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National News / Elections

Wednesday, 15 May, 2013 11:02 PM

L.A. MAYORAL RACE: Garcetti to face Greuel in runoff election on Tuesday, May 21

Photo credit: EricGarcetti.com
Photo credit: WendyGreuel.org

Will it be Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel? One of them will succeed Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles on July 1.

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

Watch Garcetti vs. Greuel mayoral debate on NBC4:

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9

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LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be term limited out of office on June 30. During his tenure, he has served as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2011, national co-chairman of Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign and as a member of President Obama’s Transition Economic Advisory Board. He is the third Mexican American to serve as mayor of Los Angeles.

L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel are the top two candidates looking to succeed Villaraigosa. They beat out fellow candidates Kevin James, Jan Perry, Emanuel Pleitez, Norton Sandler, Addie Miller and YJ Draiman in a primary election on March 5. The two will advance to the runoff election on Tuesday, May 21.

Last month, Garcetti and Greuel faced off in a televised debate, which was held at the University of Southern California, on April 22. NBC4 Southern California, Telemundo52, 89.3 KPCC-FM and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy sponsored it. NBC4 Political Reporter Conan Nolan served as the moderator.

The first topic of the evening was civilian work force raises. Villaraigosa approved a 5.5 percent pay increase for the city’s 60,000 employees in his 2007 budget. He also said they should use 10 percent of their pay for their own health care benefits. It is scheduled to go into effect in January 2014.

“I accept that we are in a tough budget crisis in Los Angeles,” Greuel said. “We can’t afford it. We have to make some of those tough choices and be able to focus in the services that are important to the citizens of Los Angeles. You ask the residents today. They don’t believe we are doing a better job as far as having enough jobs or fixing our potholes or having enough libraries open. Pension reform that has occurred has not been enough. We’re not hiring new employees. We need to look at current employees, not having those raises, sitting at the table at renegotiating.”

Her opponent, Eric Garcetti, responded: “This is an area where we are different, Conan. We both put ourselves on the record saying, of course, those raises need to be put on the table. I’ve actually done pension reform, not just talked about it. This year, $314 million in real savings, hard dollars that are balancing the budget, $83 million in salary savings…real negotiations that resulted in things. While others were on the sidelines in these toughest of years, I have actually delivered.”

Education reform was the second topic discussed. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has second highest drop out rate in the country. More than 20 percent of their students never make it to graduation, according to figures from the 2011-2012 school year.

“This is personal to me, I am a graduate of LAUSD,” the city controller explained. “My son goes to Colfax Elementary School, a fourth grader. We are 49th in the country in per pupil spending. We are not spending enough on our classrooms for our children. It’s why when I worked with Tom Bradley; I created L.A.’s best after school program. I put forward a Student Bill of Rights. They should be free from bullying; they should be safe at their schools to have a good teacher, to have a good principal. I want to make sure there’s local control at every single school.”

Garcetti said: “This is also personal to me…cutting the dropout rate in half. I think that is a goal I would work toward as mayor. Plus, I have a record of working on that. We have to decriminalize truancy. We can’t just arrest people or just give them a ticket. Sure, there should be a consequence, but it should be a way of reaching out to that young person and bringing them back. I would expand parent college, which is something this mayor has done in the partnership schools that give parents the skills of how they can be better parents in the schools. I would look at making sure that kids have something to be excited about in school. For instance, teaching computer programming in our high schools. I’d like us to be the first big district to do. It used to be shop in the old days where you’d graduate and then get a factory job. Now, it’s computer programming and you might work at a company in Silicon Beach.”

On the topic of fixing L.A.’s traffic congestion and its health effects, the candidates had this to say:

“The day before the election I was riding on the rails and talking to folks,” Garcetti said. “We’re almost getting to that point where you can almost go anywhere you want to go using transit. There’s five lines that I’d like to see get well done or at least well underway by the time I’m gone hopefully in eight years as mayor. One expanding the Wilshire Subway to the west side, finishing up the Expo Line, getting a Crenshaw Line and a 405 line including a transit tunnel that would go through the Sepulveda Pass that would get you from Sherman Oaks to that other school in about five or 10 minutes. I think it’s called UCLA. We have to have an emphasis on pedestrians. You know 20 percent of the trips we take are walking. If you’re a cyclist, you feel like you’re taking your life into your own hands every single day. That’s what I would emphasize on the MTA Board.”

