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Archive for the ‘CD2 Candidate Forums’ Category

Village to Village has previously expressed criticism of “Reruns in Sweeps,”
We are however occasionally supportive of the “flashback show.”  It’s when you’re your favorite show creates an episode from moments in previous shows.            (Come on, we’ve all seen The Golden Girls when they sat around the kitchen table eating cheese cake remembering something Blanche or Rose did. Or my favorite, when Roseanne learned the Wellman’s were pulling out of Langford, so she spent the whole episode talking about the good times. Get the idea?)

Given the holidays and the important stuff going on with the CD2 race and our City, we decided to highlight memorable and insightful “moments” from previous weeks. Enjoy.

A MARDY’S MUNCHIES CD2 FLASHBACK MOMENT – INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES

Thanks to the Working Californians lawsuit, it’s the topic taking over the election.

See what happened when the candidates were asked, “What are the top 3 organizations to extend independent expenditure on your behalf, and what was your relationship prior to this campaign?”

 

As we say at Village to Village, the exchange is on videotape.                              Watch and judge for yourself.

(Roughly 6:44 in on first clip)

(Continued at the start of the second clip.)

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In light of the lawsuit Working Californians versus City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission, this week’s League of Women’s Voters and SOHA debates may come back to haunt Christine Essel. Working Californians, headed by Brian D’Arcy is a political arm of the IBEW. Their suit claims city campaign fundraising law is unfairly limiting their  “ability to advocate on behalf of City Council candidate Christine Essel.”

What the group is looking to do is overturn the ethics rule, which states an individual cannot donate more than $500 per campaign. This group would like the cap removed so each person can spend as much as they want to support their cause.

In layman’s terms, they are saying the city’s campaign ethics rules are limiting their free speech.  (First amendment stuff here!)

It gets tricky. It’s not like your average neighbor saying they aren’t being allowed to support their cause. Working Californians is closely tied to the IBEW, which has already spent $93,000 in support of Essel’s campaign. This is the crux of the issues with special interest groups and their influence.

Now how does this haunt Essel?

Well at Monday’s LEAGUE OF WOMEN’S VOTER’S DEBATE and Wednesday’s SOHA DEBATE she stated her support of clean money campaigns. She even referred former CD2 Candidate, Michael McCue who is one of our city’s biggest advocates of clean money campaigns. Benefiting in any way from this lawsuit really goes against that concept.

It makes it hard not to relook a Krekorians’ comments at SOHA.

“How can you say you are the independent voice and a breathe of fresh air whose not going to be beholden to special interests?”

Clean money campaign roughly 7:09 & 8:38

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Nineteen days left till the CD2 Election! It’s DEBATE-A-PALOOZA!  I am not sure how (or why), but Wednesday candidates were basically subjected to 3 debates in one day.

For those following in your song books, they have participated in roughly fifteen since the campaign began, and six in the last two weeks. For those who missed the fun, there is still a chance to catch your two favorite remaining candidates. November 30th – NCs Valley Glen, Valley Village and Sherman Oaks Debate  – Monarch Hall at Valley College (5800 Fulton Ave).

The day started with the VICA debate at Woodbury University – 8AM. Paul covered the event in a previous post.  7 PM was set aside for brief candidate appearances at the Studio City NC. We are trying to get observations for V2V readers.

8 PM was SOHA time!! The SOHA forum was the primary’s most unique forum. Candidates gave familiar openings. Krekorian get points for fresh words describing his skills, background, and independence. Essel again noted her sadness at Los Angeles no longer being a “City of Opportunity,” her relationships, business skills, and clarifying she is “not a downtown insider.”

Special SOHA flavor came into play publicly asking candidates to affirm a list of Sherman Oaks related “commitments.” The items included: 1/ Holding regular valley office hours every 2 weeks, including a 15 minute SOHA representative meeting. 2/ To not support changes to the Sherman Oaks Specific plan. 3/  No staff decisions prior to the election, and discussing staffing and vision for the community with SOHA. 4/ Essel – To use your own car, and look at ways to cut expenses, including reducing staff cars. 4a/ Krekorian – Full disclosure of council office funds, including what could be tapped for the community, and SOHA input on fund usage. 5/ Keeping appeals fees reasonable and accessible.  6/ Opposition to unhitched trailers and super graphics.

