1. Metro bus ridership has dropped 25% over the last 10 years, as Metro has largely failed to provide quality and frequent bus service to transit-dependent communities including those in South and Central Los Angeles. It is clear that a wide network of frequent, reliable bus service utilizing bus-only lanes is a critical solution for low-income residents who depend on transit. If elected as supervisor, would you use your position on the Metro Board to support bus rapid transit projects prescribed by Measure M, and work with cities to aggressively implement bus-only lanes?
Throughout my tenure as an elected official, I have always been supportive of bus rapid transit projects and bus-only lanes in the communities I represent. As Speaker of the State Assembly, I worked with former Assemblymember and current State Senator Bob Hertzberg to secure and provide most of the funding for the construction of the Orange Line (now G Line) which opened in 2005. As a City Councilmember and Council President, I worked closely with Metro, former Supervisor Yaroslavsky, and other affected Council Districts to repave and construct bus-only lanes along Wilshire Boulevard from downtown to West Los Angeles. Unfortunately, some jurisdictions, like the City of Beverly Hills, were not interested in having a continuous bus-only lane along the entire Wilshire corridor.
If blessed to be elected County Supervisor and serve on the Metro Board, I will continue to be a leader for the public transit and transit-dependent community. While I am very happy for the residents of Council District 10 who now have access to the Expo Line (now E Line) where I served as a Board member for 8 years and Chair, as well as the upcoming Crenshaw/LAX Line (suggested as the K Line) in 2021, we need to spend more time focusing on bus projects and improving bus service throughout the County. Most of the major East-West and North-South corridors in the most urban areas of Los Angeles County are located in the 2nd Supervisorial District, and we need to take advantage of some of the wide streets (e.g. Vermont, Venice, Figueroa, etc.) and work together to develop and aggressively construct bus-only lanes and bus rapid transit projects on these major corridors.
As the only candidate in this race that is supported by the overwhelming majority of local elected officials that represent the nine cities and several school districts within the Second District, I will work closely in a collaborative manner with those cities to ensure we don’t have push back and opposition similar to the Beverly Hills example described above. Hawthorne Blvd is a prime example of a street where there are multiple jurisdictions that we can bring everyone together and develop these types of projects. If I say I am with you, I am with you. You don’t need to ask twice. My word is my bond, and I keep my word. Leadership is not about making short-sited, easy decisions. It’s about putting the public good over personal expediency and telling people what they need to know, not what they want to hear. A good leader takes steps to enact bold, innovative policies for the benefit of all the people. Make no mistake – I am a leader, not a manager. While most elected officials manage an issue, I bring people together to find the common ground needed to move the ball forward.
2. The lack of safe infrastructure in the Second District means that people on foot and on bicycles are especially vulnerable to being killed or injured while moving around their communities, including the late Frederick “Woon” Frazier, who was killed by a hit and run driver in South L.A. What would you do as a Supervisor to prioritize safe mobility for low-income residents and students who depend on active transportation options?
As the Councilmember for Council District 10 and as Council President, my colleagues and I have completely changed the narrative of safe mobility and expanded active transportation options throughout out the City and my District. Working with the bicycle advocacy community and pedestrian advocates, as well as Councilmembers Bonin and Huizar, together we developed a new Transportation Element for the City of Los Angeles’ General Plan which included the 2010 Bicycle Plan and the 2035 Mobility Plan to provide a road map for new bicycle lanes and eventually expand the City’s bicycle lane network to 1,680 miles. My staff and I have worked diligently throughout my tenure to establish bike lines throughout my District, including on Venice Blvd, San Vicente Blvd, Exposition Blvd, New Hampshire Ave (paralleling Vermont Ave), and Redondo Blvd to name a few. In partnership with LAPD and Eastside Riders Bicycle Club from Watts, we have also worked together to donate unclaimed bicycles that have been held in storage, saving the surplus bikes from destruction, and distributing them back into the community to be refurbished and reused by underprivileged youth. I have also worked over the last two years with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition on a program called Wesson Wheels Bike Giveaway and Operation Fire Fly to provide over 3,000 bicycles to needy families and their children, as well as front and rear lights for bicycles and helmets. I want to continue to expand these programs as Supervisor, and look forward to collaborating with on this program in the future.
