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League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and asked of all candidates for this office.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).
Questions & Answers
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?
Undoubtedly, it is maintaining and increasing fiscal sustainability for the City. The City Council and the Mayor have faced this challenge head on, and the CAO foresees that we will reach a structural balance in 2018. This is because the City continues to cut expenses, control payroll costs, and create efficiencies.
In these austere times, I have fought to strike a balance between cuts to City services in the name of fiscal restraint and the need to invest in our neighborhoods, our police and firefighters, and the need to modernize our City systems and facilities.
After helping to establish the independent office of the Ratepayer Advocate, I have consistently fought for his recommendations to make DWP budgets more transparent and efficient.
I called for the revenue from the sales of medical marijuana to be spent on enforcement of our medical marijuana laws, which has built a full team of prosecutors in the City Attorney's office dedicated to enforcing the voter approved Proposition D.
Be wary of those who promise across-the-board budget cuts, which can lead to long-term financial liabilities. For example:
While our budget projections are much-improved, we must maintain a responsible and austere approach to protect the public's money to guard against any future volatility and be prepared to do whatever is necessary to make sure the City is in good financial shape for years to come.
- I fought to restore $1 million in funding for graffiti removal, because it is cheaper to remove graffiti than to let neighborhoods fall into disrepair and neglect.
- It is cheaper to maintain buildings than to have to rebuild them after they collapse. That is why I secured $186,000 in this year's budget to fix and restore Eagle Rock City Hall.
- I fought to fully fund homeless programs because it is cheaper to house and treat someone with mental illness than it is to manage them with police and emergency responders.
- I have fought to address the lack of City tree trimming, which needs a mix of City crews and contracted workers. As the LA Times reported, when tree trimming was completely outsourced, costs rose and quality declined.
2. The City Administrative Officer has estimated a $300 million budget shortfall for 2015-2016. What steps do you propose to deal with this problem and how much do you estimate each step would reduce the shortfall?
The City Council and the Mayor have made a concerted effort to cut costs during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Since 2004, we've cut City staffing by 12% , created a two-tier pension system for civilian employees to dramatically cut costs, which the City is defending in court, and added a percentage of each employees wages to go toward paying for healthcare, when that once was free.
Given these and other cost savings and an improving economy, we've created a 5.5% reserve fund (which is higher than the standard minimum) and something I worked very hard to include in our budget, as well as a substantial rainy day fund. The CAO foresees that we will reach a structural balance in 2018.
The City also is using zero-based budgeting in some instances, which I have fought to include for years, so departments' budgets can be based on necessary services provided and not simply using last year's budget as a barometer to ask for more. And every year, we've balanced our budget. During my time in office public safety has and will continue to be my top budgeting priority. Crime is down to record lows not seen since the 1950s and that service needs to be maintained.
The main issue we face now is maintaining and filling the gaps where City services have been eliminated or severely cut, like paving sidewalks and tree trimming, street cleanings and bulky item pickups.
Through my Clean Communities Initiative, we are addressing these City shortfalls in Council District 14 and working with our City Departments to pave sidewalks in front of churches, parks, schools and neighborhood streets. We're trimming thousands of mature trees and planting new ones, adding hundreds of trash bins to our corridors and I have joined with the City Attorney to fight illegal dumping by purchasing cameras to successfully prosecute offenders.
3. What is the single most important issue facing your Council District today, and how would you deal with it?
I believe Homelessness is certainly one the biggest issues the District is facing, both as a pressing social need and a public safety issue. Homelessness is indeed a Citywide problem, and it is a crisis in Downtown.
CD14 includes all of Skid Row, a decades-old experiment gone wrong that proves that you cannot solve the complex crisis of homelessness by concentrating individuals and services in a single area. Not only is the crisis of homelessness a damper on economic investment and a drain on City resources, it is morally unacceptable. The quality of life in our neighborhoods requires that we address the conditions of our homeless population, and this demands a combination of resources and renewed commitment.
While Los Angeles County has authority to implement most of the mental health, medical, social and housing services that the homeless rely on, it was my office that implemented a first-of-its-kind City/County collaboration to offer these services on the streets of Skid Row during the City's Operation Healthy Streets cleanups. These services continue to be offered on a bi-monthly basis and have resulted in hundreds of individuals receiving medical, rehabilitation and housing services that they might not have otherwise received.
I have fought and traveled to Washington D.C. to talk to federal officials to demand the City of Los Angeles receive its fair share of federal resources and am supportive of efforts in Skid Row and other areas of Council District 14 to identify and house the most chronically homeless individuals.
I am supportive of the Mayor's commitment to end Veteran homelessness by the end of this year, and I have fought to fully fund the LA Homeless Services Authority, as well as earmarked in 2014 nearly $3 million to go to homeless services agencies and affordable housing for low-income residents.
For too long, the City has set policy on homelessness that was seeded in response to litigation. We need a proactive vision for addressing this problem and better coordination from and with Los Angeles County.
In CD14 and beyond, homelessness is not an easy issue to address. There are no ready made solutions for all cases, but it is one we cannot ignore and I aim to continue to work with our partners to address it as thoroughly and thoughtfully as possible.
Overall I believe Council District 14 is on a major upswing. If you look at all the neighborhoods in Council District 14, from Eagle Rock to Highland Park, El Sereno and the surrounding communities to Boyle Heights and Downtown and all the unique neighborhoods in between, they are among the top established and up-and-coming communities in all of Los Angeles.
Crime is down to record levels. We've invested in our parks, new open and public space, promoted increased safety, pedestrian and bicycle activity and business opportunities along our main corridors. We've solved traffic and park issues that sat on the books for more than 30 years.
My office has made a concerted effort to partner with local community organizations and stakeholders to improve the communities that make up Council District 14 and we have been extremely successful.
I operate four field offices, which is more than any other councilmember because constituent service is my No. 1 priority. We have literally closed tens of thousands of constituent service cases since I came into office. We've removed more than 16 million square feet of graffiti and paved more than 250 miles of streets.
All these things, our successes and our challenges, take diligence, collaboration, leadership, and a community presence in order to implement. That is something my staff and I have been doing for nine years, which is why we have the support of more than 200 community members, your neighbors, and endorsements from a diverse set of organizations.
Simply put, we've been doing the work and I look forward to continuing to work for you and with you for the next four years!
Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League. Candidates' answers are presented as submitted.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).
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Created from information supplied by the candidate: January 9, 2015 15:25
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