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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

Smart Voter
Los Angeles County, CA March 5, 2013 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
Council Member; City of Los Angeles; District 9

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Most Important Issue, Budget Shortfall, Sales Tax, Climate Change, Constituency vs. City

Click on a name for candidate information.   See also more information about this contest.

? 1. What do you think is the single most important issue facing the City of Los Angeles today? As Council Member, what would you do to deal with it?

Answer from Ana Cubas:

The single most important issue facing the City of Los Angeles is the budget deficit. The creation of jobs will revitalize the city of Los Angeles and stabilize the use of the city's services . With employment, I plan to attract green tech industries and create stable partnerships to allow for the economy of Council District Nine to thrive and its environment to be cared for.

Answer from David Anthony Roberts:

The single most important issue facing LA is jobs. The 9th Council District faces a 40% unemployment rate. That is why I have developed a plan for creating jobs in South LA.

The first part of the plan is strengthening our workforce. The Great Recession is ending and businesses are beginning to hire. But they require workers who have the right skills and training. I will coordinate vocational skills training and apprenticeship opportunities with businesses and non-profits like the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD), PV Jobs, the Right Way Foundation and SAJE, along with city workforce centers, LA Trade Tech College and USC to ensure new living wage jobs are filled by local residents.

The second component of the plan is attracting development to the community. During my time with Mark Ridley-Thomas and Bernard Parks, I worked directly with residents to create jobs, services and new developments like Chesterfield Square Shopping Center, Vermont Senior Apartments and the Expo Light Rail Line. As Councilman, I will continue these efforts, working to reposition industrial land to support the growth of downtown's Clean Tech Corridor and the Fashion District. Modeling the success of the Figueroa Corridor around USC, I will bring new housing and retail services to Central Avenue and Broadway, and south of Exposition Park along Figueroa, Hoover and Vermont.

The final part of the plan is delivering cleaner and safer streets. We all win from having cleaner and safer streets. They stimulate business investment, attract more customers and generate more sales, which in turn create local jobs and generate more taxes. As Councilman, I will see to it that these additional revenues are used by the City to hire police, install security cameras, trim our trees, increase lighting, fix our sidewalks and clean our streets. Safe streets are good for business, and will help to make our neighborhoods more desirable places to live.

Answer from Ronald "Ron" Gochez:

Poverty. Although some angelinos are among the richest in the nation, the majority of the people of Los Angeles are struggling economically. In District 9, the unemployment rate is much higher than the state/national average and we have thousands of brothers and sisters who are homeless; 91% of which have no shelter at all. I would work with community partners to support small/family businesses to promote job creation. I would also work closely with organized labor to increase union density and to insure that all government contracts only hire unionized workers.

Answer from Terry Hara:

Public Safety is a main concern for everyone. With three decades of protecting this City and working the streets of LA, I understand the dynamics of crime and how it negatively affects residents and businesses. My experience also includes policing and managing large to small scale events from the Academy Awards, anti-war demonstrations, natural disasters and community-based events to name a few. Being a former traffic enforcement officer with LAPD, I understand how important traffic flow is and the necessity for continued improvement on transportation issues. Residents and business owners want a safe environment to live and work. When businesses feel safe, they invest. When investments occur, jobs are created. Consumers spend money in businesses and the City benefits with generated revenue to provide basic city services.

? 2. The City Administrative Officer has estimated a $200M budget shortfall for 2013-2014 increasing to $300M in 2015-2016. What steps do you propose to deal with this problem, and how much do you estimate each step would reduce the shortfall?

Answer from Ronald "Ron" Gochez:

Our first priority should be to restore the cuts in services and staffing of the last few years. In addition to cutting wasteful spending, we should use our funds to hire our unemployed to repair/clean our streets to clean make LA the model for a new restoration. I would also push for transparency when it comes to corporations and the taxes that they are or are not paying. If all corporations paid their fair share of taxes, that would generate millions of dollars that could alleviate the fiscal crisis.

Answer from Terry Hara:

Given that the majority of the City's General Fund is tied to salary and debt obligations, workforce and salary reductions must take place to balance the budget, particularly if other cost savings measures have yielded minimal results. Renegotiations of City MOUs must also be accomplished. Expenditures by City Departments must also be audited to ensure that there is no waste of taxpayers' dollars. Special projects of council districts must be delayed until revenue sources improve dramatically. On a long-term basis, the restructuring of pension benefits must also be addressed.

