James Harris: Mayoral candidate

Since Mayor Villaraigosa called for expanding the police department by at least 1,000 officers, 694 have joined the force. Considering that crime continues to decline in Los Angeles, should the hiring go forward even in the face of dramatic budget shortfalls? Or should hiring stop or be slowed until more revenue is available?

I am opposed to Mayor Villaraigosa’s expansion of the Police Department. The primary role of the police is not to defend the interests of working people. In fact, their role is quite the opposite -- to defend the interests of the wealthy rulers of this city. This is the real root of police brutality. It is why there have been over 40 police killing in Los Angeles County since January 2008. It is why the Police Department rioted in MacArthur Park in 2007 against peacefully demonstrating mostly immigrant workers.

The role of the police is to strike fear in the hearts of working people -- to discourage us from fighting for our rights, going on strike or engaging in protest. Many of the victims of police brutality were unarmed like Salvador Zepeda. Just a few days ago, on Feb. 21, 2009, my campaign participated in a vigil which demanded justice for this 18-year-old, killed by police only a few doors from his house as he walked home from a party. His story is the same as Christian Portillo, killed in the driveway of his home as he sat in his car.

The LAPD labors under a federal consent decree that arose from years of officer misconduct and scandal. Police disciplinary hearings had historically been open for public review until courts recently ruled that they could be closed under state law. Sen. Gloria Romero has attempted to pass legislation that would reopen misconduct hearings. But police unions strongly oppose it. Do you believe the public has a right to know the names of officers who commit misconduct and the details of their misdeeds? If elected, would you campaign for re-opening police misconduct hearings?

Working people have the right to know all the facts about the police, especially any instances of police brutality or misconduct. With this knowledge, working people would be in a better position to defend themselves from the actions of the gang in blue. If elected, I would use the powers of the mayor’s office to prosecute and jail any and all cops that have committed crimes against people to the fullest extent of the law.

Who deserves credit for the steady drop in Los Angeles crime -- the mayor, the police chief or someone else?

With all the talk of decreased crime in Los Angeles, the conditions of working people here have been declining, not improving. What about the crime of unemployment, lack of healthcare and the violation of working people’s rights by the police themselves? These are crimes.

To what extent is it appropriate for a mayor to control the local school district? How well managed was the attempt by the current mayor to make this happen?

Whether the mayor controls the local school district is not the essential question that working people should be asking. Workers have to pose much more fundamental questions about education.

We have to recognize that until society is reorganized so that education is a human activity from the time we are very young until the time we die, there will be no education worthy of working, creating humanity.

The purpose of education in class society is not to educate. It is to give ‘the educated’ a stake in thinking they are going to be different than other people who work all their lives. The schools in working-class districts are organized to teach obedience, not to educate.

Mayor Villaraigosa set out to take over all Los Angeles public schools and now oversees a small percentage of them. Do you believe his efforts have been worthwhile? Do you believe it has made a difference in the way children are being educated?

This conflict is nothing more than a diversion from the real problems of education. More importantly, my campaign calls for no cuts to education in the recent state budget. If I am elected mayor of Los Angeles, I will use my office to help to organize protests against these cuts.