Mayoral Candidate Wendy Greuel Answers Resident Questions

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Category: City News
Published on Saturday, 09 February 2013 22:04
Written by Dianne Lawrence

Wendy Greuel started her political career in Mayor Bradley’s office serving for ten years  as Bradley's liaison to the City Council, City Departments and the Community on public policy issues ranging from child care to homelessness to senior care and health issues.

From 1993 to 1997, Greuel worked in the administration of President Bill Clinton. She served with Cabinet Secretary Henry Cisneros as the Field Operations Officer for Southern California for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development where she became involved in projects offering opportunities for homeownership, job creation, economic development, and social services. During her tenure, she managed HUD's response to the 1994 Northridge earthquake. From 1997 to 2002, Greuel worked as an executive in government and community affairs for DreamWorks SKG, an entertainment studio in Los Angeles. In 2002, Wendy was elected to the Los Angeles City Council, where she was the architect of historic business tax reform. In 2009, Wendy was elected Controller for the City of Los Angeles.

In your view what is the primary reason for Los Angeles’ current financial crisis? What do you think could have been done differently?  Is there anything that can be done that is currently not being done?


The City’s current financial crisis stems from a combination of the Recession and a Council that has tried to kick our budget problems down the road instead of looking for real solutions. As Controller, I have aggressively challenged the status quo and identified over $160 million in waste, fraud, and abuse that the City has lost to wasteful spending.

 

Los Angeles needs a strong manager and fiscal watchdog who understands the budget and is willing to be honest with people. We need to get back to basics, and implement Performance Based Budgeting to identify our core priorities – public safety, public works, and economic development – and look at what it actually costs to provide them. We need to make sure that our City’s resources are aligned with our priorities and that we have the kind of strong oversight and vision to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively.

I have reminded the Council repeatedly about the challenges of not maintaining a strong Reserve Fund and the costs associated with not implementing cost saving measures in a timely fashion. These challenging budgetary times required decisive Council leadership and as Mayor, I will work with the Council to ensure that we are on the right fiscal path.

Fixing the City’s budget also means tackling pensions, and I will negotiate with labor to implement common-sense reforms in our pension process. We need to ban double dipping and spiking and make sure that nobody who has been convicted of a job-related felony can collect a City pension.

As Controller, I took the unprecedented step of making the salaries of all City employees public. I will make sure that our City’s budgeting process is transparent and accountable, making sure that funds that were originally from the General Fund go back to the General Fund.

City Council is often perceived as dysfunctional by residents who have attended City Council meetings.  Councilmembers ignore public comments, there is little debate or discussion over motions which are unanimously - or close to it -  approved, sometimes without any awareness of the background or issues involved with the motion.  What are some of the problems you perceive with the way the council is run and what, if anything will you be able to do to change it once in office?

Although the Mayor does not have any direct control over the Council or its actions, I believe transparency and accountability are keys to good governance. It is incumbent on each individual member to make themselves available to their district and make sure that they are effectively representing their constituents.

As a Councilmember (and as Controller), constituent services and responsiveness have been a top priority for my Office. I held regular office hours as a Councilmember and am always willing to speak to my constituents. I have made it a priority to take on constituent issues and do the little things that are so critical to a resident’s quality of life.

As Mayor, I will hold community forums, town halls and office hours throughout the City to make sure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to make their voices heard and have a sear at the table. I will be a mayor for all of Los Angeles so no one is left behind.

How would you help marginalized communities with persistent quality of life issues like graffiti abatement, illegal vending, commercial vehicles parking on residential streets and larger issues like crime, violent crime and gang activity? What is your vision for community development?  Which neighborhoods do you feel need immediate assistance?

I am committed to getting more police on our streets and strengthening our gang reduction strategies. As a Councilmember, I was known as the “Pothole Queen”, demonstrating my attention to these very important quality of life issues that are felt throughout the City. In my district, I worked actively to ensure that graffiti abatement happened in a timely fashion and worked to improve the City’s abandoned vehicle program.

On the larger issues, I have been a vocal advocate for putting more resources towards our police force to counter the larger crime issues. That is why I am so proud to have earned the endorsement of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. I will continue to partner with the LAPD to ensure our neighborhoods are safe and communities protected.

Additionally, I’ve also pushed for looking at a comprehensive program to provide a safe place for our youth at the most dangerous part of the day, including expanding LA’s Best, increasing our programs of Recreation and Parks and our libraries.

The transformation of LAPD into a community policing model has been significant – and I will support further transformation towards more community policing, intervention and looking at alternatives to improve opportunities for our youth through expanded GRYD and Summer Night Lights programs.

Unfortunately, the foreclosure crisis has increased blight in many neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles. A tremendous number of neighborhoods are struggling, and we need to make significant efforts to improve those neighborhoods through education and job creation. We need to dedicate ourselves to improving education outcomes, so that the next generation of Angelenos has the tools they need to compete in a 21st century economy.

