City Council (D4): Carolyn Ramsay
I am a neighborhood advocate and the only candidate with nearly two decades of experience standing up for this community at City Hall to create more parks and open space, reduce crime and fix our crumbling streets and sidewalks.
Top three goals
List the top three things you would seek to accomplish as a city council representative.
1) Protect and enhance our neighborhoods from over-development, traffic & crime
2) Create a Hollywood Innovation Zone to help get our economy back on track with good-paying, clean, creative jobs
3) Fixing our crumbling streets, sidewalks, and water infrastructure.
Is City Hall doing a good job handling development projects? If so, why? If not, how would change it?
City Hall is doing a terrible job. Developers don’t have a full grasp of the rules and residents often don’t really know what they’ll end up with when the project is completed. Neighborhoods are rightfully afraid of losing the character of their community under the current system. Recode L.A. is a step in the right direction, but we need an honest and transparent process now. We also need enforcement of development agreements & accountability of these developers to make sure their promises are kept to the communities.
City Hall power
Do you believe any particular interest – labor, business, or something else — has too much power at City Hall? If so, how would you counteract that power?
There’s not enough independence in City Hall in general. The Valley thinks they’re left out of the process, businesses feel like City Hall doesn’t care about them, labor says they’re not being heard, and City Hall always seems like its caught on its heels trying to keep up. We need more leaders like the Mayor who is starting to have an impact on City governance by using the power voters gave him, instead of being influenced by particular interests. Similarly, I’m campaigning based on overwhelming support from the community I’ve been working with for the past 15 years.
Council District 4 includes an unusual array of neighborhoods, from Sherman Oaks to Los Feliz to Hancock Park. Do you believe any parts of the district have been underserved, and if so, how would you rectify that?
Every part of the district feels underserved because we’re still clawing our way out of the global economic downturn. Our basic city services have been slashed. My proposal is to bring these services back by rebuilding our local economy. A plan I’m already working with business and community leaders on creating is the Hollywood Innovation Zone – a hub of entertainment and tech jobs that will incubate new ideas and grow good-paying jobs to support stronger neighborhoods.
What do you see as the three biggest issues facing CD4, and what concrete proposals would you make to address those issues?
1) Protecting and enhancing our neighborhoods: Mandate greater transparency and accountability throughout the development process by coordinating and streamlining the permitting processes among the city & county agencies involved. Empower residents and local businesses to have more input in maintaining the character of our communities.
2) Getting our economy back on track with good-paying jobs: Rolling back the gross receipts tax and creating the Hollywood Innovation Zone.
3) Fixing our infrastructure: when we’re scheduled to repave a street, I’ll make sure we check the below-ground infrastructure for needed upgrades so that we don’t return a year later and tear up the new asphalt to repair the water or sewer lines underneath. Build a coalition to explore all options, including support for a ballot measure to fund a comprehensive approach to repairing our sidewalks, streets, and water pipes.
What three steps would you take to help balance the city budget?
We have to expand our economy and make our existing revenue options perform better. Here’s what I’ll push for:
Roll back the gross receipts tax, create the Hollywood Innovation Zone, not spend more than we can afford.
1) Rolling back the gross receipts tax will roll out the welcome mat for businesses that are just waiting on the sidelines to come to Los Angeles. I hear from business owners everyday that they want to come back into L.A., but the gross receipts tax is just too strong of an economic disincentive.
2) Hollywood Innovation Zone - helping clean industries that already have roots in Los Angeles grow to innovate and create more good-paying jobs that support the services we need in our neighborhoods.
3) No matter the pressures, we can’t spend more than we can afford. We need to consistently find ways to provide critical City services more efficiently. We can also
work harder to reduce overall costs. For example, we can work with our city employees to collectively bargain for PEPRA-like reforms that will end the most egregious pension costs, like spiking and allowing corrupt politicians to collect a pension.
Are there any major decisions in CD4 over the past three years that you would have opposed?
Although it’s not in CD4, the Millennium Project is in Hollywood, which impacts residents and businesses in CD4, and should have been rejected as it’s currently planned. It has some great design and building material features, but it’s out-of-scale for the community. I would have opposed the deferment of paving the Wilshire Blvd corridor. I would have opposed the mixed-use project at LaBrea and Wilshire. It was a missed opportunity to build something that would have augmented the character of the neighborhood. I would have also opposed the rush to open up 130 acres in the Cahuenga Pass. DWP currently owns the land and we need to engage the community and local environmental groups in a full community process to review all potential options first.
In such a crowded race, what makes you different?
I’m not a career politician looking for a stepping stone to some other office. I’ve dedicated the past 15 years to working with local residents and small business owners to solve problems and improve our neighborhoods. I’m the only candidate with that on-the-ground experience in this district. I’m also the only candidate campaigning with specific plans to get our economy back on track with good-paying jobs, fixing our infrastructure, and protecting our neighborhoods.
What steps would you take to address L.A.’s failing pipes and other aging infrastructure, and how would you fund those steps?
Residents and businesses have made it clear they are fed up with our crumbling sidewalks and streets, but less clear is how to pay for it. I believe we need to take that anger and start building a coalition within our neighborhoods to start evaluating all the options, including a parcel tax ballot measure that we can use to match state and federal funds.
We have to make the repairs systematically and logically so that we’re fixing sidewalks, streets, and water pipes at the same time. Nothing burns people more than finally getting their street repaved and then DWP comes back in six months digging it all up to replace an aging pipe. Integrated infrastructure upgrades will also help ensure we can install the green space elements our city needs, like modern storm drains that lead to natural aquifers and dedicated bike lanes to reduce automobile congestion and emissions.
Do you support increasing the citywide minimum wage, and if so, to what amount and by what year?
All indications are that Californians will have a chance to decide on a statewide minimum wage of $15 an hour with a 2016 ballot measure. That’s probably the best option because it takes away any unfair competition from surrounding cities that would want to keep the minimum wage suppressed. I support the Mayor’s proposal to get to $13.25 by 2017, but I think we can and should get to $15 an hour sooner. We need to be smart about how we do it and involve local businesses and non-profits in the planning process, but we cannot be a world-class city by having more than 25% of our residents living below the poverty line.
Do you think the city should reduce or eliminate its gross receipts tax on businesses? If so, how quickly should it do so, and how can the city replace the revenue it provides?
Yes. Los Angeles is now following a 15-year plan to phase-out the city’s gross receipts tax. I support accelerating the phase-out to as early as four years, but it must be accompanied by an aggressive economic development component. We must encourage more businesses to choose L.A. now and stay. We’ll make up the lost gross receipts revenue through improved sales and business property tax performance, as well as increased local spending that follows the growth of good-paying jobs.
Do you support returning control of LA/Ontario International Airport to the city of Ontario? Why or why not? Should the airport be sold or simply be transferred back? If you support a sale, what do you think is an appropriate price?
The Ontario airport is not producing the level of relief we need on LAX and the other regional airports within LAWA. It’s not a profitable partnership for the Los Angeles. We should get market rate for it and sell it.
Should the city operate the Greek Theatre as an open venue, at least temporarily? If not, what alternative should the city pursue?
They shouldn’t, but it’s time to move forward. Delays with management at this point will just be more disruptive to the community and expensive for the city. I’ve stood with the neighborhoods surrounding the Greek on this issue – holding neighborhoods meetings, attending rallies, and testifying at City Hall. I’m committed to working closely with the community and the Parks and Recreation Department to ensure that noise, traffic and security issues are thoroughly addressed. As councilmember, I’ll push for a new RFP process that starts with neighborhood input and ends with neighborhood approval.