The next series of pledges revolved around Fashion Square:  Support of the Fashion Square expansion? (Both answered, “not as it is currently laid out.”); Considering downsizing an alternative? (Both would);  Supporting Wendy Greuel’s traffic mitigation plan. Krekorian acknowledged he wasn’t familiar with the plan, and was “disinclined to agree” until he evaluated it. Essel gave a brief explanation, noting a desire to sit with departments to consider impact.  She commented her “dream would be for it to be an open air mall again.”

In candidate to candidate questions resembled a tennis match, Essel served first. The Sacramento Bee referenced Assemblyman Krekorian as topping the list for accepting gifts. Essel emphasized, “yet (you are) running as an outsider and reformer.” How could he explain the practice? Krekorian noted large parts of the total were trips on behalf of the state (South Africa to study energy and infrastructure, and Israel as a guest of the Jewish Federation.)

The ironic bombshell moment – When Essel worked for Paramount and was “the leading special interest in Southern California,” Krekorian was Essel’s guest at the Hollywood Bowl. Krekorian fired back, “Let’s remember for the last thirty years, you have been the special interests. You have been the one writing the checks to politicians throughout California and this country, as you fulfilled your jobs as a lobbyist.”

Krekorian’s first serve referenced $250,000 spent this week by public employee unions and Chambers of Commerce on Essel’s behalf. “How can you say you are the independent voice and a breath of fresh air who is not going to be beholden to special interests?” Essel noted the support of the Police Protection League, and her advocacy for clean money campaigns. She added it was hard to wage a campaign “against the Assistant Majority Leader of the State Assembly.”

Essel to Krekorian – If you lose it will save the taxpayers $1.9 Million. How would you spend that 1.9 Million? Krekorian responded public safety expenditures come first. He tagged, “Your benefactor, Wendy Gruel left in the middle of her term and that’s the reason we’re having to do this.” Adding sometimes this happens when we are trying to best serve our constituents.

Krekorian to Essel – indicating her support of ethics reform, including the three strikes provision for violations, referenced “illegal contributions” from a lobbyist under investigation – further referencing $10,000 from “lobbyist wives, employees, and companies”, which “skirts the law.” Essel retorted, “There is nothing illegal in anything I have done. If there is something it will be taken care of.” She added her contributions come in $500 at a time, again noting it was hard to wage a campaign against the Assistant Majority leader of the State Assembly. Essel closed with allegations of Krekorian using money from his 2010 assembly fund for this campaign.

The tennis match was followed by audience questions on a range of familiar topics including  ERIP, mixed use development on Ventura Boulevard; granny flats; NCs and land matter appeal rights; last time either candidate lived in CD2 prior to the election; and the proliferation of marijuana clinics.

Regarding the current hot button – What are the top three organizations to extend independent expenditure on your behalf, and what was your relationship prior to this campaign?

Essel mentioned the Police Protection League, clarifying “candidates do not ask” for this show of support.  It’s a way “a group can exercise their right to free speech.” Essel indicated a few others, including the IBEW, noting, “I have absolutely no relationship with those organizations and have not met with anybody in those organizations.” (NOTE:Working Californians (a political arm of the IBEW)  has filed a lawsuit against City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission. The IBEW is reported to have already spent over $93,000 in support of Essel’s campaign. WC claims “city campaign fundraising law is unfairly limiting its ability to advocate on behalf of City Council candidate Christine Essel”).

Krekorian fired back claiming Essel’s top IEs are from Police Unions, DWP Electricians (“$80,000 this week alone”), and construction unions (“$50,000”), “which know she is not going to be the person who stops development in our community. Rather she will encourage more.”

Krekorian thought his only IE was from the Democratic Party. Essel pointed out that the SEIU supports Krekorian, and “they spent 8 Million dollars getting Mark Ridley Thomas elected to the board of supervisors.” She added, “There are three weeks left in the election cycle. Anything can happen. The story has not been fully completely told yet.”

The final question, what lies have been told about you in this campaign?

Essel listed, being blamed for traffic on the 101 and driving the movie business out of California. Remaining time was used to explain her film industry related accomplishments. Krekorian clarified, he had not blamed her for driving the movie business from California, rather in her nine years on the Film Commission Essel failed to stop jobs from leaving the state.

