COMMENTS ON LAST WEEK’S MAYORAL DEBATE

The debate was not really a debate; it was an event designed to give mayoral candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves to the public. The event was held at the Holman United Methodist Church located at 3320 West Adams Ave. in Los Angeles. It was co-sponsored by several business organizations and moderated by Armen D. Ross, President of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce.

The first speaker was Council Member Jan Perry. She told the audience about her background, about her decision to run for a seat on the City Council, and about the work she’s done for her constituents in the Ninth District. Then she listed some of the things she’d like to do if she makes it to the mayor’s office.

As Mayor of Los Angeles, Jan Perry would like to build a city that doesn’t require everyone to drive a car. She’d like to build a city in which the mayor has a seat on the School Board, and in which poor communities would have better access to grocery stores. After answering several questions, Ms. Perry turned the podium over to the next speaker, Austin Beutner.

Candidate Beutner told the audience that in his youth he’d washed dishes in a restaurant, and that he’d driven a delivery truck. He talked briefly about the time he fell off his bicycle and broke his neck. But, since a recent newspaper article had described him as an investment banker, the audience may have expected to hear something about his business experience.

Mr. Beutner did tell the audience he’d spent a year at City Hall in Los Angeles. He reported that City Hall didn’t listen — that there’s a lack of teamwork in city government. He had a lot to say about the need to improve the city’s schools through community involvement. And he said Los Angeles could do what New York has done to enhance its tourist industry.

The third speaker last night was Wendy Greuel, the City Controller. Born and reared in Los Angeles, she helped manage a family business and served on the City Council before running for the Controller’s Office. She talked about the need to put people back to work in Los Angeles. One way to do that, she said, is to eliminate business taxes for small businesses that create jobs

With respect to the city budget, Ms. Greuel said, “Every dollar counts. As mayor, I’ll hold all department managers accountable.” She said it’s important that Los Angeles have a Minority Business Owners Program. She also said the city may not be collecting all the taxes it’s owed.

Eric Garcetti, the fourth speaker at last week’s event, began his presentation with a biblical story which, he said, teaches us that before we can go forward, we must go inside. We must help Angelenos believe in their city — help them celebrate their city. We must put Angelenos back to work. And to bring companies back to Los Angeles, we must abolish the business tax.

Mr. Garcetti, who’s serving his second term as Councilman in the 13th Council District, told the audience that Los Angeles has much about which to be hopeful. His District has cleaned up the drug and prostitution problems, and based on those successful efforts, he feels that other city problems can also be resolved. “We just have to get back to working together,” he said.

The next mayoral candidate to address the audience at Holman was Y.J. Draiman. Curiously, prior to last night, he’d received virtually no publicity in the Los Angeles media. But based on his presentation and on the emails I’ve received from him (he’s the only candidate who responded to my request for information), Draiman’s campaign for mayor should be taken seriously.

He’s President of the Northridge Neighborhood Council, he’s now working on a Doctorate in renewable energy and, as he told the audience last night, he thinks Los Angeles must become far more business friendly — that It must rejuvenate manufacturing, and that to do all this, the city must make full use of its natural resources (an idea he promises to explain at a later time).

When Kevin James was introduced, the audience had already heard from five speakers. But when he started talking, everyone leaned forward and listened. He’d been a radio talk show host, and he’s an experienced attorney. He connected with the audience when he said the Department of Water and Power needs to be given a top-to-bottom audit.

He charged that the city’s business tax is 50 times as high as the tax in the rest of the county.

He talked about the city’s dysfunctional system of stop signals, about city man-hole covers that aren’t level with the street, and about the need for street maintenance. He called for long-term budgeting, and for the reform of city government which, he said, had recently been described as “corrupted.”

Addie M. Miller, native of Los Angeles, was the seventh speaker of the night. She confirmed that she is, indeed, a candidate for mayor. But she made it clear that she is not seeking campaign contributions. She told the audience that if anyone wants to help her serve the needy, she’d accept the time they devote. But if anyone wants to contribute money to her campaign, they should give it to the needy.

The final speaker was Ted Crisell. He wants to be elected Mayor of Los Angeles, but he promised he’d accept only one dollar a year, and he’d serve only one four-year term. He talked about the homeless in Los Angeles. He said there are over 50,000 individuals in our city who have no place to sleep. Moreover, he said, with a concerted effort the homeless problem in Los Angeles could be resolved rather quickly.

The next mayoral election is not scheduled to be held till March 5, 2013. That means we all have about a year to figure out whom to support. And it means we must learn all we can about these candidates!

You can contact this writer at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.

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