Where they stand
A Los Angeles city councilman since 2001, Eric Garcetti served as council president from 2006 to 2012.
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?
No — I voted against the sales tax increase because I believe we need to make Los Angeles more business-friendly and an increase in the sales tax will put L.A.’s businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared to our neighboring cities by encouraging our residents to shop outside the city. I also believe that the sales tax increase will burden working families the most especially at a time when working families are hurting.
2. If you oppose the sales tax, what city programs would you eliminate or scale back?
I have shown the leadership to balance our budget in the deepest recession in my lifetime. We did this by eliminating positions, tackling pension reform with our unions, and addressing the cost of health care. But cuts and reductions should not be the only long-term strategy to balance our budget. The reason I am so focused on creating jobs and making Los Angeles more business-friendly again is that by growing our economy we will have the revenues to protect core city services—public safety, public works, and our parks and libraries.
3. Is new revenue essential to fixing city finances? If so, what kind would you seek?
Yes, we must grow our economy and increase our revenue base. In my district, in the midst of a recession, I have led the city in new job growth, new business receipts, and we have added jobs and business activity despite the tough times. For instance, the Hollywood tax increment has increased fourfold, providing money not just for Hollywood, but helping pay for new police officers, maintaining core services, and spurring new economic activity citywide. The turnaround of Hollywood contributed to a record year for tourism in Los Angeles in 2012, generating hotel tax and sales tax. We also need to make government more efficient, by updating our technological systems, thinking creatively about new revenues, and collecting the debts owed to the city. I am proud to have led the fight to collect our existing revenue more efficiently by creating the Commission On Revenue Efficiency, which has identified nearly $500 million in revenues that the city can collect.
4. Do you support laying off additional city employees as a way to balance city finances?
No, we have cut to the bone and need to find other ways than cuts and reductions to balance the budget. I worked with our employee unions over the last few years and led our successful efforts to eliminate about 5,000 positions from the city payroll. To put this in perspective, this is about the same employment level for non-sworn employees (not police officers and firefighters) as when Tom Bradley left office 20 years ago, when L.A. had about 1 million fewer people.
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, the city’s gross receipts tax puts the city of L.A. at a competitive disadvantage, is the highest rate in the County, and taxes businesses even when they lose money. I am proud to have been the architect of business tax reform in Los Angeles, reducing the tax for all businesses, and eliminating it and lowering it in strategic industries, such as digital media companies that often fled L.A. for lower-tax cities. In terms of making up the revenue, recent examples and studies have shown that when we have lowered the city’s gross receipts tax, we attract new businesses, retain existing businesses, create jobs for Angelenos and generate more tax revenue. When I authored the law eliminating the tax for new car dealers, after our city lost more than 100 dealers to other cities over the past few decades, five new dealers planned to open or expand in the city, increasing total revenues due to sales tax and other economic activity.
6. Do you believe city employees should make additional concessions on employee salaries, pensions or benefits? If so, how? If not, why not?
I am the only candidate in this race who has negotiated hundreds of millions of dollars in pension reforms. This was tough, but ultimately successful, because I worked with our employee unions and brought all sides to the table, and I will continue to do this. Other cities may claim to have passed pension reform, but those ballot measures are all stuck in court and have not saved a penny. Los Angeles has delivered on pension reform, health care cost containment, and the elimination of positions. I led these successful efforts that kept Los Angeles away from our own fiscal cliff. In 2010, the projected FY 13-14 budget deficit for Los Angeles was $1.071 billion. That figure has been whittled down by 80% to $216 million by unprecedented pension reforms and the reduction of the workforce by approximately 5,000 positions. We have done a lot of the tough work but there is clearly more to do and I am focused on growing our revenues, collecting our debts, and increasing our internal operating efficiency before asking for additional concessions.
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. I was the first mayoral candidate to publicly speak out against Riordan’s 401(k) ballot measure, and have been clear and unequivocal in my opposition. Research shows that a 401(k) plan would in fact cost the city more money because there would be a huge up-front expense to compensate employees transitioning to a 401(k). Beyond costing more money for many years, a 401(k) plan would result in us paying Social Security for our employees (which we currently do not) and we would not be in a competitive position to hire police officers and firefighters if this was in place.
