Koretz and Vahedi Debate Transportation and More at UCLA

4_23_09_debate.jpgSince Ted Rogers has done a better job covering the CD5 Council Race than I anyway, I thought why not make it official. For the rest of his coverage, check out Biking in LA.

Call it the once and future debate.

This past Monday night, David Vahedi and Paul Koretz — the candidates running to replace Jack Weiss as council person representing L.A.’s 5th Council District — met in a debate on the UCLA campus.

Hosted by the appropriately named Bruins for Traffic Relief, the event was co-sponsored by ABC7 and Manatt Phelps & Philips, LLC, with an assist from the League of Women Voters, and mediated by ABC7’s Adrienne Alpert.

To say it started slowly would be an understatement.

The two candidates seemed more like boxers clinching in the ring for much of the event, They finally began swinging away towards the end of the hour-long debate, as Koretz accused Vahedi of accepting donations from a developer, despite his insistence to the contrary.

The gloves came off again briefly when the two questioned whether it would be possible to put the planned Expo Line crossing at Overland Avenue below grade; both favored it, noting the heavy traffic and a nearby elementary school. However, Koretz questioned whether it would be possible due to increased costs, while Vahedi insisted it could be done, noting that it was the council member’s job to protect local residents.

Both candidates disagreed with current proposals to raise revenues by outsourcing operations of various city functions, such as privatizing parking meters. Vahedi suggested that the city should focus on cutting waste instead, such as a recent multi-million dollar expenditure to replace what he characterized as “perfectly good” trash cans.

Meanwhile, Koretz noted that construction crews usually end the day with excess cement, which invariably goes to waste. He recommended reaching an agreement with private firms to use that excess cement to patch city sidewalks, saying that it could help them solve a waste disposal problem while saving the city millions of dollars, and fix sidewalks that might otherwise take years to repair.

Vahedi called for a Metro Park and Ride system that would travel down the 405, connecting Valley residents to job sites in Century City and along the Wilshire corridor, as well as city-owned parking facilities near other major transit lines. Koretz recommended an overhaul of the city transportation plan, saying that instead of spending billions to build subways, the city should look into innovative above-ground options, such as an advanced personalized rapid transit system — something Alpert characterized as a fantasy plan, drawing the biggest laugh of the night.

Alpert asked both candidates for their top three priorities for spending stimulus funds; Koretz listed transportation, infrastructure and affordable housing. Vahedi suggested sufficient hospitals, mass transit and schools, as well as funding additional scholarship programs.

The debate will be televised on ABC7 this May, on a date to be determined.