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

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

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.

ART TORRES

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

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A: Accessibility. People never see the supervisor in their communities. If there’s one thing I want to achieve is that people get to see the supervisor and talk to that supervisor.

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

A: The top bureaucrats are living in a vacuum and are out of touch with the people who rely on government. They better stop worrying about raising their own salaries and be more responsive. I’m disappointed that the board didn’t freeze the salaries (of county department heads) as I had recommended in order to review what the needs are out there.

Q: How do you differ most from your opponent?

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A: Effectiveness and the ability to get things done. . . . The fact that I’m able to have the support of every law enforcement group in this county indicates that I can build consensus.

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

A: I oppose those taxes. I view taxes as a last resort.

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

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A: I don’t think that there’s been an effective inventory of who the homeless are. If 25% of the homeless are Vietnam veterans, how can we access those veterans to federal benefits? If we don’t address the real problems of why they got to be homeless, then transitional shelters are not going to resolve the problem. My agenda would be to find out who they are and once we do, find out what services are out there that maybe we’re not utilizing.

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

A: In the short-term, have more cops on the street . . . and arrest those young people under the STEP Act, the Street Terrorist Enforcement Program that I helped author in the Legislature . . . . (We must) find jobs for some of these young men to get them off the streets. Recreation needs to take a higher priority. (We need) to make sure that when gang members come back from prison that there are probation and parole officers to make sure they’re monitored.

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

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A: I do. The people are ready for that because they don’t want any more landfills, which I oppose.

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: I don’t think businesses ought to be held responsible for somebody else’s vandalism. We ought to look at . . . educating young people. There have been retreats with young people found guilty of creating graffiti. They’re told that RTD spent close to $9 million to clean up the buses last year. They’re told, ‘Can you imagine how we could have used that money to provide jobs?’ . . . . Simply painting it over doesn’t solve the problem.

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

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A: I’d have to look at how it was rationed. . . . It’s been my feeling that agriculture has gotten the best deal at the expense of urban communities. I favor looking into establishing a desalination plant in Los Angeles County.

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

A: Yes. That’s worked very well in Sacramento. . . . County government is the last bastion to be opened up to ethics reform. That’s why I’ve proposed no honorariums and no gifts for supervisors.

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

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A: I would take a look at it, but I’m not totally convinced that’s a priority, given the cost. . . . My priority would be to make sure that people that are ill get health care.

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

A: I’ve been supportive of condoms and bleach kits, so long as it’s accompanied by anti-drug information. Education has been effective in terms of prevention. Those same educational materials have not been transferred over to minority communities. . . . We need to establish more clinics. When you have four- or five-month waiting periods (for first-time AIDS patients) at L. A. County-USC Medical Center, you’re creating more expense. (I would) press for AIDS patients to get accessibility to federal and state programs.

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

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A: Friends. There are too many serious problems out there to not be friends and allies on the issues that are important to our community.


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