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A to-do list for L.A.'s next mayor

Los Angeles City Elections 2013

In five weeks, Los Angeles will have a new leader. We asked Angelenos of all stripes what should be at the top of his or her agenda.

April 14, 2013
  • Angelenos will elect a new mayor on May 21.
Angelenos will elect a new mayor on May 21. (Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg…)

Tackle real problems

By Austin Beutner

Only 21% of registered voters cast a ballot in the recent primary elections. And convenience didn't seem to be the issue, since only about a third of those who were sent vote-by-mail ballots bothered to fill in the circles and put them in a mailbox.

There is reason enough, however, that voters should care. Emergency response times have increased dramatically in Los Angeles; the effective deployment level of cops on the street is lower than it's been in years; the city's jobless rate is 50% higher than the national average; and our roads and traffic are among the worst in the country. And with the city forecasting large deficits into the future, we can't simply spend our way out of trouble.

Yet, in the primary, not one of the major candidates put forth a concrete plan to solve more crimes, reduce response times, fix roads or rebuild our economy, let alone a plan to balance the budget and provide money to address these issues. I'm not saying their plans lacked sufficient details; they had no plans at all.

In politics, voters don't have to choose one of the names on the ballot. They can instead choose not to vote. In an election in which 79% of the voters chose that option, "none of the above" was the clear winner. The candidate who moves beyond platitudes and identity politics and puts forth a concrete plan to make Los Angeles once again one of the world's great cities could convince the 79% they have something to vote for and become the next mayor.

Austin Beutner is the former first deputy mayor of Los Angeles and founder of Evercore Partners.

Make schools transparent

By Gloria Romero

Iwant the next mayor to be an education mayor, but not by simply operating his or her own network of schools. I'd like the mayor to create an Office of City Schools to provide a one-stop informational shop for families. This office would provide detailed information on each school's academic "dashboards" to parents and residents: the academic performance level of each school (including charters, magnets, private); graduation rates; their eligibility to be transformed under the state "parent trigger" or the federal No Child Left Behind laws. Information on parental choice organizations and laws, including open-enrollment data and transfer eligibility, would be available, enabling parents to make informed decisions. Because housing and schools are closely linked, the office would provide data on real estate sales, transit routes and crime rates. Information for each school on staffing, salaries and ongoing major litigation would also be made transparent and accessible.

Los Angeles cannot be a great city without great schools. An Office of City Schools would serve a key role in empowering parents and all residents to become engaged and enlightened architects of our children's futures.

Gloria Romero is California director of Democrats for Education Reform and a former state senator representing Los Angeles.

Save the parks

By Steve Soboroff

Parks are some of Los Angeles' most valuable community assets, and the new mayor needs to work to increase funding for them. They provide precious open spaces where local children and families can exercise, play and enjoy the outdoors.

City park funding also supports invaluable programs such as job training, anti-gang and drug prevention, health and nutrition classes, recreational sports leagues and many others.

But as crucial as parks are to quality of life in L.A., they are in serious financial trouble. In addition to budget cuts resulting from the city's financial situation and added pension and healthcare costs that other city departments typically don't pay for, the Department of Water and Power has been charging the parks at a rapidly increasing level for utility services. These combined "charge-backs" now take up one-quarter of all parks funding. This budgetary manipulation is unfair and is jeopardizing the park system's ability to provide programs and services that families depend on.

With such an important city asset in dire straits, the new mayor will need to come up with workable solutions. A solar park system is one, as it can be done in conjunction with the DWP.

Steve Soboroff, president of L.A.'s Recreation and Parks Commission from 1995 to 2000, is chairman of the ParksSave! campaign. He has endorsed Eric Garcetti.

Undo poverty

By Cecil "Chip" Murray

Coming on board during the Depression, my generation used to joke, "Being poor ain't so bad, it's just so inconvenient." No, it's bad.

Poverty of pocket can contribute to the poverty of family/education/self-image. See how the envelope is pushed in, say, the black community, where the dollar turns over one time — it's spent and it's gone — as compared to five or more times in the white and Latino communities.

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