Candidates Forum Focuses on Schools, Film

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With less than three weeks before the election, candidates in four key state legislative races clashed Friday over the best way to fix schools and to halt the flight of film production.

The Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. forums, attended by about 50 San Fernando Valley business leaders at the Airtel Plaza Hotel, featured sharp exchanges involving all eight major party candidates in the 21st Senate District and the 41st, 43rd and 44th Assembly districts.

Breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District, long sought by a core of Valley political activists, divided the 44th District candidates, with Republican television commentator Susan Carpenter McMillan of Pasadena supporting a split while Democrat Carol Liu, a La Canada Flintridge councilwoman, said Supt. Roy Romer should be given more time to fix things.


“If it’s not working in the Valley, we need to look at a different governmental structure,” Liu said. But she said she is neutral on whether a breakup is required.

Carpenter McMillan, however, said, “I don’t want to give [Romer] any more time. The most important thing we can do is give local control back to families.”

Liu said her three decades’ experience as a teacher, school administrator and, more recently, parent volunteer would help her find ways for Sacramento to help fix the schools.

Carpenter McMillan countered that her opponent’s years in the schools means “Ms. Liu is responsible for what we have today, a school system that is 49th out of 50 states.’

The 44th District includes parts of Arleta, Sunland, Tujunga, Pasadena, La Canada Flintridge and Glendale.

Education was also an issue in the debate between the state Senate candidates, South Pasadena Councilman Paul Zee, the Republican, and Assemblyman Jack Scott (D-Altadena).


Scott touted his experience as a former president of Pasadena City College, saying: “I bring to you a wealth of experience in education and also a wealth of experience in the state Assembly.”

He said he has pushed through legislation to provide better teachers by offering loans for teacher training.

Zee said he would work to make sure every student can read, write, do math and operate computers. He criticized Scott as a liberal ideologue.

“Mr. Scott passes laws of an ideological nature, such as trigger locks” on guns, Zee said. “He does not pass laws to improve the quality of life of his constituents.”

Scott countered that the child safety lock bill he wrote will help reduce handgun deaths, which total 30,000 a year in this country.

“Mr. Zee, you can pooh-pooh the idea of a trigger lock, but 80% of Americans support them,” Scott said.


Sacramento was also the focus of the debate in the 43rd Assembly District, where two attorneys, Democrat Dario Frommer and Republican Craig Missakian, clashed over their differing experience.

Frommer said his work as a chief of staff to a state senator and more recently as appointments secretary to Gov. Gray Davis gives him knowledge about how to accomplish things in Sacramento.

“My opponent likes to deride me as a state government insider,” Frommer said. “Those experiences taught me a lot about how state government works.”

Missakian, a former county prosecutor, said his experience will help him be effective on crime issues.

The Republican said Frommer’s Sacramento experience “comes with certain strings,” while he portrayed himself as an “independent fighter for the district.”

Frommer proposed an energy summit to find ways to provide new emergency supplies and keep rates reasonable, while Missakian said he would work to streamline the process to bring new power plants on line.


The 43rd district covers Burbank and Glendale and reaches south past the Los Feliz neighborhood to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Runaway film production was an issue that divided the 41st Assembly District candidates, teacher and former Agoura Hills Mayor Fran Pavley, a Democrat, and nurse and children’s rights advocate Jayne Murphy Shapiro, a Republican.

The district includes parts of Agoura Hills, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Woodland Hills, Encino and Calabasas.

Shapiro accused Pavley, an alternate for the California Coastal Commission, of being part of the problem of runaway production.

“One of the reasons film production is leaving is the Coastal Commission is not very friendly to the film industry,” Shapiro said.

Pavley said there are currently several film companies shooting in Coastal Commission jurisdiction.


“Permits are definitely possible,” she said. “You just have to go through the procedure. Some of the processes are rather lengthy.”