Where they stand
Wendy Greuel served on the City Council for seven years and won the city controller’s post in 2009.
The next mayor faces a projected $327-million budget shortfall in 2014-2015. The city’s budget advisor called last year for a new round of layoffs and for key city assets to be turned over to private operators. A former mayor has even suggested the city is heading for bankruptcy.
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?
I do not support the sales tax increase.
Before taking a sales tax to the voters, the Council needs to demonstrate that it has fixed the problems that exist and has explored all other options. Taxing our way out of our budget deficit is not the solution – we need to fix the underlying problems. That is why I’ve proposed Performance Based Budgeting, so City departments are held accountable for how our tax dollars are spent. In addition, I’ve identified more than $160 million in wasteful spending, fraudulent activity, and abuse of city resources.
2. If you oppose the sales tax, what city programs would you eliminate or scale back?
As Mayor, I’ll be a tough fiscal watchdog to make sure that every tax dollar is spent wisely. Using my blueprint for Performance Based Budgeting, we must identify the most important City services and fund them accordingly. Among these core services must be public safety, public works and economic development. Resources must then be shifted to meet the City’s needs. Since being elected Controller, I have conducted more than 70 audits, and I have identified more than $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse and inefficiencies in the deployment of city resources. Eliminating this kind of waste, fraud and abuse and inefficiencies can save millions of taxpayer dollars.
I have also identified alternative proposals such as utilizing all available discretionary monies — like Council-controlled funds—as bridge funds during these difficult times. Other discretionary monies include Real Property Trust Funds, AB1290 Redevelopment Funds, and Street Furniture Funds. Additionally, I would review non-departmental proposed appropriations such as those for unemployment insurance and debt service.
3. Is new revenue essential to fixing city finances? If so, what kind would you seek?
First, in order to address the City’s finances, we need to focus on being smarter with the money the City is already bringing in. I am currently auditing a number of the City’s Special Funds to ensure that funds which are being used for Citywide purposes indeed are available Citywide. I will work to change the culture to keep City departments looking at the City as a whole rather than guarding funds for specific purposes that are not needed. Through the elimination of the Business Tax, the City will see more job creation and economic development, bringing in more revenue for the City through other sources, including property and sales tax. The City’s collections efforts should be consolidated within one City department. I will also look for ways to increase the City’s revenue from the Transient Occupancy Tax. As the third most visited City in the country, we have to ensure we are doing all that we can to attract tourists to the region and benefit from visitor spending in Los Angeles. We need to better market our City’s cultural assets, continue to invest in transit to make the whole City accessible for tourists, support additional hotel development, and modernize our Convention Center to bring Citywide conventions to the region.
4. Do you support laying off additional city employees as a way to balance city finances?
No. Layoffs must be used as a last resort and the Mayor and Council cannot use layoffs as a threat as has been done in recent years. We need to stop the cycle of crisis, layoffs and cuts by being smarter with our resources. I believe that the Council needs to continue scrubbing the budget to determine where additional cuts can be made and to implement the recommendations associated with the more than $160 million in wasteful spending identified through my audits.
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?
As the architect of the City’s business tax reform, I led efforts that resulted in returning more than $100 million to Los Angeles businesses, revitalizing the economy. Going forward, I support a phased-in approach of eliminating the City’s gross receipts tax, with triggers that only cuts taxes when revenue milestones are hit. Through the elimination of the business tax, the City will see more job creation and economic development, and will bring in more revenue for the City through other sources, including property and sales tax.
6. Do you believe city employees should make additional concessions on employee salaries, pensions or benefits? If so, how? If not, why not?
We need to address our pension system by making common-sense reforms, like banning double dipping, pension spiking, and capping the salary used to calculate benefits. With over $160 million in wasteful spending that I have identified in my audits, we also must recover potential savings and efficiencies. There are tremendous opportunities for efficiencies throughout the City, and those need to be found and acted upon before we ask for additional concessions. I am proud of the work of our over 47,000 City employees. If the budgetary situation continues to worsen however, I will work together with our City employees to make structural change through the collective bargaining process to that is required by law
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?
No. Because to administer a separate 401(k) for new employees, or to convert to one from our current system, would actually cost taxpayers more, not less. We must make sure that Los Angeles remains competitive, and can recruit and retain the best and brightest employees to serve our communities, especially since city workers don’t receive social security. A defined contribution (401k) style plan will negatively impact both recruitment and retention, particularly in the area of public safety, and I don’t believe we can afford that.
