LOS ANGELES—Four Democratic candidates in next year’s Los Angeles mayoral election appeared this week in their first public forum and gave their thoughts on key issues in the city.
Candidates in attendance included City Attorney Mike Feuer, Rep. Karen Bass, marketing executive Craig Greiwe, and Jessica Lall, CEO of the Central City Association.
The forum was hosted by a non-profit political organization, Stonewall Democratic Club, “the home for progressive Democrats who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies of the LGBT community,” according to its website—along with the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Minority AIDS Project.
During the discussion on Dec. 12, moderated by freelance journalist Jarrett Hill and Spectrum News 1 anchor Tanya McRae, the candidates were asked a handful of questions on key issues in Los Angeles, including homelessness, housing affordability, public safety, and water shortage.
The Epoch Times has put together a summary of each candidate’s stance.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness
Regarding the rent hikes and growing homeless population, all four speakers planned to build more housing, and most of them wants to address other causes for homelessness, such as mental health issues and drug abuses.
Lall’s approach focused on creating “half a million” more units of affordable housing for Angelenos. She also said the city needs to “increase the spectrum of housing,” by building permanent supportive housing units to alleviate the homeless problem.
Lall said she had “a robust seven-point action plan” to put forward but did not offer any specifics during the event.
On homelessness, Bass made a case for temporary supportive housing to be built on existing city or state-owned properties. She said it is also important to provide services that “address the root causes as to what led them into homelessness to begin with,” as solving homelessness “takes a comprehensive solution.”
Feuer said on his first day as mayor, he would declare a state of emergency on homelessness that “gives the mayor additional executive authority and it galvanizes the public.”
He said he would change the city’s street engagement strategy to “balance the humanity of that outreach with the fact that we need to be making a change on our streets [with] mental health and substance abuse [issues].”
Feuer also said he would cut down the time it takes to cite and approve affordable housing plans in the city hall.
Greiwe vowed to create more housing for the homeless at a lower cost. His plans include 20,000 semi-permanent shelter beds, 12,000 shared units, 3,000 mental health beds, and 500 substance abuse beds, as well as 10,000 transitional units at a maximum cost of $30,000 apiece including services—which according to him is how much such accommodation costs outside Los Angeles.
The candidates were asked if they would support defunding the Los Angeles Police Department to shift resources to mental health and community services; none of them verbally supported this in response.
Bass, however, emphasized the importance of preventative community programs to stop crime even before it happens, saying she would model her public safety approach of the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act she advocated for in Congress.
“If a crime has been committed, it’s actually already too late,” Bass said. “We need to invest in prevention. We need to invest in community services, violence prevention, and so I would want to move forward with what we weren’t able to accomplish on a federal level, on a local level.”
Both Greiwe and Lall said they supported funding mental health and community outreach services alongside the police.
Greiwe said the city needs “more funding without taking from one group to give to another,” since it is important to “properly fund every aspect of our law enforcement as well as non-law enforcement alternatives that allow people to get the resources they need and create healthy relationships between all parties in the community.”
Lall said she supported “investing in technology, training and programs to better prepare our first responders to deal with all sorts of policing issues—removing the police from some of these situations, but also empowering the police officers to be not just able to be prepared, but to really be accountable.”
Feuer said his approach to public safety includes “a substantial and well-funded police department that is diverse and well-trained,” adding that he supports police reforms.
He also cited an existing city program that places police officers long-term in communities “so they earn the trust and respect of the communities they serve.”
To reduce the city’s reliance on external water sources, which are now drying up, both Feuer and Greiwe said they support initiatives to source California’s water more locally.
Feuer said he supports the goal of sourcing 75 percent of Los Angeles’ water locally by 2035, as 20 percent of the city’s energy is used to move water.
Lall said as mayor she would also create more incentives for people to reduce usage “to make sure the city is able to meet demands.”
Bass pointed to the infrastructure package she helped pass in Congress, saying it will help update the state’s water policy for the first time in 50 years. Looking forward, Bass said her administration would look into “drip irrigation and other ways of watering” for agriculture.
Stonewall Democratic Club members will vote to endorse a candidate on Dec. 20, and their membership is open to all Democrats.
Current Mayor Eric Garcetti will no longer be eligible to run for mayor after his two terms are completed at the end of the year. Biden nominated Garcetti for an ambassadorship to India in July.
Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Kevin De Leon, who are also running for mayor, were expected to attend but eventually chose not to, according to Stonewall Democratic Club President Alex Mohajer.
Mohajer said that the LGBTQ-focused club was “disappointed that despite having confirmed their participation in the event over a month ago, [Buscaino and De Leon] canceled last minute—very last minute—due to scheduling conflicts.”
Michael Trujillo, Buscaino’s campaign spokesperson, responded to Mohajer’s remarks via an email statement to The Epoch Times, saying the LGBTQ community has been a priority to Buscaino. “However, like all humans balancing work, life, campaign, family sometimes conflicts arise on a person’s schedule,” Trujillo said.
Mohajer said the Stonewall Club invited Greiwe to the forum last minute to fill one of the empty slots.
A spokesperson for De Leon did not respond to a request for comment by press time.