Question: Your challengers say you lack the vision and dynamic leadership that the mayor of the nation's second largest city should have.
Answer: No man has been more dynamic than I have. No mayor has done more in their first term than I have. No mayor has a bigger vision for this city than I have. I want to make this the safest big city in America nobody has a bigger vision than that. Now why is that so important? New York City showed that if you change the perception and actually reduce crime in your city, it leads to an economic revival. That's what I want Bill Bratton to do with us here.
Q: But your critics say there has been a lack of engagement.
A: I'm interested in results, not rhetoric. If that's going to be their campaign against me that I'm not doing anything then bring it on. I can keep you here all day talking about the things I have done as mayor. Take LAX. We worked very hard on a project that had gone nowhere under the previous mayor. There were a lot of critics that didn't want us to do it or wanted us to do it some other way . By agreeing to proceed with consensus projects and put off the other projects for another look later on by the council, I was able to turn the No. 1 critic of the plan (Councilwoman) Cindy Miscikowski into its No. 1 champion.
Q: Your challengers have called your administration "the most investigated administration since Frank Shaw," who was recalled in the 1930s.
A: I'm more interested in getting to the bottom of this than any other person in Los Angeles. If anyone has been engaged in wrongdoing, then they will be held fully accountable, and throw the book at them. But recognizing that the perception is often just as important as the reality, there's an easy way to fix this: Prohibit campaign contributions to city offices from contractors and bidders What's frustrating to me is that my whole career has been about honesty and integrity. And I don't think that anybody has yet come forward with any evidence that anyone says they were told they had to make a campaign contribution to get a contract.
Q: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently these past 18 months to have averted the situation?
A: No. There was no knowledge on my part that there was wrongdoing by anyone.
Q: What about those working closely with you, such as Troy Edwards or Ted Stein? Was there any question that there were some gray lines they may have crossed?
A: To me, they have adamantly denied any wrongdoing. They assured me that they behaved ethically at all times. But if evidence is found that they did participate in wrongdoing, then I say throw the book at them. I don't care who they are. I set high standards and I expect the people who work for me to live up to those standards.
Q: Do you think it was wrong for a public relations firm hired by the Department of Water & Power to work on bolstering your image?
A: That's one of the silliest charges that's been raised. I am the mayor of the city of Los Angeles. If you're going to want to bring visibility to an issue, you're going to want to have the mayor there. I try to do things that I think will have the most impact. And if we're going to try to convince people to conserve energy or sign up for a green power program, it's entirely appropriate for the mayor to be there. If it's making sure tennis shoes aren't thrown over power lines, I'll put on a hard hat, get in a cherry picker and publicize that so people know about the program. It's not benefiting me, it's benefiting the issue.
Q: Should you have done more to ensure that the Fleishman-Hillard contract with the DWP was monitored properly?
A: I wasn't aware of any of those problems. If there were folks at the DWP who saw these problems, obviously we want people to fix those. If Fleishman-Hillard has ripped the city off and ripped the DWP off, I have instructed the city attorney to go ahead and sue them and get every penny back. And that, by the way, is also one of the reasons why once this came to light, I gave the order to cancel all P.R. contracts with the city.
Q: Four years ago, you promised 1,000 new cops. Yet now there are only about 300 more than when you took office. What happened?
A: The budget mess in Sacramento hit us. My 2002 budget presented the City Council with an additional 320 cops, paid for by a fee increase on rubbish collection. The council imposed the fee increase and then put the money for the additional cops in an unappropriated balance, pending decisions in Sacramento. That year, we lost $60 million in vehicle license fees. The next year, Sacramento took over $150 million in our property taxes to balance the state budget. And last year, it was $175 million. But last year, finally, we were able to work with Gov. Schwarzenegger to get Proposition 1A on the ballot (preventing the state from taking property tax funds from localities starting with the 2006-07 budget). The state of California has been robbing us blind. If they hadn't taken that money, we would have had more than enough money to hire those 1,000 cops I promised.
Q: What about the plan for a sales tax to hire more cops?
A: We do need to do more than just get the state funding back. That's why I proposed this one-half cent increase in the citywide sales tax. We came so close in November just three percentage points short in the city of L.A. If we can just build on that momentum with a more focused campaign, I think we can push this over the top.
Q: You have alienated two of the major constituencies that elected you: blacks and San Fernando Valley residents. What are you doing to win them back to your side?
A: You're talking about my decisions to bring Bill Bratton to L.A. and to keep the city together. That's proof that I'm willing to make the tough decisions.
Q: Who are the three people living in Los Angeles that you admire the most?
A: Well, obviously Pete Carroll. Who needs an NFL team when you have the USC Trojans. Yvonne Chan, principal at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima; Sweet Alice Harris, who has helped hundreds of kids go to college. There's a whole host of others.
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