L.A. mayor candidates make pitches to Latino voters

The two candidates for Los Angeles mayor courted Latino voters on Saturday, promising to help those seeking citizenship and to help clean up and enhance Latino neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and Pacoima.

Latino voters account for as much as a third of the city electorate. At the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Cocoanut Grove Theater, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti fielded questions at a forum sponsored by the education fund of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, along with other local groups.

The candidates did not appear on stage together. Instead, they answered questions from La Opinion and KNBC-TV Channel 4 reporters and Loyola Marymount University professor Fernando Guerra.

Both pledged to make their administrations reflect the city’s diversity and to appoint a greater number of Latino commissioners. Greuel said she would ensure that a greater share of city contracts were awarded to women and minority owned businesses — a topic that she explored in one of her audits as city controller. Both said they would prioritize job creation and would enhance adult education and job skill classes.

Garcetti, who speaks fluent Spanish and has advised the Obama administration on immigration reform, said he recently persuaded the City Council to reinstate the office of immigrant affairs, which he said would help city residents learn English and navigate a path to citizenship.


The office, he said, would “put Los Angeles at the front of the line for immigration reform — what are the changes that we have to do in terms of understanding the laws, where do we get English classes, and then also having a framework for making sure that people aren’t preyed on” as they try to earn citizenship.

The candidates were asked what they would do clean up working-class areas of the city such as Boyle Heights, where residents have frequently complained about the buildup of trash on the streets. Pilar Marrero of La Opinion said many constituents who submitted forum questions complained that police and other city officials were always on hand to issue parking and traffic violations — particularly on street sweeping days — but slower to respond to community policing problems.

Greuel said it was important to change the mentality in some parts of the Police Department so that “your job is not to write tickets. Your job is to serve the community.”

Garcetti said that as mayor, he would try to engage the Latino community by continuing neighborhood walks to solicit residents’ concerns and would work out of different parts of the city, like Van Nuys: “So don’t be surprised if I show up at your door as mayor,” he said.