Krekorian said the lies about him included trying to “sell off a golf course” (I.E. Verdugo Hills), supporting raising insurance rates, supporting legislation to put GPS in all cars.  (Note:All discussed at the Sunland Tujunga forum. Video is available cd2election.blogspot.com). Krekorian explained  “they come so fast and numerous” to counteract he created fact verifying site esselwatch.wordpress.com.

Closings were fresh – and both deserve credit since this was their third today!

Essel contrasted herself with Krekorian, an elected official who “takes no responsibility for Sacramento,” she emphasized. “He ran (for Assembly) on a platform of reforming Sacramento, and it didn’t happen. Now LA is facing a similar big budget deficit and do we really want more taxes and more cuts and services, or do we want someone from the private sector, who knows how to create jobs and grow the economy.”

Krekorian focused on his proven track record of listening to people, fighting for them, solving problems, working across party lines, and “passing legislation even in this dysfunctional state legislature.” Noting it is time for “ an advocate in city hall, not anther status quo politician that gets all of her money from the special interests and the allies of the Mayor.”

The entire forum is available to view at  http://www.youtube.com/user/SOHA4ever.

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Vini, Vidi, VICA

Today’s VICA Forum was held at Woodbury University.

Chris Essel and Paul Krekorian focused on business issues – no surprise considering the sponsor.

Any words contained in parentheses represent my own thoughts; they are intended for clarification or reflect my observations.

Both of them objected to the unfairness of the gross receipts tax.  Paul said the current structure made it inviting for businesses to move to Glendale and Burbank where there are no such taxes.  Chris said pass-through entities should be exempted (my note: taxing pass-throughs for gross receipts causes double taxation much in the same way as corporate dividends).

They emphasized their business credentials: Chris’ thirty-five years at Paramount where she ran a planning and development office, Paul’s private legal career where he served as an advocate for small businesses.  Paul also mentioned the legislation he created to offer tax credits as an incentive to deter runaway production and the jobs creation tax credit for small business (note: between two continuing professional education classes and two candidate forums in the course of around a week, I have now been thoroughly indoctrinated about those two bills – the state should grant me additional credit hours).

There was a little friction between the two of them on the film production credit. Chris remarked that the bill was limited in scope; Paul claimed that filming declined during Chris’ involvement with the Film Commission.

The segment on the City’s budget was encouraging because both of them agreed on the need to seek concessions from the unions, aggressive collection of fees and fines (from scofflaws I assume), and the need to create more business activity   (I would like to hear more from each of them concerning their vision for the fiscal reconstruction of the city).

A unique question was thrown their way next.

What would each tell resident and homeowner organizations that they would not share with business groups?

Paul said he would not be afraid to provide honest answers to either group, regardless of how they would be received.  Chris said people have expressed their concerns about jobs to her.  That is what she hears when talking to neighbors.

They shared the same concerns about the infrastructure being stressed by more development.

There was a difference in how they felt about NC Board Member disclosure requirements. While both of them acknowledged that a Form 700 was inappropriate because of the advisory only duties of members, Chris favored very limited disclosure in cases involving land use issues personally impacting members.

Chris was asked about her duties while with the CCA.  She replied that it was good platform for her to act on behalf of the entertainment industry.

Paul was asked about his low Chamber of Commerce rating.  He pointed to his record as an advocate in promoting laws to protect intellectual property and also fighting trademark infringement and piracy. He mentioned he worked closely with the Chamber, but admitted you can’t please all of the people (all of the time).

The “carpetbagger” tag was dealt with quickly.  Each of them mentioned their close proximity to CD2 before actually moving within the boundaries.

Paul claimed to already know the district through his work in the Assembly and criticized Chris for lack of involvement in CD2 prior to running for office, along with her maintaining two active residences (one inside the district; one outside).  By contrast, he claimed to have leased his former residence to a tenant and was committed to staying in the district regardless of the election’s outcome.

Paul also emphasized that since adjacent communities shared the same resources in many ways, the carpetbagger label was not as significant as most make it out to be.

Chris stressed the fact she had never lived beyond a mile from CD2 (as an adult).  Concerning Paul’s remarks about her lack of involvement, she claimed she worked for the general interests of the Valley in her efforts to keep film production jobs in town.  She claimed Paul (as a legislator) was paid to attend local meetings.

Paul countered, “You only care about neighborhoods when you get paid.” He also claimed he had a history of volunteer work in the community.

