January 30, 1997 - From the January, 1997 issue

Monica Lozano: TPR’s L.A. Mayoral Platform Series

The Planning Report and its sister publication Metro Investment Report are featuring a series of "Mayoral Platform" pieces. We hope that this series of articles by community leaders will provide a framework for debate and inform the dialogue in the months leading to the April, 1997 election of a Mayor for the City of Los Angeles.

We are pleased to feature three pieces in the series in the January issue of The Planning Report, ( Monica Lozano, Tom Hayden, and Carol Baker­Tharpe), and one piece in Metro Investment Report (Robert Poole).

By Monica Lozano, Associate Publisher & Executive Editor, La Opinión 

Until very recently it appeared as if the mayoral race would be dominated by 2 volatile issues: Charter reform and Chief Willie Williams' tenure as Chief of Police.

A ruling by U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaeltzer now allows voters to elect 15 commissioners to rewrite the City Charter, the governing document blamed for the political inertia that plagues City Hall. Mayor Richard Riordan's frustration with the charter, which dilutes the power of the executive office by dividing responsibilities among the Mayor, city council and commissions, spent $400,000 of his own money to get the current proposal on the ballot.

If this measure appears in the April ballot and coincides with the Mayoral campaign, charter reform now becomes an inevitable topic of debate. Public discourse on charter reform must nevertheless attempt to answer the primary questions in the minds of most Angelenos—Why should I care about this issue? How will it impact the quality of my life? Will I be better off with or without it? 

Charter reform cannot be seen as just another aspect of the continual bickering between the Mayor and City Council. Compelling arguments must be made to the voters about why it is in the best interest of the City and our communities to engage in the difficult process of overhauling our City government. 

The second hot button issue sure to dominate the electoral cycle is the impending decision by the Police Commission on whether or not it will recommend L.A. Police Chief Willie Williams to continue in his job for another 5 years. Williams’ announcement that he his formally reapplying for the police chief's job has started the clock ticking and the entire process will now unfold precisely during the Mayor's race.

As significant as this issue is, and by no means should it be underestimated, we need to ensure that the overarching public safety concerns such as crime reduction, increased levels of police on the street, faster response times and, fair application of the law among minority communities dominate the debate among candidates for Mayor. This city cannot allow the controversy over whether Willie Williams has received fair treatment by the Mayor, City Council, police commission or the media to overshadow what we all care most about. The primary question to be answered is: Are we safer today then we were four years ago? While both charter reform and the future of the Chief of Police are of significant importance to Los Angeles, by no means do they represent the vast array of issues that Angelenos care about and need to be addressed by the next leader of this city. 

The next four years arc likely to be years of turmoil and adjustment as the effects of new federal laws are felt at the local level. 

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The State of California has until July of this year to design a plan for implementing welfare reform. Twenty-five percent of the current welfare population must be transitioned to work within 2 years. While providing assistance to this population is not the primary responsibility of local governments, the impact on individuals, neighborhoods and communities will be felt at the local level. 

Whoever expects to be Mayor of this City must tackle the many facets of this difficult scenario. Not only will accelerated rates of job creation be required, but so will other related services such as affordable housing, child care, transportation subsidies, etc. The Mayor of Los Angeles must be creative and rally its many constituents, especially the business sector, to voluntarily participate in the social transformation underway. 

Even though RLA will soon cease to exist, their work to stimulate small business development, especially among immigrant entrepreneurs needs to continue through increased public and private programs. Los Angeles leads in the number of minority owned-firms and the local economy has become more and more dependent on them. Comprehensive economic development programs must be developed as well as increased access to capital among this business sector. Losing a major locally-based bank was a blow to the city, and the Mayor must use his office to draw higher levels of investment to the area. How this can be done should be a primary issue during the campaign. 

The Los Angeles Custom District is now the largest in the nation for imports and exports in dollar terms; but curiously enough L.A. ranks ninth in the country in trade with Mexico. The total value of goods processed in and out of Mexico was only 535 million dollars in 1996 compared to 40 billion moving through Laredo, Texas. Los Angeles, with its much more developed infrastructure and a population that is almost 40% of Mexican origin, is perfectly situated to participate in this burgeoning segment of international trade. More ways need to be found when taking advantage of the opportunities that come with being the most diverse city in the nation. 

Finally, the 1994 Presidential election is particularly noteworthy in the record number of Latino voters that participated for the first time. In California the increase was 30% over 1992 levels. Although specific information for L.A. is unavailable, we do know that the greatest number of new voters registered was in L.A. County. This would mean that the Mayor's race will be the first local election where Latinos can make a significant impact. 

Whoever occupies the Mayor's office in 1997 must develop a strategy that speaks to this community about the issues they care about. While Mayor Riordan has done much to develop these tics, Proposition 187 was a primary reason for the record number of new voting Latino citizens over the last two years. Some have not forgotten Mayor Riordan's refusal to take a public position on this highly divisive issue. 

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