Where they stand
Emanuel Pleitez is a former technology company executive and political aide making his second attempt to win public office.
1. Do you support the March 5 ballot measure that would raise the sales tax by half-a-cent to generate $215 million a year for city accounts?
No, I don’t support the sales tax increase as a way to increase revenue– it’s a regressive tax that hurts the poorest in our city most. The poorest among us shouldn’t have to pay for our politician’s mismanagement of city finances. Instead we should consider increasing property taxes. California has some of the lowest property taxes in the country, and property taxes tend to be progressive. That, combined, with reforming our pension benefits system and increasing our tax base, can get the city’s budget back on a sustainable path.
2. If you oppose the sales tax, what city programs would you eliminate or scale back?
We should not be looking to balance the budget with regressive sales taxes or by cutting services on which many residents rely. Such proposals will only delay, not solve, our financial crisis. We must address the root causes of our financial crisis if we want to put the city’s finances on a sustainable path. That means reforming our pension benefits system and addressing the chronic under investment in certain areas of our city. If we do these two things, we’ll free up more money for city services and increase the tax base, and in the process set the city up for long-term economic growth and success.
3. Is new revenue essential to fixing city finances? If so what kind would you seek?
Yes, new revenue is essential. One option is a progressive property tax increase. Another is increasing the tax base. Many areas of our city – South LA, for example – suffer from chronic under investment and high unemployment. There’s hunger for work in these communities, but we haven’t done a good job fostering growth and development. If we put more people to work in these areas, economic growth – and tax revenue – will grow.
We should also tap in sources of capital besides tax revenue. That means partnering with venture funds, banks, and foreign capital to fund infrastructure and new businesses If we combine that with support for budding entrepreneurs – consulting services for startups in South LA, for example – we can usher in a new era of growth and opportunity in areas too often ignored by our politicians. With my finance and business experience, I’m the only candidate who knows how to do this.
4. Do you support laying off additional city employees as a way to balance city finances?
All options need to be on the table to solve or financial crisis. If layoffs are necessary, I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions. What I won’t do is shrink one department and shift the workers over to another. This happened with the DWP, which is part of the reason the department is so bloated. We have to be efficient and effective with our resources and sometimes that means we have to work with a leaner city staff.
5. To spur business activity, is it necessary to eliminate the city’s gross receipts tax? If that were done, how would you make up the revenue?
Yes, we must repeal the gross receipts tax – it overburdens companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, and makes it difficult for them to invest and hire in Los Angeles. However, that’s just part of the solution – we must also make sure LA has a skilled workforce, fewer regulation, and better infrastructure.
To compensate, we can use a combination of property tax increases, expansion of the tax base through development of neglected areas, and allowing private companies and investors to shoulder some the costs of service provision and investment we currently fund through tax revenue.
6. Do you believe city employees should make additional concessions on employee salaries, pensions or benefits? If so, how? If not, why not?
Our elected officials made a deal based on numbers they didn’t understand, and they sold a promise to city employees that in reality the city could never meet. Our city workers deserve their benefits, but there’s now a risk they’ll get nothing unless we make some changes. I want to protect as much of their benefits as possible, but I’m committed to finding measures that can put our pension system and budget on a sustainable path. That may include increasing the retirement age, asking employees to contribute more, a move to 401(k)-like plans, and buyouts. If we don’t reform our pension system, not only will our workers not get paid, but they’ll also have fewer fire and police, trash that isn’t picked up, and streets that are never fixed. I’m unafraid to make the changes we need, even if they are unpopular.
7. Do you believe future employee retirement benefits for city workers should be provided through a 401(k) plan, as many private sector employers have done? Why or why not?
I believe retirement security isn’t a luxury and we have to do everything in our power to do right by our city employees. Moving toward 401(k) plans, or a hybrid defined-benefit/defined-contribution plan, would give workers more control over their pension. Buyouts, which would give city employees their retirement compensation now, would also give workers more control and reduce our unfunded pension liabilities. Better to give something today rather than nothing tomorrow, when the city could very well likely go bankrupt and jeopardize city employees’ retirement security.