Chris had the last word on this subject.  She stated, “I have been very active wherever I lived. I started a HOA and fought for my neighborhood.”

The confrontational tone carried over into the next subject:  how could the candidates increase revenue while reducing taxes?

Chris accused Paul of attempting to raise taxes through his support of the budget propositions that were voted down earlier in the year. 

Paul replied, “What would you have done to fight a $40 billion deficit at the state?” 

He added, “Without taxes you have to cut services. You don’t understand.”

Chris pointed to the unraveling of the state budget (reported in the LA Times).

“Nevada will steal our business,” she warned and then added, “The Legislature has only a 13% approval rating. We don’t need another former Assembly Member on the City Council.”

The terse debate continued when the IBEW ‘s influence over the DWP was raised.

Paul brought up the fifty-thousand dollar infusion to Chris’ campaign from the IBEW. 

She claimed she did not seek the IBEW’s support.

They were fairly close in their views on medical marijuana.  They supported the compassionate use as approved by the voters.  There appeared to be a difference between them on taxing the sale.  Paul would consider taxing medical marijuana only after the number of dispensaries was greatly reduced.

Chris said we cannot tax it since the law covered collectives, but we could earn fees from licensing establishments.

The final subject was about port pollution.  Chris declined to comment due to lack of familiarity with the subject.

Paul warned against overburdening owner operated trucking during a recession, but vehicle upgrades need to occur in the long run.

This was a better debate than I anticipated.  I might have more to add once I circle back with Suzanne Lauer, who was also there taking notes. 

She is covering tonight’s forum for the blog.

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I always appreciate insightful comments such as Lisa’s observations of last night.

I think the most important point she raises is that at this stage of the campaign, there is a need to probe the background of the candidates.  Stock questions have neen the norm at many of these affairs.  Those are fine to an extent, especially for residents just getting involved, but we need to dig deeper and insist on more details to back up the assertions.

Here are Lisa’s remarks:

I see these forums the same way as Paul and I’m tired of the same old questions.  I wish the candidates would just get to ask each other questions about CD2 issues.  But I don’t see the answers to the questions the same way Paul did.  Exemption to SB1818 – where does Essel get this idea?  There is  no support from the legislature to change SB1818 in any way, even though members agree it is a bad law.  Open Space – Essel’s comments about pocket parks is the same as we heard from Greuel during her term…they never materialized.  Even the support for the golf courses was not as aggressive as we expected from Greuel.  Grant writer – CD2 is so vast and complicated, the current staff can hardly manage it, so how can one person be responsible for this and there will be no new positions because of the budget.  Audits – Essel said that the Dept. of Building & Safety should be audited…too bad Greuel didn’t tell her the audit was already completed in 2006 and never brought to the city
council.  It was just ignored as usual, including Greuel’s non interest in it.  The audit has great suggestions to revamp the Dept. of Building & Safety, but nobody did anything.  Schools – what real decisions do city council members have on LAUSD? – None!!

My questions would include:  Essel – When did you run a business and become a business woman?  When did you create a job in California, Los Angeles or CD2?  Why do you insist that when you were chair or president of organizations that you did support their positions?  How are you a ‘valley girl’ and why would you say that?  What do you know of CD2 you haven’t lived here for more than 30 years?  Where are you keeping the names of community leaders you claim support you?  Why is all the money collected by you from out of CD2?   Why no just call yourself the lobbyist you are?

I’m supporting Krekorian, so I don’t have any questions for him…I know he would represent CD2’s without regard for outside interests, as he already has done for more than 1/3 of CD2.  He has been a business man, responsible for a school district and already trying to work out the mess in the state, which, by the way, was already a problem before he was elected.

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This is getting old.

I feel as if I can sit in for both Paul and Chris at these forums and represent them equally well.  I need my life back.

Rather than regurgitate everything they said, since it was consistent with their statements in other forums, allow me to focus on what new tidbits emerged along with some personal observations.

I will start by saying I respect both of them for enduring this seemingly endless series of forums.  They are good sports.

Tonight’s event was hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Valley Glen Neighborhood Association.  They were gracious hosts and managed the forum well.

There were nowhere near as many negative repartees or direct attacks on each other’s records.  One could sense that they are growing a little tired.  For that matter both came out in favor of the instant runoff; I do not blame them.

