Greuel a no-show at South LA forum, Garcetti addresses crowd

Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti spoke out about his plans to improve South Los Angeles on Saturday, May 11, at a candidates forum at Angeles Mesa Elementary School in South L.A.Garcetti

The forum, organized by the South Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (SLAANC), was supposed to engage a debate between Garcetti and his opponent, Wendy Greuel, along with city attorney candidates Mike Feuer and Carmen Trutanich. But Greuel and Trutanich did not attend.

Garcetti was animated as he addressed his audience, which was comprised mainly of Neighborhood Council members and local residents. His platform points all echoed the potential of neighborhood turnaround.

“We’ve got a hinge of history where this city has to decide which way it goes,” said Garcetti. “It doesn’t matter where you live you deserve good city services….We’re going to turn this from a big city into a great city once again.”

After saying he was sorry for being the only mayoral candidate in attendance and disclosed that it was the third or fourth debate in South L.A. that Gruel has not participated in, Garcetti addressed why he cares. He said the forum was important to him not just to pay his respect, but also to talk about his agenda to improve South L.A., if elected.

He kicked off the forum with a personal touch, sharing that his family has deep roots in South L.A. He said his grandparents raised his father in a home around the corner from where the forum was held and his relatives were humble, hard workers.

“My grandmother was a meatpacker who woke up early every morning at 4 a.m. and did an eight-hour shift,” said Garcetti. “And then came back home to make sure there was food on the table for when her children came back from school.”

Garcetti said since South L.A. helped his own family lead a more successful life, he wants to help its current residents experience a more “livable” community.

With a vision influenced by the improvements he made in District 13, Garcetti said he wants to improve the street-level beauty because it is good for business, transit riders and residents. He comically referenced how he successfully transformed the community Atwater Village in District 13, which was previously struggling.

“You didn’t shop or eat there [Atwater Village]…the only store that was doing well was a casket store,” said Garcetti. “So literally, the business was dead.”

The forum later allowed audience members to ask their own questions about Garcetti’s policies. Harvey Spotts, a resident of Rancho Cucamonga, asked Garcetti how he plans to get citizens working in the Los Angeles area as opposed to resident immigrants or guest workers.

“Boys need to see men going to work every day and coming home tired,” Spotts said. “That will stop them from gang banging.”

Garcetti said that too often he sees people come back from war or jail without jobs available to them. He said he wants to “ban the box” on job applications that asks if an applicant has ever committed a felony, and wants to ensure that workers are not missing opportunities if they do not speak Spanish.

After also asserting his plans to better control medical marijuana dispensaries, Garcetti concluded with his plans to make city government more accountable by working directly out of South L.A. regularly.

“I don’t want to be a mayor who is just stuck in City Hall and then coming out for press conferences,” said Garcetti. “What I want to do is come to South L.A. and work…because people need to see and know that the mayor is in their community. It starts from the top.”

Sukey Garcetti, Eric Garcetti’s mother, attended the event and said she was proud of her son’s campaign efforts and his message at the forum.

“I am proud,” said Mrs. Garcetti. “It’s been a great Mother’s Day weekend.”

Candidate Closeup: Eric Garcetti

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageWe’re probably going to see a lot more of Eric Garcetti.

He served on Los Angeles City Council for more than a decade. The son of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti is only 42 years old, the second-youngest among the five leading candidates. He is expected to finish in one of the top two spots in the mayoral primary election March 5.

Garcetti is second in fundraising to City Controller Wendy Greuel, but he leads narrowly in polls. He’s been endorsed by a host of local leaders, including movie stars, unions, La Opinion and the LA Times.

“Eric Garcetti shows the most potential to lead LA into a more sustainable and confident future,” the Feb. 17 endorsement read [Read more…]

Candidate Closeup: Wendy Greuel

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageThe mayor’s office would bring Wendy Greuel’s long political career full circle: She started in the same room.

The 51-year-old candidate began volunteering for former mayor Tom Bradley when she was still in high school. Greuel is a lifelong Angeleno. Born in North Hollywood, she graduated from Kennedy High School in Granada Hills and then from UCLA. She worked in Bradley’s office for more than ten years and was elected to City Council in 2002.