8. What current services, if any, do you believe the city can no longer afford to provide?
Using my blueprint for Performance Based Budgeting, we must identify the specific core functions, associated levels of service and fund accordingly. Among these core services must be public safety, public works and economic development. Resources must then be shifted to meet the city’s needs. The City cannot afford to continue with business as usual. We need to look at everything , including consolidations of City departments.
The City needs to do better collecting outstanding revenue and tightening internal controls. The City spends $4.8 million a year on cell phones for City employees. If my audit recommendations were implemented to substitute stipends for personal cell phones, the City would save $1.2 million right away. Additionally, the City needs to more closely monitor the City’s fuel usage – my audit found that over $7 million in fuel could not be accounted for. Before we eliminate services, we must get our fiscal house in order.
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?
I have a unique perspective on job creation because I’ve worked both in the public and private sectors. I get it. I won’t hire a “job czar” for Los Angeles—I will be the job czar. I will personally and regularly reach out to businesses to encourage them to stay or locate in Los Angeles and I will convene a “Jobs Cabinet” of relevant City department heads to closely track the progress of economic development activity in the City.
As Mayor, I will focus on four areas to get our economy moving again:
1. Build an Infrastructure for Job Growth: Transportation systems move goods and bring people to work. I will lead our efforts to invest in transportation and infrastructure, and ensure the competitiveness of our airports and port.
2. Reward Businesses: Most new jobs are created by small and medium-sized businesses. I will work to ease the burdens on businesses, including eliminating business taxes, using technological innovations to improve access to City Hall, and cutting red tape and streamlining regulatory processes.
3. Develop a Skilled Workforce: I will focus on improving K-12 education, connecting people to jobs by partnering with local business, community colleges and high schools, and by investing in career technical education and apprenticeship programs.
4. Encourage Innovation and Entrepreneurship: As Mayor, I will support and highlight Los Angeles’ key industries, including our signature creative economy, helping Los Angeles become the global capital of innovation and creativity.
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?
Los Angeles is a diverse city of entrepreneurs, with world-class innovations and boundless creativity. Our city is an international trade hub, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, a manufacturing powerhouse, and a growing center for new technology. To expand the tech industry in Los Angeles, I will:
- Promote and support LA’s growing tech hubs: This includes making strategic investments in LA’s tech hubs and incubators such as Silicon Beach, the Clean tech Corridor, the Expo Line tech corridor, the East LA biomed cluster, the new advanced manufacturing centers in the Valley and the maritime transportation hub in the Harbor Area. It also means partnering with local universities and community colleges to bring talent and new technologies to market.
- Help local tech entrepreneurs succeed: This means extending the business tax holiday for local tech companies, improving high-speed fiber-optic broadband, and creating a public-private fund to test, develop, and commercialize new technologies and leverage private capital.
- Grow clean technology and green jobs in LA: This means supporting local energy solutions like the solar feed-in tariff and energy efficiency programs that create jobs now while encouraging new environmentally-friendly technologies that can grow the clean tech industry for the long term.
3. Do you believe Los Angeles must provide tax subsidies or exemptions to attract new development?
Los Angeles can no longer rely solely on beaches and year-round sunshine to attract and grow businesses. We need a smart jobs strategy that uses all the tools that we have, including subsidies and exemptions. History shows that targeted tax reform works - through the City’s historic business tax reform, I was able to help the City return nearly $100 million to Los Angeles businesses and through the City’s new business exemption, the City must continue to provide further incentives for businesses to relocate or start in Los Angeles.
But these should not be our only options. As the City rethinks and refines its economic development infrastructure, we need to look at new options to incentivize new development – from examining our land-use and zoning policies to creating targeted areas throughout the City like Silicon Beach or the Clean tech Corridor to attract and foster new businesses.