8. What current services, if any, do you believe the city can no longer afford to provide?
We cannot afford to further cut city services. As Mayor, I will be looking to restore those core services: public safety, public works, and libraries and parks.
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?
On day one as mayor, I will set in motion my plans to bring jobs to Los Angeles by focusing on a more business-friendly city, investing in the jobs of the future, and accelerating infrastructure projects to rebuild our crumbling city. I would implement the Business Tax Advisory Committee’s plan to eliminate the gross receipts tax, a move that studies show would create jobs in L.A. This would ensure L.A.’s business climate is no longer clouded by the highest such tax in the County and one that taxes businesses even when they lose money. I recently announced plan to create 20,000 good green jobs in the city of Los Angeles to install and build solar panels, improve the energy efficiency of our buildings, and clean our water. Read more here: http://www.ericgarcetti.com/greenjobs I also released a plan to improve career training in L.A. In January, I worked with the airport department to try to save LAUSD’s Van Nuys aviation mechanic training program, so students can learn the skills they need for good-paying careers as mechanics in our airports. As mayor, I would expand one stop job training placement centers at our community colleges. We have shown the success of this approach in my district, where we pioneered a Healthcare Career Ladder, which trains local residents to fill good jobs in the healthcare industry in Los Angeles. We have now expanded this approach to other core industries including the entertainment industry, tourism, security, construction trades, banking, and international trade. I would also develop a better web portal with easy access to all adult education, job training and community college courses, overseen directly by my new Chief Technology Officer. And I would develop a single online application for these programs to help students quickly access the programs they need. Read more here: www.ericgarcetti.com/careertraining
As part of my focus on cutting unemployment, I will expand and accelerate overseas investment here in L.A. by creating a dedicated EB5 office in my administration. To help new businesses grow in Los Angeles, I will establish a public-private partnership with area research universities to create jobs, particularly in the area of green and advanced manufacturing jobs. I will protect and grow L.A.’s biggest industries by sourcing city goods from local manufacturers and retailers, collaborating with neighboring cities to draw more tourism and trade, and fighting hard to preserve and expand California’s state filming incentives and building on my leadership on city-specific incentives to keep ensure L.A. remains the world’s production capital. Finally, to cut unemployment, I will accelerate street paving and transit projects funded under Measure R. And I will improve our airport and our port to spur tourism and trade, get people back to work and build a world-class city.
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, as Mayor I will focus on jobs in emerging industries such as advanced manufacturing, digital technology, and clean energy jobs. First, I have a detailed plan to create 20,000 new jobs in solar installation, energy efficiency, and water improvement projects in our city. The plan is described above. Second, I will make Los Angeles a great technology center for digital information companies. Already, I am working closely with industry groups and start-ups in Silicon Beach. As Mayor, I will foster and accelerate a culture of innovation and support for these companies, which start quickly, hire quickly, and are Los Angeles was recently rated as the third-best start-up culture in America. But we must ensure that these companies stay in Los Angeles. I will do this through initiatives to train and retain more engineers from our local universities, by opening up City Hall as a gathering place for start-up entrepreneurs and by opening up city government as a place where technology pioneers can test and demonstrate their products. I will hire a Chief Technology Officer for the city to help guide and market these efforts to make Los Angeles a tech leader. In order to ensure that L.A.’s workforce is prepared for the high-tech global economy, we need to make sure our youth are taught both the languages of today and tomorrow by teaching foreign and computer programming languages. I will work to build an advanced manufacturing hub here to Los Angeles. Our area is still the leading manufacturing center in the country. We may not realize it, because we lost many aerospace jobs, but we still are the manufacturing capital of the United States. Unfortunately, too much of that manufacturing is lower-end, but as Mayor, I will launch an initiative for advanced manufacturing in Los Angeles (including additive manufacturing, nanotechnology, and molecular manufacturing), and focus on our core manufacturing in aerospace, fashion, and durable goods so that we can bring more middle-class jobs to Los Angeles.
