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Phil Jennerjahn: L.A. mayoral candidate

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?

Hiring should continue and even accelerate. I would go out of state and recruit people who are already law enforcement officers in other states. Los Angeles has been understaffed with police officers for many years. Crime may be down temporarily, but that will not last. Due to budget constraints, the state of California is considering releasing tens of thousands of criminals from prisons. They will be back on the streets. Only a person who lives in a fantasy world would think that crime rates would not be affected by that event. I am the only candidate with the forward-looking sense of vision to understand and talk about these things.

There is more than enough money to staff the LAPD. The city budget is receiving all-time high revenues. The mayor completely mismanages the budget by making bad hiring decisions, like giving a job on the taxicab commission to a young lady simply because she is Councilman Alarcon's daughter. If elected, I will re-prioritize the budget and reverse questionable employment decisions like this. The 93 personal staff members that Mayor Villaraigosa retains to attend to his personal needs? Those employees will not be retained, saving the city millions in budgetary funds.

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. State 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 campaign for reopening police misconduct hearings?

I interviewed dozens of officers before running for mayor. They don't like the consent decree and feel that it makes their jobs more difficult. The consent decree was a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that there were a few bad cops in the LAPD involved in the Rampart scandal. My thinking on this is that you don't punish all the good officers simply because a few of them went bad. As mayor, I want to get us out from under the consent decree and make it easier for my officers to do their jobs.

However, I do believe that as public employees, the officers have to be held accountable. I believe that bad officers need to be exposed and removed. My message to the LAPD is this: As your mayor, I will be a fantastic leader who will give you flexibility and leeway to do your jobs as you see necessary, without a lot of constraints or interference. But you had better stay clean, because if you go bad, I will make sure the public knows your name and I will remove you as soon as I have the necessary facts to justify your removal. I hold myself to a very high standard, and I expect the very best out of every one of you. I salute you and thank you for the magnificent job you do every day in protecting the citizens of our city and keeping our streets safe.

Who deserves credit for the steady drop in Los Angeles crime: the mayor, the police chief or someone else?

The mayor deserves zero credit for the drop in crime. In fact, when he was a legislator, he often voted against funding law enforcement activities. The lower crime rate may be a residual effect of California Three Strikes legislation, which ended up incarcerating many career criminals for minor offenses.

I like Chief Bratton and I agree with his "broken windows" theory of policing that says you don't let minor offenses go unpunished. I think any man who helped clean up New York City knows what he is doing, and I trust his leadership and judgment. I give him a lot of credit.

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?

It is completely inappropriate for the mayor to be trying to take over schools. I'm sure he offended many educators with that maneuver. His attempt was more bad decision-making by him, and certainly didn't make him look more effective or competent in the long run. The mayor's job is running the city. Leave the teachers alone and let them teach. If they don't do a good enough job, parents will vote with their feet and pull their children out and put them in private schools.

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. Very little this mayor has done has been effective or a good idea.

Many voters in this city are experiencing "buyers remorse" when it comes to this mayor. I have spoken with hundreds of people who have told me they regret voting for him. Many schools here are still underperforming. I have never understood his belief that he, of all people, is the one who can be trusted to change our schools. On a personal level, I don't trust this mayor to do the right thing. He makes poor choices.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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