Improving education does not just mean change within the classroom. I once met with a mother who told me that her son was in trouble for truancy because he felt unsafe on his route to school, and he felt no safer when he got there.

We need to expand the proven Safe Routes to School program to every school across the city expand and strengthen anti-bullying programs –  so that no child is deprived of an education because he or she feels unsafe.

At the moment, response from city agencies to calls from the public regarding illegal alterations to historic properties are mostly ignored; by the time anyone responds (if at all) it is usually too late to have any effect. Most of these agencies have little understanding of regulations regarding historic preservation, so that their responses are ineffective. What will you do to strengthen Historic Preservation in the city?

The Office of Historic Resources in the Department of City Planning must be held accountable for upholding the historic preservation of buildings throughout the City. This Office must work closely with other City departments to provide training and information on the importance of preservation and to protect historic gems throughout the City, as I did in my district.

The Bike community is growing and a viable answer to the growing traffic problems. Do you have awareness of and desire to improve conditions for the Bike community?

As Chair of the Transportation Committee while I was on Council, I was a strong advocate for the City’s bike community and pushed the city wide bicycle plan forward. It was a priority to make Los Angeles more bike friendly in every part of the City. As the City continues to struggle with its traffic problems, we need to encourage all alternatives to cars to reduce traffic and promote healthy living. Los Angeles needs to expand bikeways and engage with the community to promote alternative means of transportation and take cars off the street.

We also need to make sure that there are viable bike routes to and from mass transit hubs so that bikers can move seamlessly and easily around Los Angeles.

Many expressed concern about the problems of the poor.  Especially children living in poverty in Los Angeles.  What are your thoughts on this and do you have an action plan to address it?

First and foremost, we need to grow our economy and create good paying jobs to help bring people out of poverty. As Mayor, I will create more affordable housing and make it easier to do business in the City. I will create jobs by bringing Hollywood production home, invest in job training and apprentice programs, phase out the business tax, cultivate entrepreneurship and promote small business growth.

As Mayor, I will make sure that all our city's children have adequate resources to fuel their learning, regardless of their zip code. I will work with LAUSD and promote job creation to help end the cycle of poverty.

The streets of Los Angeles have become a serious problem for drivers.  We understand that fixing sidewalks and streets has been compromised by the budget but what new thinking can you bring to the solution?

One of the things I learned while working for Mayor Tom Bradley is that improving Los Angeles requires both thinking big and delivering on the details. We need to create a seamless, modern transportation system, and that means both thinking long-term, such as improving our mass transit options, and delivering on the details that make such a big difference in the lives of Angelenos.

As a Councilmember, I made fixing our sidewalks and streets a priority for my office. I initiated the 50/50 sidewalk program, which split the cost of repairing our City’s sidewalks between the City and the homeowner. This program proved highly successful, but it was put on hold as a result of budgetary constraints.

During my time on Council, I filled 164,345 potholes, repaved 120.23 miles of street, repaired 35.27 miles of sidewalk. We must commit to innovative solutions to improve and repair our transportation infrastructure, and we need a tough fiscal watchdog to make sure that our transportation dollars are being spent as effectively as possible.

Also, we have to look at creative ways to use our Measure R funds so we are leveraging our resources to fix our streets.

What is your vision of the future of Mass transit in Los Angeles and what are you able to do to bring that vision about?

I am as frustrated with traffic congestion as the rest of us. Gridlock slows the movement of people and goods, pollutes our air, and costs billions to the local economy. I know we can’t fix our traffic problems overnight, but I believe we can do much better.

I will lead efforts to improve transportation throughout Los Angeles and create a modern transportation system that keeps the economy moving, creates a more livable city and lets everyone spend less time in traffic.

With Measure R, we have a unique opportunity to think big, and think long-term in redesigning our transportation system to meet 21st century needs. What we need is a seamless, world class transportation system, including more light rail, buses, subways, and bikeways where they are appropriate – all connected to make getting around easier.

We need to build out our rail lines and complete the subway to the sea without losing sight of the basics. As a Councilmember, I prioritized synchronizing traffic lights and banned road construction during rush hour. As Mayor, I will continue to pursue these common-sense reforms and make sure that we fix more sidewalks, pave more streets, and keep rush hour moving.

What is your position on Steve Zimmers resolution to stop the creation of new charter schools?

I oppose this resolution – I believe all options should be on the table as we evaluate how to improve our public education system, involved parents and ensure that all schools have the resources they need, regardless of their zip code.

Currently there is no plan for the Wilshire Corridor subway to stop at Crenshaw which is a direct line south to the heart of the African American business district.  Is there anything you would be able/willing to do to address this?

I am strongly in favor of a stop at Leimert Park so that there is a direct link with Los Angeles’ transportation system and the heart of the Crenshaw business district. We need a transparent and accountable public transportation planning process so that all of our neighborhoods are involved in these vital decisions. The Wilshire Corridor subway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape Los Angeles’ public transportation system, and it is critical that no part of the community is left behind.

