League of Women Voters forum hosts 6 Assembly hopefuls

A proposed Long Beach (710) Freeway tunnel and ways to keep the media industry in California were just some of the issues brought up during a candidate forum for the 43rd District of the state Assembly Wednesday night.

The Glendale/Burbank and Los Angeles chapters of the League of Women Voters hosted the debate inside the Burbank council chambers, where six of the candidates answered questions sent in by voters.

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Candidate Rajiv Dalal, former Los Angeles deputy film czar, did not attend the event.

The candidates are vying for the seat held by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), who will be termed out at the end of the year.

Each candidate was able to answer the same number of questions. However, participants did not answer every question.

The proposed tunnel, which is supposed to connect the Ventura (134) and Foothill (210) freeways, has been a hot topic for years.

Dennis Bullock, former dean at Providence High School, said there needs to be diversity in the transportation structure, advocating for more bicycle lanes, light rail and subways.

Former detention officer Aaron Cervantes said expanding freeways is only a temporary fix, and he would rather develop public transportation.

Glendale Councilwoman Laura Friedman said she is against the freeway extension, saying that recent estimates have the project costing around $8 billion. Like Bullock, Friedman was in support of light-rail systems, and she added that the region should start hauling freight by rail to reduce the number of vehicles traveling on the freeways.

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"[The tunnel] brings more traffic and more smog, and it really does the opposite of what we're trying to do by getting people out of their cars and into alternative transportation," Friedman said.

The film and television industries play a major role in the state's economy and even more so in Burbank and Glendale. The candidates were asked what they would do to ensure the media industry stays in California.

Ardy Kassakhian, Glendale's city clerk, said he is familiar with the entertainment industry because many film permits have been processed by his office. He wants to reduce the bureaucracy and fees associated with filming in the region to keep the industry here.

"Through our hard work and reducing the hours that [a police officer or fire inspector] would be assigned to some of these [film projects], in Glendale, we've increased filming by 20% since I was elected," he said.

Retired Army Gen. Mark MacCarley said the film industry is just a portion of the economy of the 43rd District, and he thinks officials should also look into manufacturing jobs. He is also in favor of reducing taxes to keep the industry in the region.

Using his education background, former La Cañada Unified school board member Andrew Blumenfeld suggested that there should be an "education pipeline," creating programs to train students who want to go into the film industry "so there's this direct and robust human capital pipeline that makes this the envy of all other cities and countries all over the world."

The entire candidate forum can be viewed on Burbank's YouTube channel .

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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