By Pat KRAMER
Several hundred voters turned out to hear from candidates in three top races at a Candidates’ Night held at All Nation’s Church in Lakeview Terrace on Oct. 25. The event was organized by SAFE (Save Angeles Forest for Everyone). The California High Speed Rail project has suggested as one of its routes from Burbank to Palmdale, both above and underground routes that would run through several local communities in the northeast San Fernando Valley. As in previous rallies designed to inform voters about the latest action or inaction by the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), this one was informative and directed at three upcoming races in the Nov. 8 election: the 25th Senate District, 39th Assembly District, and Los Angeles County 5th District supervisor seat.
“We came here as a community to get involved in the democratic process,” Dave DePinto, organizer of SAFE, said in his opening remarks to the crowd.
Featured in the three-hour event was a review of five ballot measures for this Tuesday’s election, introduced by Kelly Decker of the Kagel Canyon Specific Association. They were: Proposition 53, known as the “No Blank Check” initiative; Measure A, the county parks tax item; Measure M, the tax for local county transit improvements; Measure HHH, the City of Los Angeles Homelessness Housing Bond; Measure JJJ, the the City of Los Angeles Affordable Housing Mandate.
Prop 53, if passed, would require statewide voter approval before the legislature can issue revenue bonds over $2 billion to fund state projects. A representative for VICA, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, recommended a “no” vote, while a proponent said it was sorely needed to protect local control.
Measure A: The County Parks Tax would impose a 1.5 cent (per square foot) property tax on improved structures to fund local parks, beaches and trails. The proponent for this measure said it would provide safe and clean neighborhood parks, beaches and open space in every corner of L.A. VICA opposed this measure saying the tax did not equally tax property owners because it is not based on property values.
Measure M, the local county transit tax, would impose a one-half percent increase on the local sales tax in L.A. County (to 9.5%) to expand bus and rail operations and freeway connections. VICA favored this Measure saying it is a long-term investment plan for the San Fernando Valley and the City to ease congestion and create half a million jobs.
Measure HHH, the Homelessness Housing Bond, would raise property taxes for 29 years to build supportive and affordable housing for the homeless plus temporary shelters and support services to substance abusers and the mentally ill. Overall, it would amount to about a $9.65 increase for every $100,000 for property owners. Taxpayer groups opposed this measure.
Measure JJJ, “Building a Better L.A.,” would require developers to add affordable units to certain multi-unit projects of 10 units or more. VICA opposed this measure saying it would increase housing costs and make the housing crisis worse.
High Speed Rail Review
The next part of the agenda involved a review of the high-speed rail. DePinto reviewed how a coalition was started in 2014 when local communities learned that a high-speed rail that would move trains on above-ground tracks every five minutes would be coming through the local area. It would run above-ground through Sun Valley and Pacoima at the Vulcan Gravel Pits as well as impacting Sunland’s Tujunga Wash where there are water sources and environmentally sensitive areas. The presentation was punctuated by sounds of a “bullet train” as it speeds along a track in Italy. The sound was deafening and would likely be the same for any above ground areas where the train would pass.
To date, DePinto pointed out, the CHSRA has not been willing to listen to input from local communities and has ignored requests to hold a meeting in the Sunland-Tujunga/Shadow Hills/Lake View Terrace area. Mayor Garcetti has also refused to take a stand on this issue, and Senator Herzberg, who replaced Carol Liu, reversed his position of support and is now refusing to cosign a support letter to the legislature. However, Congressman Adam Schiff has strongly opposed all routes through the local areas. DePinto said it is now up to everyone to spread the word and educate local residents about the risks the high-speed rail would bring.
Presently, the plan is in the process of generating environmental studies, a process he said could take five to six years. Once completed, there would be four to five years of construction with the high-speed rail operational in Southern California by 2029 – 13 years from now.
DePinto reviewed another plan, a blended proposal proposed by Ara Najarian, former mayor of the City of Glendale and chairman of the MTA. That proposal would remove the Burbank-to-Palmdale section of the high-speed rail, substituting instead improvements to Metrolink and light rail services. It would also provide preliminary cost savings of about $5 billion. The coalition is requesting CHSRA study this proposal after removing all of the above-ground routes in the current plan.
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson
The Candidates’ Night was attended by Herb Wesson, L.A. City Council president, currently performing a dual role as interim CD 7 councilmember after Councilman Felipe Fuentes vacated his elected position early to take a job as a lobbyist for developers in Sacramento. Wesson assured the audience that he cares deeply about the issues in the district and is willing and ready to support the neighborhood councils and stakeholders in getting sound walls erected if the high-speed rail is built.
Wesson spoke about how he recently worked with the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council to restore its meeting and office space at North Valley City Hall after they were evicted by Councilman Fuentes one year ago. Wesson is now working on getting STNC repaid for over $13,000 in bills resulting from that eviction.
Candidates for the 25th Senate District, the termed-out L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and former state assembly member Anthony Portantino, next spoke about their opposition to the E2 option for the high-speed rail, which would cut through Kagel Canyon, Lakeview Terrace and Sunland. Antonovich stated that he was always opposed to the high-speed rail routes through the northeast Valley, something that his opponent, Anthony Portantino, argued was a lie. Antonovich also said he coauthored the blended proposal with Najarian.
Portantino stated that Antonovich actually suggested the E2 route to protect his constituents in the Santa Clarita Valley. Portantino vowed to work with Congressman Schiff to defeat the high-speed rail routes through the northeast valley and said he would reach out to DOT decision-makers and Gov. Brown to ask for a local meeting with the CHSRA.
The two candidates also spoke about their views on gun control. Antonovich, a Republican, is endorsed by the NRA (National Rifle Association) while Portantino is endorsed by the Brady Campaign for Non Violence.
For Assembly District 39, Assemblymember Patty Lopez said she is 100% against the high-speed rail and would fight for its failure in Sacramento. She pointed out that she has held forums in each of the communities to expand public information about legislative issues and has taken action to support the local neighborhood councils in the City of Los Angeles.
Her opponent, Raul Bocanegra, said he was opposed to the above-ground installations proposed and spoke about his past work in the Assembly. Bocanegra formerly served in this capacity and previously was chief of staff for Councilmember Fuentes. On the topic of trying to negotiate a local meeting with the CHSRA, Bocanegra stated that he would provide transportation for stakeholders to every high-speed rail meeting if he were elected, something Assemblymember Lopez also stated she would do.
The final candidate heard from was Darrell Park, candidate for the 5th Supervisorial District. Park’s opponent, Kathryn Barger, did not appear at the forum.
Park talked about serving two presidents in the White House Office of Management and Budget during his 19 years in the White House complex. He identified his priorities as making sure the local area has the emergency resources it needs and said he is committed to raising the quality of life for each individual in the District. Park is a proponent of green energy and emergency preparedness for L.A. County. He said he supports Measures M, JJJ, HHH and A. His final statement, which ended the forum, was: “We’ve had 36 years of the same thing here; it’s time for a change.”
An Event to Thank First Responders
Before leaving the forum, everyone was encouraged to attend – and invite others from surrounding communities – to a Thanksgiving Appreciation Dinner and Concert on Friday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. at All Nations Church, 100000 Foothill Blvd., Lake View Terrace. The event is geared to express gratitude and thanks to the first responders who protect local communities. Anyone interested should RSVP to Cile Borman at email@example.com.
For anyone interested in viewing the Candidates Night, go to this link and watch the entire meeting: https://vimeo.com/189364715.