3. Do you believe Los Angeles must provide tax subsidies or exemptions to attract new development?
I’m leading efforts to eliminate the gross-receipts business tax to make our city more attractive for new businesses and to prevent existing businesses from leaving. As Mayor, I will continue to help LA businesses start-up, grow and create jobs. I also recently wrote a law to eliminate all permit fees for filming new television pilots in the City of Los Angeles. Additionally, I would consider other incentives that create jobs and encourage companies to move to certain areas of the city. One of the best incentives is a good public transit system. For instance, the investment in the Red Line in Hollywood helped bring that neighborhood back and the Expo Line, the Gold Line, and the Crenshaw Line all hold the same potential of using infrastructure investment to bring jobs to parts of our city that need them.
4. Do you believe in fostering transit-oriented development?
I believe in good, neighborhood-focused development. What makes sense in one part of the city doesn’t necessarily fit in another part of LA. It makes sense to keep larger buildings away from single-family home neighborhoods. It makes sense to put jobs near transit and housing near transit. And it makes sense to use incentives to encourage people who live near transit to actually use it and to make it free. I think that where we have well-developed transportation lines, it is appropriate to encourage mixed-use developments where we can put housing above stores and save people a car trip to get their groceries, or where folks can take a car trip off the streets by walking to a rail line or busway to get to work, reducing traffic and congestion for everyone in the city.
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 recently partnered with License 123 to offer LA residents a free one-stop service to get all permits needed to open a business in L.A.(you can go to my city web site, http://www.cd13.com to get this service for free if you are opening a business in LA). As Mayor I will keep finding innovative ways to make it easier for people to do business in L.A. I will require all general managers to reapply for their jobs and evaluate them on how they solve problems, provide efficient customer service to residents, and make their work open and transparent for the public to review. I have helped lead the initiative to reduce the amount of places that a business needs to go to get approvals for a new project and have pioneered electronic plan check, which will save us tens of thousands of dollars in paper and provide a portal where businesses and the public can track development projects in their neighborhoods. I want a customer service driven City Hall where calls are returned within 24 hours and service requests can be tracked like a package.
6. How important do you think AEG’s downtown stadium plan is to the city’s overall development?
It would be great to bring football back to Los Angeles. While football is only 8 games a year, having a large indoor multi-use arena will help the city attract NCAA Final Fours and other large attractions that will draw more visitors to L.A. And the project would also improve the L.A. Convention Center, making it world-class and bringing conventions and business to Los Angeles. Improving our convention center while building a downtown stadium without any public subsidy would help us bring immediate jobs and long-term jobs to our economy.
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, professional football is a uniquely popular attraction that draws fans from across the region. Big games, like the Rose Bowl and Super Bowl, draw huge interest in our city and encourage talented individuals to move to L.A. In fact, my friend Jan Perry decided to move to L.A. after attending the Rose Bowl!
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?
I believe that more cops makes L.A. safer and I fought to bring more officers to the neighborhoods I represent, including 40 foot patrol officers to Hollywood, and we cut violent crime by two-thirds. When we cut crime, the economy grew. As the economy grew, we have more revenue for city services, which in turn help us improve our neighborhoods. As Mayor, I will continue to fight for resources to strengthen the LAPD.
2. Will you ask Police Chief Charlie Beck to serve a second term?
I am asking all my department heads to reapply for their jobs. The Chief of Police serves under different terms as outlined in the city charter, but I will expect that Chief Beck will continue to bring down crime, support and enhance constitutional community policing and work with me to fix the problems that are holding back our neighborhoods as we have done in neighborhoods like Glassell Park to stop gangs. I would certainly encourage Chief Beck to look at a second term in Los Angeles, and I will engage the public in the process of hiring (or re-hiring) any police chief for the city.
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?
I support Chief Beck’s position to end the practice of automatically impounding the cars of unlicensed undocumented immigrants. The federal government cannot saddle our first responders with the high costs of their failure to act on immigration reform.
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?