8. What current services, if any, do you believe the city can no longer afford to provide?
I would look into privatizing operation of the Convention Center, moving to private provision of ambulance services (like most cities), and propose cutting elected officials’ salaries as measures to help balance the budget.
Los Angeles’ 10.9% unemployment rate is still one the highest among U.S. big cities. And many of the post-recession jobs being created are part-time, low-skilled positions.
1. Do you have any plan to immediately bring jobs to the city, boost the middle class in particular and lower unemployment?
Los Angeles is typically rated as one of the worst cities in the country in which to do business. There’s too much regulation, too little infrastructure, and the skills employers want are in too short supply. As Mayor, I will create an impact investing culture. South LA, the Eastside, and the East Valley – ignored by too many of our politicians – are undervalued assets, with many residents currently unemployed but hungry to work. We must channel capital into these areas, so we can build infrastructure, grow businesses, and put people to work. I’ll commit to developing all areas of our city.
We must also increase the availability of training programs, so our workers always the skills to compete in a changing economy. Downtown construction jobs are nice, but they don’t put people to work for good in the industries that are growing the most rapidly. That’s data, technology, and healthcare.
2. Apart from construction jobs and the movie industry, do you have any plan to grow the job pool by drawing new industries to the city?
Yes. To attracting new businesses to Los Angeles, we need to make LA a more attractive place in which to do business. Los Angeles is typically rated as one of the worst places to do business, due to its poor infrastructure, lack of skilled labor, and strict regulatory environment.
We need better infrastructure – transportation, energy, and telecommunications – throughout LA, but particularly in areas like South LA, the Eastside, and the East Valley where infrastructure is quite poor and consequently few businesses thrive. I’ll do this not just with public dollars, but also by encouraging and incentivizing venture capitalists and private donors to invest in these areas too.
We need to ensure that our workforce has the skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The fastest growing industries are those in data, technology, and healthcare. Our workforce needs specialized skills for these jobs. We need to increase educational and learning opportunities for young and old, so that they have the skills needed for these and other jobs. We need more internships and partnerships with businesses so our students get exposure to these industries sooner. And we need to open more training centers for adults so they can continue learning as industries and the economy changes.
We must rescind the gross receipts tax and ease the regulatory environment. We’re taxing companies out of LA, and limiting their ability to invest and grow. We’re also drowning budding entrepreneurs with paperwork before they can get their businesses of the ground. We must streamline our regulatory process.
Finally, I’ll support entrepreneurs across LA, because they drive growth and job creation in any economy. I propose creating one “entrepreneurship hub” in each council district within my first year as Mayor. These hubs can support the energy, creativity, and drive of LA’s entrepreneurs with expedited permitting, specialized training, consulting services, and free office space. These hubs can bring great minds together in one space, and our entrepreneurs can learn and work with each other. Combined with the private investors we attract with our impact investing culture, LA can rival Silicon Valley in number of startups.
3. Do you believe Los Angeles must provide tax subsidies or exemptions to attract new development?
I don’t think it’s necessary if we create an attractive business environment. That said, businesses that are especially active in training Angelenos or investing in underserved communities should get extra advertising and tax breaks as rewards for investing in LA.
4. Do you believe in fostering transit-oriented development?
Yes. Great urban infrastructure – a transportation system that provides easy mobility, an energy grid that’s efficient and environmentally friendly, a telecommunications network that gives everyone access to information – requires first and foremost great planning. LA doesn’t have great infrastructure. LA doesn’t even have good infrastructure. LA’s infrastructure is the result of poor planning, a lack of long-term vision, poor cost management, and chronic neglect of certain areas of our city. That’s not how a city should be planned and run.
People need to be able to get to work in an efficient, environmentally friendly, and cost effective way. I’ve lived this problem, having to take 3 buses and travel 3 hours just to get from the Eastside to Century City for work. I’m committed to investing in our most underdeveloped communities to make sure quality jobs exist locally and improving our mass transit to ensure people who work outside of their community can get to work efficiently.
5. Business leaders complain that the City Hall permit and inspection process continues to be a tangle of red tape. What would you do to make it easier for businesses to come to and operate in the city?
