The Hang Out Do Good local advocacy group is conducting a series of “Looking Local” conversations with candidates currently running for local offices, including Los Angeles Mayor, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, LA County Sheriff, Los Angeles City Attorney, and several Los Angeles City Council seats. The conversations take place on Sunday afternoons, via Zoom, and are open to the public (see the remaining schedule below). This conversation with Mayoral candidate Mike Feuer, structured as a Q&A with HODG hosts, took place on March 6. Feuer is currently the Los Angeles City Attorney, represents California District 37 in the United States Congress. Prior to that, he served as a Los Angeles City Councilmember, and later in the California State Assembly. You can learn more about him at https://www.mikeforla.com/ .These were among the topics covered in the HODG conversation:
Please introduce yourself.
“I care about two things in my life – my family and changing the world,” Feuer said, describing how his father – who was a prisoner in the infamous Stalag 17 during World War II, and later dedicated his life to working with children – was a big social justice influence and taught him that you just can’t stand by when things need fixing. Feuer said he cut his teeth in politics on a Tom Bradley campaign, and after Bradley lost that election, Feuer went on to head the Bet Tzedek free legal service organization, then later ran for City Council (replacing Zev Yaroslavsky), and went from there to the State Assembly.
The mayor of Los Angeles does not have as much power as the mayor of other cities – so how does the system and the mayor’s role in it work?
Feuer said he introduced city charter reform when was on the City Council, so he’s very familiar with the mayor’s job description and powers. But, he said, the Mayor is in charge of all city departments, rules, the budget and more, and also holds a seat on the Metro board, so they have “an enormous amount of sway” and the position definitely requires effective executive leadership. Also, in addition to all of those responsibilities, Feuer said, working with LA County – which oversees mental health issues, for example – is very important, and the city so far has a “lousy record” of doing that.
What are the levers of power in Los Angeles, and how would you use them?
Feuer said that four years ago he wrote an LA Times piece calling for a FEMA-like approach to homelessness, and all the current mayoral candidates have borrowed that idea. But he said that it will require one person to be accountable for the issue, and we so far haven’t had that. He said he will change this…and also work on the fact that it currently takes too long to site and approve homeless housing.
Any other examples?
Feuer said keeping the streets clean will also be a priority, and that he will add a million more hours per year of street cleaning and beautification. He reported that Philadelphia tried cleaning the most blighted half of its streets, and there was a big decrease in gun violence in those areas. So he would like to do the same thing here. “This is a moment of crisis in our city,” he said, and it’s not the time for the kind of “gauzy platitudes” that too often substitute for specifics in political campaigns.
If elected, what would you do on day one of the job?
Feuer said he would declare a state of emergency, and immediately create a homelessness strike team with a “top dog” accountable for managing the process.
What is your plan for dealing with homelessness, and why is it better than those of the other candidates?
Feuer said his main goal is to create more permanent supportive housing. He said that he proposed turning motels into permanent supportive housing (another now-popular idea) five years ago, since it’s cheaper to use existing housing than to build new buildings. Also, he said he’s been talking to the leader of a private equity fund about helping to create a $1 billion private revolving fund to use for homelessness. In general, though, he said that we “have to lead with humanity and compassion.” And that means putting more outreach workers on the street, and getting the messages out that it’s not safe to be on the street, that we have a place for you if you are on the street, and then give people a date by which to make a choice…a process that has worked in many places. Regarding mental health, Feuer said LA County was supposed to be developing a “whole person” treatment process, but it never happened, so we need a new model. Also, he said, we have 1,300 vacant substance abuse beds, and in 2020, we housed only 4,000 homeless people, and the same in 2021. So we need to do better on those fronts…and we need to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place. That would include things like expanding the Transit Oriented Communities program, and deepening incentives for building affordable housing. Also, he said, we have opportunities to repurpose vacant commercial buildings as housing, to put housing on school sites, and more. And we can change other rules to allow more co-housing options, with individual rooms around common areas.
How will you ensure that we implement more alternatives to traditional policing, and how will you fund them?
Feuer said he’s the only mayoral candidate with city budget experience, and experience in making the difficult tradeoffs that budgeting requires. “Budgets are priority-expression moments,” he said, so it’s important to make sure your choices are consistent with desired reforms. For example, he said, we do need more police officers and better training, but we also need to sever police from some of their current duties. It would be better to have a civil ambassador program for the first point of contact on many calls, he said, and to emphasize crisis response for non-violent calls and mental health problems. At the same time, however, he also said it’s hard to set budget priorities right now, because we’re not sure yet what post-pandemic budgets will look like.
What is the biggest, most transformative policy you’d champion to reimagine Los Angeles?
Feuer said there’s no single program, but that he wants to transform homelessness, safety, sustainability, and economic inequalities…and the mayor needs to play a unifying role in all of those issues, especially in our largely segregated city. Feuer said that one of the key areas for the next mayor will be improving on the execution of ideas – “that’s the key deal” – and that he’s the the only candidate with the kind of executive experience to go beyond words and reach specific goals.
What are your sustainability goals…and what would you do about traffic safety and pedestrian deaths?