His opponent, Wendy Greuel, responded: “I was a strong supporter of Measure R, making sure we had that the dollars available to us to create that seamless public transportation system. Today, you actually can’t take it from the San Fernando Valley to the west side. You can’t take it from the west side to downtown. People are prisoners in their own homes west of the 405. We have to focus in on what’s important. That’s not only the lines that I pushed forward, which was the Crenshaw Line and the subway to the sea and the airport line. You can get to the airport with public transportation. It is also about the common sense solution: anti-gridlock zones, left-hand turn signals, making sure that we’re enforcing no road construction during rush hour. We are a city that’s walking, biking, taking buses, taking public transportation and designing L.A. in a way that ensures that we don’t have too much traffic.”

A longtime resident of L.A.’s Koreatown proposed a question about graffiti. What can be done about it as a law enforcement issue and as a quality of life issue?

Greuel: “I’m proud as the city councilmember for my district that we had a graffiti day, graffiti removal month and year looking, identifying not only the funds necessary to remove graffiti, but it is working with the communities to ensure the young people have options and working with business owners to make sure they are repainted. The funds have been cut in the last several years. As mayor of Los Angeles, I’m going to bring those dollars forward. When you’ve got graffiti, it brings crime and all kinds of other problems. It is a key issue for our community and I would identify additional funds working with the public and private sector to make that happen.”

Garcetti: “We launched a program called UNTAG, uniting neighborhoods to abolish graffiti in my district. We counted all of the graffiti in my district on one day. I got very carsick as we drove around every block of every street of every neighborhood. We counted 20,754 graffiti tags in one day in one of 15 council districts. Well, the results with 400 block captains that we engaged as we are down 82 percent. Chief Bratton used to say, ‘I know when I’m driving across the street from your district, it’s so effective.’ It’s the kind of model I would take citywide. People can see it at untagla.org.”

Do you feel the police department needs reform? What can be done to increase the trust among the police in the immigrant community?

“I would continue our work to put cameras in every single police car,” the city councilman said. “It keeps police officers accountable and criminals accountable. Second, I would continue to make sure that we recruit from our community. Have more police officers come from the neighborhoods that they represent. Lastly, I think we need to look at intervention and prevention. It’s those youth programs like Summer Night Lights, which keeps our parks open until midnight to give young people a safe place to be.”

His opponent, Wendy Greuel, said: “The community and the police department can work together if that partnership is created. Trust is so critical and that we have more officers on the street rather than sitting in the building doing the clerical work. We need to have officers out on the streets, patrolling the streets and for the police department to be representative of the community. As mayor of Los Angeles, I’m going to continue to have a police commission that is responsive to the public and hold the police department accountable and have a chief like we have today. Chief Charlie Beck, who is one of those individuals who is respected all over the city of Los Angeles.”

Will it be Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel? Voters from the city of Los Angeles will have the final say when they head to the polls on Tuesday, May 21. Both candidates are from the Democratic party.

For more information about the Garcetti campaign, visit www.ericgarcetti.com. To learn more about Greuel, visit www.wendygreuel.org.

Related Stories: WATCH: Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry addresses the media at L.A. Auto Show; Mayor Villaraigosa announces plans to reduce traffic congestion in L.A.; Michigan businessman Austin Beutner running for mayor in Los Angeles

 

Watch Garcetti vs. Greuel mayoral debate on NBC4:

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

 

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry spoke at the 2012 L.A. Auto Show in November. She received 45,480 votes during the March 5 primary election, putting her in fourth place.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Grand Rapids, Mich. native Austin Beutner announced his bid to become Los Angeles' next mayor in April 2011. He voluntarily withdrew in May 2012 to spend more time with family.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addressed Town Hall Los Angeles about traffic congestion on Sept. 27, 2011.

 

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