I am pleased they are both becoming increasingly bold concerning the unfunded municipal pensions.  Both are in favor of establishing a separate tier for new employees and of increased contributions by existing plan participants.  Obviously, current retirees would not be impacted. 

Paul pointed to the experience he had with union negotiations while on the Burbank School Board.  He chided the city for overly relying on the unsustainable stock market advances (that accrued in the years leading up to the crash) to fund the pension system.   Chris took a subtle swipe at Paul when she mentioned how the state was irresponsible in managing its system.

SB 1818 was not as fiery an issue as it has been.  The tone was more positive with Chris urging the city to adopt an affordable housing plan and using it as a basis for an exemption from SB1818.  She also urged the State Legislature to work on modifying the Ellis Act.  Paul was critical of the City Council for its faulty implementation of SB1818.  He advised the city not to let the courts unravel it, but to pass a new implementation ordinance.

On open space, Paul lamented that there is not much left and we need to value what we have.  We need to raise money to help fund the alternative preservation plans proposed for Verdugo Hills Golf and Studio City Golf and Tennis (possibly Federal grants and support from the Nature Conservancy).  He does not want development of the two areas to go forward unabated.

Chris said she was proud to be endorsed by Wendy Greuel and credited her for protecting significant open space.  She also said she would have a grant writer on her staff to tap into funding sources dedicated to protecting undeveloped areas.  She suggested the creation of a pocket park at the former site of Steven’s Nursery in Valley Village.  Quimby funds should be tapped for that purpose.

Both were asked about public safety issues in the district.  Chris mentioned nuisance activities such as the rapid proliferation of medical marijuana establishments.  There was also an uptick in crime due to the deteriorating economy.  She was proud to be supported by the Police Protective League.

Paul was more specific as to safety issues.  He cited the existence of thirteen gangs in the northeast Valley and mentioned legislation he helped pass making it easier for city prosecutors to banish gangbangers from neighborhoods.  He also mentioned the need to keep emergency response times to a minimum, even at the expense of other municipal programs.

Zero waste plans were discussed.  Both Paul and Chris want to see the 60% recycle rate increase.  Chris wants to target plastic grocery bags. Paul was concerned for the north part of the district due to the landfills there.  He wants to see a composting program as exists in San Francisco.  He pointed to his endorsement by the Sierra Club.

They were asked about the lack of representation CD2 has endured throughout most of 2009.  I already mentioned they were in agreement on the instant runoff concept.  Paul added that municipal elections should coincide with state elections to generate more interest and save money.  He took a poke at Chris for the significant independent expenditures she received.

Chris agreed with Paul about consolidating the city and state elections and to move forward with a clean money program.  She thanked former CD2 candidate Michael McCue for his work in that endeavor.

Chris also said that independent expenditures deserve a new look.

They were both very critical of the lack of coordination between Building and Safety and Planning departments.  Chris wants to consolidate them as much as possible and Paul wants them to share the same database.

Regarding the environment, Paul’s chief concern was air quality and lead in school drinking water.  Chris added water quality in general and the need to use reclaimed water.

The relationship between the LAUSD and the city was next.  This is one subject I wish was discussed in depth during the primary when Tamar Galatzan was in the mix, but it was lost among the limited time allotted to the field of ten.  At some point it would be informative if Tamar had a chance to speak to the candidates about this in a public forum.    Perhaps Kevin James and Larry Mantle would like to run with this idea.

Paul and Chris agreed more collaboration was necessary.

Chris wants mentoring programs similar to what Paramount offered when she was there.  She also said there was a need for much greater vocational education – not everyone could go to college.

Paul would like to see a joint facility arrangement, more after school programs and assistance by the DWP to help the schools achieve greater energy efficiency.  Parents need to get closer to schools.

Could revenues be increased to help close the city’s budget deficit?

Paul was very frank and told the crowd that would not happen in the short run.  In the long run the city needs to increase economic activity.  He reminded the audience of the film and production tax credit bill he championed.  He also cited the Small Business Tax Credit which offered a $3,000 tax credit for each new job created and supported the creation of a high tech zone.

Chris stated the city has driven business away with capricious policies such as retroactive tax adjustments created by arbitrary reclassifications to higher rate business categories (I have heard some horror stories about this).  According to her, the elimination of arts, music and theatre programs at schools have not helped either, especially when you consider the importance of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

I thought things would heat up on the subject of endorsements. Other than Paul referring to Essel’s support from the IBEW, the subject passed quietly.

