What is your name, what seat are you running for, and how would you briefly describe your politics?
My name is Constance (Connie) Saunders. I’ve been working with Laws and Codes in all 50 States for over 25 years and feel uniquely qualified for City Council (which requires a high confront on codes and laws). If elected, I will establish a ‘peer review’ committee in District 7 to identify and handle any codes and laws or practices in the City that violate the constitutional rights of our residents. My vision for LA is to make it the best city in the world. Homelessness and Affordable Housing go hand in glove and both desperately need immediate remedy to fix LA. If elected I remedy the homeless encampments with real solutions to getting abundant affordable housing. This make our streets more sanitary – no more hazmat style encampments that cost many thousands if not millions to clean out while those who were in them just move across the street. EZ approved models for boarding homes along transport corridors and such can encourage investors to put out their money for these. Encouraging hassle free pathways for homeowners building on their property can cover lots of ground in building the units we need and profiting all. Improving zoning and other codes to allow for Tiny home communities on 2.5 acre lots with 500 sf footprints per home also with EZ approval line in place can top the cake.
2. Why are you running for City Council? I think I can really make a difference. I have the ability to review, understand codes and laws. envision and enact their remedy, where flawed and integrity to look up and study any subject or words I don’t understand so that I really get these issues..
3. What are the 3 most pressing issues facing your district or city and what will be your primary focus if elected to office?
a. Affordable Housing and Homelessness: Help to create Affordable Housing by code and zone incentives to attract investors rather than the City footing the bill for it. Establishment of the 40,000 affordable housing units within the next 5 years. Homelessness has grown at the rate of 10%/year and was 26,000 LA City alone at the beginning of this year. Part of the Affordable Housing crisis is joblessness. Act to help the jobless to get the jobs they need by incentives for those who require general labor forces to hire those who are jobless.
b. With the State having released non-violent criminals there are many thousands of Drug and alcohol addicts back out on the streets. I feel that if the City thought smarter on this we would partner with ALL of those Drug and Alcohol (even faith based) programs out there that have any merit, good materials and strategies or are just plain able to show success and are eager to help. Let’s all unite and end petty exclusions of the faith one is not or try to monopolize who can help. Often ex Alcoholics and ex drug addicts are good counselors. This is a huge problem and I feel the city should actively reach out to all who are doing something about it and help them with materials and afford some modest payment to Drug and Alcohol Education being presented in all LA City Schools to every class from 3rd grade and up every year, using these many outreach programs. Let’s really double, triple, quadruple up on this. Many want to help but are being shunted. With marijuana now legalized our future spark and life could ‘dim’ as a city, with young folks crippled in their use of mood altering drugs. Rhesus Monkeys given marijuana stop playing and their brain cells atrophy by experiment shown in Paris’ Symposium on Marijuana in the 70’s . Back then I won a debate with the head of NORML (National Organization for Responsible Marijuana Use) on Channel 2 news in Saint Louis with Commentator Don Marsh. I won by presenting the slides of atrophied brain neurons in these monkeys. This isn’t something to just ‘stand by’ on. Apathy is a key result of long term drug & alcohol use.
c. Stimulate the economy and remedy the cities upside down budget. One way to do this is to roll back our retirement/ pension provisions (i.e. to pre 2001 changes that caused the current City shortfall) by mediating this; but this is far better than bankruptcy or other raising current taxes to an intolerable level. Retirement/ pension costs were 20% of the city budget in 2015, up from 2% in 2002 and they are higher this year. Transparency is needed for this and I will be very transparent as the city is operating on a quarter million or more deficit this year ‘borrowed’ not funded.
4. How should the City Council deal with the fiscal crisis? The city needs to focus on stimulating the economy keeping businesses in LA (eliminating business taxes), drawing businesses back (who left because of this, such as much of the movie industry) and by surveying neighborhoods that have lots of vacant store fronts to help them get these rented to businesses with those surveyed products.
