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Candidates Put to Test at Forum

Mayoral race: Riordan, Hayden answer the same questions but do not interact.


Standing on the same stage for the first time since their lone debate last month, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) answered a set of pointed questions about immigration, school reform, violence prevention and job creation at a crowded candidates forum in Lincoln Heights on Thursday night.

The candidates did not interact, but each answered the same questions posed by a trio of community groups: United Neighborhoods Organization, Southern California Organizing Committee and Valley Organized in Community Efforts. The crowd of more than 500 people--most of them Latino--responded enthusiastically to both mayoral candidates.

"The future of jobs in Los Angeles depends on who has power in the city," Hayden said. "We've had billions spent downtown and we still have poverty. . . . I would like to shift the power in the city to neighborhoods."

Riordan said the "ultimate success has to be partnership" between community groups and government.

"The key to employment is to get business with quality jobs into our city," the mayor said. "You get quality jobs through education."

Riordan and Hayden appeared to be in surprising agreement on most of the issues: Both said they favored citizens' right to vote on whether to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District or secede from the city itself, but that they prefer the city stay together and the schools find other ways to increase community control. Both said they oppose welfare cuts to immigrants and would veto any attempt to have police officers conduct immigration sweeps. And both said they want to help workers receive severance packages who they are laid off because of plant closings.

But the mayor waffled on several questions, and did not support the groups' suggestions that he establish a "fund for inner-city Los Angeles" equal to the city subsidies for the DreamWorks SKG and sports arena projects; that he add $2 million to his budget for youth programs, and that he set aside $75,000 for a pilot program on "cooperatively owned businesses."

Hayden said he would do each of those things.

At one point, the moderator said he was unclear on the mayor's position about school breakup. After Riordan tried again, the moderator asked, "Is that a yes or a no?" The mayor also failed to provide the five gun control proposals that the groups had requested, instead ticking off his past achievements on crime.

Hayden, in contrast, began each of his answers with "yes."

"We cannot afford subsidies for DreamWorks and subsidies for the inner-city," he said. "If it's a choice, I believe we need to have a dream that works for the working poor."

Hayden listed several gun control measures he would support, and also vowed to expedite creation of summer jobs with park bond money approved last fall.

"Instead of so much money spent on jails and prisons, I want money spent on drug treatment and alcohol programs," Hayden said. "We need a peace process in our city."

The evening appearance capped a busy day for the mayor.

Riordan spent the morning hosting a trio of upbeat sessions, visiting a police academy magnet school, announcing an anti-gang program and helping to kick off construction of a long-awaited branch library.

"Our streets are getting safer," the mayor said at a high school in Highland Park, where he launched a program called 'Safe Passages' that will establish routes to and from the school. "But we can't rest on our laurels. We have much further to go."

Before the evening forum, Hayden launched yet another attack on the incumbent, criticizing his 200-plus commission appointments for a lack of geographic diversity.

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