I’d centralize the process, and establish permitting and inspection centers throughout the city. Right now permitting and inspection is spread across too many departments, too many forms, and too many points of contact. We need a single business liaison office that not only regulates companies, but also supports entrepreneurs and startups with free advice and consultation. And we need to establish these entrepreneurship hubs in every council district and every community, so companies have a one-stop shop to get support.
6. How important do you think AEG’s downtown stadium plan is to the city’s overall development?
I opposed the AEG deal and I think it will hurt Los Angeles. Our politicians made a deal with a private developer that could leave taxpayers footing the bill once again. We’re raising debt that we think we’ll be able to pay off in the future, but we’ve seen that the city, and this particular council, is not particularly good at understanding the risks associated with such deals. We also don’t know with whom we’re doing business. By agreeing to the deal now, without knowing AEG’s buyer, we limit the City’s options in case future AEG ownership does not agree with all terms of this deal. a very real possibility.
7. Do you believe that having a professional football team would bring in new revenue and not just move revenue from one type of entertainment to another?
It will bring in new revenue, but our money and energy could be better spent elsewhere. Our priorities are in the wrong order. We shouldn’t be borrowing to invest in a new entertainment venue downtown. We need to invest in South LA, the Eastside, and the East Valley – communities we’ve ignored for too long but that have the potential to be economic drivers of this city.
Some say the expansion of the LAPD has strained budgets to such a degree that the city must lay off additional civilian employees. Lawsuits continue to dog the LAPD. The fire chief blames budget cuts for declining response times, which he admits he cannot reliably track.
1. Should the LAPD continue to keep hiring officers to replace those who resign or retire, keeping staffing levels the same? If not, should the department be larger or smaller? If you believe it should be larger, how would you pay for that?
We don’t have a staff size problem - we have an efficiency problem. Our officers spend two-thirds of their time behind a desk instead of on the street protecting people. We need to change that. We need to expand the Senior Lead Officer program to improve the relationship between communities and our police department. We have to improve our use of data to create specific strategies for high crime areas and get our officers where they are needed most. And we need to look at new strategies like cross-training programs, where police are trained to perform paramedic services and fire fighters are trained in law enforcement. Merging police and fire departments could increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our public safety service providers. That wouldn’t require a substantial increase in funding.
2. Will you ask Chief Beck to serve a second term?
I can’t commit to that without fully reviewing the performance of the department under his leadership and sitting down with him to discuss his plans for the future of the department.
3. Do you agree with the chief’s decision to make it easier for unlicensed drivers. many of them illegal immigrants. to keep their vehicles from being impounded for long periods?
Yes. Immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are people first and foremost. The need to get their kids to school, they need to go to the store, and they need to get to work. I think this decision is a step in the right direction, but I think we should go even further by allowing everyone to get a license and access basic city services regardless of citizenship.
4. Do you believe the LAPD is doing enough to lower the cost and frequency of use-of-force, harassment and traffic-related lawsuits against the department? If not, what should be changed?
It will never be enough as long as there are still legitimate lawsuits on the books. We need to change the culture of law enforcement to prevention and intervention, not incarceration. Force is not the answer. We need to expand programs like the Senior Lead Officer program to foster a better relationship between police and our communities. As Mayor, I’ll create an organizing fellowship in city hall to get community members involved in public safety efforts. Our safety is everyone’s responsibility, not just the police.
5. Do you believe police officer disciplinary hearings and records should be open to the public or kept secret?
They should be open to the public. Transparency should be increased in all areas of our government.
6. The city will soon begin negotiating a new contract for the LAPD’s 10,000 officers. Should that contract continue to require that officers take compensated time off in lieu of overtime pay? If so, how much?
If we have so many officers that we’re paying some to stay home, then we need to have fewer officers and use our officers’ time better.
7. Do you have confidence in the administration of Fire Chief Brian Cummings?
We need to make sure services are being delivered efficiently and effectively to every community, regardless of who’s in charge. Right now that isn’t the case. We have an efficiency problem in our public safety departments. I think it can improve with a better use of data and technology. As a former technology executive, I’m the only mayoral candidate qualified to make these changes.
