In their words: L.A. mayor candidates answer The Times’ questions
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Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has a good chance of keeping his job if any of the three most prominent candidates for mayor manages to win. But embattled Fire Chief Brian Cummings? Not so much.
When The Times posed a series of questions about major issues facing Los Angeles, those were among the views expressed by the eight candidates to replace termed-out Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In late January, the candidates were given several days to mull what they would say before emailing comments back to the newspaper.
Their answers appear in full on The Times’ ‘Where they stand’ page. Readers will find that some are clear and emphatic, and some are carefully hedged. A couple of candidates left questions unanswered. But in a race where the competitors are scrambling to break away from the pack, voters can find a few revealing contrasts.
After years of historically low crime rates, City Hall veterans Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Jan Perry say they would like to see Police Chief Beck serve a second term. Former talk-show host Kevin James flatly says “no,” without explaining why. (In answering another question about public safety, James, the only Republican in the race, takes issue with Beck’s decision to stop impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers, many of whom are illegal immigrants.)
Candidate Emanual Pleitez says he wants to talk with Beck before making any commitment. And Norton Sandler -- a member of the Socialist Workers Party -- advocates abolishing the LAPD altogether, calling it “an instrument of capitalist rule.”
Fire Chief Cummings, meanwhile, draws support only from Councilwoman Perry. She says Cummings “has been straightforward in his dealings with the city, and is doing a great job.” Garcetti, also a council member, and Greuel, the city controller, are less inclined to support the fire chief. Both cite the controversy surrounding his department’s failures to keep accurate emergency response-time data: “I believe confidence needs to be restored in the Fire Department’s management,” Garcetti says.
Should we keep building a so-called subway to the sea? The candidates deliver an almost unanimous yes.
What about a downtown football stadium? Most say yes, but James wants it in the City of Industry. (One of his contributors happens to be the developer of the Industry site.)
No candidate has anything good to say about the half-cent sales tax measure that Villaraigosa and a City Council majority say they need to make up a budget shortfall. “Taxing our way out of our budget deficit is not the solution -- we need to fix the underlying problems,” says Greuel says.
How about extending the 710 Freeway into Pasadena? It’s a question the next mayor and his or her appointees may face at the county’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “We should focus on mass transit options before extending the 710,” Pleitez says. Others also are cool toward the notion.
The candidates address other questions about city finances, the economy and development, public safety, transportation, education and the environment. They agree that Los Angeles International Airport needs a lot more work, but they’re mixed on whether the north runways should be moved closer to Westchester. Some say a proposed subway under Beverly Hills High School would be safe; others say that’s still not clear.
They want to create jobs, make government work better, boost rail and bus routes and make L.A. schools shine.
One of the more novel suggestions for improving Los Angeles came from one of the least recognized candidates, Addie M. Miller. She says she doesn’t drink or smoke but wants to “establish a theme park” where people can use marijuana.
“Why not have a nice, secluded place where they can indulge?” she says. “Remember, it helps a lot of people medically.”
-- William Nottingham