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Q & A

Mayoral, council candidates outline ways to fix budget

February 11, 2009|William Nottingham

To help Los Angeles voters prepare for the March 3 primary election, Times editors sent questions to the 10 candidates for mayor and the six seeking the 5th District City Council seat, the only council race that does not have an incumbent.

Excerpts will appear in print over the days leading up to the voting. Today's installment comes in response to this question:

Los Angeles likely will face a deficit of $400 million to $500 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year, as well as steep shortfalls in the years that follow. If elected, how would you balance the city budget? Specifically, what programs or services would you cut, what taxes or fees would you increase, and what other measures would you take?

Mayoral candidates:

Carlos Alvarez: "The brunt of the economic crisis should not be shouldered by working people. . . . As mayor, I would tax the corporations and end all tax breaks to developers and landlords. I would not cut necessary social services or lay off city employees."

James Harris: "My campaign will fight for a massive public works program to put millions of workers to work at union scale, building affordable housing, schools and more hospitals."

David R. Hernandez: "In the short term, suspend and evaluate all projects which had locked in place funds dedicated to state projects, i.e. the $25-million bike path in the northeast Valley. . . . Second, all community redevelopment projects must be reviewed and evaluated for sustainability."

Phil Jennerjahn: "I am willing to eliminate entire departments at City Hall and subcontract out those services to private industry, which always works faster and cheaper and is more efficient. Unfortunately, I will also have to reduce staff. The city hasn't laid anyone off since 1983. This is unacceptable. The city government does not have the right to continually expand at an unlimited cost to the taxpayers."

Walter Moore: "We can eliminate the deficit in a heartbeat by eliminating [Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa's "welfare for the rich" and absurd boondoggles, including, for example the following: (a) $95 million in subsidies and tax breaks Villaraigosa has given to a company owned largely by the royal family of Dubai; (b) over $500 million per year that Villaraigosa takes from taxpayers and gives to millionaire and billionaire developers through the Community Redevelopment Agency; (c) $168 million per year of our money that Villaraigosa hands to sketchy, unregulated "anti-gang" programs run by "ex" gang members who have an embarrassing tendency to get caught committing crimes while supposedly working for these programs; and (d) idiotic expenditures like $18,000 to teach civil servants 'sphincter control.' "

Craig X Rubin: "I would cut budgets of all city services excluding vital ones for a short time while we analyze what is actually there, and then I would begin to keep what is working and cutting what is not."

David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg: "I don't want to think about increasing fees and taxes until the city of Los Angeles does much more on its part to reduce the bureaucracy and inefficiency that is wasting much too much of the money in the first place."

Antonio Villaraigosa: "Over the last 3 1/2 years I've worked hard to prove that government can become more efficient at delivering services to neighborhoods. In the face of severe economic downturns, I have delivered three balanced budgets, cutting our structural deficit by over $200 million."

Council candidates:

Adeena N. Bleich: "Given the lack of vital services Angelenos already have, I would not want to cut them further. I would, however, scour the budget for wasteful spending. And this is not the time to be raising taxes, given the hardship many Angelenos are experiencing."

Ron Galperin: "Before we make painful cuts to critical services, I will aggressively recover on uncollected debts and monies owed to our city -- including millions in uncollected elevator inspection fees, fire safety inspection fees, planning department expenses and much more."

Paul Koretz: "We can enact a hiring freeze and reduce the payroll through attrition and voluntary early retirements. City employee unions should be asked to come up with voluntary plans to help save money as well. City managers should take a temporary 10% pay reduction, and as council member I will lead by example in taking a 10% pay cut."

Robert Schwartz: "First, I would beef up our debt collection operation to be more aggressive in going after an estimated $500 million in unpaid fees, fines and other funds. Second, I would step up our efforts to bring movie and TV production back to our city. . . . Third, I would be more aggressive in levying and collecting fines from the posting of illegal billboards."

Robyn Ritter Simon: "I believe raising taxes should be a last resort. Our first step should be doing more with what we have. Implementation of City Controller Laura Chick's audits would increase government efficiency and eliminate waste, leading to substantial savings."

David T. Vahedi: "After raising so many fees last year and based on the current recession, I would try to balance this year's budget through a reduction in spending."

Responses in full: Candidate responses appear in full at Election Central: The race for L.A. City Hall at

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