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Meet the City Council aide who's become the 'Superman' of cleaning up illegal dumping

Luis Hurtado is an aide to City Councilwoman Nury Martinez. But he's unique because his sole job is to pick up trash in Martinez’s district. (Video by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council aides usually work behind the scenes, rarely recognized as they field phone calls from unhappy constituents, plan news conferences for their bosses and draft city policies.

But Luis Hurtado, 30, an aide to City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, is a familiar presence in the 6th District in the northeast San Fernando Valley. His sole job is to pick up trash in Martinez’s district, which takes in the neighborhoods of Arleta, Van Nuys and Sun Valley.

Five days a week, Hurtado drives a small pickup truck along the boulevards and streets, sweeping up cigarette butts and empty cans, carting off abandoned couches and bagging piles of discarded clothes.

Residents in the district recognize Hurtado, he said, and wave to him when they drive by. Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation drivers pull over and let him empty his trash bags into their trucks.

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Inspired by Hurtado’s work, Councilman Herb Wesson, the temporary caretaker of the 7th District, in the San Fernando Valley, dedicated two staffers to trash cleanup in that area. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes Hollywood, also has a staffer who picks up trash and organizes community walks.

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Five days a week, Luis Hurtado disposes of items illegally dumped in the 6th Council District.
Five days a week, Luis Hurtado disposes of items illegally dumped in the 6th Council District. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles TImes)
Hurtado, a single parent of four children, was unemployed before being hired by Councilwoman Nury Martinez.
Hurtado, a single parent of four children, was unemployed before being hired by Councilwoman Nury Martinez. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles TImes)
Illegal dumping is a constant problem in the northeast San Fernando Valley, so cleanup is a full-time job for Hurtado.
Illegal dumping is a constant problem in the northeast San Fernando Valley, so cleanup is a full-time job for Hurtado. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Community members and city staff call Hurtado "Superman" because of the heavy objects he lifts and the role he plays in cleaning up the district.
Community members and city staff call Hurtado "Superman" because of the heavy objects he lifts and the role he plays in cleaning up the district. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles TImes)
Hurtado's sole job is to pick up trash in Martinez's district, which takes in the neighborhoods of Arleta, Van Nuys and Sun Valley.
Hurtado's sole job is to pick up trash in Martinez's district, which takes in the neighborhoods of Arleta, Van Nuys and Sun Valley. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles TImes)

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith

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