It is truly unfortunate and unconscionable that Hit and Run fatalities are up 69 percent over the last five years in the City of Los Angeles, and it is obvious law enforcement does not have the tools necessary to bring these individuals to justice. That’s why under the leadership of Mayor Garcetti and the City Council, my colleagues and I have aggressively worked together since 2015 to develop, fund, and implement our Vision Zero plan to improve intersections, slow down vehicular traffic, and provide safe crossings and pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists in a comprehensive attempt to reduce the number of accidents between vehicle traffic and others. I have also spent over $2 million dollars in discretionary funds to build mid-block cross walks and other safety improvements to protect pedestrians. While many on the City Council have been supportive of Vision Zero, it’s focus has been limited to slowing down vehicles and very little, if anything, has been done to educate pedestrians about cell phone distractions. How often do we see pedestrians focused on their cell phone instead of traffic awareness? Public education is vital and could range from signs at intersections to PSAs on TV. Our programs on safe mobility have also included an aggressive plan to repair and replace sidewalks throughout the City of Los Angeles as well to improve pedestrian safety. We have also implemented a pilot program for scooters in various parts of the City to continue to expand active transportation option for city residents. As Supervisor, I will continue to plan, fund, and implement these programs to ensure public safety for residents, while ensuring everyone has the transportation options they need to get from Point A to Point B in a timely manner.
3. This past summer Metro incorporated Equity Focused Communities into its Equity Platform to prioritize the needs of low-income residents and households with low vehicle ownership. On the Metro Board, would you put meaningful financial resources behind the Metro Equity Platform and fund projects that improve mobility, access, and safety of these communities?
I am fully committed to putting meaningful financial resources that take an equitable approach to improving the lives of low-income residents, particularly those of color. It is time for us to address racial inequity in the design and decision-making process for our transportation projects. We must be sensitive to the needs of every community and the first step is recognizing that the needs of each community are different. In particular we need to prioritize pedestrian safety projects, in black and brown communities, especially when studies show that pedestrian deaths are higher amongst people of color than whites. It isn’t just smart policy to invest in public transit where people need it the most, it is a public safety issue that can result in lives being saved.
We also need to focus our transportation projects on those that need it the most, typically communities of color in moderate to low-income areas who are transit-dependent. Building programs for equity is critical, but ensuring that access to these equity programs is even more critical. That is why I have always provided my position and office for vulnerable communities as a mechanism to access resources for equity programs across the board.
4. Gentrification is a major issue facing many communities across the District, especially where new transit investments are being made, such as along the Crenshaw Line. Metro’s power relative to individual cities lies with Metro’s power over funding. As a Metro director, how would you use funding incentives and existing programs (e.g. the Business Interruption Fund, Joint Development program, and Transit Oriented Communities program) to encourage cities to protect existing tenants and produce affordable housing, particularly near new transit investments?
Los Angeles’ housing and homelessness crisis is the most pressing issue we face at the County level. While the County is doing more than ever, we still are not doing enough to help everyone. The region’s housing shortage is the root cause of this crisis, and I have several initial ideas to create more housing across LA County and finally stem this humanitarian crisis on our streets. I’m proud that the City of Los Angeles has been responsible for the lion’s share of new affordable housing built in Los Angeles County in the last decade, and I am determined to bring this type of urgency to the rest of the County as Supervisor and Metro Director to make sure every jurisdiction is doing its fair share when it comes to building affordable housing., while protecting existing tenants and ensure they can continue to live in the communities they grew up and reside in.
You say it once, you can say it again – the Rent is Too Damn High. Our communities are being targeted for displacement and gentrification by developers who build housing that no one currently living in the community can afford. We need to permanently enact rent control in Los Angeles County, while creating tools to combat gentrification and ensure anti-displacement mitigations. Everyone should be able to afford the community they grew up in. Housing and homelessness issues are a top priority for every community.
As a Metro Board member, I will provide the leadership needed for Metro to utilize these opportunities to clean up adjacent harmful businesses and provide economic development opportunities and amenities the community wants and can afford. I am optimistic that we can continue to get our infrastructure in place, while focusing attention on the safety of the public and Metro’s employees which will increase ridership. I am also committed to bringing industry leaders from the business, labor, and non-profit worlds and every sector of government together to develop a county-wide government-structured affordable housing plan that will require all parts moving together to achieve. It’s critically important that we have a diverse range of voices working together to craft these solutions because this is a problem that requires buy-in and commitment from every single one of us.
