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Q&A : Candidates For The 15th City Council District : Flores Insists Experience Is the Key to Being Effective

June 04, 1993

City Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, 56, competes in a runoff Tuesday for a fourth term representing the 15th District, which stretches from San Pedro to Watts.

Flores, a San Pedro resident, worked her way up from a City Hall secretarial post to become chief deputy to longtime 15th District Councilman John S. Gibson Jr., then won the council seat in 1981 upon his retirement.

It was once unthinkable to many in the district that Flores could be ousted. But after two unsuccessful bids for higher office--California secretary of state in 1990 and Congress in 1992--she barely finished first in the April primary, garnering 28% of the vote. Challenger Rudy Svorinich took 23%.

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Q: You and Rudy Svorinich have many political similarities. You're both Republicans running to represent a largely Democratic district, you both live in San Pedro, you're both pro-business, and usually you take similar stands on issues. What are the differences between you?

A: No question, it's experience. A new mayor is coming in and new commissioners are going to be appointed, and it's going to be very tough for the most seasoned expert, the most seasoned representative, to give citizens just what they've gotten in the past, and certainly to give them even more. Owning a business is nice, but it's not the same as sitting on the council.

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Q: In differentiating himself from you, Svorinich says he is a moderate and more in step with the politics of the district, while you are a right-wing conservative and thus out of step.

A: I think you'd have to look a long way to find someone, including Rudy, more concerned about people's welfare than I've been. The creation of jobs, public transportation, the improvement of after-school programs--all of those things I believe are social issues. For example, I've accomplished a lot in the Watts community and none of that was done on a conservative bent. In representing a district like this you can't be either a moderate or a conservative or a liberal--it doesn't sell. What really matters is what you do.

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Q: Do you think of yourself as conservative?

A: On some things, yes. Not when I'm fighting (for) projects for people who certainly are less fortunate, who haven't had the breaks. I believe I'm in the mainstream in this council district. If you present a problem to me and it's something government can deal with, I want to be there with you and work with you.

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Q: You've said that you favor term limits, and yet you're seeking your fourth term on the council. Isn't that a contradiction?

A: I know, I know, but I really do favor term limits. I don't think, however, that now is a good time for me to leave this district. It's going to be a tough four years, and there is too much upheaval to hand the seat to someone with no experience on the council. That would be doing a disservice to the district.

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Q: What tasks do you have left on the council that you want to complete?

A: I certainly want to work to improve the crime and gangs and graffiti (problems) in the district, and not only in the district but the city. In Wilmington, my top priority is securing a new senior citizens building. Also, the money for an internal DASH (bus system) program has been set aside for the Wilmington community through the transportation committee I sit on. Then there is the Alameda Corridor (a rail corridor linking industrial Los Angeles with the harbor). I started this thing and I certainly want to be there when the ground's broken. It should provide 10,000 jobs, and I'm going to make sure that we get a good share of those for local people who live up and down the corridor. And in San Pedro, I want to finish up all the planning so the (down-zoning) is all in place. In the Watts area, there is the cultural crescent where we have planned walking and bicycle paths, a theater and maybe child-care facilities. In Harbor Gateway, I really want to work there to also find some way to have more facilities available for young people. Another thing is getting some kind of library facility for the Harbor area. We've put three new libraries in three parts of the district, but it would be a nice legacy for me to leave, to have another library in the Harbor Gateway.

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Q: Crime and jobs are the top issues in the district. Let's talk about job creation.

A: I know I get blamed for Todd (Shipyard in San Pedro) moving out, but I did everything humanly possible to . . . get someone else in there. I've been in conversations now with (Port Director) E. Z. Burts and a couple of the (port) commissioners. There is going to be a new emphasis on job creation. . . . (The commissioners) have assured me that whatever (replaces Todd) will have high job intensity.

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Q: Do you believe in job programs?

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