As Mayor, I will direct both the LAPD and the City Attorney to take a comprehensive review of how to stop litigation before it starts and to win on the cases that we bring to court. I do believe that the department has done a good job of responding to incidents when they are brought to light, but we need to do a better job of stopping these lawsuits before they start.
5. Do you believe police officer disciplinary hearings and records should be open to the public or kept secret?
Nothing should be kept secret from the Inspector General, the Chief and the Police Commission. I do not believe that personnel files should be made generally available to the public and they are protected as confidential by state law.
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?
I want to turn around our economy to build city revenue so that we can afford more cops on the street. The contract should allow paid overtime because this puts more cops on the streets, but the amount depends upon our budget numbers at that time. At the same time, we must aggressively work to reduce the amount of wasted overtime that police spend waiting around to testify in court, which takes cops off the streets and endangers public safety. I will work with our courts to create an efficient system that gets officers to court more accurately and more timely, so that the courts are not causing us to lose these key officers from patrols.
7. Do you have confidence in the administration of Fire Chief Brian Cummings?
No. I believe confidence needs to be restored in the Fire Department management.
8. Do you support a plan to convert LAFD dispatch-center employees from 24-hour shifts to a 40-hour work week?
No, the 24-hour schedule is specifically designed to respond to emergencies and allows for increased capacity within minutes. The Fire Department is our insurance policy and we must be prepared for the worst. In light of the fact that we do not have accurate data on dispatch and response times, we need to take a comprehensive look at the entire department and every aspect of response to figure out how to best to get firefighters on the scene faster.
9. Should the LAFD dispatch center be staffed by civilian workers instead of sworn employees?
No, LAFD dispatchers are fully trained firefighter/paramedics and their training and experience helps to start to address the needs of the emergency immediately. I would much rather have someone at the dispatch center who has the experience of being on the scene and in the field than civilians who have never been in a fire truck.
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?
We first need to collect accurate data and set clear goals for response times. For too long, the Department has had junk data and this led Council member Mitch Englander and I to launch an initiative called FireStat, which will finally give us a clear picture on response times and other critical data. For the last two years, I have led the fight for a 5-year plan to put additional resources into the Fire Department, including engine companies, ambulances, mechanics, and other key staff. The department must now start acting on putting resources back into the field and the additional resources we are generating in the department must stay in the department so that we can do this. We also need to find simple, common-sense solutions like getting GPS in all trucks. We need to analyze traffic patterns and hillside roads that slow response and staff accordingly and look at the best technology to decrease the time it takes the truck to start rolling out to a call. We need to look at doing what other neighboring cities do to get resources out as soon as a call arrives, instead of waiting for minutes as a long list of questions is answered by the 911 caller. This information is often critical, but it can be obtained as firefighters are already responding to the emergency before them.
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, accelerating Measure R projects would create thousands of jobs, reduce traffic congestion, and decrease air pollution from single occupant car trips. We need traffic relief and we need it now. But we also need to collaborate to ensure that transit improvements include bus service and take into account neighboring cities, since traffic is a regional problem and needs to be addressed regionally.
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%?
3. Will you give rail development the same emphasis that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has?
I will continue to accelerate badly-needed rail lines (and where appropriate busways), since these projects have the best shot at reducing traffic throughout our city. We need to finish the Expo Line to Santa Monica, link LAX to the Green Line, build the Crenshaw Line in South Los Angeles, get a North-South line in the San Fernando Valley that connects to a transit tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass and it is critical to get the Wilshire subway to the Westside. We should build light rail and busways where we can, and subways where they are necessary. That said, we can never lose sight that a successful transit system needs to look at neighborhood buses that get people to the main lines, parking for cars near transit stops, and strong pedestrian corridors and bikeways along our transit lines.
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?
Buses are critical for our transit system to work—more people ride buses today than rail and a bus can sometimes get people places quicker and closer. They play an integral role in building a linked transit system with easy transfers. As Mayor, I will focus on improving the conditions for bus riders with better bus stops that include art, lighting, Internet hot spots, and better seating and shade. As Mayor, I will be focused on the street-level transit rider as much as I will focus on building out an overall world-class rail and busway system. We should be open to smaller buses that act as neighborhood circulators for local needs and that help residents in more isolated neighborhoods get to main lines.
