Last night NBC 4  and KPCC  hosted a two hour debate between the five leading candidates to replace Antonio Villaraigosa as Mayor of Los Angeles. The first hour of the debate was broadcast on the two channels, with the second hour live streamed on NBC 4’s website.
After the switch to “the world wide web,” the candidates each took turns talking about the importance of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. However, for our reviews of last night we wanted to focus on the two questions broadcast on television and radio that pertained to stories we covered.
At the half-way point of the debate, Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and a professor of public policy, asked a question basically asking the candidates to commit to building a Leimert Park Station as part of the Crenshaw Line. The Metro Board of Directors approved a stop in May of 2011, but didn’t include funding for the project. The station will get built “if money is found” or “if a contractor can build it under the current budget.”
Each candidate answered that they would. Council Member Eric Garcetti even went far enough to promise to find funding for more grade separated rail crossing. Emanuel Pleitez took time to discuss infrastructure needs, including bicyclists, after giving his yes. Pointing to bids for the Westside Subway that came in well under budget, Kevin James argued that the money is already there. Council Member Jan Perry argued that as one of South L.A.’s Council Members she understands the importance of the stop better than any other candidate. Controller Wendy Greuel earned the first laugh of the night by implying that if she can find wasteful spending by the city, finding it at Metro shouldn’t be too hard.
But you tell us which candidate gave the best answer. Try to leave your personal endorsements aside and focus on what was actually said. The full answers of each candidate, in the order they were given, are available after the jump.
Pleitez – “I will absolutely make sure the money is there. Look, I’ve worked in the private sector raising capital for these large infrastructure packages. I’m the only one that has the experience from the private sector side to address these issues.”
“I will make sure we have a more long-term infrastructure plan and that we’re not justlooking in rail projects that are going to take 20 years. I want to make sure that we increase mobility options so that we have more bikes, bike lanes, more bus lines, more pedestrian friendly zones. We need to be thinking of infrastructure not just one rail project at a time, but at a more robust, long-term perspective.”
Perry – “Absolutely I would prioritize a Leimert Park stop. Leimert Park is an iconic community, the bastion of African American arts and culture. It is an asset to the City of Los Angeles and to the region and would bring more travelers and tourists into the community. Not only enriching that community, but benefitting the entire City of Los Angeles. It would be an extremely high priority for me as one who has represented South Los Angeles and in fact still does. I know how important it is.”
James – “Dean, you make an excellent point about the communities across our city that have been left behind by City Hall. You mentioned South L.A., and we were in South L.A. recently for a forum. I asked that community, “how many years will you wait?” You’ve been hearing from these City Hall insiders year in and year out, election in and election out and you’re still waiting…It’s not just South L.A., it’s now communities across our city. Yes, I will make the Leimert Park Station a priority, and there’s a way to pay for it now. If you look back, and these are Mayor Villaraigosa’s own numbers, if you look back at the bidding process for the Westside Subway, bids are coming in about 20-25% below what was expected. If you take that equation, and there’s no reason to believe we can’t take that equation and apply it to the Crenshaw transit line which you’re talking about, then the money is there for the Leimert Park Station.”
Garcetti – Absolutely Dean. I’ve not only saying here tonight, but I pledged over a year ago not just to support a stop in Leimert Park, but also to insure that we have, where necessary below-grade rail crossings. My grandfather was a barber in South Los Angeles who was an immigrant from Mexico, crossed the border, fought in World War II and opened up a barber shop there in South Los Angeles. This is personal to me. Those businesses that are there along Crenshaw right now who will if we don’t do this right be put out of business. We only have one shot to do this right and we are stuck in traffic. The human face of traffic is someone not spending time with their kids, not getting that job interview, the billions of dollars millions of hours of productivity we lose every year. But we can do this in South Los Angeles think about the mistakes we’ve made in the past. There was supposed to be a stop on the Red Line at the Hollywood Bowl.in my district In my district, let me tell you what it’s like. When the Hollywood Bowl has something going on, people have to get off at the stop at Hollywood and Highland and take a shuttle bus, walk or get into that clogged corridor. Look at the Wilshire Subway which stopped because we did it wrong. Let’s do the Crenshaw Line now, let’s do it right, and absolutely we will have the money to pay for it.
Greuel – “Thanks for the question and you’re right on. South L.A. particularly has been shortchanged on a number of issues, whether it be housing or transportation. I stood up over a year ago saying we need to have a Leimert Park Station and find the funding. If I found $560 million in the City of Los Angeles, think about what I could find at the MTA to make them pay for it (laughter). But it is important to insure that on that route that we make sure that those businesses benefit from this that the community benefits from this, from the jobs being created. My campaign office is right down the street there on Crenshaw. Imagine if we had public transportation to get there. Imagine the businesses that would be thriving and the jobs we could create that would hire in L.A. I am someone who was very much an advocate of Measure R, to make sure we have those dollars. I will make sure we find the dollars to have a Leimert Park Station.