Los Angeles mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel debate Thursday. (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles…)
In the first Los Angeles mayoral debate since the runoff election began, City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel found themselves explaining on multiple occasions how, exactly, each differed from the other.
During an hourlong back-and-forth at American Jewish University in Bel-Air, the candidates tackled questions ranging from education and public safety to traffic and an NFL team in Los Angeles. But the question of differences between the two Democrats seemed to be the one puzzling voters the most, said moderator Rob Eshman.
Greuel focused on her variety of experience in the public and private sectors, including work as an executive at DreamWorks and running her family's building supply store in the San Fernando Valley. She said her policies differed from Garcetti's on education, jobs, budget and public safety.
Garcetti said that without the influence of employee unions backing Greuel, he would make independent decisions at City Hall. He also cited the revitalization of Hollywood and other areas in his council district.
Garcetti and Greuel are expected to square off in 11 more debates before election day, May 21. Earlier televised debates drew between 62,000 and 105,000 viewers — small for a television broadcast, but potentially meaningful in a city that has recently seen historically low turnouts.
In earlier debates, Greuel fought off attacks from Republic lawyer Kevin James, City Councilwoman Jan Perry and technology executive Emanuel Pleitez. They painted the controller as being beholden to unions, particularly the powerful Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the union that represents most employees at the city's Department of Water and Power.
All three of the major primary election candidates who lost have since endorsed Garcetti.
Multiple questions centered around, in Eshman's words, Los Angeles's "time-sucking, money-wasting, soul-crushing traffic."
Garcetti promised density near transit stations and more technology to outsmart traffic. He also suggested a transit tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, which drew applause from an audience that struggled through rush-hour traffic to get to the debate.
Greuel mentioned the importance of walking, common-sense solutions such as left-hand turn signals and a ban on construction during rush-hour. She also voiced her support for three controversial transit projects: the Crenshaw Line, a train to Los Angeles International Airport and the so-called Subway to the Sea on the Westside.
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