8. Do you support a plan to convert LAFD dispatch center employees from 24-hour shifts to a 40-hour-work-week?
I want our dispatch centers adequately staffed 24-hours a day to respond to the needs of our city. Merging police and fire under one dispatch center as part of merging the departments is one practical solution that would benefit Angelenos and dispatch workers. People don’t call one number for fire and one number for police, they call 911. We should do everything in our power to make it as easy as possible for people to get help when they need it.
9. Should the LAFD dispatch center be staffed by civilian workers instead of sworn employees?
Dispatch centers should be staffed by trained and competent employees, whether they’re sworn or civilian. I’m a results-driven person and I’ll be a results-driven Mayor. The people will always be my first concern.
10. What would you do to speed response times, especially in those parts of the city. such as hillside communities and around the city’s border. where responses are slowest?
I will use data and information technology to create specific response strategies for these areas. That may mean creating a new station or moving an existing one, but we can’t settle for slow response times under any circumstance.
The Measure R sales tax is generating billions of dollars for road and rail construction, including a Westside subway extension, but efforts to speed work with additional money have fallen short. There is still no rail to LAX and traffic on the Westside has even caused President Obama to express dismay.
1. Do you believe Metro should try again to win an extension of Measure R, similar to the Measure J ballot proposal that failed in November?
I disagree with regressive taxation or forcing the people to pay for poor planning by our city officials. Traffic congestion needs to be reduced and we have to increase mass transit options, and we need to do this with a strong plan in mind before we tax or borrow. I’ll create a Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning, who’ll be responsible for creating a long-term vision and plan for LA’s infrastructure, and making sure all investments we make fit within that plan. That’s the way we bring efficiency and equality to urban development in this city. And to pay for it, we should tap into private capital sources to bear some of the costs.
2. Do you agree with advocates who call for changing the voter threshold for taxes on transportation projects to be lowered from two-thirds to 55%?
55% is arbitrary. I think a simple majority should be the best threshold. The idea that a majority of people could want changes in taxes on transportation and still couldn’t make it a reality is something I fundamentally disagree with.
3. Will you give rail development the same emphasis that Mayor Villaraigosa did?
Rail projects are fun and exciting to talk about, but they take a long time to complete, and we need more efficient and effective mass transit options today. I will prioritize buses, ride sharing programs, and bike lanes as well as focus on making our city more pedestrian friendly. People should be able to walk or take public transit to meet all of their needs (work, school, etc.) if they chose to do so. I want to make that a reality sooner rather than later.
4. Since the mayor was sometimes criticized for prioritizing rail projects over the county’s bus system, what role do you think the bus system should play?
Our bus system needs more lines, more buses, and more dedicated bus lanes. I had to take 3 buses and travel 3 hours to get from home on the Eastside to work in Century City. There are many Angelenos with worse commutes than that. I want to make our system simpler, better connected, and affordable.
5. Do you believe rail is the most cost-effective way to improve transportation in the city?
6. Do you believe that a Subway to the Sea. the Westside Subway Extension. is necessary?
No, but it would be a good option to have if we can get it done in a timely, cost-effective way.
7. What route should Metro select for the Westside subway as it passes through Century City?
I want to sit down with expert urban planners to find the route that reduces the most congestion with the smallest impact on the surrounding communities. I’m not convinced we’ve found that route yet.
8. Should more toll lanes be placed on Los Angeles freeway carpool lanes?
We need to look at the effect that toll lanes have on overall traffic congestion. I tend to disagree with toll lanes because it disadvantages people who can’t afford their use. Instead, we should incentivize ride-sharing, with more dedicated carpool lanes that are free of charge, for example.
9. For decades transit officials have debated an extension of the 710 Freeway through South Pasadena. Should it be built and if so, how?
We should focus on mass transit options before extending the 710. Expanding our freeway systems is something we should seriously consider, but that will take time and require extensive strategic planning, and there could be other things we do that yield the same impact. That’s why I’ll appoint a Deputy Mayor of Urban Planning on day one, to address the lack of coherent vision that’s gone into our transportation infrastructure to this point.
10. Do you favor moving the north runways at LAX closer to Westchester? If so, why?
That’s a decision I would make in close consultation with the Westchester community. If moving the runway would be beneficial, I support it.
