1) Since Mayor Villaraigosa called for expanding the police department by at least 1,000 officers, 694 have joined the force. Considering that crime continues to be down in Los Angeles, should the hiring go forward even in the face of dramatic budget shortfalls? Or should hiring stop or be slowed until more revenue is available?
No, not one more LAPD officer should be hired until this out-of-control department is held truly accountable by the residents of Los Angeles. And Chief William Bratton should be fired immediately. The LAPD has a long history of brutalizing and arresting working-class people, particularly people of color. This truth has been illustrated by countless beatings and killings of black and Latino youths. The May 1, 2007, police riot against immigrant-rights protesters in MacArthur Park is just one example. Fortunately, the LAPD was held partially accountable for its unprovoked attack on working people. The city lost nearly $13 million in the process. But officers should have been arrested and jailed. The MacArthur Park police riot was the fault of the LAPD, plain and simple.
The LAPD budget makes up half of the city's budget. This is an outrage. I would dramatically cut funding from the LAPD and use that money to create high-paying jobs and quality shelter for people in need. With a fraction of that budget, thousands of affordable housing units could be built. Please read more about my program and campaign demands at www.votepsl.org.
2) The LAPD labors under a federal consent decree that arose from years of officer misconduct and scandal. Police disciplinary hearings had historically been open for public review until courts recently ruled that they could be closed under state law. Sen. Gloria Romero has attempted to pass legislation that would reopen misconduct hearings. But police unions strongly oppose it. Do you believe the public has a right to know the names of officers who commit misconduct and the details of their misdeeds? If elected, would you push for re-opening police misconduct hearings?
Yes, I strongly believe police misconduct hearings should be open to the public. As mayor, I would push for this to happen. The police cannot be trusted and should not be allowed to police themselves. To continue closed-door hearings would continue the culture of impunity enjoyed by the LAPD and their supporters in City Hall. For example, in 2008 we found out that out of 300 racial profiling complaints filed against the LAPD, the LAPD determined that none had merit. This finding by the police's internal review board is criminal. But I believe that more must be done. Open, public meetings on police misconduct are not enough. My campaign calls for community control over the police, with the creation of an all-elected civilian control board. This would help end the terror brought by the LAPD on neighborhoods throughout the city. Only when the people of Los Angeles can hold the LAPD accountable for their misdeeds can we start moving toward a system of justice in this city.
3) Who deserves credit for the steady drop in Los Angeles crime -- the mayor, the police chief or someone else?
Neither the mayor nor the police chief deserve any credit. These two political figures have done nothing but promote the use of further repression on working-class communities. They, along with the city attorney, have criminalized whole sectors of the city's youth through racist, anti-gang injunctions. These injunctions must be rescinded. Thanks to City Hall and the LAPD brass, black and Latino youths are presumed guilty until they prove themselves "innocent." This process usually involves unlawful summary detentions, incidents of harassment and brutality, and so much more. The LAPD acts like an occupying army in South L.A. and other poor areas. This must end. And the mass incarceration of youths of color must end. Due to the mayor and his LAPD cohorts, city and county jails are overflowing with working-class people who should not be there. But I ask the mayor: Why aren't slumlords and corrupt developers in your jails? My campaign, and my party -- the Party for Socialism and Liberation -- believes that crime is a direct product of existing economic and social inequality. Crime can only end if we work to end inequality, not push it forward as Mayor Villaraigosa has done during his tenure. Union jobs, after-school programs and other needed community services must be created and funded in order to make crime unnecessary. As mayor, I would implement these programs to bolster oppressed communities, not to criminalize them.
4) To what extent is it appropriate for a mayor to control the local school district? How well managed was the attempt by the current mayor to make this happen?
The mayor should not need to control the local school district, and Mayor Villaraigosa's attempts have been unsuccessful and counterproductive. He is more interested in privatizing education to help corporations make profits, than to help students graduate with a quality education. As mayor, I would marshal all the resources of my office to make giving L.A.'s children a better education the city's highest priority. As it is now, students from low-income families get left behind. Schools in poor communities are chronically underfunded; class sizes are far too large; and teachers are threatened with cutbacks and even layoffs. If elected, I would work to make free education a right to all, from preschool on up. This would mean working with the teachers' union, parents, students and staff to forge a better road for our schools. Meeting the needs of black, Latino, Asian and all working-class students, including undocumented immigrants, would be my priority.
5) Mayor Villaraigosa set out to take over all Los Angeles public schools and now oversees a small percentage of them. Do you believe his efforts have been worthwhile? Do you believe it has made a difference in the way children are being educated?
No on both counts. LAUSD's dropout rate is staggeringly high, over 30% overall and up to 70% in some areas of the city. The mayor recognizes this, but has done nothing to reverse it. The only way to cut the dropout rate is to increase funding to schools and end educational racism and inequality that plagues students in oppressed neighborhoods. We must also create high-paying jobs and create job training programs for people once they graduate. Cutting tax breaks to rich developers and cutting the LAPD's budget could supply the money needed to make students the priority. Imposing steep taxes on big banks and corporations also would help. These solutions are simple, although no one in City Hall would ever say this. The current profit-based system of capitalism is set up so that some students, the poorest, will always fail, and the most privileged will succeed. Mayor Villaraigosa wants to continue this system. But it only benefits corporations, landlords and their political allies. Working people have no stake in seeing inequality, exploitation and racism continue. We have to mount a united struggle to see that these things end, once and for all.
There is an alternative: socialism. Socialism is a system based on equality and cooperation. I urge you to support my campaign and help us move toward making this a reality.