Pacoima doesn’t have Starbucks, many have no Trader Joes, or movie theatre. I will work to draw these businesses to our neighborhoods. I will also propose (and work diligently to get) a trolley and bike-share program, gone over separately for the District.
5. What can be done to create new business and encourage existing business to expand and attract more companies with their tax base and employees? Incentivizing owners of vacant commercial buildings to get these rented to businesses providing surveyed products that the communities would like in their neighborhoods (as per survey.
Helping support the LA Revitalization programs should improve property values along the routes where this cemented inaccessible open space is opened up to become an aesthetic place for biking or hiking.
6. Gang violence is a major problem in many areas. Many gangs, such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), reach out from the inner city into what are generally thought to be safe neighborhoods. What can you do to create safer communities and reduce the risk of gang violence? We can ally with some of the local community service programs already successfully handling this, such as: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UOcat1ve-8 The United in Peace Movement. Reverend Alfreddie Johnson has also founded the Illiteracy Crusade, very helpful after the riots in South Central LA.
7. Terrorist attacks and disasters, natural or otherwise, can strike at any time. Is your district properly equipped, trained and prepared to handle these extraordinary emergency situations? If not, what should the city do to prepare for them? Should the state and/or federal government be responsible for responding and/or picking up the cost of any of them? The District needs to get evacuation plans in place modeled after the Topanga Canyon Evacuation Plan. I will ensure this occurs once in office. The city should pick up costs for needed materials not provided by LA County on this. Online website instruction can be used by all economically, providing it is thorough. The city and county should join forces to make a great production of this.
8. Do you support efforts to limit “big box” store expansion within your city? I support surveying the communities with vacant lots and store fronts along their shopping corridor and find out what they need and I will do what I can to bring these services, store’s and such to them. One of the survey questions can be on this point.
9. Do you support or oppose a living wage ordinance for employees and projects? Why or why not? I oppose it as I feel it is too difficult for the average employee to understand so they don’t get to really take advantage of its merits. I also think it is very controlling period and inserts regulations that must be regulated with personnel in a city that is short on funds for this. I do definitely support the currently established plan for raising minimum wage over the next few years.
10. Should your district reduce the cost of services by contracting out or privatizing government services such as street sweeping and garbage collection and professional services such as engineering and information technology services? Why or why not? Absolutely, if and where it saves us money and is out of the ordinary for the City to have to do, so long as any companies are well bonded and the contract is iron clad to save the City money or void. I would like to stick with people from the district wherever possible, in arrangements made for this, as often services become provided by those foreign to the region. If we contract these services out, this should be done using the open market price structure to get the best company/people for the best price
11. Should taxes be raised, lowered or remain the same? What about fees? I feel that taxes should not be raised. If they can be lowered this is better.
12. Who is your political role model or the politician you most admire? Why? I have many different role models but Ronald Regan is my favorite. He brought California’s economy into affluence. He similarly brought the US economy into affluence. He did this by relaxing and simplifying regulations. I’m all in favor of this. I think the average citizen doesn’t know what’s up any more and trying to understand and deal with all the codes.
13. Should the city pass resolutions on political issues such as Afghanistan? I feel the cities who pass resolutions on political issues, such as Seattle, are protesting their having to pay for the mop up fees when veterans are returning with all manner of troubles from a war that was based on a false premise. Freedom of speech is one of our rights and if a City is so compelled (i.e. due to failure of the US Government to listen) to want to speak out by way of a resolution, they should.
14. Should the city pass resolutions on same sex marriages? Regarding Same Sex marriage, this isn’t really any different in my view from the laws on partnerships. I see no reason to get into a ‘can’t have’ on this. There is the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights effected after WWII that has 18 important points. These can be adopted by the City and used in schools, prisons, City Hall and pretty much become a standard when it comes to granting others these vital Human Rights. See this url for more information: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ I will, if in office, personally make it my mission to get this Universal Declaration of Human Rights into the schools, every grade and make it fun to learn these and practice these with active participation exercises. Getting all in LA City to tolerate each other and our difference will work magic in this city, reduce crime and increase its tone.