11. What improvements are still needed at LAX?
There seems to be a consensus that we need to expand and modernize LAX. We all know bigger is not always better. If expansion is really going to modernize our airport and not going to be a detriment to our surrounding communities, then I am for it.
But I’m not going to stop at modernization. I want our airport to not just be modern but a model for other airports around the world. We need to make sure our airport can accommodate the traffic and the commerce that comes in and out of Los Angeles. I will make sure that we have the best technology, the best data gathering, and the best regular assessments of LAX and its regional airports. I am running for Mayor of a world-class city and we deserve a world-class airport.
12. Would you sell or give up control over Ontario International Airport? If so, why?
If it would be financially beneficial for our city, I would. Regardless of who controls it, we need to increase coordination with all of the airports in the area. Better integration of all of our transportation infrastructure and services is a must.
13. Do you think the city needs to privatize its parking garages?
We should consider private provision of garage services. We do need more above ground structures to meet the needs of Angelenos.
14. The city has a growing bicycle movement. What are your feelings about bicyclists in L.A. and what needs to be done/not done to accommodate them on L.A.’s roads?
I love that more Angelenos are biking. Biking is a sustainable and healthy alternative to cars that we need to support. I will promote bike travel by increasing education about biking in schools, pursuing a bike-share program like those available in cities and college campuses across the country, and creating dedicated bike lanes on more of our streets.
15. At least 42% of the city’s sidewalks are in poor shape and lawsuits may force the city to spend huge sums to repair them. What would you do to fix the city’s streets and sidewalks?
The condition of our sidewalks and streets is the legacy of neglect our current politicians have left behind and would likely continue should one of them be elected Mayor. There are streets in Pacoima and South LA that don’t even have sidewalks. That’s unacceptable. Los Angeles needs to be more pedestrian friendly. It will improve mobility and health. We need to be more efficient with the money that’s currently allocated for walking infrastructure. Part of securing funding for repairs is changing the culture of transportation by investing in communities that experience the lion’s share of these sidewalk issues. People aren’t walking because they have to travel so far for food, work, and school. If people’s needs are met close to home, they will choose to walk.
The largest school system in California struggles with low test scores and graduation rates. LAUSD teachers and administrators disagree on evaluation methods. Mayor Villaraigosa attempted a take-over but settled for running a limited number of campuses.
1. How would you describe the state of the Los Angeles Unified School District?
It’s in shambles. We have the lowest high school graduation rate in the country compared to any comparable city. I graduated from Wilson High School with half of the classmates I started with and was profoundly unprepared for Stanford when I arrived. No student should have to feel unprepared or watch his class dwindle to half its size.
2. Will you continue to oversee the nonprofit that runs Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 15 schools?
I oppose the Partnership. We should not be cherry-picking schools to be run by the Mayor’s office. I will focus on service delivery for all students instead of governance of schools. I want to work with the school board to solve our education crisis. The city must work with LAUSD, charter schools, adult education providers, businesses, and other stakeholders to find the best way to train our students with the skills they need to compete and succeed. As Mayor, I’ll make sure we’re all working together toward that goal and that education is a 24-hour responsibility of the city.
3. Will you try to have the same level of political involvement and influence over the board by fielding candidates and helping to pay for their campaigns?
No. That’s not the Mayor’s job. If the Mayor spent his energy on our students instead of political game playing, our graduation rate would be better.
4. How would you evaluate the performance of Superintendent John Deasy?
I like that John Deasy has sought to shake up the bureaucracy of LAUSD and focus on our students. However, we must do more to increase our high school graduation rate and the skill level of our workforce.
5. Mayor Villaraigosa has said that student test scores should account for at least 30% of a teacher’s evaluation. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
I agree that test scores should be part of the evaluation. We have to take into account the overall performance of our students and their personal evaluation of our teachers as well.
6. What are the top three things you could do to help improve the school system as mayor?
We need to increase the learning and educational opportunities for our students outside the classroom that will challenge our young people to explore their interests as well as keep them away from bad influences.
We need to be proactive, and provide wraparound services – counseling, health care - to students and adults to address the root causes of our poor performance in education.
And we need to make education family-oriented, and provide adults with more opportunities to learn the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow, in data and technology. As Mayor, I’ll make sure our workforce is the best educated and trained in the country.