There was a question from the audience about the cost of the subway to the sea.  Paul said the Valley has never received its fair share for transit funds.  We need more projects like the Orange line and smarter bus routes.

I asked them about the Auxiliary Dwelling Unit (Granny Flat) controversy that was heating up between the City Attorney and Planning, with Planning supporting a liberal interpretation of the state law that would allow widespread “by right” approvals.

The issue was really too new, but the candidates will be ramping up their knowledge.

Throughout the evening I did my best to spot the candidates’ intangible and subjective qualities.

Paul still comes across as more consummate and articulate.  That should come as no surprise because of his experience.  Chris is still a little rough and even admits she cannot rattle off bills and details as well as Paul.  However, she has shown improvement since the earlier forums, especially since the primary.  One thing I noted was she did not allow herself to get trapped in an exchange on certain sensitive issues, mainly campaign funds.  Although Paul raised the issue on a couple of occasions, she did not bite.

Finally, there was a reference in the Mayor Sam blog about a “secret meeting” involving Pete Sanchez, Michael McCue, Frank Sheftel and me after the forum.

The four of us met, along with Suzanne Lauer, Pete’s former campaign advisor who has been a recent contributor and production advisor to my blog.  It was not a plot to remove the Mayor and take control of the city.  It was simply a friendly discussion about our thoughts concerning the election and the endorsements made by the former candidates.

We are all working toward the same goal as the candidates– a responsible and responsive city government.

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The Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils hosted a “Conversation with Paul and Chris” last night.

The format was intimate given that this was a regularly scheduled business meeting and the attendees were the VANC representatives from the various NCs throughout the Valley.  About thirty people were in attendance representing at least twelve to fifteen NCs.  I’ll confirm that with Jill Banks Barad, who is the founder and chair of VANC.

For the record, I am on the Executive Board of VANC.

Let me start by saying that Chris was the most comfortable I have seen her in this marathon election and forum process.  The setting probably had much to do with that.

Paul is comfortable anywhere and would have been equally at ease if the discussion had been held in the adjacent emergency facility of Sherman Oaks Hospital.

Jill served as moderator.

The first topic concerned the role each would play as Chair of the City Council’s Education and Neighborhood Committee.

Paul Krekorian reaffirmed his support for local decision making, particularly at the NC level.

He cited his experience as a member of the Burbank School Board where he took credit for transforming the district and rescuing it from a financial morass.

Paul also criticized the City of Los Angeles for doing a poor job of working with the LAUSD on safety issues and enforcing truancy laws.

Chris emphasized that the NCs would be her eyes and ears and referenced her Six-Point Plan which included support for more NC funding and facilitating challenges to development.

She also supports breaking up the LAUSD into more manageable districts and would approach her business contacts about establishing mentoring programs.

The next question dealt with the diminution of the City Council’s reliance on the advice of NCs.  Jill winked when she made a subtle reference to a particular decision by a certain former Council Member, whose seat just happens to be the object of this campaign.

Chris pledged to attend as many land use meetings as possible with NC members and pointed to her experience in confronting developers when she was active with her neighborhood association.

Paul said he wanted to emphasize what he has done; not just want he plans to do.

Both he and his staff have always been involved in the NCs that were in his Assembly District’s boundary and would continue and expand his participation.

In a council district as gerrymandered as CD2 his “Government at Your Doorstep” approach would be ideal for addressing the needs of diverse communities encompassed by its boundaries.

On the subject of appeal rights, both candidates affirmed their support for a resolution vesting the NCs with powers equal to any entity or person in the city.

They also were in general agreement on the medical marijuana fiasco created by the City Council.

Chris said she would not support the sale of marijuana.  That was not what California law allows.  She wanted true collectives.

Paul compared the uncontrolled proliferation of clinics in Los Angeles with the well regulated environment in the Bay area.  He said, “The City Council should meet every day to dispose of hardship cases.  True collectives are needed – no pot plantations in suburbia or product from Mexico.”

Things got a little truculent when the subject of SB1818 was introduced.

Paul mentioned the need for a new ordinance that follows the successful models used by other cities.  He then resurrected the now controversial statement issued by Chris Essel when she chaired the CCA: that SB1818 was “the crowning achievement of her leadership” and that she advocated for large developers.

Chris responded by saying “patently untrue.”

