After roughly 16 debates in over 5 months, it was the last for this CD2 election. Last night, a crowd of well over 200 came to hear candidates Christine Essel and Paul Krekorian answer questions compiled by 3 Neighborhood Councils, Valley College Students, and audience members.
The event held at Valley College’s Monarch Hall, was sponsored by Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council; Neighborhood Council Valley Village; Greater Valley Glen Council and Assc. Union of Valley College.
The crowd was presented with an evening of focused candidates concentrating on the issues and getting their message across. There was a plethora of detailed questions on budget, DWP, infrastructure, development, education, accomplishments, and independence. Both candidates did extremely well. Paul Krekorian was solid as ever. Christine Essel had one of her strongest performance to date.
The first three questions were related to three specific goals the candidates would have for the three communities of Sherman Oaks, Valley Glen, and Valley Village. Their answers for each were similar. Krekorian emphasized job development, small businesses, the film and television industry, public safety, speed limits, traffic, and the need to “stop rolling over for developers.” He noted Valley Village has become the “poster child of the culminative impact of bad development.”
Essel noted her desire to “work with the community on establishing these goals.” Specific to Sherman Oaks, Essel wanted to look at the Westfield shopping center redevelopment plan and again reiterated her desire to return it an open-air mall. With regards to Valley Glen, Essel mentioned supporting “good developer plans”, such as one in place by developer Dasher Lawless. Other issues include crime and valley fair share. For Valley Village, the focus was “bad development projects,” speed limit issues, and the creation of the sound wall in Valley Village Park.
BUDGET, DWP, AND EDUCATION: There was agreement between the candidates on the viability of certain budgetary concepts, however the issue of the current “unprecedented” financial conditions made “now” not the appropriate time to implement. This was particularly the case with split property tax – increases on business and not homeowners – as well as increasing sales tax to deal with the budget crisis. Neither wanted to “scare more business out of Los Angeles. “ Krekorian noted we “need to look at it for the long term,” emphasizing the current system was “unfair to homeowners.” Essel suggested examining new ways to balance revenue streams, emphasizing we cannot be dependent on the stock or housing markets.
Other questions included support of new or higher fees and taxes to increase revenues. Both candidates supported versions of this for “law breakers.” Essel noting increased fines for illegal dumping, billboards, and marijuana clinics. They both also emphasized the need for job creation., without offering details.
Regarding closing the City’s growing “budget gap,” Krekorian emphasized new tax revenues are not going to get us out of this. Services will have to be cut. “Public Safety first, all else is subject to discussion.” He added we “will have to work with the unions.” Essel suggested “short term” focus on enforcement of all the “uncollected revenues.”
Repealing Prop 13, didn’t garner either candidates’ support.
If the transfer of funds from the DWP to the City’s General fund was phased out, how would the candidates fill the gap left by the loss of those funds? Essel again noted her support of Charter reform conventions. Krekorian explained, “City government needs to stop taxing via the DWP.”
With regards to a DWP Rate Payer Advocate, both candidates supported the concept of Neighborhood councils getting to vet candidates.
A student related question involved an old initiative to help college students pay for books. Essel was supportive of “helping students get educated.” Krekorian wanted to review the plan prior to taking a position. Notably he emphasized due to the budget crisis, “no program can be considered unless we know we have the resources to pay for it.”
With regard to the LA Zoo elephant enclosure and sending large animals to a sanctuary, Essel answered, City Hall is “derailed” from “more important issues” when it spends “6 days on Billy the elephant.”
INFRASTRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT: Candidates were asked to describe their long term vision of density, public transportation and infrastructure for the city and CD2 communities. It was punctuated with “will there ever be enough money to bring your vision to fruition?” Essel noted her advocacy for “infrastructure analysis.” Krekorian referenced the issues of SB1818, housing density, and the overall “overburdening of our infrastructure.” Krekorian pointed to his history fighting this sort of development, while Essel supported it. Essel countered she never supported increased density in the Valley. She does support it in places where it makes sense such as transit corridors in Koreatown and Hollywood, adding her desire to see the community exempt from SB1818.
Later, Krekorian noted SB1818 is a “Broken Policy.” He highlighted it as a state policy which other cities utilized well, but was “messed up” when handled by City Hall.
Regarding motivating owners of rent controlled building to update their units, Krekorian noted it’s a “balancing act,” which is being destroyed as we “bulldoze affordable housing and utilize SB1818. “ Essel referenced needing a task force to reexamine the 1978 Rent Stabilization ordinance.