5. Do you believe rail is the most cost-effective way to improve transportation in the city?
Not always, as in some cases, buses can be more cost-effective. We should build rail where it is necessary and look at busways where it is just as fast to travel and often cheaper and faster to get a line up and running, such as with the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley. These lines can always be converted to rail lines in the future, but my focus as mayor will be on getting projects up and running as quickly as possible while maximizing our funds. Where we have the most choked corridors—the 405/Sepulveda Pass and Wilshire Blvd, for instance—rail is often the only solution that can deal with the gridlock that we face. No matter what we build, we need to make sure these options are fast, on schedule, and predictable.
6. Do you believe that a “subway to the sea” — the Westside subway extension — is necessary?
Yes. We must extend the Wilshire subway to West L.A. We may not get all the way to the sea, but we absolutely must get to UCLA and the VA at a minimum.
7. What route should Metro select for the Westside subway as it passes through Century City?
I support the current plan for the subway to pass through Constellation and Avenue of the Stars.
8. Should more toll lanes be placed on Los Angeles freeway carpool lanes?
Not at this time. I am monitoring the progress of the pilot toll lanes and am interested in the data that we get from this trial. If this results in improvements in traffic for everyone (including those not in the carpool lanes) and provides additional funds to put into traffic improvements that help everyone, then we can decide together as a city if we should look at this for any other freeway carpool lanes.
9. For decades transit officials have debated an extension of the 710 Freeway through South Pasadena. Should it be built, and if so, how?
I am opposed to the 710 extension being built.
10. Do you favor moving the north runways at LAX closer to Westchester? If so, why?
I have been listening to Westchester residents and other stakeholders to resolve safety, traffic and efficiency concerns at LAX and look forward to continuing this discussion in the campaign. I think that it is critical that we move forward on modernizing LAX to improve the passenger experience, safety and I am committed to making LAX a world-class airport again. The airport is one of the linchpins of our local economy and right now it does not reflect our great city. Building the new Tom Bradley terminal is a great start, but we need to make all of our terminals exciting and dynamic reflections of this city. Also, as Mayor, I want to work hard to expand the capacity for other airports in the region (such as Ontario Airport) to take some of the passenger traffic away from LAX. I am committed to making LAX great again and addressing the neighborhood concerns about traffic, air quality and impact on businesses and homes.
11. What improvements are still needed at LAX?
Our first focus at LAX needs to be improving the passenger experience, ensuring plane safety, reducing neighborhood traffic, and expanding public transit options from the airport and cutting the pollution. Specifically, we need to extend the Green Line and the future Crenshaw line into LAX. It makes no sense that we have a rail line that stops short of LAX. We also need to consolidate rental car operations and build an automated people mover. We need a cell phone waiting lot that actually works and parking that makes sense. We need real-time traffic and parking information like the Parker App that I implemented in my District. These improvements will help relieve some of the airport’s impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods while simultaneously improving the passenger experience at the airport, key to maintaining our city as a key international gateway. We need improved safety measures through runway status lights and improved sight lines for air traffic controllers and pilots. We need to continue to urge the FAA to fully staff the air traffic control tower and to move forward on runway improvements that make sense. We should be making our terminals a better experience for international and domestic passengers by making sure that they reflect the creativity and best that L.A. has to offer. We should highlight the content of what makes L.A. great—our food, our music, our art, our movies, and our neighborhoods. We need to make LAX the greenest airport in the country in operational terms by cutting traffic and reducing pollution and by stopping waste and improving sustainability throughout all operations.
12. Would you sell or give up control over Ontario International Airport? If so, why?
LAWA is already in negotiations to sell Ontario to the city of Ontario and I fully support local ownership of Ontario if we can get revenues to help the city of LA, boost passenger use of Ontario, and better integrate the airport with the eastern part of LA County and the Inland Empire, which will reduce car traffic throughout the region.