15. Would you vote for or against displaying our National Motto “in God we trust” in the city council chambers? I would vote for this. For our Nation, part of the pride is lost when we don’t look to a higher force, the bigger picture of our spiritual identity in relation to eternity.
16. How would you handle the city’s pension issues? On this issue, I tend to agree with Forbes; I would seek to roll the 2001 plan back and establish anew. I know this is a difficult decision and I wouldn’t be the only one to make it, but to cripple the city and potentially bankrupt it by sticking with a law that it is now clear was stupid, doesn’t help these folks either. I feel this can be mitigated rather than litigated and come up with a solution for the entire City of Los Angeles, not just those affected more directly by this, because we are all affected.
Forbes wrote: “This wasn’t an issue for Los Angeles until recently. In 2003, the pension system was almost fully funded, accounting for 3% of city expenditures. A combination of factors caused the spike.
One is increased retirement expenses. In 2001, city voters approved a Tier 5 retirement plan, allowing public safety workers to retire at age 50 with up to 90% of their salaries, and 3% annual cost-of-living increases. Ever since, annual liabilities have skyrocketed, and L.A’s public safety workers get some of the nation’s highest average payouts.
17. As the state transfers obligations to local jurisdictions, how will you fight for the funds to assume these responsibilities? What will you do to force the state to make this a funded mandate? First thing I would like to do is to ensure the funds the city is spending isn’t inflated over what these services get on the open market. For instance Tutor Perini, a company controlled by Richard Blum (Diane Feinstein’s husband), won nearly a billion dollar California ‘high speed rail’ contract. I feel that too many such large companies become monopolies through political alliances and as such can overinflate prices. Let’s get these and all others slimmed down to current market prices.
18. How do you envision your relationship with unions, both in the public and private sector? I believe if the city needs more people in District 7 to service its needs, they should hire from District 7 and then have these folks become included in the union in these districts rather than seeking union workers from another district. Rather than sticking with monopolies each of the main City Service departments can economize their expenses while engaging our own residents in these needed services. I don’t feel the city should become a tire manufacturer to get their tires. Too often the City takes on roles (such as agreeing to finance and build 4,000 units for handicapped as part of the settlement in that lawsuit and now has committed to 10,000 affordable housing units built in the next 10 years) that just isn’t what they do. Let’s get property investors to build these with EZ (pre-approved) building plan models.
19. Los Angeles leads the country in the number of foreclosures. What can and should be done about this? This is NOT currently correct. LA property values are currently soaring back above the pre-mortgage crisis values in most LA neighborhoods. Supply of homes for sale is lowest since 1999. So, things are improving. Back at the beginning of 2016 it was reported that homes that are paying for their mortgages are upwards at 96%. With rising property values, all over Los Angeles (except in crime ridden neighborhoods); when someone gets into trouble foreclosure can now be avoided gracefully by a sale and/or renting out some portion of the space, rather than having to foreclose. California legislation is clear on the need for lender mitigation services and has done a stellar job of detailing this out.
20. How will you address environmental issues? LA City’s report card on Water, Air, Dumping and Eco System are all ‘C’s’ per a UCLA study in 2015. Part of this is because of the cap in trade (putting cap on pollution and then “trading” money – from polluting business – for raising the “pollution cap” for those businesses) is too reasonable and not enforced strictly enough. Big polluters should have their emission stacks tested and pay huge fines if they don’t comply with installation of proper “wet scrubbers” or other such emission handling filters for their smoke stacks. Being reasonable on this lets the whole world down. Again, I would not be the only voice in this, but I am not afraid to be open and transparent about where the big polluters are, and rather than just raising their “Trade” exchange to raise their “pollution cap”, insist that they put in the equipment needed to properly filter out their emissions and bring their levels down below the ‘ideal’ cap that is proven to be good air quality. Sun Valley has been in a State of Emergency since the beginning of this Century, with no measurable controls on this. If elected, this will change.
