Candidates Get Past Mud Slinging, And To CD-14’s Nitty-Gritty
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
Weeks of political back-biting were put aside Tuesday night when candidates running for Los Angeles’s District 14 council seat agreed to focus on their plans for representing the district, rather than their opponents shortcomings during a candidate forum held in Eagle Rock.
Councilmember Jose Huizar and his challenger, businessman Rudy Martinez, participated in the forum hosted by The Eagle Rock Association (TERA) and the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. It was standing room only for anyone who arrived late to the forum held at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock.
Huizar and Martinez have each questioned their opponent’s integrity, and whether they are fit to represent the district that includes Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Eagle Rock, parts of Highland Park, Mount Washington, and a stretch of downtown Los Angeles that includes Olvera Street and the commercial district along Broadway.
The less combative tone on Tuesday, however, was likely a response to the forum sponsors’ request that they put aside the political bickering and give attendees the “civility and decency we feel we’ve been deprived of.”
Robert Gotham, president of TERA, said the forum turnout was impressive and it was refreshing to see the candidates stick to the issues.
“Eagle Rock residents are unusually interested in politics, and they show up and they vote,” Gotham told EGP, noting TERA cannot endorse a candidate.
Michael Nogueria noted the professional etiquette during the event. “It was fabulous… no slandering and no mud slinging, everything was professionally done.”
Nogueria is the president of the Eagle Rock Chamber and also serves on the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council as vice president and business director.
As an individual stakeholder, Nogueria expressed support for Huizar saying he has always provided 110 percent support to the chamber, the neighborhood council and the Eagle Rock Farmer’s Market.
For an hour and a half the candidates took turns answering questions specific to Eagle Rock, one of many communities in City District 14.
On the topic of improving quality of life, Martinez said if elected he would crack down on street vendors, campers parked on main streets, people fixing cars on the streets, massage parlors, and graffiti. He wants to install cameras to deter crime and vandalism, as well as fill potholes, trim trees and encourage more people to volunteer and take neighborhood beautification into their own hands. He also wants more people in the area to walk and ride bikes.
Huizar echoed the interest of supporting more cyclists in the area and mentioned his support for CycLAvia, a bicycling event in Los Angeles that took place last year. He said he was interested in a smaller version on York or Eagle Rock Blvd. He also mentioned fixing streets, adding speed bumps, maintaining medians, but noted that the budget cuts to come will require more creative solutions as services may be affected.
Martinez agreed that creative solutions would be needed, and said, “I am the most innovative person I know.”
When asked what specific cuts they would make to services and jobs, neither directly answered the question, and Huizar used his time to elaborate on the $300 million budget deficit the city is facing.
Martinez said he would not support cuts to city council salaries because he has to pay his bills, but said he would not take a pay increase either. Huizar said he would support a pay cut, and noted that in the past he has donated his pay increases to charity.
When asked to explain the district’s Discretionary Funds, Martinez answered, “I wish I knew” the amount, adding that if elected he would be transparent and post on his website how each dollar was spent.
“Every dollar will be spent on this community and nowhere else, nowhere else but the needs of this community,” Martinez said.
Huizar said the district’s discretionary funds are: a Street Furniture Fund for fixing the sidewalks; a Pipeline Fund for infrastructure projects; the CLARTS Fund, which only four other council offices have and amounts to about $500,000 a year; and the General Purpose Funds which is $90,000 a year to support local activities in the area. Huizar said he is already posting the CLARTS disbursements online and will form an advisory committee to decide where to spend CLARTS Funds in the future.
The candidates were asked how their styles might be different in working with CD-14’s diverse communities.
Huizar said he has embraced the district’s diversity, from Downtown Los Angeles, to Boyle Heights, El Sereno and to Northeast LA.
“I don’t favor one part of my district over the other. I am proud to serve CD-14, you have elected me to serve to represent you in the city, and provide that strong link from our communities to city hall,” Huizar said.
Martinez said he would be accountable to all the residents in CD-14.
“If you’ve watched my TV show, you know I’m a no nonsense guy. I don’t allow people to walk over me. If things need to get done, I am accountable,” Martinez said.
Laura Embry and Jillian Pierson, who have both served on the board of the Eagle Rock Educational Foundation, said the crowd seemed split either 50/50 or 40/60 in favor of Huizar. Both women praised Huizar for contributing to the foundation and showing up to fundraisers.
“I’ve heard a lot that [Huizar’s only showing up] because it’s election time right now, but that has not been my experience at all. We’ve had many fundraisers in the last six years and he has shown up to our small little dinky events, we have been able to have meetings in his council building, and he has come to schools to see what the kids are doing. He’s been very active in my opinion,” Embry said.
Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council member Terry Bonsell said she is not impressed by Martinez’s responses. Bonsell also heard Martinez speak during last week’s HHPNC meeting, and said he doesn’t know what the GRYD program is, he doesn’t know what the city’s boundaries are, nor what the issues are in the community, she said. Bonsell also didn’t like his response to the question on improving quality of life, asking people to volunteer more.
At the HHPNC meeting on Feb. 3, several people told EGP they support Martinez.
Lenard Mazzola and his wife Maggie told EGP they like what they heard. “Anything is better than now,” Lenard said.
The Mazzolas are fed up with a privately-owned easement located near their home in Highland Park, which they say has become a dumping ground.
“Would it take you seven years to take care of it?” Lenard asked Martinez, who quickly said “no,” but also noted that residents need to report illegal activity and take a more proactive approach to resolving issues in their neighborhoods.
A man who identified himself as the owner of the Humming Bird collective, a now defunct medical marijuana dispensary on York Blvd, praised Martinez as a great business neighbor. “My question is, if elected, are you going to keep up the good work?” he said.Print This Post
February 10, 2011 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.