7. Should every charter school have a teacher workforce that is represented by a union?
We need to find the best teachers for our students. I don’t care if they are union workers or not. My focus is on our students. That should be our teachers’ focus too.
8. How many additional charter schools should LAUSD allow?
Regardless of the number, our charter schools should be purposeful. The goal shouldn’t be to use our children as experiments or stroke the ego of wealthy donors, it should be to find the best methods for educating our students so we can apply those methods to all of our schools.
Power costs are rising as the DWP moves from coal to renewable fuels. The Supreme Court is weighing suits over the clean truck program. Green space advocates say more parks are needed. Developers are pushing back at state environmental impact law.
1. Some projections provided to the city forecast the DWP will have at least 10 consecutive years of rate hikes as the utility complies with regulations and moves toward more renewable power. What would you do to address these rising costs?
DWP has increasingly been used as a revenue source for the city, covering shortfalls in revenue and hiding our politicians’ poor budgeting. I don’t support any rate increase that’s used to transfer funds from taxpayers to the city’s general budget. I only support rate increases that are earmarked solely for making our water and power systems more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
2. Mayor Villaraigosa pledged to wean the DWP off coal by 2020. But the DWP’s projections show the utility will still be receiving 28% of its energy from coal by that date. Would you uphold Villaraigosa’s pledge? If so, how would you achieve it?
Almost every year, we’ve seen DWP rates increase, with little improvement in service delivery. Rather than make smart investments, we’ve relied on DWP to transfer funds to the City’s budget to offset years of deficits – deficits caused by our politicians’ poor spending decisions.
This sort of short sightedness will stop in my administration. When I’m Mayor, I’ll make sure DWP makes smart investments that prepare us for the future. We must invest more in renewable energy technologies – solar, for example, a technology I learned a great deal about while serving the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. We must spur solar, water, wind, and other sources of power deployment by cutting red tape and improving financing options for residential and small commercial renewable energy systems. And we need to encourage, not discourage, competition with the DWP. If we allow more energy providers in LA, supply will increase and costs will decline.
3. The Supreme Court is poised to consider challenges to the port’s clean truck program, particularly as it relates to regulations on owner-operated trucks. Do you support the program as passed by the harbor commission?
Owner-operated trucks should be subject to the same environmental and security regulations as other shippers. I support the required compliance with existing regulations.
4. Do you support the Southern California Intermodal Gateway project in the Port of Los Angeles? How would you address concerns from activists that the project would significantly harm neighbors, both in terms of air quality and traffic?
This is where data and technology can be used to resolve disputes and find the most environmentally friendly way to transport goods to and from the Port of Los Angeles. If the surrounding communities are unhappy, there needs to be a mechanism in place for them to sit down with the Mayor’s office and the railway to find the best solution. Better coordination between shipping providers and methods could alleviate some of the concerns on all sides.
5. Should the California Environmental Quality Act be rewritten, as many real estate developers have suggested, to reduce the financial impact of legal challenges over environmental impact reports? If so how?
No. We can’t afford to compromise on environmental regulations. We have to reduce consumption and increase energy efficiency and options to reduce our carbon footprint. Gambling with our energy security is not an option.
6. Anschutz Entertainment Group, the developer of a proposed downtown football stadium, received special state legislation that allowed its project to have an accelerated environmental review process. Should every business receive such treatment? Why or why not?
The speed of the review process is irrelevant so long as the review is thorough. Los Angeles has a significant amount of bureaucracy that is unnecessary and we shouldn’t just accelerate regulatory processes for large developers, but small businesses and entrepreneurs as well.
7. Green space advocates contend that Los Angeles needs more parks. Yet the city has been struggling to maintain the parkland that it already has. How would you improve the maintenance of those that already exist while adding new parkland in coming years?
Maintaining our current parks is tied directly to our budget. I will resolve our pension crisis and balance our budget to halt the current cuts from our parks and green spaces. I won’t add new parks that we can’t afford. I will sit down with green space advocates to find cost effective ways to increase green space, particularly in under invested areas of our city. Some solutions I would pursue are abandoned fields and lots that could be easily converted and maintained by community members.