We had some 10 year olds going door to door selling baked goods to raise funds for simple school supplies. People want to send their kids to public schools but are discouraged by the deplorable conditions.  This has to change. What is your vision for this change?

As someone who attended public schools from kindergarten through university, and as the only candidate with a child in a LAUSD school, the quality of our city’s schools is a deeply personal issue for me. I have always believed that education is not just something that happens from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. in the confines of a school house.  It includes the support parents provide evey day.

But just as parents are expected to do their part, we expect LAUSD to hold up its end of the bargain, and it hasn’t.  That will begin to change when I am Mayor.

We need to dramatically reform our schools to ensure that our kids can compete in the 21st century global economy. As Mayor, I will champion common sense reforms such as supporting effective teachers and considering longer school years.  We have to stand up and say no when Sacramento wants to continue to balance the budget on the backs of our teachers and kids.

I want every student in LA to have the same chance I did to achieve their dreams. I will be the mayor of all Los Angeles, and that means the Mayor of our schools, and for our kids.

Small business owners are feeling squeezed for money by any means necessary as the City tries to increase its income. The installation of parking meters in newly developing business districts, with fees for using the meters raised 400% in the last few years discourages curious drive by shoppers or fines for displaying wares in front of the store which is the only way to catch the eye of drive by customers.  What plan do you have to work with small business owners to create an atmosphere of city support for their efforts?

Both as an elected official and as a small business owner, I have a unique perspective on job creation.

As a small business owner, I understand what it takes for a business to succeed. As a Councilmember, I was the architect of historic business tax reform, a dramatic change that made the city more competitive with the surrounding area. I know that small and startup businesses face many challenges that large established businesses do not, and the tax and regulatory burden can be far greater.  The small businesses of today are our economic drivers of tomorrow, and we need to do everything we can to support emerging businesses. I will create an office of small business to ensure this issue is a priority for our city.

As Mayor, I will work with the County and State Governments to ensure that registering a business is a straightforward process, where all of the steps are in one easy and user-friendly online application and where applicants can expect a timely and accurate response.

Small business owners also have a harder time obtaining city contracts. The city not only crushes small businesses under paperwork they can’t handle, but often takes months to reimburse them after making them undergo large-scale expenses upfront. I will work with stakeholders and local small businesses to break up certain city contracts into smaller pieces in order to make it possible for smaller businesses to do business with the city.

Downtown has become very difficult to navigate for the uninitiated. What are your thoughts on this?

As Mayor, I will work to make downtown more navigable by foot, bicycle and car. As we continue to invest in downtown – from the Convention Center to Farmers Field, it is essential that even the uninitiated can move easily from one side of the City to the other. The difficulties in getting around Downtown mirror the difficulties of getting around all of Los Angeles. We need to synchronize lights, repave streets, and take common-sense steps to make our transit system world-class and interconnected for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.

LAUSD is the 2nd largest school district in the US but they don’t report to the Mayor unlike other major cities. Do you see this as a benefit or detriment?  What are the consequences of this?

LAUSD is the training ground for Los Angeles’ next generation of leaders. It is essential for the Mayor’s office to partner with LAUSD to ensure that the resources meant for our kids are being used in the most effective way possible. As Mayor, I will ensure that LAUSD funding goes into classrooms, not to downtown bureaucrats.

The Mayor’s office should also continue to partner with LAUSD on afterschool programs such as the Safe Routes to School and Safety Valet programs, many of which have been shown to improve education outcomes at relatively minimal costs. As part of Tom Bradley’s administration, I helped create LA’s Best afterschool program, and I believe programs like LA’s Best are an important route to helping our children achieve their full potential.

Most importantly, decision-making should be in the hands of parents, teachers, and principals at local schools to best meet the needs of our students.

What criteria will you be using to appoint all the commissioners?

I will appoint commissioners who have experience, expertise, new ideas, and who reflect the diversity of Los Angeles. Commissioners make many critical decisions regarding financial management and oversight for Los Angeles. As Mayor, I will make sure that the commissioners I appoint will address decision-making with integrity and serve all of Los Angeles, ensuring that taxpayer funds are being spent as effectively as possible.

Given the city's own plan to add most of its new housing on commercial corridors, how do you plan to acknowledge the concerns and protect the character of the affected residents?

With 113 new Metro stations opening in the next ten years, this is the time to plan and develop affordable housing around our transit corridors. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution for the diverse communities of Los Angeles.  Density makes sense for some areas near transit hubs but not in others.

During my time on Council, I always made it a point to have all stakeholders around the table when important decisions were made to their communities. In order to protect residents and promote efficient development, I support a comprehensive update of the City’s zoning codes, which were last updated in 1946, and will make sure that residents have a major voice in the rewrite process.

Los Angeles is a city of many communities, and as someone who has lived in and engaged with this city my whole life, I understand the need to preserve the unique character of each part of the City, and as Mayor I will make sure that no part of Los Angeles is left behind.

Does a politician have any obligations toward the public regarding their private life?

Elected officials have an obligation to be honest and accountable to their constituents in all they do.

 

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