State Sen. Richard Alarc & #243;n met with Business Journal editors and reporters to discuss his candidacy for mayor of Los Angeles. Here are excerpts from that interview.


Question: How do you plan to overcome low name recognition and low fundraising in this race?
Answer: First of all, my name recognition is high. We started at 55 percent name identification. And I've been able to grow that to nearly 80 percent in the San Fernando Valley and 70 percent citywide. I've also got high name recognition among Latinos we have polled.


Q: But you've been polling in the low-single-digits.
A: The voters who come out to vote for me aren't in the polls. And as for the money, it's not about how much money you raise, it's about how many votes you get on Election Day.


Q: What is your message?
A: I'm the only candidate who wants to give planning authority to neighborhood councils. I'm the only candidate who has a ballot measure to eliminate contractor and developer contributions. I'm also a voice from the San Fernando Valley that's calling for unity.


Q: During the secession campaign, you were considering running for mayor of a separate San Fernando Valley city. What changed your mind?
A: The thing that finally convinced me not to run was the documents. I realized we would have had no control over the DWP, for example. If as mayor I wouldn't have control over the DWP, what kind of situation was that?


Q: But did you support the concept of secession?
A: No, I did not. But voters in the Valley transcend the issue of secession. They want to know what you can do for them. They're happy that I was able to redevelop the General Motors plant and bring 4,000 jobs to the Valley. They're happy I was able to redevelop the Panorama Mall, which was falling apart, and bring the first Wal-Mart into the city. So people know what I've done.


Q: Mayor Hahn has lumped you in with "Sacramento politicians" who have taken millions of property tax dollars from the city. What's your response?
A: I don't respond to that charge. I tell people what I have done for them. I delivered $550 million in affordable housing funds for the city. I tell people about the $200 million I delivered for teacher training. It was Mayor Hahn who negotiated with Governor Schwarzenegger to forgo those property tax dollars for two years before we in the Legislature even had a chance to look over the deal. And the budget that took the most money from the city, I didn't vote for. So he better get his facts straight.


Q: How does your ballot initiative to ban developer and contractor contributions differ from Mayor Hahn's proposal?
A: His depends on a recusal process, and whether there's a nexus between the campaign contribution and officeholder. Mine is much simpler: Just eliminate contributions over $100.


Q: If you're going to ban contractors, why not ban contributions from public employee unions?
A: There is no direct benefit given in return for a contribution to a union. With a developer or a contractor, there's a direct benefit.


Q: But if a councilmember accepts contributions from a city employee union and then approves a pay hike, isn't that a direct benefit?
A: You asked for my answer and I gave you my answer. This would still be the toughest ethics ordinance in the entire country. Also, if you look at the "pay-to-play" issue on the table right now, it is contractors and developers that are being investigated, not unions.


Q: Do you believe City Hall is corrupt?
A: That depends on what you mean by corrupt. I don't want to make broad generalizations like that.


Q: What about the allegations that Hahn's office handed out contracts to contributors?
A: The mayor's office made mistakes that led to a perception of impropriety. Having his fundraiser as a liaison to the three proprietary departments, that was unconscionable. Whether it was illegal, I'll leave that to the law enforcement investigations.


Q: What qualities are needed in someone who wants to be mayor of Los Angeles?
A: My mentor was Mayor Bradley. He transcended his ethnicity and demonstrated that he could lead a diverse coalition. We need a mayor who can forge alliances beyond their ethnicity and geographic community. Mayors in L.A. also need to be bigger than life. When Bradley walked down the street, he dominated the picture. He also was able to pull out the best in people. Right now, people don't feel that way about our current mayor.


Q: What are the top three priorities you have for moving this city forward?
A: First, we have to rebuild the trust between the city and the people it serves. Second, we're way behind on public safety. Not just police, but also fire and sanitation. I would start my budgets by making sure that these three functions are fully funded. I would guarantee an extra 100 police officers a year on a zero-based budgeting process. That should come out of the first general fund dollars the city spends, not be tacked on an extra sales tax.


Q: Should business owners and executives be concerned that if you're elected mayor, you will target them with things like an increase in the living wage?
A: You mean should the business community be scared of me? The answer is no. The business community should look at what I've done. Sure I'd like to raise average wages. But the best way to do that is not through some mandate on business but by improving the skill levels of our workers.


Q: Who are the three people who now live in the city of Los Angeles that you most admire?
A: My father, of course. He's part of the greatest generation a World War II veteran. Also, (radio and TV performer) George Lopez. Oh, and I can't forget (police commissioner) Rose Ochi, who was my mentor in Mayor Bradley's office.

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