She went on to say she was an advocate for the entertainment industry and supported developments in Hollywood designed to reduce blight.  Chris also stated she was not on the Planning and Land Use Committee of the CCA, implying that she was distanced from the organization’s internal support for 1818.

She supports passing an affordable housing act to eliminate the need for 1818 and criticized Paul Krekorian for not dealing with the Ellis Act while in the Assembly.

More disagreement ensued when the discussion transitioned to runaway production.

Paul touted his success at the passage of his bill providing tax incentives.  The state failed over fifteen years in attempts to pass comparable legislation.  Already, over five-hundred million dollars in production work has returned as a result of his bill.

Chris challenged the degree of Paul’s role in the creation and passage of the legislation.  She claimed it was her leadership in organizing the industry that paved the way for the bill.

She also mentioned the support she has from production crew unions. 

“They recognize my abilities,” she proclaimed.

There was no controversy in their statements about billboards.  Both supported a moratorium.  Paul mentioned the lax handling of portable signs by the city.  Glendale and Pasadena have successfully banned them.

Responding to assorted comments from the attendees concerning the perceived disregard of citizens by the City Council and municipal departments, Paul criticized Wendy Greuel for not being a forceful advocate of NCs.  Chris agreed that a City Council Member must be a stronger advocate.

“The arrogance of city departments was one reason why I am running,” she added.

They both were highly critical of increases in parking meter rates.  Paul cited the decision as “an example of grabbing for short term revenues even when it means hurting long term growth.”

Jill questioned  them about how they would convince other City Council Members to be “leaner and meaner.”

Paul emphasized his accomplishments as a bipartisan legislator and Chris cited her experience as a coalition builder through her work with entertainment trade associations.

I was able to raise my favorite issue – the dismal state of city finances. 

I presented recent news about rising interest rates for state bond issues (from 3% to 4%) which will increase the debt service for the state.  The same trend would probably apply to the city as well, adding to our woes.  That trend, along with declining tax revenues and the need to end the transfers from the DWP to the general fund, would create an even greater budget hole.

How do we avoid the prospects of bankruptcy unless we address the city’s burdensome compensation structure?

I suggested renegotiating labor contracts to allow the City Council to eliminate raises and increase employee contribution rates to benefit plans during a fiscal crisis.

Chris said the city needs a session to look at costs, zero-base the budget, distributing the proposed budget earlier and having a Charter Reform Convention to deal with union objections concerning labor renegotiations.

Paul said we needed a win/win approach similar to what he helped create at the Burbank School District.  That included negotiating terms to reduce benefits.

After the meeting I invited both candidates to discuss the city’s financial problems with me in separate interviews.

Next came a cross talk segment similar to the one introduced by Sunland-Tujunga.

Paul pointed to the infusions of large sums of cash in the form of independent expenditures to the Essel campaign from the IBEW and the PPL.  He told Chris, “you say no one can buy your vote for $500 (referring to the individual contribution cap); how about $180,000?”

That precipitated a chilly exchange.

Chris countered: “You tried to get the PPL endorsement too.”

She continued: “If the IBEW thinks I will win, that’s their choice.  I am in favor of a rate payer advocate and the elimination of the DWP transfer,” she explained in an effort to distance herself from the powerful union.

Chris also reminded Paul of his $27,000 in gifts from “special interests.”

Paul hit back, “My constituents know better by how I have represented them.”

“I haven’t received the cash donations outside of the Valley as you have,” referring to the sizeable contributions Chris has received from over the hill.

Paul challenged her on violating the spending cap because of large independent expenditures by the unions.

“When will you return the matching funds (to the city),” he demanded.

Chris shot back, “If you had been able to raise the dollars, you would be in my position,” implying that Krekorian was being hypocritical.

“Most of your money came from Burbank and Glendale,” she went on, insinuating that Paul’s base of support was from outside of the city limits.

The final confrontational exchange concerned Essel’s pledge not to run for another office.  Paul called it “childish.”

Chris replied, “What about you running for three offices in recent years?”

Paul answered: “Written pledges are only as good as the credibility of the candidate.  You abandoned the Airport Commission to move to CD2 in order to run for Council.”

“You also assisted the Florida Film Commission in taking production away from California.”

Closing statements followed and the discussion ended. 

Overall, it was an intelligent debate with just enough emotion mixed in.  Everyone appreciated the candor and intensity.

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