Her long-term dedication to the city impresses Kaya Masler, who took a break from phone banking at Greuel’s office on Crenshaw and 54th to talk.

“She really loves being in politics, especially local politics, and she loves LA. So that was inspiring to me,” Masler said.

As City Controller, Greuel discovered in 2010 that city agencies left more than 260 million dollars in debts uncollected, mostly in parking tickets. She also published the salaries of city employees after embezzlement in Bell, California made headlines in 2011.

“She’s incredibly genuine, and she is a watchdog. I mean, she’s a fiscal watchdog,” Masler said.

Greuel’s priority is economic growth.

“One, it’s about creating jobs in Los Angeles. It’s about addressing pension reform, and it is about looking at inefficiencies—ways in which we can address waste, fraud and abuse in the city of Los Angeles.”

Specifically, Greuel has promised to dedicate 20 percent of new revenues to the police and fire departments. She wants to hire 2,000 new police officers and 800 new firefighters, which the Los Angeles Daily News says would cost about 200 million dollars.

“We should have a goal of being the safest big city in America,” Greuel said. “If we increase the revenue that is so important to the city of Los Angeles, that a portion of that should be dedicated to hiring more police and firefighters, as well as making sure we have more emergency preparedness and gang reduction programs.”

But this year’s FBI report shows that property and violent crimes have fallen steadily for a decade now. Former Daily News editor Ron Kaye says growing the police force doesn’t need to be the city’s first priority.

“I think the perfect example of what’s wrong with this campaign is Greuel’s posturing that she’s going to get the police force up to 12,000 by taking all this booming new revenue that’s supposedly going to come in,” Kaye said. “The fact is that we’re at an incredibly low point for crime, unprecedented, and crime isn’t the number one problem, cops aren’t the number-one issue in this city. The health of our neighborhoods, the quality of our lives and our loss of faith in a city working for us is the crisis.”

To generate money, Greuel plans to rely on the new City Controller to reduce the city’s budget. In addition to reforming city pensions, she vocally supports the elimination of the gross receipts tax for businesses. Economists say it will probably drive investment, but it may take a decade to recoup the lost revenues.

Eric Garcetti, Kevin James and Emanuel Pleitez support removing the tax, too. Jan Perry wants to keep it in place.

Greuel also opposes the half-cent sales tax increase on next week’s ballot. But Kaye wants more details.

“[Greuel is] against the sales tax in a very quiet voice. They haven’t suggested how they would actually fix the city’s financial problems, and they talk in symbolic language without actually specifying concrete policies that could be critiqued, examined, challenged, questioned.”

If elected, Greuel would be the city’s first female mayor. And after Tuesday’s vote, the City Council might become all-male.

Masler says gender isn’t the reason she supports Greuel, but she would like to see a woman in the top office.

“I’m not really one for tokenism, but she’s hyper-qualified,” Masler said.

Greuel leads the candidates in funds raised, and she’s neck-and-neck with Garcetti in most polls. She’s backed by most of the city’s public workers unions, who in total have donated more than 2 million dollars to her campaign. Detractors worry that such huge fiscal support will oblige Greuel to unions.

“When I’ve challenged it of why, why’ve they’ve jumped aboard, the answer generally is, Wendy’s the easiest one for them to manipulate. And I think it’s true—she has never really stood boldly for anything,” Kaye said. “She is incredibly likeable, everybody likes Wendy, she’s smart and personable… But she’s danced around the hardest issues.”

After more than three decades in LA’s public eye, Greuel is definitely popular—and if polls are accurate, she’ll have two more months to address those challenging issues.

Tiffany Taylor contributed to this report.

Candidate Closeup: Jan Perry

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageJan Perry/ File photo.

There are two narratives about City Councilmember Jan Perry. In one, she is a crusader for poor communities in South LA—the woman who invested on Figueroa and reaped the benefits for Main Street. But in the other, she is the union-busting pragmatist who shut down the push for a Fresh & Easy on Central and Adams.

“I think the greatest source of my passion is my desire, my very strong desire, to help people move forward,” said Perry. “It’s obvious that I’m a woman, I’m a woman of color; I happen to be a woman who is not only black, but I’m also Jewish and I communicate in Spanish. I think I step in the shoes of most people, and I feel what they feel because I go through it myself.”