4. Do you believe in fostering transit-oriented development?
Yes, transit-oriented development is essential for the future development of our City. However, I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution for the diverse communities of Los Angeles. Density makes sense for some areas near transit hubs but not in others. Transit-oriented development along transit corridors will help spur economic activity along our public transportation lines, create jobs, and alleviate traffic and congestion throughout the city. With 113 Metro stations set to open in the next 10 years, we have a chance to create mixed-use neighborhoods, encourage affordable housing and draw in businesses by planning around these transit hubs. And we should make it easier for developers to build affordable housing around transit hubs. While market forces are making development near transit attractive, it’s driving land costs up, making it harder to do affordable housing at transit stops.
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?
Involve the business community: First and foremost, I’ll talk to businesses, chambers of commerce, and industry leaders across the city to hear from them about what needs to be done to cut red tape and bureaucracy.
Hold departments accountable: I will hold those departments accountable for measurable performance goals and timetables for completion with a focus on customer services.
Use technology: I will use technological innovations to make City Hall more approachable, cut red tape and streamline burdensome regulatory processes.
Streamline processes and departments: As Mayor, I will take a hard look at duplicative and wasteful processes. Where practical, I will knock down silos and consolidate departments to cut down this waste and inefficiency.
Demand consistency: One of the top complaints I hear is about inconsistency—one inspector says one thing, and then another comes later and says something completely different, causing costly delays and modifications. I will work to eliminate this.
6. How important do you think AEG’s downtown stadium plan is to the city’s overall development?
The downtown stadium is a major investment that will create new jobs and boost economic activity as we struggle to revitalize our economy. The stadium project alone is expected to create 23,000 jobs — 11,000 of them permanent — and has the potential to start a ripple effect by drawing hotels, restaurants and tourists to the area. And it would make Los Angeles a destination once again for top-tier trade shows and Super Bowls.
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?
Yes. Having a professional football team will bring people from across the region and the state to Los Angeles. That means economic activity not just from ticket sales, but from restaurants, hotels, and retail stores in the 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 hire 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?
While we can’t put a price tag on public safety, we must find ways to deliver all city services more efficiently. I am supportive of replacing officers who resign or retire and my goal is to keep 10,000 full time officers. I will work to make sure the police force is netting more officers on patrol – we need to move people out from behind desks and into our neighborhoods and on to our streets. I would begin to pay for the police force’s necessary expansion by implementing all the cost saving recommendations in my audits and generating more economic development in our City, increasing tax revenues.
2. Will you ask Police Chief Charlie Beck to serve a second term?
I have worked closely with Chief Beck to make LA a safer City, and I will continue to do so in the future. Through the Chief’s dedication to community engagement and community policing, the LAPD has successfully changed its approach to protecting our neighborhoods. I am committed to keeping him as part of the solution that I will put into place to make Los Angeles safe for all Angelenos, no matter which part of town they live in.
3. Do you agree with Chief Beck’s decision to make it easier for unlicensed drivers — many of them illegal immigrants — to keep their vehicles from being impounded for long periods?
It is the law for all drivers in California to be licensed and have insurance. A new study conducted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles and AAA found that unlicensed drivers in the state are the most dangerous on the road and are more likely than licensed drivers to cause a fatal auto accident.
In total, there are an estimated 2 million unlicensed drivers in California. Since unlicensed drivers lack formal training, many of these drivers may not have proper driving skills.
It is for these reasons that I support granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, because it keeps our roads safer and provides a tool for law enforcement to identify individuals. I support the Chief’s recent decision on impounding vehicles for unlicensed drivers.
The larger question here is the failure of the federal government to pass comprehensive immigration reform. As Mayor, I will push Congress to pass immigration reform and provide undocumented immigrants with a path to 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?
The department has recently hired a new Risk Manager who is working with the Police Commission to help improve risk management policy and prevent high-risk liability in the department. I think this is a good start but there is always more we can do. I specifically want to ensure that our police officers are equipped with sufficient training in order to reduce the risk of the complexities of litigation. I look forward to working with their new Risk Manager and implementing policy that lowers the cost of further litigation and keeps our officers safe.
5. Do you believe police officer disciplinary hearings and records should be open to the public or kept secret?
Disciplinary hearings are personnel matters and under State law must be kept private to ensure the safety of the officers.
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?