Answer from David Anthony Roberts:

My mother was a teacher who retired with 35 years of service with the Los Angeles Unified School District, while my father served over 40 years with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. I value public service, and my three sisters and I were the direct beneficiaries of the benefits provided through my parents standing as public employees. Now retired, I also appreciate the retirement benefits provided to my parents that enable them to continue to live a middle-class lifestyle.

I have many friends who work civil service positions, and who work dangerous jobs at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as longshoreman. I support organized labor and many of their goals, including the right to collective bargaining. When it comes to making decisions as a Councilmember that affect organized labor, I will give organized labor a seat at the table.

However, I also keenly understand the unsustainable impact that public pensions have on state and local budgets. In the midst of this economic downturn, and with dramatic reductions in government services, the public's patience for generous salaries, benefits and pensions is quickly diminishing. We have a structural deficit, and it requires the City Council and Mayor to act decisively. Bankruptcy looms in the coming years if our public pension system is not seriously addressed.

The residents and businesses I meet with in the 9th District are frustrated with the reduction in tree trimming, street re-surfacing, park and library hours, paramedic services, etc. They don't have an appetite for additional fees and taxes, but expect and are demanding that their services be restored and enhanced.

With public opinion lined up in this direction, and the CAO clearly indicating that we are headed toward a financial cliff, the Mayor and City Council can afford to be bold. As Steve Lopez pointed out in a recent column, "unions need to keep bending on later retirement, bigger employee contributions and less lucrative formulas."

My campaign is focused upon coalitions--racial, gender, geographic and professional. My professional support spans across this City's business, education, labor, non-profit, religious and philanthropic communities. Elected officials are tasked with the difficult job of making hard choices, even if they are unpopular. But in the final analysis it's our responsibility to make the right decision. I understand this and have experience making these difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions. And that is precisely what I will do if elected. I want to serve the 9th Council District and its stakeholders. I don't have other political aspirations which will make me beholden to one interest group over another.

? 3. Do you support the ballot measure to increase the sales tax in the city?

Answer from Terry Hara:

Until we can ensure that the funds are properly and efficiently allocated, I will not support an increase in the sales tax in the city of Los Angeles.

Answer from Ronald "Ron" Gochez:

I would support ballot measures to place higher taxes on corporations and on the rich.

Answer from David Anthony Roberts:

Empirical data and research from reputable universities and policy think tanks here locally and from across the country consistently demonstrate that sales taxes are regressive. The record shows that they disproportionately impact poor people and distressed communities like the 9th Council District where unemployment is 40% and the average household income is less than $20,000. City Hall ought to study other revenue streams and cost saving measures before attempting to balance the budget on the backs of the unemployed and the working poor.

This sales tax proposal has major ramifications and the City Council acted without wide analysis and input from the public. A fifteen minute hearing before the Rules and Elections Committees, and then a final vote before the City Council a week later, does not constitute robust public input.

I understand that the sales tax is not polling well, and I will not be surprised if it is rejected by the Los Angeles electorate on March 5th. Voters that I have spoken with in the 9th District are overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed sales tax increase.

? 4. What role do you feel the City of Los Angeles has to play in addressing climate change? Please explain in terms of what you as a city councilmember would have the power to do.

Answer from Terry Hara:

The City of Los Angeles ought to play a role in addressing climate change through education. I would educate residents on their current energy consumption and recycling levels. Studies show when people are aware of the negative impact of their energy use, they are more likely to conserve to better the environment.

Answer from Ronald "Ron" Gochez:

As a councilman, I would continue to support measures to protect the environment such as those dealing with plastic bags, car emissions, clean fuels for public transportation...etc. I would fight environmental racism by going after the businesses in low income neighborhoods that are notorious for illegal dumping and similar violations. Lastly, I would also help to promote healthier practices such as walking, cycling, public transportation and carpooling.

Answer from David Anthony Roberts:

Air pollution, traffic congestion and urban run-off are often pointed to as the most pressing environmental issues facing Los Angeles. But from my experience as a Council Deputy, and one well-versed in local planning, development and transportation policy, I would characterize our most pressing issue as the "transformation to more livable communities."

A few years ago the Trust for Public Land issued a report detailing that Los Angeles had the lowest ratio of park space: resident of any major American metropolitan city. And this lack of access to urban green space is most acute in South Los Angeles. My friend and supporter Steve Soboroff also points to the fact that New York's annual budget for Central Park is greater than the entire budget the Department of Recreation and Parks has to maintain our entire park system. We also know that South LA residents, both young and old, have higher rates of obesity and diabetes than the rest of Los Angeles County. We also know that South LA has been identified as a food desert because of the dearth of healthy food options, grocery stores and sit-down restaurants.

