City Council (D6): Cindy Montanez
Los Angeles Councilwoman Nury Martinez faces Cindy Montanez, a nonprofit consultant and former DWP executive, in the race for the Sixth District council seat covering Van Nuys, Panorama City, Arleta, Lake Balboa and North Hills. The contest is a rematch of a July 2013 special election won by Martinez.
To help voters decide who to support in the March 3 primary, the Times asked the contenders to respond to questions on a range of issues.
What are your top three priorities if elected?
Significantly improving city services for City Council District Six.
Creating a vision through community plans and other planning tools for each of the neighborhoods in Council District and to help guide, preserve, or develop according to the character of each community.
Develop a realistic economic development and revitalization for targeted areas in the council district where there’s real opportunity for job creation.
What makes you more qualified than your opponent?
There are numerous characteristics that make me more qualified. My background in local government, the state legislature, leading and working with city departments. I’ve been in public policy my entire adult life. I’m a trained policy maker. It’s my passion; what I do for work and on my free time. I’ve been a grassroots activist since I was a teenager and the community support that I have today is stronger than ever. I have remained independent from the established political clan of the northeast Valley because the community’s support.
Would you consider offering incentives to attract more economic development to the Sixth District? If so, what type of incentives (be specific)?
We need to look at what the countries of the world are doing. Taiwan is doing a phenomenal job at attracting businesses and promoting trade and Israel provides incentives to attract technology businesses. We need to purse Public-Private Partnerships. We have to look at our universities and partner with them to truly transform our educational system and how it can develop the best and brightest workforce of the future. We need to look at our zoning and offer opportunities for businesses by offering DWP rebates, targeting state and federal grants for industrial zones, and identifying other opportunities to incentivize the businesses of tomorrow to come to our great city.
Everyone talks about the Gross Receipts Tax, but we also need to look at our transportation and utility Infrastructure, we need to identify corridors to target for high tech and clean tech.
There are few remaining parcels for heavy, medium, and light industrial areas. The City of LA needs to work to preserve our industrially zoned areas to attract low, medium, and heavy industry manufacturing and clean tech jobs. Additionally, we have to upgrade our infrastructure to be able to accommodate the green tech and clean tech jobs of today. As an example, Sun Valley is gold in terms of zoning, but there are many areas with no storm water drainage, the utilities are outdated, and there’s inadequate public transportation. The incentives can come from the City doing its job.
City employee pensions
The cost of city employee pensions and health care have been a concern in City Hall. Do you support the 2012 vote that reduced pensions for new employees?
Yes, the City of LA was in financial turmoil in 2012 and City leaders needed to take action. I wasn’t there to say whether they abided by the ‘meet and confer’ requirements, so I’ll leave that up to the judge to decide. Next year’s projected budget deficit is between $180 million and $300 million and we’ll need good and strong leadership to make smart decisions. I’m disappointed that there wasn’t any action by our City Council’s Audit Committee over the past 18 months to identify opportunities to cut waste and improve our city’s efficiencies and services to our residents with an eye toward controlling the costs of pensions and health care.
Trimming pension costs
Does the city need to take further action to trim pension costs? If so, what actions do you support? If not, why not?
Yes, the current system is not sustainable. Revenue increases alone may not be able to sustain the current system. I’m ready to do whatever is necessary to vet our options with city employees, neighborhood council leaders, business leaders, and voters – including a ballot initiative for voters to decide in even that we’re not able to reach an a agreement within a few months. All legal options must be on the table in order to develop a budget that will significantly improve the quality and timeliness of city services to our businesses and residents. But before we ask City employees to trim their pensions, the City’s Audit Committee should actually do something and identify any opportunities to eliminate inefficiencies and wasteful spending.
Do you support asking all city employees (unionized and non-unionized) to contribute a portion of their health care premiums (including the LAPD and LAFD)?
City Hall workforce
During the recession, City Hall cut its work force by about 5,000 positions. Do you support adding back jobs to return to that level?
It all depends on the budget and what’s the smartest thing to do to improve the quality and timeliness of city services.
Tensions with LAPD
Recent police actions against black citizens have sparked rising tensions with the Los Angeles Police Department (and other law enforcement agencies across the U.S.). Do you believe that the LAPD improperly targets black residents for enforcement? If yes, what changes should the LAPD take to mediate this problem? If no, what can the LAPD do to quell this perception?
The African American community clearly believes that they’re being improperly targeted, so there needs to be better training and community-based policing. Stronger engagement with young people, churches, and community organizations and partnering with them would be a good first step. A lot more can be done and we should work with the best experts in this field to improve our police department.
Do you support an increase in the minimum wage to $13.25/hour (as proposed by Mayor Garcetti) or $15/hour (as proposed by some council members and outside labor/social equity groups)?
I support some type of minimum wage increase, but I want to see what the different studies have to say about what is the right timing and amount.
Graffiti, dumping and homelessness are a big issue in portions of the Sixth District. What do you support doing to address this?
The Sixth District has no real plan to address this. Homelessness is a growing concern in the Sixth District just as it is in the rest of LA. We need to work with non-profits and LA County to ensure the services needed are being provided. It’s not just a matter of providing beds; they need the appropriate medical and mental health services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatments. Our neighbors don’t want to see homeless shelters next door. So there also needs to be a thoughtful discussion as to the most appropriate location for homeless facilities.
Sex trafficking is chronic problem along certain corridors in the district. Is addressing this an appropriate priority for city funding?
Yes. Again, there is no clear plan for this. Right now, prostitutes are being chased from one side of Van Nuys Boulevard to the other or from Sun Valley to Panorama City. This is another area where we need to partner with the county and non-profits to get the sex workers medical and mental health services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment, and job training and opportunities. We need strong enforcement against the sex trafficking pimps and the johns. We should be able to eliminate sex traffickers. We must also hold businesses that allow use of their facilities as brothels, and for illicit activities, to be held accountable.
What problems or challenges in this district do you feel have not been adequately addressed?
Fighting bulky item trash dumping and cleaning up our neighborhoods. Fixing our broken streets and sidewalks, rebuilding our infrastructure, and creating good paying jobs. Reforming the Department of Water and Power, fighting rate increases, and balancing our city budget to live within our means.