As Controller, I have repeatedly stated in my financial reports the need to properly manage banked hours. It is distressing that the dollar value of banked overtime hours for LAPD officers has grown to $110 million in recent years. I believe we must continue to provide LAPD management with this budgetary tool, but we must strike a delicate balance between having officers take compensated time off in lieu of overtime pay, exercising management’s option to buy back accumulated overtime hours if funds become available, and deferring some payouts until separation from service occurs. In the near term, we cannot afford to solely address banked hours through payouts because of its resulting budgetary impact, nor through use of compensated time off because of its resulting public safety impact. We need more officers on the streets and in our communities, at work and protecting the people of Los Angeles.
7. Do you have confidence in the administration of Fire Chief Brian Cummings?
I have expressed concern regarding Chief Cummings’ leadership as it relates to response times. I questioned the department’s methodology and data reliability in determining whether its current deployment plan was successful. Just as I have as Controller, as Mayor I will hold department managers accountable for implementing benchmarks, and that means ensuring that the Fire Department effectively provides one of the City’s core public safety services – responding to fire and medical emergencies. The Mayor has the authority to hire and fire at any time. If someone – anyone – is not performing by my established standards, I will not hesitate to consider all options. I also recognize the importance of working with all of the parties involved, and just as the firefighters’ union leadership has worked to make this relationship work — they have recently signed letters of agreement covering overtime hiring and tactical EMS training — so will I.
8. Do you support a plan to convert LAFD dispatch-center employees from 24-hour shifts to a 40-hour work week?
I believe there may be different proposals that are more effective and cost-neutral. I will work with LAFD and the firefighters union to create a plan that maintains safety levels and that both sides can agree to.
9. Should the LAFD dispatch center be staffed by civilian workers instead of sworn employees?
I do not support having civilian workers at LAFD dispatch centers because it takes more than reading numbers on a screen to understand the complex dangers that firefighters face. We need people at these dispatch centers who understand what kind of work this is, and it takes specialized experience to make the tough calls when lives are on the line.
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?
Having slow response times in any part of the city is unacceptable. I’ll make sure that fire safety is a top priority and will do what is possible to restore services to appropriate levels. While there is a proposed five-year phased restoration plan to restore some of the cuts to the Fire Department, I believe this is not fast enough. As controller I have identified over $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse and as Mayor, I want to put that money to good use — like restoring LAFD engine companies and making sure our stations and dispatch centers have the latest technology so they can operate more efficiently and with better coordination.
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?
Yes. Los Angeles is building a transportation system benefiting every community in the City, as well as the Southern California region. Voter-approved Measure R-related transportation projects will generate over $67 billion in economic activity, adding 409,000 jobs with labor income of close to $25 billion. Total new tax revenues associated with Measure R will exceed $8 billion. An additional $16 billion in economic benefits and 85,000 jobs will be generated in other areas of the country. Measure J received over 66% of the vote in November, so it’s clear that Angelenos are very serious about this issue. Maintaining a consistent flow of locally generated revenue enables our community to leverage federal, state and private sector revenues to accelerate and deliver transportation benefits faster. If the electorate sees Metro, led by a Mayor who is a fiscal watchdog, spending Measure R dollars effectively and efficiently, it will be more likely to support a similar initiative in the near future.
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%?
I support lowering the voter threshold for taxes on transportation projects from two-thirds to 55%. I take the issue of taxation very seriously, especially given how hard taxpayers work for each and every one of the dollars collected, and the countless examples of abuse and misuse of funds by local governments throughout the region. However, transportation is one of the most sound, important, and worthwhile investments that a community can make, and a minority should not impede the progress of our city or investment in safe, efficient infrastructure. Under investment cripples our economy and endangers our commuters, and the return on investment in jobs and economic development makes this money well spent.
3. Will you give rail development the same emphasis that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has?
I will continue Mayor Villaraigosa’s robust efforts building our rail system throughout Los Angeles, but plan to increase attention to connectivity to other modes, especially walking and biking. Our Congressional delegation, led by Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and in partnership with President Obama, enacted new transportation funding containing the American Fast Forward provision bringing transportation dollars to Los Angeles. Now that we have a blueprint for a new transportation network, we have to make sure that it is properly implemented. I will work with our federal partners to build on this unprecedented provision so we can access additional revenues that will help improve mobility, create new jobs, and generate new economic opportunities.
4. Mayor Villaraigosa was sometimes criticized for prioritizing rail projects over the county’s bus system. What role do you think the bus system should play?
