition major, complex projects, such as the establishment of the popular MTA "Orange Line" bus service and the widening of key freeway interchanges.

During his five years working with the Congressman, Mike rose up the ranks, becoming District Director and acting Chief of Staff. His abilities earned him the notice of two Los Angeles Mayors, who appointed Mike to a Los Angeles commission whose mission is to preserve our region's historical heritage. While on the Commission, Mike called for an audit that exposed substantial government waste and saved significant taxpayer dollars.

During his first few years with the Congressman, Mike also found himself interested in how our society writes and interprets laws. So, while working for the Congressman during the day, Mike put himself through law school at night, at Loyola Law School. He graduated magna cum laude, earning a job at Los Angeles' oldest law firm.

Mike's legal career has been marked by giving back to the community. Even while he was a law student, he would lug his computer and printer into low-income neighborhoods during tax season, to do taxes, for free, for those who could not afford to pay someone to do them. (Mike believed this was a win-win, helping people become lawful taxpayers and securing much-needed revenue for the government.)

Mike has made it his personal mission to help with causes that fill a vacuum where government has failed. To name just a few: Mike sat on the board of a non-profit that raised money to plant trees and beautify the streets that lead into the Silver Lake neighborhood. He founded a non-profit to award scholarships to those in need. As an attorney, he has represented pro bono (for free) the Coalition for Supportive Housing, Holy Trinity School, and a neighborhood association in the Los Feliz Oaks, seeking to beautify their streets and increase public safety.

Mike has volunteered his time for Teen Court, a program that exposes at-risk teens to the justice system, in the hopes of helping them avoid the justice system later. Mike has also represented a labor union seeking to restructure its operations, a school district seeking to enhance its funding opportunities, and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Public Counsel, which offers free legal representation to abused children, homeless families, victims of consumer fraud, veterans, and seniors.

Mike's pro bono success for Marco Renteria, a truck driver from the San Fernando Valley who was cheated out of the title to his home by a criminal mortgage-fraud ring, was featured in a front-page story in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, as an example of a private citizen stepping in to obtain justice where justice had previously been denied. Also, in the first successful such case in decades, Mike won asylum for a Congolese Tutsi woman facing terrible depredation if forced to return to Africa, under a rarely used law written by then-Senator John F. Kennedy.

Mike is a member of the following organizations: The Burbank Democratic Club; The California League of Conservation Voters; Democrats for Israel; The Sierra Club; The Silver Lake Improvement Association; The Stonewall Democratic Club; and The United Steelworkers AMP (In memory of his Grandfather).

Mike has guest lectured at Loyola Law School on legal ethics, and teaches English once a week to night students. He is married to Danielle Gatto, and welcomed a baby girl, Elliana Vivienne, on March 12th. He lives in Silver Lake and enjoys running, classic American cars, and restoring old homes.

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: May 12, 2010 12:56
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