Perry has represented Council District 9 since 2001. During her tenure, she tightened restrictions on fast food restaurants, installed the Central Avenue Farmers Market and directed millions of dollars into parks and affordable housing. She also championed the Central Avenue Jazz Festival and won awards for restoring her district’s wetlands.

“Over the last twelve years, when we had the redevelopment agency, I leveraged tax increment and took it south to develop more housing, to bring in more neighborhood retail, to basically create a climate that was far more receptive to business. I will continue to leverage construction of housing and retail,” said Perry.

Her advocacy has won her a devoted base among black voters in South LA. CD 9 has historically been represented by an African-American, but in the past few decades it’s become about 80 percent Latino. Perry has worked hard to win support from her Latino constituents, too.

“The voice of the communities is very, very important on what happens in this city,” said Mark Gory, a South LA preacher who noticed her history of engagement at a recent mayoral forum. “This is a very large city… and each community needs to have their issues addressed individually.”

imageJan Perry at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival, July 2012.

On the other hand, there’s the Perry who installed LA Live and advocated for USC’s Village project. City politics writer Ron Kaye says those put her at the beck and call of developers like AEG.

“Jan has done everything she can that the Central City association wants, that downtown developers want, certainly that AEG wants… She represents downtown, the city has poured most of his wealth over the last 30 years into downtown, and so she has done everything she can, because that’s where the money was, certainly, for her campaign,” said Kaye.

Perry is decidedly pro-business. That’s helped cull support among fiscal conservatives in the San Fernando Valley who might have leaned toward Kevin James or Wendy Greuel. Garcetti and Greuel, who lead in the polls, have also gathered union support. Perry hasn’t.

“She’s always… not against unions, but questioned,” said Kaye. “In her own way, Jan is stronger than, as a personality, Greuel or Garcetti, and is more capable of fighting, at least on some of the issues.”

Most public employee unions have lined up behind Greuel, Perry says that binds Greuel to them, though — and limits her flexibility on pension reform, one of this year’s leading issues.

“They haven’t spoken about getting employees back to the table on giving back on their healthcare and pension costs, because that is the absolute hardest thing to do — particularly if you’re a candidate who’s been heavily endorsed by some of the more powerful public employee unions. A campaign who has received the benefit of that kind of money will not say that your employees need to create salary parity. They will not say that your employees need to give back on their healthcare costs and pension costs.”

Perry is a Democrat who agrees with Greuel and Garcetti on most issues—all three oppose the half-cent sales tax increase on March’s ballot, for example. And she says her years of experience have taught her how to use Council’s resources—and that would make her a well-prepared mayor.

Sherita Herring, a South LA entrepreneur running for the 9th District seat appreciate the work Perry did in city government. But she’s worried that Perry’s cozy relationship with downtown developers threatens her ability to really advocate for poor Angelenos.

“Right now, the Staples Center, when there’s a game there, every game generates three million dollars. Every single game,” said Herring. “How much of that is impacting these surrounding communities, who are going to be impacted when the stadium comes here, and there’s more traffic? What is the trickle-down? You’ve got people who don’t care, because their home isn’t here on 41st and Broadway.”

Perry’s goal, though, is to maintain that political tightrope until March fifth—and she’s counting on crowds on both sides to keep her balance.

Yvonne Burke endorses Jan Perry for mayor

News Release, October 3, 2011

Los Angeles, CA—Jan Perry today received the endorsement of former County Supervisor, Yvonne Burke (2nd District), in Perry’s campaign to be Mayor of Los Angeles.

In her statement, Burke spoke about Perry’s record as a champion for women and families: “I am supporting Jan Perry because she is a true leader for the women of Los Angeles. If elected, she will make history by breaking through one more glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to serve as Mayor of Los Angeles.”

“Jan has a long record of fighting to provide opportunities for all women. She championed the Downtown Women’s Center project which has led to safe housing, support services, and job development to help women reclaim their lives. I am proud to endorse Jan Perry for Mayor of Los Angeles,” Burke added.

“Supervisor Burke has been a pioneer for women and has dedicated her life to serving the people of California and Los Angeles,” said Perry. “It is an honor to have the support of a leader who has opened the doors for me and so many other women.”