I know firsthand how important bus service is - in the Valley, where I was born, raised and live, there are two Red Line stops, and all other public transit consists of bus service. I will not compromise bus service for rail. A “one-size” transportation solution does not work for our City, so we must continue building all modes of transportation throughout our City. As Chair of the City Council Transportation Committee, I oversaw contracts and operational issues relating to DASH and Commuter Express, an important part of our region’s public transportation system. A state-of-the-art and well-maintained bus system is an essential component of our multi-modal transportation system.
Given the size of Los Angeles, it doesn’t make sense to suggest that either bus or rail independently will be the answer to our transportation challenges. Some areas are not conducive to rail, just as there are areas of the city that are better suited for shuttle or express service. All modes of travel should be valued and supported and should reflect what is best suited for the specific area.
5. Do you believe rail is the most cost-effective way to improve transportation in the city?
No, because I do not believe that any single mode of transportation is the answer or most cost-effective because of the wide variation in our City’s transportation landscape. Rail is particularly expensive, but is accompanied by powerful efficiencies and economic development effects. For example, I think it is the right investment for connectivity to the Westside from Downtown, but not necessarily the right one for Reseda Boulevard in the Valley. Bus Rapid Transit, for example, has demonstrated its operational viability in the East-West Orange Line corridor running from Warner Center/Chatsworth to Universal City connecting to the Red Line rail system. It is the right mode for that location.
6. Do you believe that a “subway to the sea” — the Westside subway extension — is necessary?
Yes. The Westside experiences some of the City’s heaviest traffic congestion, and simply adding more buses will not meet our current and future needs. Additionally, I strongly support efforts in Washington, D.C. to include funding in the President’s new proposed budget toward funding both the Westside Subway and Regional Connector projects.
7. What route should Metro select for the Westside subway as it passes through Century City?
I support the Westside Subway Extension Project adopted by the Metro Board of Directors in May 2012, including the Constellation Station. In selecting a route, public safety comes first. Period. If a route is determined to be safe, we should place the station where we maximize the benefit to transit users and encourage the greatest ridership.
8. Should more toll lanes be placed on Los Angeles freeway carpool lanes?
If the pilot projects on I-110 and I-10 prove successful, then yes. But, the reason these routes were selected was because there was excess capacity in those HOV lanes. Toll lanes should only be added where strong evidence indicates that toll lanes would be beneficial to help the flow of traffic. I would be reluctant to move forward without evidence of successful congestion relief, oversight and financial viability from the current pilot projects.
9. For decades transit officials have debated an extension of the 710 Freeway through South Pasadena. Should it be built, and if so, how?
There are still many uncertainties on an extension of the 710 Freeway. We need to ensure that the current process being managed by Metro to assess alternatives is both transparent and credible. I support a recent motion sponsored by Metro Board Member Richard Katz directing Metro staff to conduct a detailed review of the current planning and technical process.
10. Do you favor moving the north runways at LAX closer to Westchester? If so, why?
LAX is one of the largest economic engines that power our local economy. It is the sixth-busiest airport in the world, with more than 61 million passengers moving in and out of the airport on 265,000 flights during the 2011 fiscal year. This activity generated a total of 294,400 jobs in LA County, with labor income of $13.6 billion, economic output of more than $39.7 billion, and local and state tax revenues of $2.5 billion.
It is imperative that we keep LAX competitive. Part of this means reconfiguring the north runway to improve safety, efficiency and accommodate the next generation of aircraft. And I do support a reconfiguration of the north runway to address these concerns. We are currently in the middle of a robust public comment period regarding the various options for the runway.
Leadership is about looking at the facts, listening to stakeholders, balancing the needs of the region with the concerns of the communities around the airport, and making a decision. That is what I plan to do.
Yet, to focus only on this one issue obscures the bigger picture. As anyone who flies frequently knows, the customer experience at LAX leaves much to be desired. We need to bring light rail into LAX and increase the attractiveness of Ontario Airport to take the traffic burden off local communities and the Westside. The $2 billion dollar expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which will open soon, is a good first step. But it is only a first step. As Mayor, I will make sure that we keep a laser-like focus on airport modernization and improving the customer experience while mitigating impacts on local communities around the airport.