More specifically, I plan to utilize and expand Metro and County programs and funding to:
- Replicate my City Council policy of building affordable housing units on under-utilized government owned property such as vacant lots and schools by implementing a program to build housing on County-owned land for County residents, marshaling the economic resources of County government to build housing close to well-paying jobs, with quality construction through PLAs and affordable rents and/or affordable ownership opportunities, providing affordable housing to every resident. This includes creating first-time homebuyer programs that residents can afford.
- Implement policies that will provide stronger protections for existing renters to ensure they are not priced out of their dwellings due to gentrification, including anti-displacement zones.
- Construct more micro units near civic centers across the County, which will allow us to build tens of thousands of new, more affordable units for middle-class Angelenos, create significant social impact using underutilized space, and put less strain on the County’s utilities and other County services.
- Expand services and build new housing so that no one who fought to keep our nation safe is forced to live on the streets.
- Create an emergency rental assistance program that provides short-term, low-interest bridge loans to prevent evictions.
- Establish a one-stop resource center to connect those on the verge of homelessness with job-training and career assistance programs as well as low-cost healthcare and childcare services.
- Incentivize innovative building solutions such as 3-D printing and recycling shipping containers to reduce cost and make every dollar count. This includes calling for an immediate study into the feasibility of 3D-printed affordable housing construction across the County, which industry-leading companies claim can create a 650 square-foot home in less than 48 hours for approximately $10,000.
- Earmark units in market-rate developments for families in need of affordable housing.
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- Close loopholes in the Ellis act to stop developers from destroying affordable housing to build luxury apartments and create anti-displacement zones near luxury developments that contain no affordable housing units.
- Establish a public bank to provide low-interest loans to build affordable housing.
- Provide safe housing for domestic abuse survivors.
These kinds of outside-the-box, ideas of the future are what we desperately need today, and I will not shy away from this type of bold, fresh thinking. Additionally, since the passage of the 2011 Budget Act, which dissolved over 400 redevelopment agencies, including the City of Los Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Agency, local governments across the county and state have been at a severe disadvantage in dealing with their homelessness and poverty problems.
Redevelopment agencies like the CRA helped to attract private investment in economically depressed communities; eliminate abandoned or unsafe properties throughout Los Angeles; revitalize older neighborhoods through historic preservation and new development; build new housing for all income levels; encourage economic development; and create and retain employment opportunities. I am committed to fighting for funding and reestablishing local housing redevelopment agencies across the County that can help create incentives to build more affordable housing in every neighborhood of LA County.
Throughout my career I’ve consistently been ahead of the curve on developing and implementing groundbreaking policy, achieving what people say cannot be done, and with the significant County and Metro budget and the executive decision-making powers vested in the LA County Board of Supervisors, I am optimistic about my ability to mitigate this housing crisis.
5. Far too many Angelenos face barriers in their access to public space including on public transit. For example, many Metro riders—but especially women—face high levels of harassment from other system users. At the same time, teens and young men of color are too frequently the victims of police brutality for simply existing in public spaces. In 2017 and fed by the false narrative that more policing provides more safety for riders, Metro directors approved a 5-year, nearly $1 billion security contract which has expanded the presence of armed police on trains and buses. What will you do to address the issue of harassment on Metro services and what would you do to build a relationship of trust between communities of color and law enforcement?
The public safety crisis on our public transportation system is not a crime problem, but instead a direct result of our mental health and addiction crisis which has continually fed the pipeline of homelessness throughout our region. Residents and bus drivers have continually been in confrontations on our public transportation system and until we deal with the root causes, policing will continue to have unintended consequences for communities of color and others that are rooted in law enforcement policies and biases that have been with us for decades and we are now just turning around.
We have a mental health crisis and addiction crisis that needs rehabilitation and not punishment. When someone reaches out and asks for help, we must be in a position to provide the services they need in 12-24 hours – not 3 or 4 days later when circumstances typically change. I want to create an “Army of Professional Volunteers” that would act like a volunteer fire department of days past. Through text or phone, we can activate a rapid response system to have someone on-site within the time period described above to counsel an individual until they can be placed in treatment. We need to better utilize our Prop. 63 funding to offer mental health services at all county clinics and provide counseling services at all of our schools. We also need to properly fund substance abuse treatment programs and clinics throughout the County in an effort aimed toward ending the cycle of depression and prescription drug abuse in our community. Lastly, I want to implement the ‘Angel Program’ so that anyone who surrenders their drugs and drug paraphernalia to a law enforcement officer can be taken to a safe, accredited and affordable rehabilitation facility.
