Carlos Alvarez: L.A. mayoral candidate

With the March 3 primary election drawing near, The Times asked all candidates for Los Angeles mayor to respond to questions about key issues facing the nation’s second-largest city. Here are the responses from candidate Carlos Alvarez:

1) What distinguishes you from the other candidates in the race?

My campaign is a bit different from others because I am a socialist. As a 22-year-old community activist and member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, I have a socialist perspective. I believe that the vast wealth of society should be enjoyed by the people who create it -- the people who work for a living each day. There should not be exploitation and inequality.

My campaign calls for every person in L.A. to have a job, food, decent housing, access to free, quality healthcare and education, and a clean environment. Every worker should have the right to be in a union. The minimum wage should be $15 per hour. I believe these are not privileges, but fundamental human rights. As mayor, I would fight tooth and nail to make these demands a reality.

Everyone in the city of Los Angeles should have adequate shelter. I demand an immediate end to all foreclosures and evictions. No one should be homeless while luxury lofts sit empty downtown.

The current mayor has only helped increase the wealth of big business while telling workers to accept cuts. My campaign is a vehicle for working-class people to fight back.

2) Los Angeles likely will face a deficit of $400 million to $500 million in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, as well as steep shortfalls in the years that follow. If elected, how would you balance the city budget? Specifically, what programs or services would you cut, what taxes or fees would you increase, and what other measures would you take?

Los Angeles is the richest city in the richest country in the world. The wealth is there to balance the budget. I would convene an emergency committee to discuss how city funds are directed.

Putting people’s needs before profits is my campaign’s highest priority.

Even in the midst of this deep economic recession, the super-wealthy are doing well. Giant banks and developers are profiting, while most of us find it harder to get by.

My campaign believes that the brunt of the economic crisis should not be shouldered by working people. Instead, the greedy banks, corporations and developers who caused the crisis should pay their fair share. As mayor, I would tax the corporations and end all tax breaks to developers and landlords. I would not cut necessary social services or lay off city employees.

However, I would cut funding to the LAPD, which is allotted almost 50% of all city funds yearly, despite its record of racism and violence toward communities of color. This money is needed for housing, education, healthcare, child care and other necessary services.

3) To cut costs, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is considering layoffs or offering early retirement to city employees. Do you support either or both of those alternatives? Given the increased need for government assistance in these bad economic times, is now the right time to reduce the number of city employees or cut hours at libraries and city parks?

I do not support layoffs. Unemployment in Los Angeles is already over 10%. This is among the highest of any city in the country. Mayor [Antonio] Villaraigosa should be ashamed that this has happened on his watch, while he considers more layoffs. Instead of cutting jobs, I would create more jobs in the public sector. Our roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure are constantly in need of repair. We need libraries and parks open and accessible, and we need workers to staff them.

As mayor, I would upend the status quo of billion-dollar giveaways to corporate developers by taxing them heavily. The people of this city should have a say in how it is run.

As things stand, early retirement is not a good option for most current city employees. If there were adequate benefits and services for retirees, things would be different. When to retire should be the employees’ choice. My campaign is most concerned with meeting the needs of working-class people.

Instead of standing on the sidelines as a “neutral” mediator, I would stand firmly on the side of labor unions and all working people -- documented and undocumented -- in Los Angeles.

4) Do you support Measure B, the city’s proposed solar power initiative? Why? How do you believe it will affect Department of Water and Power rates?

I fully support the creation of more union jobs. As mayor, I would fight for union rights and to expand unions both in the public and private sectors. Another central demand of my campaign is creating a livable and sustainable environment right here. For me, this is not just lip service. Our city is choking on traffic and smog. Increasing the use of solar power is central to this. But Measure B takes the unfortunate step of forcing working taxpayers to pay for it, in part, through a bond. A bond measure is like a flat tax, which treats the super-rich and the poor as if they are somehow equal. Because of this, I do not support it.

As mayor, I would vastly expand the use of solar power and renewable energy sources to promote a clean and safe environment. This should be funded by steep taxes and penalties placed on polluting corporations doing business in L.A. that are destroying our environment.

New city programs like this will create thousands of jobs and make L.A. more livable. The current mayor and City Council kowtow to the big corporations because they believe that catering to the super-rich will somehow trickle down to the working class. It is the working class that produces all the wealth of our city. The trickle-down notion is a big lie. We must make the corporate elite of our city pay their share in taxes to help us make the necessary move toward renewable energy. Bonds and flat taxes, like the garbage tax, the increased sales tax, should be eliminated.

5) Should the city controller have authority to perform both financial audits and performance audits on programs run by the mayor or city attorney?

All audits should be rooted in making sure the needs of working people in Los Angeles are met, and not used for political positioning and grandstanding. Right now, the offices of mayor and city attorney lack sufficient oversight. The city controller may be able to provide some of this, but I believe that more is necessary.

If elected, I would create a task force made up of working-class residents of L.A. to determine what mechanisms of oversight are required. People elected to office should be accountable to all of the residents of the city, not just the city controller or their largest campaign donors.

6) In June, the city’s contracts with police and firefighters unions will expire. Should police officers and firefighters be given raises or increased benefits? If so, how would you pay for those, given the city’s current financial condition?

My campaign believes that the LAPD absolutely should not be given a raise. I stand against racism, police brutality, anti-gang injunctions, and the mass incarceration of African American, Latino, Asian and all working-class people. The Los Angeles Police Department has a long and sordid history of killing and brutalizing people of color in L.A. People are rounded up and arrested daily without cause or concern.

The LAPD already gets nearly 50% of the city’s budget. This is an outrage. With a record of racism and violence, I believe the LAPD should not get another dime. My campaign calls for community control over the police, with the creation of an all-elected civilian control board.

I do support city firefighters and their demands for raises and increased benefits.