Question: Are people really that dissatisfied with the direction L.A. is going? Answer: Yes, the numbers prove it. Jim Hahn says crime is down, and he says it often enough so that people believe it. But whether crime is down depends on where you live. Also, go talk to people in the Valley. In that secession campaign three years ago, Jim Hahn talked about "you people," not "us." There's still a great deal of resentment over that campaign. I've been to chambers and other groups all across the community and there's a great frustration. There's a sense that he just phones it in, that he doesn't have the attention to detail, that he doesn't really care.
Q: So why are you running?
A: I have a real deep personal sense of fixing the city. One can argue that a lot of times government is not relevant to people's lives. But it's relevant now. I was chairman of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. Every month I saw those reports of businesses leaving the city. This is not a Democratic or Republican position. You have to deal within the realm of economics. It's a real problem.
Q: What would you do to make L.A. a more attractive place to do business?
A: First, I would find a replacement for the gross receipts tax. That may require a change in state law so that we can have a net receipts tax based on net income, not revenues.
Q: But the city just went through a major battle to get business tax reformed. You want to tell the council that what it did is no good and to start over?
A: Yes. It's all about leadership and working with people. Look, my management style is collaborative. I'm not an elbow thrower when it comes to the cameras. So I will go to each of the councilmembers and find out what's in their minds. So on the business tax, here's what I would tell them: "This is not a partisan issue. I need certain tools when it comes to attracting business to this city. Here's my model let me hear what you think of it." We have to do more than we've done so that businesses that are here will be able to compete globally.
Q: What are your other priorities?
A: If I'm elected mayor, the day I take office on July 1 I'm going to sign an executive order stopping road construction during rush hour. Then I would implement as soon as possible everything in my commuter's bill of rights, because that impacts people so dramatically. I'm going to sit down with the trucking companies and try to get them off the road during rush hour. I'm going to synchronize more light signals. Next I'm going to convene a task force on schools to come up with a breakup plan within 90 days. Third I'm going to go into the budget and allocate 25 percent of the growth towards more police officers.
Q: Why spend so much time on breaking up the School District, given that the schools are not part of your job description?
A: I don't look at such artificial distinctions. Taxpayers pay money, they don't know whether they pay those taxes to a school district, a city or a county. If you're a government official, you either fix it or get out of the way. I'm looking at this issue of schools in a larger context. If I want to have a safe city and attract high wage jobs, how do I do these things when 75 percent of the kids who are in jail haven't graduated high school? I'm supposed to say, "Oh, I'm sorry, that's not my department?"
Q: So how would you break up the LAUSD?
A: It may mean charter changes, it may mean state constitutional amendments. Look at Seattle, at New York, at Boston, at Philadelphia. There are some reasonably successful models to look at when intervening.
Q: But the teachers' union will fight you tooth and nail.
A: Look, whatever protections I have to give teachers to make them comfortable about this, I'll give them. If that means raises, I'll fight for those.
Q: How would go about fixing the perception of a pay-to-play culture at City Hall?
A: Well, for starters, I'm not going to appoint my fundraiser to oversee the city's three largest departments. That's a big reason why we have a perception problem in this town. Also, my commissioners aren't going to go out and raise money for me. I do not like the notion that lobbyists sit on commissions or that political consultants sit on commissions. I also would institute a review process for large contracts to ensure that there's no question about the propriety of those contracts.
Q: Why has this race gotten so nasty between you and Mayor Hahn?
A: It's what he's done in every campaign. It's not about who he is or what he's done. Rather, it's about trying to tear the other person down. He did it with Antonio Villaraigosa four years ago and now he's doing it with me because he perceives me to be a threat. He just makes things up. He claims I voted on something that happened a year after I left the Legislature and on something else that happened five years before I even got there.
Q: How do you deal with this?
A: First of all, this election is about the job Jim Hahn is doing as mayor. Right now, he's polling in the low 20 percent range. That's lower than Richard Nixon when he was impeached or Gray Davis when he was recalled. People get the fact that they have a mayor who is doing nothing. Also, what the poll numbers are saying is that two-thirds of the people say things in L.A. are moving in the wrong direction. People are looking for an alternative.
Q: Who are the three people living in the city that you most admire?
A: First, my wife. Then U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, who has done great work in the community like starting Century Housing and developing shelter programs. Finally, Carla Sanger, who runs the L.A.'s Best after-school program.
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