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Q&A : Yaroslavsky Wants to Break Cycle of Violence

April 11, 1993|Ron Russell | Times staff writer

Zev Yaroslavsky, 44, Los Angeles City Councilman, 5th District.

Claim to Fame: As chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee, Yaroslavsky is widely considered to wield more power than any of his City Council colleagues after council president John Ferraro. An 18-year incumbent, he seeks reelection against Laura Lake, an environmentalist and slow-growth advocate making her second bid in four years to unseat him. (Mike Rosenberg, a city building inspector, is the third candidate in the race.) Yaroslavsky won 63% of the vote in 1989, after having considered making a run for mayor. He co-authored Proposition U, the city's slow-growth initiative, and Proposition O, a measure prohibiting coastal oil drilling. He was the main author of the city's Hillside Protection ordinance, the Mulholland Scenic Parkway ordinance and the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan.

Background: Yaroslavsky has a bachelor's degree in history and economics and a master's degree in history from UCLA. While a student at UCLA, he founded California Students for Soviet Jews, a support group for emigres. He later served for two years as executive director of the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews. He was first elected to the City Council in 1975. He and his wife, Barbara, have two children, Mina, 15, and David, 10.

Interviewer: Times staff writer Ron Russell

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

A We have to get some semblance of control over the level of crime and violence in this city. It is plaguing every neighborhood. People's lives now revolve around their safety more than ever before; the way they go home; the way they enter their home; the amount of money they spend on personal security. A lot of kids don't go to school because they're afraid of violence. So crime is definitely the No. 1 issue.

Q As a councilman, what do you do about it?

A There are two things: In the short term, we have to provide as much law enforcement as we can, and that means more police on the streets. It means taking police officers from desk jobs and putting them into the field, which (Police Chief) Willie Williams is doing. It means hiring more police officers who will go into the streets. It means passing Proposition 1, which gets more police in the streets.

In the long term, we've got to give young people an alternative to gangs and violence. We're always telling kids to say no to things--they get too few opportunities to say yes. So urban impact parks, recreational programs, quasi-educational programs, the (city's) after-school program for kids need to be expanded and enhanced.

Q Your chief rival, Laura Lake, opposes Prop, 1, saying that it will not result in 1,000 new police officers. Why do you support it?

A Because it's going to put 1,000 more police officers on the streets, and that's not a matter of interpretation. If it passes, the only way we will be able to implement that tax is to hire 1,000 more police officers. We cannot use that money for any other purpose.

I cannot imagine anybody who understands the financial condition of the city and who wants more police who would oppose Prop 1. The mythology that we can have something for nothing is what has gotten us into the (current) mess.

Q Beyond Prop. 1, how do you get more police on the streets?

A There are three ways to get more police on the streets. One is to raise revenues, the other is to cut spending in lesser-priority areas and the third is a combination of the two. And that's what we've done. That's why we raised taxes last December. That's why we raised the (7 1/2%) surcharge on the business tax. That's why we raised the sanitation equipment charge. It was to keep the police (force) at 7,800 (officers) and to enable us to get to 7,900 in anticipation of the passage of Prop 1. We have a chance at passing it and it's the only way, under our fiscal condition, that we're going to get an infusion of 1,000 more police.

We don't have enough police. And we will continue not to have enough as long as we keep funding redevelopment projects that are worthless, or as long as we keep funding the Academy Awards for their parking patrol, or (provide) traffic control for Dodgers' games.

We put $3 million a year into paying for traffic control for private events when (that money) could put 60 police officers on the streets full time. I could go down a list of things that we could do differently (that would enable us) to put more cops on the street.

Q On a per capita basis, do we have more cops on the street today than we did 10 years ago?

A Oh, I think we do, but I don't think that's the way to look at it. The way to look at it is in terms of the number of calls we get. Given what's happened to this city in the last 11 months, the anecdotal evidence of an increase in violent crime is substantial.

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