There will be a number of candidate forums scheduled from now until September. The Neighborhood Council Valley Village forum will be held on August 26th. Other NCs and VANC will also host forums.
These events are great opportunities to learn about the candidates if you ask the right questions. Let me first suggest what not to ask. Never ask an open ended question, such as “why do you want to be a City Councilmember?” That’s like throwing a fastball over the heart of the plate. The candidates will simply tell you what they want you to hear. Of course, no one will ever admit they are attracted to the $170,000 salary plus the car, travel expenses and discretionary accounts.
The best approach is to ask how they stand on specific issues, including those from the recent past. With that in mind, here is what I would ask:
- As you are aware, SB1818 was implemented by the City Council with no substantive modifications. As a result, developers have been targeting serviceable apartment buildings and replacing them with luxury complexes to take advantage of the density bonus afforded by the law. Although the bill’s intent was to increase the number of affordable housing units, it has had the opposite effect: reducing the number of affordable units while increasing the density along major corridors. If you were on the City Council, would you passionately advocate modifying the implementation ordinance in order to preserve the character of our neighborhoods?
- There is a backlog of street and sidewalk repairs and replacement, the duration of which runs into decades. Are you in favor of a point-of-sale program requiring the sellers of homes to make the repairs, or a resumption of the 50/50 program?
- The DWP transfers tens of millions of dollars to the City’s General Fund. Would you advocate eliminating or greatly reducing the transfer in order for the DWP to invest in infrastructure replacement or upgrades?
- What was your position on Measure B and why?
- If the salary of a City Councilmember were half of what it is today, would you still serve on the Council?
- How would you approach eliminating the unfunded pension liability of the City retirement plans for police, fire and civilian employees?
- In the interest of transparency, would you advocate a requirement for the City to produce a balanced three year plan rather than just an annual budget?
I am sure you can think of many other direct and challenging questions. Remember, the quality of our representation on the City Council can make or break our communities. We need to ask tough questions of those who want to serve as elected officials. We are entitled to heartfelt answers.