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David R. Hernandez: 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 David R. Hernandez:

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

With 10 candidates for mayor, the diverse and varied backgrounds bring many experiences and knowledge to the table.

I believe my 60 years in Los Angeles and 20 years as a community advocate provide me with a perspective not shared by the other candidates, including the incumbent.

As a small-business owner and currently the executive director of the San Fernando Chamber of Commerce, I see firsthand how vital it is to include small business when making decisions that can impact them in a negative manner.

As a former board member of three neighborhood councils and active in the formation of two others, I have had years of experience working with the community stakeholders and city departments in addressing local challenges.

As the president of an established, successful organization working with the homeless of Los Angeles, I witnessed firsthand the value of resources directed to the most efficient areas.

As president of the foundation board of a major community college, I have had to overcome severe budget challenges and still provide students with the ability to receive scholarships.

As an insurance adjuster for over 25 years I have developed the ability to gather facts, experts and experience in order to reach a successful objective.

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?

Prior to voting on the telephone tax, the Los Angeles City Council declared a financial crisis. This may have been done as an 11th-hour strategy in order to allow passage with a simple majority vote, but the reality is the city is in a financial crisis.

The crisis being more apparent then when it was declared, requires actions and policy changes which reflect a proper and holistic response to the crisis.

We must begin a three-pronged approach, keeping in mind that city revenues as more than ever. In the short term, suspend and evaluate all projects which had locked in place funds dedicated to state projects, i.e. the $25-million bike path in the northeast Valley. This is only one of thousands of projects which must be reassessed in this economic environment. Second, all community redevelopment projects must be reviewed and evaluated for sustainability. All non-targeted expenditures such as grants to non-community building projects must be halted. All existing and prior expenditures will be audited. For long-term investment, the tax base generators must be supported and given every opportunity to grow and prosper.

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?

The collective bargaining between the city and city employees was done in good faith. Once we set the direction and priority of the city's expenditures, we will be in a better position to see what and where we can develop or strengthen revenue streams. I do not support layoffs or early retirements as a means to solving short-term or long-term financial challenges. Cutting resources to some areas such as parks we risk creating a situation which may be more costly in the event of an expansion of crime.

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?

The idea of solar energy is exciting and is already being demonstrated to be worthwhile. LAUSD as well as the Community College District have and are in the process of installing solar panels at their facilities. All without Measure B. Notwithstanding the process in which it reached the ballot, I am opposed to it, as it creates a serious and risk laden charter amendment change giving the City Council and mayor a dubious power over future rate increase abilities. The lack of open bidding on installation creates a serious financial challenge to the residents of Los Angeles.

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

Yes.

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?

Yes. The No. 1 duty and responsibility of government is the safety of its residents. The police and fire departments are a vital component to that responsibility. Give the vast areas of expenditures where little or no oversight is maintained, I am certain the funds can and will be able to provide the resources required to maintain and expand our first-responder departments.
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