One of the many ways we can push to support our transit-dependent riders and bus drivers is to support HR 1139 (Napolitano – Van Hollen – Katko), “The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act”. Under my leadership and authorship, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to support this bill by U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano. This bill would require the development of public transportation safety risk reduction programs. While this bill only addresses issues with respect to bus drivers and other transit workers, it is a step in the right direction to de-escalate violence and reduce the need for law enforcement intervention. Unfortunately, this bill has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing Throughout my career in public service and life, I have always brought people together to keep our neighborhoods and communities safe from violence, while ensuring focus and oversight with respect to law enforcement personnel, policies, and the need for change.
Through my leadership, the City Council created a program called embRACE LA, that brings people from all over the City to have conversations about race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other subject matters that folks have difficulty discussing. This program has included members of law enforcement community so individual officers have the opportunity to better understand members of the community they protect and serve. When I was kid, we used to have these conversations around the dinner table, at church, at work, and in the community. We need to engage in these conversations so that we can better understand each other and work together toward a more perfect union and society. We are the United States of America, not the “Divided States of America”.
When I was a young man, I brought the kids in my community together to form sports teams instead of street gangs, leading to programs like embRACE LA which is helping to build a common understanding across the City and region; and Project SAVE which has led to major reductions in violence in the Baldwin Village neighborhood. After the 1992 riots, I was deeply involved in reform for the Los Angeles Police Department, working on the passage of Charter Amendment F which created civilian oversight for the Department.
More recently, I have worked with community organizations and residents, as well as the Police Commission and the Chief of Police, to enact meaningful policy reform primarily based on the Final Report of President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing including, but not limited to: body-worn cameras for all sworn officers; changes to policies like use of force and preventing biased policing; improving data collection and public access; bringing sunshine, community involvement, and diversity to the police discipline process; implementing and funding training for all LAPD officers on mental health issues and using non-violent tactics; reinforcing the need for more community-based policing; and decriminalization of street vendors, the homeless, and cannabis. There is so much more work to do, and I am committed to bringing everyone together to rebuild the trust between law enforcement and the community, while ensuring the safety of everyone on our public transportation network.
6. Metro CEO Phil Washington has called for congestion pricing to fund free transit in the Los Angeles region. A) What are your thoughts on Congestion Pricing and would you seek to expand Metro’s ExpressLanes program? B) Do you support making transit in Los Angeles County free?
Congestion pricing is an option that has worked in other major cities like London and Milan, Italy to help mitigate the massive congestion and traffic delays. There are several factors to consider such as the upfront cost and negative public reaction that might compromise the policy. However, the intense combination of congestion and traffic created but our auto-centric society in Los Angeles County demands that we must show leadership by having the courage to be innovative and take bold steps.
We must be sensitive to equity issues and low-income communities with few transportation options. Congestion pricing can create some burdens to low income individuals. Tolls can also have a long-term beneficial impact because the revenue can go towards providing better quality public transit options, and in particular free public transit for the community. Congestion pricing can also be an incentive for less people to drive which would result in less cars on the road and therefore less congestion. This could lead to a ripple effect in benefits in other areas (i.e. less air pollution) that would provide a better standard of living for all County residents and visitors as a whole.
Equity and providing services to individuals and vulnerable communities have always been staples in my platform so I believe in looking into every resource and exploring every program that will allow every County resident to thrive. While I do not know if congestion pricing is the panacea for Los Angeles County traffic and congestion, it is definitely an applicable and novel idea that warrants more discussion. I would support continuing to research the feasibility and costs of this program and appreciate the approach taken by some Metro Board members to ensure that proper outreach is done and equity issues are part of the ongoing study.
As for making public transit free in Los Angeles County, I wholeheartedly support free public transit and will work with the other Metro Board members to identify funding to make the transition. Funding from programs like congestion pricing should be used for moderate and low-income communities first, and in particular free transit and increasing viable public transportation options for residents.