13. Do you think the city needs to privatize its parking garages?
No. These types of solutions to raise revenue quickly are not long-term ways to solve our city’s structural deficit problem and they often involve selling an asset for much less than it’s worth in revenue. I support maximizing our real estate assets and portfolio to get more revenues for the city where it makes sense, but full-scale selling off of our parking garages was a short-term fix for a long-term budget challenge. I have always favored long-term permanent fixes (pension reform, reducing positions, addressing health care costs) over one-time budget gimmicks.
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?
Bicyclists today know one of the best kept secrets in town - which is that bicycling is fun, provides substantial health benefits, and aside from walking is the cheapest form of transportation. Bicycling is great for short trips and is instrumental to a comprehensive transportation system, because it will provide the needed link to our rail and bus lines. I understand that Los Angeles is perceived as the ultimate car culture city - but that has not always been the case. Bicycling and robust transit, such as the historic and much beloved red car, were early mobility elements that over years were replaced by car culture. And just as L.A. became a car culture, through policy changes we can reverse that trend and ultimately achieve a balanced menu of transportation options that let us choose how we want to travel, whether it be on foot, on bike, on bus or train, or by car.
As Council member I have worked for several years on making bicycling a viable commuting option. I worked to install the first showers and bicycle lockers at City Hall to promote their use for city employees who wanted to commute by bicycle to work. In my council district, I pushed for the pilot program that led to the installation of the first bicycle sharrows which are road designations to make roads safer for bicyclists. These markings have now been adopted citywide, and were a key feature in the newly adopted bicycle plan. Finally, I led the way in securing the first city funds for Ciclavia and as Mayor I would like to have a Ciclavia event once a month in the city. But we are not done - we must continue to implement the bicycle infrastructure laid out in the City’s Bike Plan, however, we can not rest on its laurels - we must challenge ourselves to continue to innovate and draw from best practices across the globe to make L.A. a bikable city. This year, the League of American Cyclists awarded the City the Bronze Level Designation for Bike Friendly City - a great honor. And while, we should not be in the business of chasing awards, we must be able to measure our success, and focus on increasing the percentage of people riding bikes, while also lowering the number of bike related traffic accidents in the City.
Biking in L.A. should not be an extreme sport, but a transportation option that is available to all Angelenos - from children to seniors, for men or women. That is why I support state laws to give cyclists a safe passing distance from cars and want to see LAPD be trained about bicycle accidents with cars and better enforce the law, which allows bicycles to be on the streets with the same protections as cars.
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?
Los Angeles needs to fix its sidewalks and we must be strategic about our resources. We first need a methodological assessment of city sidewalks in order to assess where the most need is. When the Bureau of Street Services stated that a sidewalk assessment would take 3 years and cost over $10 million, Council member Rosendahl and I introduced a motion asking for alternative, cheaper ways to do this analysis. My staff conducts a street-by-street graffiti assessment every year. We can use a similar method and technology in order to first assess where the need for sidewalk repairs is. Second, I want sidewalks that can breathe, that last longer because water does not run off of them. We should also look at trees that do not push up sidewalks with dangerous roots. I would use our Measure R dollars and as part of my plan to accelerate street paving, I would include sidewalk repairs as a critical component. We have new money for our streets and sidewalks through Measure R, but I don’t want to wait another 26 years for these repairs to drip in—we need a three-year plan that will fix our streets now, save us money, and get unemployed Angelenos back to work.
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?
The Los Angeles Unified School District is failing too many of our students and families. While there have been some areas of improvement in recent years— such as relief to overcrowding, ending forced busing, and improved test scores at the elementary level— as a parent, I find the current state of our public school system unacceptable. As Mayor, I will be a passionate advocate for L.A.’s students because kids not learning and failing to graduate are the most serious problems we face as a City. I do not think we can fix the LAUSD without appropriate funding levels and this will be a priority for me as Mayor. Sacramento has let our kids take the brunt of the financial crisis. We have lost arts education in most schools; we have drastically cut back adult education (which is critical for our economic recovery); too many parents are still not involved in their school; and teachers feel under siege. Several years of layoffs have resulted in a climate of instability and upheaval. With the passage of Proposition 30, our schools will see an increase in funding, but I believe that they need to be at least fully funded as intended by the voters of California under the passage of Proposition 98 which outlines clear funding goals for schools.