21. How would you lower our city’s greenhouse gas emissions from LADWP’s power generation, municipal operations, public as well as private transportation, and any other source? One way is the establishment of a Trolley system (like Glendale and San Fernando) to trolley people freely to shopping and back. In addition use a Bike-Share program of free bike’s people can unlock for a token and return to any other participating stand and retrieve the token for future use (getting bike paths more safe all over the city, i.e. with their own light for safe intersection management.) Another is to encourage ta campaign to ‘Reduce, Reuse & Recycle’ & Go for reupping the rebates given by LADWP for use of Solar and help and encourage more people to go solar.
I will also do what I can to support the LA River Revitalization projects and break up that concrete, replacing with stone, lots of trees, tall grasses, walking and bike paths on the LA River and all its Washes and tributaries.
22. How would you reduce environmental contamination from urban runoff into the ocean, air pollution from industrial sources and transportation, and other human activities that degrade the environment? I will propose a law to make dumping of over 100 gallons of sludge either a felony or actionable misdemeanor with stiff fine (i.e. $5,000 or more) and then put in a video camera system at hot spots for this and get these guys gone.
23. How will you increase the use of renewable energy and improve energy conservation? I will propose LADWP tax rebates continue and will act to support or similar program. I support other energy saving concepts, such as windmills and solar farms in LA County, (i.e. Pear blossom) and support city purchase of such energy where feasible, but not within City boundaries.
24. What are your thoughts about fracking, petroleum industry, and energy generation? I dislike the process of fracking and feel that our water supply is endangered by it and could compromise us all. I would like to get as much possible over to solar for homes and businesses and keep those incentives in to do this while restricting solar farms in the City proper, as this can degrade neighborhoods due to the reflection of light and become hazardous for driving. There are exciting studies now being done on particle acceleration for smaller units that may be available in the not too distant future. I will keep my eye out on these innovative forms of very affordable energy as they go past the prototype stage.
25. How would you address the state of transportation, both within the city and as a part of the region? What types of solutions would you propose to get more people out of their cars and onto public transportation or onto bicycles? How would you promote and improve Los Angeles’s walkability? I will propose to get trolley’s into Pacoima, Sunland/Tujunga and Sylmar similar to the San Fernando trolley system and have them interconnect. Also have a bike-share program and on the walk paths have adequate lighting with paths available within 1/2 mile of any residence.
26. What is your approach to development? Do you support Inclusionary Zoning? What about Adaptive Reuse? Please describe your vision with respect to planning, development, and preservation of open lands. What do you intend to do to increase the number of parks and recreational facilities in Los Angeles, and maintaining them? I want to ensure zoning protects open equestrian lands from invasion by large apartment complexes, high speed rails and other non-compatible enterprise, such as solar farms and electric sub stations. I disapprove of ‘spot zoning’ and feel any zoning change must be backed up by community support in volumes and not favor one developer. I feel adaptive reuse is a brilliant way to utilize historic structures and get the affordable housing needs met quickly.
27. What is your vision for the role of the police in Los Angeles? How do you understand the term ‘community policing’ and how would you put it into practice? How would you resolve the issue of police brutality, and racial disparities in profiling and arrests? I would like to get a deputy system into place (of part time police trained but only called into action during peak times). I think many will come to the calling for this and the need is indisputable with many police planning to retire soon and current police arrival times even for violent crimes being much longer than acceptable. Ten minutes or less, should be the outside maximum standard. With this standard, LA and its residents and homeowners can quickly become much less affected by criminals.
