As mayoral candidate, Pleitez answers questions from mayoral debate
Even though I wasn’t invited to the mayoral debate sponsored by the LALCV on December 15, 2012, I want to provide my answers and thoughts on the important issues discussed Saturday night.
As candidate running for Mayor of Los Angeles, I believe the future of this city depends on its leadership’s ability to explore multiple points of a view. Creativity and cooperation will allow us to make the best decision.
Let’s get started.
What will you do to prevent gun violence and ensure the safety of LA’s kids in schools?
It’s terribly sad what happened in Connecticut. It’s terribly sad that we wait for events like these to talk about school safety and gun control. And it’s terribly sad that horrible events like these in the past have not resulted in the changes we need to ensure that such violence never happens again. The safety of our children should always and everyday be a priority. I grew up in one of this city’s many rough neighborhoods. I had many friends growing up with problems they thought they couldn’t deal with. And for many of them, dropping out of school, joining a gang, and protecting their neighborhood seemed like the best option. We need to let our young people know that there are people out there that care for them. We need to provide families with the support they need in times of trouble. And we need to increase access to counseling and other mental health services. When I’m Mayor, one of my first orders of business will be to turn every school into a true community center that provides “wraparound” services—counseling, health care, and support—to families in need.
I also stand with Controller Wendy Greuel and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York in calling for legislation that aims at keeping illegal guns out of dangerous hands such as criminals, drug abusers, and the seriously mentally ill. The US has the most guns, and the most gun violence, per capita of any developed country. We need common sense measures that will close gaps in our gun laws and make sure law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to detect and deter gun trafficking. We must do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our children. And, we need to act now.
Give examples of your leadership and experience on environmental issues.
While managing the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, I helped deliver the recommendation to President Obama for a national initiative to retrofit America’s homes for energy efficiency 1 – Home Star. The initiative provided performance-based incentives for homeowners and industry, consumer financing opportunities, and standards and quality training. Not only does this make our homes more energy efficient, it also puts people to work.
We don’t need to wait for an energy system redesign. The technology and workforce is available – let’s use it. As Mayor, I will implement a local home retrofitting program and other clean technologies citywide. By doing this, we’ll be making residents more conscious of environmental issues, why they’re so important, and how they can reduce pollution and their carbon footprint.
What is your plan for environmental solutions in relation to LA’s Department of Water and Power?
The DWP must invest more in renewable technologies. Almost every year, we’ve seen DWP rates increase, with little improvement in service delivery. Rather than make smart investments, we’ve relied on DWP to transfer funds to the City’s budget to offset years of deficits – deficits caused by our politicians’ poor spending decisions.
This sort of short-sighted vision will stop in my administration. When I’m Mayor, I’ll make sure DWP makes smart investments that prepare us for the future. We must invest more in renewable energy technologies – solar, for example, a technology I learned a great deal about while serving the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. We must spur solar power deployment by cutting red tape and improving financing options for residential and small commercial solar and other renewable energy systems. By investing sooner rather than later, we’ll be able to realize cost savings from renewable energy more quickly.
Smart environmental investments are smart economic investments too. It’s too bad DWP has not invested more in green technologies. I’ll work to change that as Mayor.
What is your plan for LA’s traffic congestion issues?
It’s hard to get from place to place in this City. Try getting from Eastside to Century City by bus – it used to take me over three hours to get to and from my job. LA has an undeniable mobility problem that we need to solve.
My opponents have been strong proponents of subways and rail as a way to solve this City’s transportation problems. They’re great ideas, but we’ve been talking about them for years, and any rail transit options could take another decade to complete.
In the meantime, we need to find solutions to transit problems that we can implement today. We need to facilitate multiple modes of transportation: buses, taxis, car-share, bike-share, and carpooling. We need to encourage the private sector, and partner with private companies, to provide some of these options. We need to improve the environment for private dollars to invest in our transportation networks.
And we need to make sure development in our city is transit-friendly and transit-oriented. This means that people live near where they work, or near mass transit options. Transit-oriented development will feature prominently in my community development plans. No longer will someone on the Eastside or South LA need to spend three hours commuting to work. I’ll make sure they have good transit options, and good jobs where they live.
Are you for or against the sales tax increase?
A sales tax increase that hurts working people is not the answer to the City’s financial problems. It might close our budget gap for a year or two, but before you know it, we’ll be looking at other arbitrary tax increases designed not to put us on a sustainable budget path for the future, but rather cover up our politicians’ mistakes.
Instead, I’ll solve the real issue: the City’s pension system. Without reform, the City’s pension bill for retirees—including fire, police, and the Department of Water and Power (DWP)—could increase to half the City’s budget in 5 years. This would leave little money for public safety, sanitation, or other essential services, and would result in layoffs for city workers. Any solution to the City’s budget problems must start with reforming our pension system.
We must find a way to reform our benefit system, for both new hires and current employees. This could be accomplished with increases in the retirement age, adjustments to the benefits formula (such as the COLA), a move towards a 401(k)-like plan, and buyouts. Without such measures, the ability of the City to pay out any pension benefits is in real jeopardy; it’s the only way we can offer any real retirement security to City employees. It’s also the only way the City can stop slashing service provision.
What is your plan to attract businesses to LA?
I agree with Councilmember Eric Garcetti and Kevin James – the gross receipts tax should be eliminated. There’s much more we can do besides reduced taxes to not only attract new companies to LA, but also ensure the growth of companies already here. LA has a rich history and culture of entrepreneurism – we must do everything we can to support that asset.
That means: smart transportation and energy infrastructure investments that increase mobility in this city and reduce the cost of doing business; a streamlined regulatory system so entrepreneurs don’t need to wait weeks, months, or years to get the permits they need to do business here; and increasing opportunities for young and old to be trained with the skills they need to succeed in today’s workforce. The fastest growing industries are in the data, technology, and health care spaces – we need to foster relationships with these companies to make sure they do business in LA. As a private sector veteran and technology company executive, I am uniquely positioned to do this.
Finally, we need to attract businesses to areas of our City that desperately need employment – like South LA and the Eastside. We can do those with a combination of tax incentives, supporting infrastructure, and advising investors about the true risks and rewards to investing in these areas. The City should and must work to attract new capital to these underserved and underinvested areas. With my experience in finance and the private sector, I’m best positioned to bring new investment dollars to areas too long neglected in this City.