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Q&A : Lake Says Crime Is the No. 1 Election Issue

April 04, 1993|Ron Russell | Times Staff Writer

Laura Lake, 46, candidate for Los Angeles City Council, 5th District.

Claim to Fame: An environmentalist and slow-growth advocate making her second attempt to unseat incumbent Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky. (City Building Inspector Mike Rosenberg is the third candidate in the race.) Lake received 33% of the vote in 1989. She is president of Friends of Westwood and helped found Heal the Bay and Not Yet New York. She helped block the LANCER trash incinerator project for South-Central Los Angeles, West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. She has been active in the fight against the proposed Ward Valley nuclear waste dump in the California desert. She serves on the board of the Commission on Women's Rights and the Jewish Feminist Center of the American Jewish Congress.

Background: A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Lake graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1967. She received a Ph.D. in political science from Tufts University in 1972. She was on the staff of the Ford Foundation in New York for three years before leaving in 1976 to join the faculty at UCLA, where she was a professor of environmental science and engineering until last year. Her husband, Jim, is a UCLA molecular biologist. They have two children, Caroline, 12, and Jeremy, 9. The family lives in Westwood.

Interviewer: Times staff writer Ron Russell.

Q. What do you see as the most important issue facing voters of the 5th District in this election?

A. I would say crime. People see crime and graffiti, linking those two, graffiti being a sort of precursor to gangs.

People feel very betrayed and frightened by the City Council and Zev not acting to protect them. We were promised 10,000 police (officers) four years ago. We had more then than we do now, and that alone doesn't do it.

We're not employing the force in the right way. Forty-five percent of (a police officer's) time is taken up (on duties) outside (actual policing). Other police departments have the police dictate their reports and have them typed by professional typists. That gives you an enormous control capability.

There are hours and shifts where you don't really need two-person patrol cars. You could spread them out and have more patrol cars out there. I mean these are big deployment changes.

Q. You've called for a 10,000-member police force, which would add about 2,400 officers to current levels. Given the city's financial woes, how would you pay for it?

A. When it comes to funding the police, there are programs that need to be abandoned and programs that need to be paying more. Let me give you an example. The (Community Redevelopment Agency) is something I've been speaking out against for many years.

It has first dibs on tax (revenues) and that takes away from what the city can do (to hire more police) and what the school district can do. I would say thank you and goodby (to the CRA).

Q. How many police officers could be added in two or three years as a result of dismantling the CRA?

A. I don't even want to say. I'm saying that it is something that needs to be explored.

Q. You oppose Proposition 1 on the April ballot, which is aimed at putting 1,000 new cops on the streets. Why?

A. No. 1, it's not going to give us 1,000 new officers. No. 2, I believe that we have to look at other programs and expenses before we start taxing, and other ways to have revenue.

Prop 1, as it is structured, is subject to abuse because there is no way we could staff up to 1,000 new police officers immediately. So that money would be there and would go into the (city's) General Fund and not to a police trust fund.

Q. You mentioned other ways for the city to increase revenues. What are some?

A. There's a report that's going to be coming out of City Hall soon that will propose changing the franchise agreements and increasing the revenue from those from oil and gas pipelines. I fought them over the Mobil Oil pipeline. The city signed off on that pipeline for a pittance. And before me, Women For: objected to excessively low franchise fees for gas pipelines to no avail.

I don't know if it was $200,000 or something; it's been estimated that the city could get $130 million in the next 15 years if it just did a proper analysis of the value of all the private pipelines in the public right of way.

There's another thing I'd like to check--and I don't know if it's legal or not--and that is to have an oil severance tax (a tax on oil where it is extracted from the ground) within the city.

That's never been done by a city. It's usually done by states and that's why I don't know if cities are allowed to do that.

Q. You advocate making graffiti-painting a felony and publishing in newspapers the names of parents whose children are convicted. Doesn't that pose some difficult civil liberties questions?

A. It's like felony drunk driving. I want it to be like a traffic ticket. The courts are already overburdened and right now to keep somebody (incarcerated) for (misdemeanor) graffiti (offenses) is a very cumbersome process.

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