Again, Feuer said that he’s the only candidate with relevant experience on this issue. For example, regarding water and our “close-to-permanent” state of drought, Feuer noted that while in the state legislature, he wrote a law requiring a 20% reduction in urban water use. But we still need to do more, he said. For example, we need to work on water recycling programs (even though people were turned off by the unfortunate “toilet to tap” label a few years ago). Also, he said, 20% of California’s energy is now used to move water, which is not good. And we also need to clean up our aquifers, expand conservation programs, expand recycling, and work on clean energy by emphasizing solar power (require it in all new construction), and reducing fossil fuels (by creating “green” buildings that use no electric gas, using more electric buses, and installing more EV charging systems). Feuer said he also wants to accelerate completion of our transit systems, and improve transit safety. Finally, Feuer – an avowed biker and pedestrian – said that the Vision 0 traffic safety program mostly failed, and to truly improve traffic safety, we’ll need more protected bike lanes, more pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods, and more “slow streets” in residential neighborhoods adjacent to commercial corridors.
Eric Garcetti talked a lot about sustainability – how do you think he did on that front, and why wasn’t he able to do more?
Feuer said Garcetti did a mostly good job on sustainability, but the next mayor will have to do even more, and there will be new opportunities as well.
Will you be willing to help small landlords after the eviction and rent increase moratoriums are lifted?
Feuer said there are no easy answers to this issue, though he noted that in April, 2020 he called U.S. Representative Maxine Waters to ask for federal assistance for landlords, saying that in situations where hardship is not specifically anyone’s fault, government can and should help. Still, though, Feuer acknowledged that when the moratoriums are lifted, there will be some real pain for renters…and if the moratorium doesn’t lift soon, more and more mom-and-pop landlords won’t be able to pay their mortgages. He said he favors mediation as one helpful tool…and the employment situation could change too — right now there aren’t enough workers for the available jobs, but that could change after the moratoriums are lifted and force more people to go back to work.
What are your thoughts on the LADWP scandals?
Feuer said he wants this campaign to be about ethics and integrity. He said that every leader will confront crises they didn’t expect during their time in office, but the key is how they will handle those situations when they arise, and whether they will meet them with transparency and decisive action. Feuer claimed that he did that with the LADWP scandal, but then learned one of the lawyers in his office was caught and convicted of taking kickbacks in the case. But he said he takes responsibility for the situation – “I own all of it” – and now wants to move forward to make sure it never happens again.
Would you prioritize acquiring St. Vincent’s hospital for homeless housing and mental health services?
Feuer said he would support the LA County Supervisors’ effort to acquire the vacant hospital and use it for homeless housing.
What would you do to support affordable home ownership instead of renting?
Feuer agreed that we need new paths to home ownership, and suggested that SB 9 – the controversial new state law that allows splitting single-family lots – could have an upside here. For example, Feuer said, homeowners are currently allowed to build and rent out Accessory Dwelling Units on their properties, but under SB 9 it’s also possible that they could split their lots and sell the ADUs, creating a new opportunity for first-time buyers to purchase small homes. And Feuer said there may be other new opportunities to take creative advantage of with other new housing laws, too.
What relationships can you leverage to help get the job done?
Feuer recalled his experience funding a national coalition on gun violence when he was in the state legislature, and said he’d love to do something similar on homelessness, citing his long-term relationships with state government inn Sacramento, as well as with Congressional Representatives and Senators in the federal government. And he said he looks forward to developing new relationships, too – such as his recent discussions with LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell on an 8-point plan to address gun violence.
Any final words for us?
Feuer said he thinks the key element in this race is executive experience, which he alone among the candidates possesses. And when it comes to balancing experience with a willingness to “shake up the status quo,” Feuer invited people to read about his track record and his specific proposals on his website, saying that he has successfully run for office three times, and each time he both listed his specific promises for his time in office, and then filled them.
The next HODG Looking Local event is scheduled for this coming Sunday, March20, at 4 p.m., with City Council District 5 candidate Katy Young Yaroslavsky. This will be followed at 5 p.m. with a second session featuring CD 5 candidate Scott Epstein. Sign up here for the Zoom link if you’d like to attend.
The remaining HODG “Looking Local” candidate conversations include:
3/20 (4-5pm) Katy Young Yaroslavsky, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
(5-6pm) Scott Epstein, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
3/27 (4-5pm) Jimmy Biblarz, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
4/3 (4-5 pm) Sam Yebri, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
4/10 (4-5pm) Mitch O’Farrell, City Council District 13 (confirmed)
4/17 (4-5pm) Kate Pynoos, City Council District 13 (confirmed)
(5-6pm) Dulce Vasquez, City Council District 9 (confirmed)
4/24 (4-5 pm) Hugo Soto Martinez, City Council District 13 (confirmed)
5/1 (4-5 pm) Teddy Kapur, City Attorney (confirmed)
(5-5:30pm) Eli Vera, Sheriff (confirmed)
5/8 (4-5 pm) Hydee Feldstein Soto, City Attorney (confirmed)
5/15 (4-5 pm) Faisal Gill, City Attorney (confirmed)
5/22 (4-5 pm) Bob Hertzberg, Board of Supervisors (confirmed)
5/29 (4-5 pm) OPEN
6/7: ELECTION DAY
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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