2. Will you continue to oversee the nonprofit that runs Mayor Villaraigosa’s 15 schools?
Later this year, the LAUSD will evaluate the Partnership’s achievements over the last five years and decide whether to renew the five-year Memorandum of Understanding. If the agreement is renewed, I will support and oversee the Partnership Schools. I believe that the Partnership’s original goal of creating an environment in which innovation and excellence can occur is a good one. And for me, it is important to demonstrate that LAUSD schools serving some of our most impoverished communities can succeed with the right amount of support, local decision making and the flexibility to truly serve the specific needs of their student population. So if the Partnership is renewed I will fight for resources for these schools so that our teachers have the tools , so that students can be provided with the best teaching and technology in the classroom, and so that school sites can have the wrap-around services (breakfast programs, health care clinics, technology centers, summer jobs programs, job training, and college prep initiatives) that will help our students graduate and succeed.
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?
I will continue to support good candidates who run.
4. How would you evaluate the performance of Superintendent John Deasy?
Superintendent Deasy has made progress in important areas, improving test scores and cutting waste at the administrative level but even he knows that progress is slow and we are still failing too many kids. As Mayor I will work with the Superintendent to see even stronger results to move quickly to improve our local schools and help our kids succeed. We need parents, teachers, and all forms of government working together for one goal, helping our kids succeed. This is the approach that I have taken on the City Council and even during difficult budget years and I will lead on a conversation that will promotes real change. As Mayor, I will not have formal powers over our schools or the Superintendent. But the informal power- the power to convene people—is one I will flex in the service of fixing our schools and bring more resources to educate our kids.
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?
Data does have a place in evaluating teachers, but I don’t know what the specific percentage should be. The teachers and the District have agreed to include data and this is a great first step. I believe that this agreement can help all sides get past the idea that the only use of data is to evaluate teachers and instead, reframe our thinking of using data as a tool to fix problems and really support our students. As a former teacher myself, I loved getting a number of inputs for my teacher evaluations that focused not just on numbers but on specific ways that I could improve. Together with my fellow teachers and supervisors, we could sit down together and learn how to become even better at our jobs. We cannot lose the human element in teaching our children or assessing our teachers. Children’s scores often reflect other issues—poverty, health, neighborhood conditions, etc.—and must be viewed in that context. Similarly, teachers cannot be reduced to statistics alone. We must use qualitative and quantitative (in other words, human and numerical) indicators to help teachers get better and to promote accountability to help our kids succeed.
6. What are the top three things you could do to help improve the school system as mayor?
As Mayor, I will break down the walls that have turned our schools into isolated islands in our community and recast each school at the heart of our neighborhood. This means using city funds to help our schools as I have in my district where we have built community centers, athletic fields, and parent centers to help our schools improve. This means linking our local businesses and employers with students for internships and summer jobs. This means providing ways for all Angelenos to help with lending a hand at a neighborhood school—to build a school garden, to tutor in an after-school program, or to help a high school student complete a college application. Every Angeleno has a direct interest in our local public schools succeeding in order to build our economy and support successful kids and adults in our community. With this approach, I will focus on these top three priorities to improve our school system as mayor:
1) I will align education with the needs of the economy. I will forge connections between LA-based businesses and local schools so that students gain access to skills needed for the workplace of the future. I will ensure that our children are being taught the languages of the current and future economy – both foreign languages and computer programming languages and protect vocational training and adult education programs that lead to jobs.
2) A strong education system also requires having safe neighborhoods. As Council member of the 13th District, I led the effort to ensure that every school in my district has access to an after-school program on campus or within walking distance. I have worked for school safety by installing new traffic signals and adding crosswalks to ensure our children are safe. Parent and community involvement in our local schools is also critical this effort. My office will focus on empowering parents, youth, and other education stakeholders in the same way that my City Council office has trained and empowered city stakeholders through the Neighborhood Leadership Institute and Government 101 and Planning 101 classes.
3) I will fight for full funding under Proposition 98 and demand that Sacramento stop paying our schools in IOUs. We are short-changing our children and our future.