On community policing, as the Hansen Hills Neighborhood Watch Captain, I have worked closely with the police and the community to be able to remedy pretty much any difficulty our neighborhood has had rather quickly. I feel the friendly neighborhood police of Mayberry has come back to our neighborhood as a result and want to encourage tis in all LA City neighborhoods.
28. Should resources be divided equally between council districts or should they be spent where there is the greatest need? ABSOLUTELY they should be Divided equally (i.e. proportionately per capita unit basis per capita in the council district). Ensuring equal distributions are the best way to ensure we are fair. I think expenditures need to handle needs and that each of the districts may have different needs but if some have climbed a bit higher out of violent crime, for instance, they shouldn’t lose resources to remedy. Coming from a family of 7 kids, I have learned the value of ‘fair’ and will ensure these principals apply in our community.
29. Are additional steps needed to reign in health care costs? The city should use economy of scale and get a HealthCare PPO from a low cost place like California Blue Shield and leverage the numbers of employees using this to get the best possible rates.
30. Los Angeles is beginning to employ bike share as a new transportation option, but many barriers to access remain, particularly the cost of riding and the fact that a credit card is needed to use the system. Some cities have offered subsidies to low-income riders and cash payment options to address these issues. What can the City of Los Angeles do to help as many residents as possible enjoy the benefits that bike share will bring? If we really want to convert people to not use cars, we need to think like they do in Denmark. There are more bike riders in Copenhagen than any other city in the world. The bike share program there is free. They go to a station (hundreds exist with bikes all over the city) and put a token or coin in (This token can be whatever we choose i.e. $5 cost) and this unlocks the bike, the person rides it wherever in Denmark they want and returns the bike to any of the hundreds of stations and once again locked another token of same value is released, replacing their cost. It is not restricted to the City only. They get to the bike rack where they are going, walk around and then can grab another bike from a rack 3 blocks away and travel home. No time restrictions exist, so they can ride all day before turning it in. Token costs should be monitored by cost of servicing the stands and the attrition rate of bikes, but I believe “free” speaks to everyone in the same way – use it! To really speak this “I want to use this!” language, you also must have the bike paths all SAFE. With this program, we can work to get bike stands at all stop lights. This could reduce the first and last mile down the first and last ‘half mile’, which I feel is critical when talking about seniors. This means there are police patrols on bike paths as well, along these paths and ideally these paths have their own stop lite, so that the bikes have a chance to cross the streets, turn left etc., without having to roll with regular traffic. I’m all out to support this, it is exciting. My mission is to make LA the best city in the world and with the bike share to be the best means to beat Denmark, not just measure up with Philadelphia.
31. What are your thoughts about the legalization of Marijuana? It’s legal. That said I believe that smoking pot can be destructive to one’s cognitive ability and can interrupt one’s spark and spirit and productivity. On this point, . I distributed 3,000 at the Pacoima Parade, will distribute 30,000+ to households in the district and will provide a package of 14 such varied drug education booklets – Crack, Marijuana… to all who email, mail or text me for it for free. When elected I will continue to use such groups to distribute to my district these brochures and to help those who need detox and rehabilitation. Rather than relegate to expensive psychiatrists who have questionable methods and success, use those programs that really get results and are community based and economical.
32. Any other ideas that you’d like to add? I think that LA, if it really wants to crack the whip on getting solvent and energy efficient and keep up with the 21st century and its promise, we need to explore and adopt the best by way of renewable energy sources. The ALICE Project has great promise: ALICE stands for A Large Ion Collider Experiment and can be seen in it’s exciting possibilities on the website: http://aliceinfo.cern.ch/Public/Welc.
I will keep all potentials in mind while in this position and once available present them to the Council. b. The LA River Revitalization project will provide jobs for many far and wide and should be assisted by the City in all tributaries andwashes to enhance our open spaces and appeal.
We should reach out to the entertainment industry to get back by whatever means possible the many studios who have moved away from the City, bringing back jobs for the industry that has made LA great!