Both agreed on the basics of a ban on electric billboards and super graphics.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS, INDEPENDENCE, ETC: Both Candidates were asked to specify their “hands on contributions” to items they have claimed as achievements. Essel included working on the “master planning” to update the Paramount lot, job training for “jobs of the future,” and the redevelopment of Hollywood Boulevard. Krekorian described collaborating with teachers, parents, and businesses to reprioritize and get the district on track in his Burbank School board days.
Issues of independence when both are backed by major unions. Essel reiterated wanting to give back to the city. “CD2 is where I am running.” She went on to explain she isn’t looking for any other office, so this gives her that “freedom.” Closing “I don’t have to worry.”
Krekorian highlighted the independent expenditures made on behalf of the two candidates. Roughly $17,000 spent on Krekorian. Roughly $735,000 spent on Essel. Krekorian explained he has previously had to “face down people who supported me and say I can’t support you this time.” He went on to say the large expenditures on Essel’s behalf have to make you “take pause” and wonder, “who is paying for these mailers and what do they expect.”
The City Council has a record of unanimous votes. When would candidates vote against the majority? Both candidates referenced Medical Marijuana. Krekorian added SB1818 and noted special interests know “I am not the get along guy. I am looking forward to voting no on lots.”
Over recusing themselves from issues involving organizations, which supported them in the campaign, both noted it was not the appropriate course of action. They would withdraw on issues of conflict of personal issues.
Should politicians leaving office while still having a substantial part of their term to complete have to reimburse the public for the cost of elections to replace them? Essel noted we “can’t ask Paul to pay out of his pocket.” She expressed concern about term limits and its effects on long term planning. She emphasized we “should look at candidates who go job to job. “ Krekorian agreed with Essel on the impact of term limits and policy. He mentioned we “may want to talk to Wendy Greuel” on this issue. He explained, “Sacramento is totally grid locked.” the CD2 seat presents the “opportunity to effect long term change.” He added this would also allow him the chance to “sleep at home and watch his kids grow up.”
Would the candidates support Mayor Villaraigosa were he running for another office? This gave Essel an opportunity to clarify the “Mayor is not endorsing me, nor helping me in my race.” She added he came into office with much promise and there has been “inaction.” Krekorian added there are “too many issues in the city for the captain to run off.” Explaining he did not want to do the popular thing and “dump on “ the Mayor, Krekorian agreed Villaraigosa “came in with lots of promise, and they have fallen short cause he has been looking outside.”
What can you commit to accomplishing by 2011 (when the term is up)? Krekorian emphasized long term reform is what matters most. “Measure whomever wins by leadership on the budget,” as well as their record on development for this period. He clarified the budget crisis would not be fixed by 2011, but “must demonstrate positive forward motion.” Essel suggested evaluating based on how well one engages the community, provides service, and protects the quality of life.
Krekorian was asked if wanted to respond to ads criticizing his voting record. Krekorian mentioned the creation of esselwatch.wordpress.com to help keep on top of the information. He was particularly incensed by a recent robocall claiming he voted for the release of 40,000 felons. The Assemblyman called it a complete lie.
Essel was asked to clarify her position when she criticized Krekorian for being a career politician, yet embraced City Controller, Wendy Greuel. Essel commented Greuel needs “a partner on city council to create efficiencies in the city” and support “changes” indicated by audits. The answer got a sharp response from the audience member who submitted the question. She felt Essel did not answer.
The candidates were also asked about the best quality of their opponent. Essel gave Krekorian kudos for being “articulate.” Krekorian noted he likes Essel personally and felt she demonstrated “grace” during the campaign. He went on to explain he was “disappointed in her campaign and mischaracterizations” of him, and her involvement with special interest groups. Although he does not “hold her personally responsible,” he does have “concerns if the special interests get their way.”
Attendees explained the debate didn’t change opinions they already had about either candidate. Essel supporters thought she did extremely well. Several people commented she was more comfortably able to stand her own next to the Assemblyman. Krekorian supporters also felt their candidate had a strong night. They felt his heart and experience came thru loud and clear. Earlier Essel noted she was “running to restore faith, shake things up, and bring change.” Krekorian emphasized he has been a “champion of the people of this district.” “The previous council member rolled over for developers. I have a record.” “Essel’s experience is noble but different. We have different perspectives.”
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