11. What improvements are still needed at LAX?
As the sixth busiest airport in the world and as one of our most important gateways to Los Angeles, LAX must undergo significant modernization. LAX needs a better customer experience — from restaurants and luggage retrieval to ground transportation and rental cars, LAX currently lacks what we need to be competitive for passengers when they depart or land at LAX. Connecting the airport to transit, improved ground access, a consolidated rental car facility, and an automated people mover system are all improvements that will enhance the LAX experience.
We must improve transportation to and from LAX by working with the MTA and LAWA. That means creating better access routes and circulation for cars, and completing the rail connection so our trains actually get to the airport.
We also need to modernize LAX terminals, remodeling the spaces so we’re moving travelers more efficiently and so the terminals reflect our world-class city. LAX is the first impression of Los Angeles that travelers see.
12. Would you sell or give up control over Ontario International Airport? If so, why?
I do not believe in retaining control solely for the sake of maintaining an airport empire. On the contrary, I support the fiscally responsible option that provides the best services to the people of Southern California. Regionalization of air traffic in Southern California should be pursued. The economic situation of the region has made that challenging in recent years. While sharing operational control may be beneficial, this decision should be made in the context of a strategic vision, and not as a quick fix.
13. Do you think the city needs to privatize its parking garages?
I do not believe that running parking garages is part of the City’s core services. The City cannot afford another failed attempt at privatizing the City’s parking garages. As I highlighted in my letter to the Council before the recent attempt to privatize garages failed, there must be the leadership and political will to privatize the City’s parking assets; otherwise, it will collapse again as it did recently.
As part of this process, the City should be leveraging these valuable assets to engage in public/private partnerships to develop workforce housing for teachers, police, and firefighters, and affordable housing.
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?
Our roadways need to be designed with bicyclists in mind, and we need to thoughtfully establish a network of bicycle routes that connects our neighborhoods to our commercial, retail, educational and cultural centers.
Imagine if just a small portion of those trips were taken by bicycle - what a dramatic positive impact that would have on our neighborhoods, our environment, our traffic congestion and our public health.
For example, CicLAvia has been an amazing success, getting Angelenos out of their cars and onto bikes. As Mayor, I would like to expand CicLAvia to other parts of the City and make it a monthly event.
As Mayor, I will support investment in infrastructure on the streets and at public facilities. That includes pushing for bike racks on buses that can hold more than 2 bikes, street striping, lighting, improved bike paths and street repaving, connectivity and signage for bike routes. The more we encourage other modes of transportation, the greater the congestion reduction benefit will be. And studies have demonstrated that a reduction in the number of vehicles on a congested road by just 2 or 3 percent could cut congestion delays by 10-15 percent.
People are now riding public transit and traveling by bicycle in numbers not seen before here in Los Angeles, and we should encourage more of it.
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?
As Mayor, I will address basic services in partnership with the community, because the state of our sidewalks is unacceptable. Every member of our society has a significant interest in improving sidewalks—it improves mobility, reduces lawsuits, increases property value and improves access to businesses and communities. Implementing a robust sidewalk improvement and pedestrian safety program will be a priority of my Administration. And I’ll look at creative solutions like selling our asphalt to smaller municipalities to generate additional revenue, investing in modifying our asphalt-making equipment to be able to perform more repaving ourselves at lower cost, and requiring any contractors doing City projects to use City-made asphalt.
I will explore bringing back the “50/50” sidewalk program that I pioneered in my council district, sharing the cost of sidewalk repair between the City and the community.
The largest school system in California struggles with low test scores and graduation rates. LAUSD teachers and administrators disagree on evaluation methods. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attempted a takeover but settled for running a limited number of campuses.
1. How would you describe the state of the Los Angeles Unified School District?
As the mother of a child who attends a public elementary school, I know first hand the challenges that our schools face. While I am proud of the progress our students and teachers are striving to make every day, there is no doubt that the state of Los Angeles schools is far from where it should be.
The health of our city – from our ability to create jobs and compete economically with neighboring cities, to our success in fighting crime and lifting families out of poverty – begins and ends with a quality public education system.
As Mayor of Los Angeles, I will dedicate myself to reforming and improving Los Angeles’ schools.
2. Will you continue to oversee the nonprofit that runs Mayor Villaraigosa’s 15 schools?
Yes, I will continue the strong collaboration between the City and LAUSD.
I believe the City of LA, LAUSD, teachers, administrators, students, parents and the private sector must recommit to our shared mission of turning around our lowest performing schools. Making sure our students with the greatest need get more support will be a priority for me.
