SUPERVISORIAL ELECTION / Q AND A WITH THE CANDIDATES : Nation Watches Special Election in 1st District


Los Angeles County will get a Latino supervisor in a nationally watched special election Tuesday in the newly drawn 1st District. The candidates, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Gloria Molina and state Sen. Art Torres, are liberal Democrats who agree on many issues. Both support a county ordinance to limit campaign contributions, expansion of the Board of Supervisors from five to seven members, hiring and promoting more Latino county workers and holding evening board meetings in the community.

Here are the candidates’ views on other countywide and district issues as told to staff writers Jill Stewart and Richard Simon.


Q: What is your No. 1 goal if elected?


A: I want to build a consensus among the Board of Supervisors to introduce ethics reform, campaign reform, campaign contribution limits and limits on campaign spending to eliminate the kind of entrenchment that we’ve seen up to now, and also to restructure and expand that Board of Supervisors. I want more accountability.

Q: What most in county government needs to be fixed?

A: The budget. . . . It is basically a political budget. It seems that many of the issues are resolved by splitting the money five ways instead of making an assessment of the real needs. . . . The first responsibility of elected officials is to provide safe streets. But the other is to make sure that we are providing for the health needs and social services of the people in need.

Q: How do you differ most from your opponent?


A: It’s in style and in substance as well. I have a style of working much more directly with constituents and with people, of listening to their concerns and incorporating them in solutions. My opponent on the other hand has taken sort of a dictatorial view of the community.

Q: Would you levy a business tax in unincorporated territory, such as East Los Angeles, if it is necessary to avert cuts in county services?

A: I am told unincorporated areas like Malibu do not have a business tax now. . . . I don’t have any problem with leveling the playing field for all businesses in the basin. But that’s not the only way. Before we talk about taxes we need to make sure we are running a very effective program.

Q: What is your strategy for dealing with homelessness, given the county’s tight budget?


A: The county . . . has been pushing this off to the cities. I think we need to create a case management system, develop transitional housing to get people off the streets, and an effective mental health program. . . . This is going to cost us money, but . . . we’re talking about people who may be involved in crimes and other kinds of problems that cost us much more money.

Q: What is the best way to deal with gang violence?

A: To start with it very early. . . . If you can develop prevention and recreational programs so that children never go into gangs--that would be the first thing. But the other thing is good enforcement. . . . Children shouldn’t be out at midnight writing graffiti. Kids who start doing that and get away with it eventually go on to other kinds of crimes. . . . You need a program that’s going to assist parents who cannot control their children.

Q: Do you favor a county ordinance requiring mandatory trash separation?


A: It is something I think we should do as consumers, as residents. . . . But I think incentives for recycling may be another component, and eliminating more trash by supporting programs of co-composting.

Q: Do you support extending a law in effect in some parts of the county that requires property owners to remove graffiti or be charged for its removal?

A: Not at this time. . . . We have a crisis with graffiti, and I’d like to see (spray cans and felt pens) banned from L.A. County. . . . If anybody is going to lose, it might be some paint companies, but I think the residents in the L.A. area would be willing to take out a paintbrush to paint their fence in trade for eliminating all the graffiti.

Q: Do you favor water rationing, and do you have any proposals to deal with the drought?


A: I’m a big supporter of rationing. . . . We need to start evaluating water use statewide. We (must) look at the agricultural use--and some of that goes unused, and the agricultural interests maintain that use because they never ever want to be cut back. . . . The reality is we must restructure our water policy.

Q: Will you push for a law regulating county lobbyists, including requiring lobbyists to disclose legislation they are seeking to influence?

A: Absolutely. . . . If you are going to have people seeking to influence you, those people must disclose what their interests are so you are not going to have any money being traded for votes.

Q: Do you support creation of a citizens’ panel to review allegations of misconduct against the Sheriff’s Department?


A: Absolutely. . . . If there are any irregularities--any disciplinary problems--we need to have someone who is going to conduct an investigation . . . and it can’t be just an inside-type operation.

Q: Do you support distribution of bleach kits and condoms, and what other programs do you advocate for dealing with AIDS?

A: Yes, but in addition I think the county should do what the city has done. . . . They should have someone overseeing AIDS, and AIDS only. . . . Right now we have a little bit of an AIDS program operating in every county department, but--very frankly--it’s not coordinated.

Q: You and your opponent were once friends, political allies. In recent years, you’ve grown apart, and that division has deepened amid a tough campaign. What will happen after the election? Will you be friends or enemies?


A: We haven’t been friends for a long time, because I think that Art has changed tremendously. I found that working with him in the state Legislature, he seemed to be getting a lot closer to special interests and leaving behind the interests of the district. . . . I have also had a real problem because Art has wanted somebody that is going to listen to him at all times and I have enjoyed my independence. . . . I don’t think we’ll ever have the opportunity of becoming personal friends again.