David ‘Zuma Dogg’ Saltsburg: L.A. mayoral candidate

1) 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 be down 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 don’t think that the people of Los Angeles want to hear that Mayor Villaraigosa created a trash collection fee, then tripled it, for the sole purpose of hiring 1,000 new officers, only to be told that not all 1,000 officers were hired and the money was used for other purposes. And the main thing people have to understand is that as mayor, you have to be thinking one or two steps ahead of where we are today. Villaraigosa, with his high-density housing projects that he has been jamming into every nook and cranny across the city means the city is going to be much more populated and overcrowded. So the city has to keep up with the hiring of police officers to keep up with the population boom that is coming. And in these trying economic times, expect more first-time crime and an increase in crime in general. When you talk of hiring new police, people immediately think it must be to arrest more people, but police are especially going to be needed, more and more, for things like helping Emergency Medical Services (EMS) on rescue missions to help secure the scene before they can go in to offer assistance. So this is no time for the mayor to be talking about weaseling out of his promise to voters after he created a trash collection fee over the issue, then tripled the fee.

2) 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 push for re-opening police misconduct hearings?

Let’s remember that police officers have the toughest and most dangerous job out there and they are doing it because as a society we have decided we do not want to live in an “eye for an eye” (street justice) civilization. And the reason I mention this, is because we don’t want to drive away the already scarce pool of upcoming police officers because of Gloria Romero’s agenda of wanting to expose the names of police officers. Their job is unsafe enough. By releasing their names, it seems like you would be putting them at risk in their personal life, as well. I’ll have to study up on the benefit of releasing the names. However, I believe the public has a right to know the details of any misdeeds, and should know any misdeeds, so the department can take measures to make sure misdeeds are not repeated.

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

First of all, I’ll just play along and assume that the claim of a steady drop in L.A. crime is a valid one. So let’s just say there has been a steady drop in crime. What kind of question is that to ask, “Who deserves credit.” Who cares? The goal of the mayor, police chief and everyone else who is responsible as an elected official is to simply wake up every day and do as much as possible in a collaborative and cooperative effort to reduce crime. There is no way of knowing who is responsible for what and I don’t think your average voter makes that distinction. (“Oh yeah, crime is down . . . it must be because of the mayor.”) I think if people hear that crime is down they thank the police, but if crime is up they blame the mayor. I think that’s how it goes, right?

4) 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?

It would be very appropriate if it were part of the mayor’s job description. But unfortunately, the school system is not under the mayor’s office, so it is completely inappropriate. Being mayor of Los Angeles is not a part-time job, as it is in many other cities in the country. It’s not like working at McDonald’s and having a paper route on the side. And the attempt wasn’t managed well, at all. He spent the first two and a half years of his term as mayor fighting for AB 1381 (mayoral control) only to lose all the way up the judicial ladder until there were no more court losses to be had. So that was a lot of time, money and staff wasted on a shameless battle that everyone knew was wrong and illegal in the first place, and was proven to be so through multiple court losses.

5) 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?

After his stunning series of court defeats and loss of the total enchilada, he went for a cluster of 10 schools. Because a smaller piece of the $20-billion school construction pie is better than no piece at all. Because you must remember, all of this hoopla about caring about the school system, is really about the $20 billion in construction and repair money up for grabs and ready to be handed out the preferred contractors of choice. So, Antonio Villaraigosa promised parents and teachers total input, more involvement, more control as a way of getting his foot in the door, and now I have been contacted by parents in the district who say it is a disaster and he has shut the door on all parental input and they are very sorry they fell for it. I’m sure he will boast of some statistics that proved all the dropouts are now on their way to Harvard. I do know, however, that the mayor would actually like to try and succeed in a real and meaningful way at those schools. Not because he cares about kids, but so he has an achievement to point to when he runs for governor. Because that is the first thing he will be doing as soon as he is reelected.