Tonight’s mayoral debate was hosted by the American Jewish University. The campus is situated at the top of Sepulveda Pass, overlooking the busy 405 – the freeway of perpetual agony and frustration.
As a showdown, it did not live up to the standards of The Gunfight at the OK Corral.
I hoped for substantive responses; little was offered.
Before I get into the Q&A, allow me to offer what appears to be the problem with this as well as all of the prior debates – the format.
The moderators ask the questions in a manner that elicits bullet point responses. It would be better if a subject were raised (i.e, pension reform, traffic), then let the candidates frame the questions. I can assure you this approach would cut to the chase and compel the candidates to address specifics.
It was no surprise to me, and probably not to either Garcetti or Greuel, that the first specific question was critical of how little attention education has been allotted so far. Mayor Villaraigosa’s speech at UCLA telegraphed that would be the case.
Greuel touted her “education bill of rights” covering assurances of safety, good teachers and protection from bullying. Garcetti stated he would fight for more funding per student and bringing communities into schools through adding nearby public facilities, and introducing vocational programs along with technology.
On traffic, both supported completion of planned public transportation systems. Greuel wants more left turn signals; Garcetti wants a transit tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass under the 405. Garcetti offered even more specifics. He cited the benefits of his great streets concept in Atwater Village, which creates desirable destinations within walking distance from a community. He also wants to target repaving 800 miles of streets each year.
How to involve Hispanics in LA affairs had both candidates touting their endorsements among Latinos. Greuel could only offer up the opening of her campaign field office in East Los Angeles and general goals of educational opportunities and new jobs. She did not provide any details. Garcetti wants an immigration affairs office, one of the goals of which is to raise English language proficiency levels. He was thankful for the 2:1 advantage he achieved among Hispanic voters.
Did they support the proposed $3 billion bond measure to resurface the city’s streets? Garcetti said patchwork repairs would not work, so he was open to the measure. Greuel said the $160 million in waste fraud and abuse could go towards street repairs. She did not address the bond measure. Garcetti challenged her assertion and reminded the audience that her figures were ridiculed by the Los Angeles Times and KPCC (for the record, so did I).
On the plight of the homeless, Garcetti offered an example of his success dealing with chronic homelessness. His Hollywood Forward program reached out to the homeless on an individual level. It was able to get people off the streets one at a time and keep them off. Wendy once again fell back on her $160 million savings claim as the source for homeless program funding.
Things got a little testy when it came to neighborhood revitalization. Greuel criticized Garcetti for taking too long to approve the Hollywood Community Plan. He countered by saying he did not want to have just anything built. He also emphasized his opposition to the two proposed skyscrapers near the Red Line station that would dwarf any other building in the community. Garcetti pointed to the blight created by Valley Plaza in the heart of Greuel’s former Council District (he incorrectly identified the area as Valley Village – it is in North Hollywood).
Both promised to ask the public unions for concessions on day one in office. Greuel claimed she kept warning the Council about pension costs. Garcetti said more than warnings are needed and that he had won $308 million in pension reforms (it is worth noting that pension costs were already on the rise during Greuel’s years on the Council).
Did they have any “shoot for the moon” projects? Greuel wants economic opportunities centered around the college campuses. Garcetti desires expanding his great streets program, including capping of a below-grade segment of the Hollywood Freeway and using the cover as a park. What was more interesting was his proposal to offer a financial incentive to individuals or organizations to analyze traffic data and create solutions for our gridlock.
The advancement of social equality had both candidates agreeing on the need for education reform, with Garcetti stressing vocational training, including maintaining an aviation mechanics training program in Van Nuys.
Garcetti criticized Greuel for her unrealistic proposal to add 2,000 additional police officers. He would keep the LAPD at 10,000, but with more overtime, which he claims would be more efficient for solving crimes.
Perhaps the next question should have been reserved for last. What’s the difference between the two?
Greuel said her work in the private sector and service as City Controller, where she manages a large staff, is good preparation for the office. She said goals are important and accused Garcetti of “demonizing” unions. Garcetti chided her about the $3 million in support she has received from the DWP’s IBEW union. The support would diminish her independence. He also said her “goals” and “plans” are unclear.
They were both in favor of limiting medical marijuana shops and keeping them away from sensitive areas.
Likewise, they were both on the same page as far as reducing stray animals – applying fees to spaying and neutering services.
Both want an NFL team, but there was no strong recommendation about the stadium location.
The most important question of the evening was which of three major issues would be a priority: potholes, pension reform and traffic.
Greuel favored traffic because it could lead to more revenue. Garcetti went with pension reform because the savings could be used to relieve traffic problems. He received the evening’s loudest applause with that answer.
Overall, while both candidates were short on specifics, Garcetti’s responses contained somewhat more detail.