Over the last 20 years, I have worked hard to address these issues. Under Mark Ridley-Thomas and Bernard Parks I have successfully overseen hundreds of millions of dollars of park improvements across South LA, from Exposition Park to the Kenneth Hahn Baldwin Hills Park. We have built and opened swimming pools, skate parks, soccer fields, fitness zones, pocket parks, baseball diamonds and gymnasiums. I have championed the development of the Metro Expo and Crenshaw Lines. We worked on legislation to establish a TOD along Figueroa to incentivize mixed-use development around the Flower/Jefferson station of the Expo Line. We initiated a car-share program around the USC campus. I oversaw efforts to secure funding through the MTA Call for Projects to enhance streetscapes along major commercial corridors in South LA, and fund bike stations along the Expo Line. While working at USC I assisted with the development of a Bike Master Plan for the campus and helped with outreach and lobbying efforts to bring CicLAvia to South LA. I served on the South LA Prop. K Oversight Committee and pushed for funding of park projects from San Pedro to Mar Vista to Downtown, including the new South LA Wetlands Park at 54th and Avalon. I worked with Jan Perry and her staff to pass local legislation to limit the proliferation of fast food restaurants in Council Districts 8 and 9.

In addition to the projects, issues and positions shared in Question #2, I have served on the Baldwin Hills Conservancy Steering Committee, South LA Community Plan Update Advisory Committee, the Exposition/University Park CRA/LA Community Advisory Committee, LA Trade Tech Citizens Advisory Committee and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Recycled Water Advisory Group. In 2009, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative cited my skill, expertise and passion when they honored me with their Outstanding City Partner Award.

We need leaders who have the passion, track record, know-how and relationships to build more livable communities in South LA and across Los Angeles. I don't believe that any of the other candidates in this race match my qualifications and commitment in this area.

? 5. How would you prioritize your local constituency versus the City as a whole when acting as a Council Member?

Answer from Terry Hara:

As a member of City Council, you have an obligation to the entire City not just your district. However, you must ensure you're representing the interest of your district. Sometimes, the interest of your district is also good for the entire City, such as providing more affordable housing for families or shelter for the homeless. Any project that is district specific will be vetted against the impact of the entire City. Working and collaborating with each councilmember is critical of ensuring support for your own district needs and needs of the entire City. Creating a master project tracking system for the 15 council districts would help manage critical resources and guard against decision-making made in isolation that may not be in the best interest for the City.

Answer from Ronald "Ron" Gochez:

I will prioritize the people of District 9 that need immediate support. District 9, which primarily covers South Central LA, is the poorest, has the highest level of unemployment/under-employment and is the most disenfranchised area of Los Angeles. We have the highest amount of homelessness and our infrastructure is the poorest in the city. I will work tirelessly to bring necessary resources to the people of my district.

I also understand that there are many other fundamental problems that affect our entire city. I will try to bring about reforms that will benefit working class people throughout the city.

Answer from David Anthony Roberts:

The most important functions provided by local government are public safety and the regulation of land-use. The City's planning and building and safety codes can be byzantine and confusing. As a former Economic Development Deputy, I am intimately familiar with the frustration many residents, community based organizations and businesses have with navigating this system. I'm also well aware of the value of hiring land-use experts with experience and contacts within the Department of City Planning and Department of Building and Safety to shepherd projects through the entitlement process. And finally, I understand the pivotal role a City Council Office can have: meeting with project applicants, placing calls and scheduling meetings with staff from various departments, testifying at hearings and voting at Committee and full City Council meetings.

Land-use decisions that require discretionary approvals should be based on a cost-benefit analysis: will the use generate tax revenues and jobs; will some of these jobs be available to members from the local community; and will the project provide or enhance services in the community? Will the project create traffic, visual, noise or other impacts that can be properly mitigated? Can the project enhance the overall quality of life in the local community, and/or can it be mitigated? A transparent entitlement process and an involved Council Office can address these questions thoroughly and provide a rational decision making framework to evaluate land-use decisions for projects located within his or her Council District and those with city-wide impacts.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League. 

The order of the candidates is random and changes daily. Candidates who did not respond are not listed on this page.

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Created: May 2, 2013 14:24 PDT
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