7. Should every charter school have a teacher workforce that is represented by a union?
Every teacher should be free to organize into a union if they desire to do so, without intimidation.
8. How many additional charter schools should LAUSD allow?
There are great charter schools in L.A. and there are bad ones that perform poorly. I do not believe that charter schools or non-charter schools are inherently better. We must look at what schools are doing well and support and encourage sharing of these best practices. I have had excellent charter schools in my district that have had incredible results educating children to be successful, but I do not want to see resources drained from non-charter schools in a way that would leave behind 85% of the students in our city. So I do not have a specific number but I would rather assess schools on a case-by-case basis and ensure that we are not shortchanging any student through our decisions.
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?
I created the Ratepayer Advocate to protect consumers and help reduce LADWP rates. Aging infrastructure and technology, salaries, pensions, health care all contribute to our overall energy costs and must be addressed. The long-term costs of relying on dirty coal-generated electricity are well-documented: higher respiratory diseases and cancer rates, climate change and its spillover effects, destruction of our precious natural lands, and fines, liabilities and increased regulation from both the state and federal government. Renewable power is not only better for the environment and can create local jobs, but it is also in the medium and long-term cheaper for our ratepayers. Solar power, for instance, can be generated for pennies on the dollar over the long-term. Wind power is plentiful and does not contribute to global warming.
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?
I want to go further and as Mayor would work to get LADWP off coal and nuclear free by 2021. I agree with the Sierra Club, UCLA, and others who have put forth what I believe is an aggressive but do-able mix of power that is coal-free and I believe should be nuclear-free by 2021. With 40% of our power coming from renewable energy including a large expansion of our solar rooftop program, 40% from natural gas, and 20% from energy efficiency, hydro, and other sources. We can do this and create new green jobs here in L.A. In 2002, I led the fight to take our money out of a coal plant in Arizona and put that money into the nation’s largest municipally-owned wind farm to create jobs in California. As Mayor I will continue to fight to see our city thrive with healthier neighborhoods and green jobs. I’m going to create 20,000 local, good jobs and get DWP off coal and out of nuclear power. I have a proven track record of delivering a healthier Los Angeles, cutting trash in the L.A. River by 70%, and reducing port pollution by more than 60%. It’s time to get off of coal once and for all.
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. Cleaning up the port while retaining and creating good paying jobs with safe working conditions requires out-of-the-box thinking. The Court should respect this innovative local solution that achieves multiple worthy goals.
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 reject the false choice that assumes we cannot have both economic growth and a healthy environment. Since 2005, particulate emissions at the Port have been reduced by 68%, while at the same time the Port of L.A. generates hundreds of thousands of jobs for Los Angeles and up to $1 billion a day passes through it. But it is still the largest air polluter in Southern California and its nearby neighborhoods are plagued with high asthma rates. The key is reducing the
trucks going back and forth to the Port with rail. This proposed project does brings rail closer to the port, and that’s movement in the right direction. But on-dock rail, which would eliminate most local truck trips and would keep the air near the Port cleaner and has not been fully explored.
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?
Yes, but not at the expense of the environment.
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?
I support CEQA reform that guarantees that projects have to meet stringent environmental standards and neighborhood protections, but discourages legal challenges that drag on for years
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?
I am proud to have nearly tripled the number of parks — from 16 to 47 — in my district during my time as council member. We used alleys, empty lots, partnerships with private land trusts and alliances with local community groups and schools to create more access to open space. We have to continue to be extremely creative in this area, looking at vacated railroad lines, drainage channels, utility rights-of-way, and surplus city property. We need to continue to leverage money and have better interdepartmental and interagency coordination to expand these funding mechanisms to maintenance activities as well. I have been working with a coalition of parks advocates, business leaders, union representatives, and neighborhood groups to focus on funding the ongoing maintenance and operations in our parks. I would like us to look at ways that we can lower the “charge-backs” that the Department of Recreations and Parks has to pay for power from the DWP, invest in savings from the use of recycled water for our parks and put that savings into operations, and we should look at potential new revenue sources in future years.