Improving public schools will be a priority in my administration and the Partnership will be a part of that.
3. Will you try to have the same level of political involvement and influence over the school board by fielding candidates and helping to pay for their campaigns?
The quality of our public schools is important to the health and success of our city. I will partner with the Superintendent in fighting for school funding, cutting waste and ensuring dollars go to the classroom and not the downtown bureaucracy.
As I have done in the past, I will support school board candidates who share my vision for improving our schools.
I will support our great teachers in raising the respect and reward their profession deserves. I will stand with parents in demanding greater local control and a greater say in their children’s future. And I will advocate first for our students by holding all of us accountable for their learning.
4. How would you evaluate the performance of Superintendent John Deasy?
Since John Deasy became the Superintendent of Los Angeles schools just less than two years ago, he has proven to be a capable and courageous leader of the District. Under his leadership in 2012, LAUSD improved its API score by 16 points, which not only exceeded the California state average, it placed Los Angeles schools highest among urban districts for the second year in a row.
This great progress achieved by our students and teachers was accomplished while the LAUSD has had to face more than $2 billion in budget deficits.
As Superintendent Deasy’s partner, I will help put the school district’s fiscal house in order. We will put money back into the classroom by cutting waste and bureaucracy from downtown and fighting to make sure Prop 30 dollars are spent as promised to us parents.
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?
We know through research and through our common experience that the most effective way to improve academic achievement is to have a great teacher in a classroom every day with children. Great teachers make great schools.
To reward great teachers, support those who are still developing their practice and hold accountable those teachers who are struggling, we need an effective teacher evaluation system. It is the only way for schools to understand what teaching methods are working and where improvement is needed.
An effective evaluation system must contain multiple measurements that include: 1) test scores measured by academic growth over time; 2) parent and student feedback; 3) assessment of contribution to the school community; and 4) classroom observations.
It’s time to value and reward the very people most responsible for student achievement. Teachers deserve our greater respect and have earned greater rewards. Yet with that respect comes even greater responsibility, a common commitment from each and every one of us to hold ourselves accountable.
6. What are the top three things you could do to help improve the school system as mayor?
I will help put the school district’s fiscal house in order. As the City Controller, I know how to cut waste from the downtown bureaucracy. I will help ensure that Prop 30 dollars are spent as promised and move money back into the classroom.
I will fight tirelessly for more funding for our schools to reward successful teachers and school leaders while pushing for accountability measures to improve the school district.
As a parent of a student in LAUSD, I will work to create more choices for parents, students and teachers by making sure our schools have more local control and innovative solutions. I will work to bring back arts and music education and push for a longer school year to ensure our students are spending more time in the classroom. And I’ll expand after school programs that work — like LA’s BEST, which I helped start with Mayor Tom Bradley — so schools can truly become the community centers that anchor our neighborhoods.
7. Should every charter school have a teacher workforce that is represented by a union?
Every teacher should have the right to organize and collectively bargain at his or her local charter school.
8. How many additional charter schools should LAUSD allow?
I believe that is the wrong question to be asking. The question is how do we ensure a strong foundation of good schools operated by LAUSD.
Schools like my son’s school, an affiliated charter elementary school, provide local control and give parents a greater say in their child’s education. Charter schools are one way of creating greater choice for parents and greater opportunity for our children to succeed.
Power costs are rising as the DWP moves from coal to renewable fuels. The Supreme Court is weighing lawsuits over the port’s clean-truck program. Advocates for green spaces say more parks are needed. Developers are pushing back at state environmental impact laws.
1. Some projections provided to the city forecast that 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?
Electricity rates are going up around the country. LADWP’s rates are subject to the same market forces, and are going up primarily because of needed updates to aging infrastructure, not because of environmental priorities. Investing in these clean energy resources is a prudent investment. The utility’s transition to renewable power and energy efficiency will have significant upfront costs, however, I believe these green investments will bear tremendous dividends for Los Angeles going forward.
As Controller, I have a record of holding the Department of Water and Power accountable. I have recommended numerous ways to create efficiencies and identified areas for the department to better manage its costs. I will challenge the DWP to ensure that it is streamlining processes and decreasing costs before approving any additional rate increase.
