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L.A. Mayoral Candidates Garcetti, Greuel Give Their Impressions on Issues Facing the Valley – And How They Approach Them PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Friday, 15 March 2013 01:34

Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel have accomplished their first goal to replace termed out Antonio Viaraigosa as the next mayor of Los Angeles by separating themselves from the rest of the "wannabe" pack that cluttered the March 5 primary election ballot.

Now both are in a race against time to inspire and woo support before the May 21 election. That alone is a big job. The March 5 primary, on which an estimated $19 million was spent, attracted a meager 21 percent of the registered voters – the lowest such turnout for a primary without an incumbent since 1978.

In the primary, Garcetti garnered 33 percent of the vote to Greuel's 29 percent. Both are Democrats. Kevin James, who finished third and had strong conservative Valley area voters, was the only Republican in the race. He has not yet endorsed either candidate.

The San Fernando Valley is not Los Angeles, per se. But it has an estimated 1.75 million populace (according to the 2010 U.S. Census) and 260 square miles of landmass that encompass the Santa Susana Mountains to the northwest, Simi Hills to the West, the Santa Monica Mountains and Chalk Hills to the south, the Verdugo Mountains to the East, and the San Gabriel Mountains to the northeast.

The Valley has seven seats on the Los Angeles City Council, five incorporated cities – Burbank, Glendale, San Fernando, Hidden Hills and Calabasas – and is part of Los Angeles, which governs most of the Valley.

It is an area that, like all of Los Angeles county, has certainly felt a painful pinch from the economic turndown. Manufacturing jobs, for example, declined from 118,000 in 1991, to 62,000 in 2011 – a drop of 45.5 percent, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

Although both candidates stress they would be mayors for "all" of Los Angeles, neither distanced themselves from their Valley roots.

Greuel, 51, seeking to become the city's first female mayor, spoke about growing up in Granada Hills – "I graduated from Kennedy High and I own a small business in North Hollywood." She also noted she lives in Studio City and her son attends a local elementary school. Garcetti, 42, who currently lives in Silver Lake, talked about "living on Woodley Avenue" between Encino and Van Nuys, and how his family would "go to San Fernando on weekends to eat at our favorite restaurant, Porky's."

Both candidates were contacted by the San Fernando Valley/El Sol and asked the same four general questions as a way for them to express some thoughts and ideals about what they believe are concerns to address in the Valley.

The candidates were not together when asked the questions – Greuel responded by email, Garcetti by telephone – so as not be aware of or influenced by the other's response.

What would you say are the biggest challenges for the Valley?

Greuel said the biggest challenges facing the San Fernando Valley are the same ones facing all of Los Angeles – creating jobs and helping small businesses, reforming our schools, and improving public infrastructure. "It is going to take strong, committed leadership and hard work to solve the challenges facing the Valley and all of Los Angeles," she said. "As Mayor I will be the tough fiscal watchdog that cracks down on waste, and makes sure that the City focuses its resources on the core services that Angelenos depend on in their everyday lives."

She also pledged to bring resources into Valley communities "to fix our streets and sidewalks and work to build a worldclass public transportation system that is a practical alternative to taking your car to work."

Garcetti wants to see the Valley return to the kind of place he saw as a youth. "Growing up in the Valley I remember a place full of opportunities, a place that had safe and clean and green communities. A place where schools were good, where jobs were plentiful and homes were affordable," he said.

"The challenge now is to restore that dream. To bring good schools back, and graduate students ready to work in growing industries. And I want to bring City Hall's attention back to the Valley."

One way to accomplish that, Garcetti said, is to "physically work in the Valley as Mayor once a month out of the Van Nuys City Hall," and bring in needed resources.

The Valley has long felt like its L.A.'s stepchild, so much so there have been attempts to secede. What would you do as mayor to see the Valley gets its fair share of attention – no more, no less?

Garcetti cited a need for improved transportation, economic development, and for public safety.

"For economic development I want to promote the Valley as a tourist destination, highlight the community colleges and partner them with key industries like filming and aerospace. And reduce our cities' business taxes," he said. "I think we don't do enough to spend money and time from downtown in the Valley. We should support things like cultural festivals in the Valley, and we don't do that."

Greuel's response referred back to being a local. "I think part of the reason that the Valley has felt neglected is that there's never been a Mayor leading our city who comes from the Valley and really understands the Valley's issues," she said.

"As a City Councilmember representing the Valley and later as Controller, I have fought for the Valley's fair share throughout my career, and I will continue to make sure that the Valley is recognized as the critically important part of Los Angeles' culture and economy that it is. The Valley is my home…. I will never forget the Valley because its challenges are mine and my family's challenges too."

What accomplishments that pertain to the Valley can you site?

Greuel presented her most detailed answer, citing the preservation of 1,200 acres of open space in the Valley, including securing the passage of the historic San Gabriel/Verdugo Mountains Scenic Preservation Corridor plan and helping create the Verdugo Task Force.

She also talked of helping to preserve the San Fernando Valley's designation in the U.S. Census, "which helps ensure the Valley is specifically recognized in terms of federal, state, and local resources"; creating the San Fernando Valley Cities Council of Governments; and "aggressively' lobbying Sacramento for funds to complete the 405 Freeway carpool lane.

"As I worked on larger scale projects, I also made sure to focus on the details that have such an impact on people's everyday lives," Greuel said. "I installed security cameras in high-crime streets and alleys, cut graffiti in my district by 52 percent, filled 164,345 potholes and trimmed 15,887 trees. I also repaved 120.23 miles of street, repaired 35.27 miles of sidewalk, removed 51,390 tons of illegally dumped trash, and increased funding and built improvements in every park in my district. In addition, I created the 50/50 Sidewalk Repair Program to give residents the ability to expedite sidewalk repairs."

Garcetti's list wasn't quite as extensive. He spoke of his time serving on the city's budget committee when "I made sure the Valley got its fair share of street paving, traffic improvement, for police officers and for job training."

He also spoke of efforts to clean up the water in the Valley along the Los Angeles River, synchronizing traffic lights, and fighting for more, improved public transportation.

Garcetti mentioned a project he has in mind if elected. "I want to build a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, to make it 10 minutes from Sherman Oaks to UCLA."

In particular, the northeast section of the Valley has been called a "donut hole" because of neglect. Is there something you can propose to help that area?

Garcetti spoke again of bettering public transportation – "I want to see a northeast transit line that starts in Sylmar and comes to Sherman Oaks" – and of partnering with Mission College "to train young people for high paying jobs in manufacturing and green technology."

The rest of his response was to just assure residents that he will not forget them. "Having grown up in the Valley, with family who lived in the Northeast Valley speaking Spanish, I will be a representative for all of the San Fernando Valley, especially the forgotten corners," Garcetti said. Greuel again returned to her Valley roots in her reply.

"Too often, when the City is allocating its resources the San Fernando Valley gets less than its share and it's the first to see cuts when City Hall has tough times," she said. "I have seen this firsthand in the neighborhoods that I've represented on the Council including Sun Valley, Lake View Terrace, Sunland and Tujunga.

"In my time on Council, I developed strong relationships with elected officials, Neighborhood Councils, and community leaders in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. As Mayor, I will work with all of these people closely to plan out how we can most wisely use our resources to fill that "donut hole" and ensure that every part of the Valley, from Pacoima to Canoga Park, is a priority and gets the attention it deserves."

Last Updated on Friday, 15 March 2013 01:54