2. Mayor Antonio 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?
Yes. The good news is that LADWP is moving ahead with the transition away from coal-powered generation. The bad news is that it’s not happening fast enough. For years, coal-fired power plants have externalized the true cost of dirty electrical generation, and placed it on the rest of us in the form of pulmonary disease and other health problems and that has got to stop.
We must move to get LA off coal as quickly as possible, but also must do so in a responsible manner. My 20 percent renewable portfolio standard audit showed that when we spot purchased and didn’t work strategically, it literally cost us. We need to do this in a way that protects ratepayers and doesn’t sacrifice long term environmental benefits.
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?
Yes. The Port of Los Angeles is one of City’s most important engines of economic growth. To keep it competitive and growing, we need to ensure that it does so in a way that’s sustainable in a dense urban environment like Los Angeles. In this regard, Los Angeles’ Clean Trucks Program has been a phenomenal success. We have seen a reduction in diesel emissions and the number of trucks congesting the port, and it has spurred many new port development projects, proving the Port of Los Angeles can grow and become more sustainable at the same time.
In particular, the ban on the dirty trucks and common sense rules such as requiring that large cargo hauling trucks are not parked in residential neighborhoods have been very effective. I hope that the Supreme Court sees the wisdom of upholding the ability of cities like LA to protect its health and its neighborhoods, especially when having such a significant impact on local communities.
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?
I do support the SCIG. We need to make sure that we keep our port competitive to keep jobs in the region, and the key to the competitiveness of our port is increasing throughput. The faster we can get cargo from the ship to its destination, the more competitive we will be. This means focusing on loosening key choke points like near dock rail, while ensuring that the solutions do not increase burdens on local residents or our air quality.
While the project needs to go through the environmental review process, I support the SCIG because we need to improve access to rail to make our port more competitive globally. It’s clear that getting more cargo on rail, instead of on trucks makes a lot of sense from an operational and environmental standpoint; but we can’t ignore the heavy burden that falls on community residents who will be subject to increased, localized truck traffic and emissions. For projects like this one, we need to look at solutions that include dedicated truck lanes and moving toward zero-emissions technologies for trucks that eliminate trips through residential neighborhoods.
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?
CEQA has protected our communities, environment and health for over 30 years and should continue to do so. Unfortunately, CEQA has also been occasionally used as a tool for stopping the kinds of development that we want in LA: those that not only create construction jobs, but create more vibrant, walkable, livable communities. I will work with infill developers and environmental advocates so that we can build a world-class, green and sustainable 21st century city.
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?
Streamlining for special projects should be met with a healthy dose of skepticism. As the research on CEQA shows, the vast majority of projects are assessed and approved without litigation. A project undergoing an environmental impact report is a project that will have significant environmental consequences and thus those impacts should be assessed.
7. Advocates for green space 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?
Because of my commitment to the environment, I set the record for most open space preserved by any Council member in Los Angeles history, preserving nearly 1,200 acres of open space, including approximately 740 acres of permanent open space in Canyon Hills. I also increased funding and built improvements at every public park in my district.
As part of my environmental agenda, I secured the passage of the historic San Gabriel/Verdugo Mountains Scenic Preservation Corridor Plan, which, for the first time in the City’s history, protected prominent ridgelines throughout the Foothills area and is now a model for the City of Los Angeles. I also worked with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to protect precious hillside land in the Santa Monica Mountains and formed the Verdugo Mountains Task Force, whose goal is to identify and purchase plots of land critical to maintaining the Verdugo Mountain wilderness.
I will continue to add new parkland throughout the City – especially in those parts of the City that are the most park – poor. As I have successfully done, I will hold department heads accountable for improving the maintenance of existing parks to keep them safe and clean for all Angelenos to use.
I applaud the Los Angeles Parks’ Foundation for its successful partnership with the Department of Recreation and Parks and the private sector to fund the development of over 50 new park spaces throughout all of LA. As City Council member of the 2nd district, I made sure I found ways to fund improvements to every park in my district and funded the acquisition of open space parkland to be preserved, in perpetuity, for generations to come. The city’s charter not only contemplates parks as a priority, it dedicates a portion of General Fund revenues to go to the parks. As Mayor, I will not impose excessive or unfair charges on the parks department and I will reward departments that are able to help themselves generate additional revenue.