Candidates Make Their Pitch For Hotly Contested 5th Supervisorial Seat

Candidates for the 5th Supervisorial District of the County of Los Angeles debated the issues on May 14 in front of a large crowd at CSU Northridge’s Plaza Del Sol Concert Hall. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)

UCLA — in partnership with California State University Northridge, Valley Industry and Commerce Association, and Los Angeles Universal Preschool — hosted a candidate forum on May 14 for the 5th Supervisorial District of the County of Los Angeles, to replace outgoing Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who has held the position for almost 40 years.

The forum was moderated by KCRW’s Warren Olney. Candidates included Kathryn Barger, Elan Carr, Mitchell Englander, Robert Huff, Ara Najarian and Darrell Park.

The Los Angeles County Supervisors oversee a county budget of more than $28 billion, representing more than 10 million people in almost 100 cities. The 5th District stretches from Gorman in the north to Alhambra in the south; Val Verde to the west and Lake Los Angeles to the east. The primary election will take place June 7.

(photos by Jonathan Van Dyke)

The forum touched on topics including how each candidate would fit into the job, district boundaries, ethnic diversity, daycare and early education, jobs and the economy, the sheriff’s department, taxing millionaires to fund homeless initiatives, mass transit, infrastructure, Metro, mental health, minimum wage, Aliso Canyon and affordable housing.

KRCW’s Warren Olney was present as moderator, making sure questions were answered succinctly and that the candidates stayed on topic.

The three panelists were CSUN Professor of Political Science Tom Hogen-Esch, LAUP Policy and Budget Analyst Elsa Jacobsen, and UCLA Professor of Urban Planning Brian Taylor.

As a service to the public and UCLA advocates, the Government and Community Relations Department gave a three-question document to each candidate to answer before the forum. Each candidate was given the exact same questions and word counts. These sections were written by the candidates and are separate from the forum.

Darrell Park, Entrepreneur

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

Darrell Park served two Presidents in the White House Office of Management and Budget. He played a role in the historic balancing of the federal budget four times, and he helped to make our budgeting process more efficient and responsive. Since moving to Los Angeles County over a decade ago, he has divided his time between helping clean energy start-up companies, teaching, and writing. He is the author of Better Than We Found It: Simple Solutions to Some of the World’s Toughest Problems.

Darrell earned an undergraduate degree in History from Allegheny College and a graduate degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University. He holds a Master’s of Science in Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He and his wife, Lisa, are the proud parents of a 9-year-old son.

What are the two most important issues of this election?

On the Board of Supervisors, Darrell Park will fight every day to make sure that Los Angeles County is protecting and improving the services that our most vulnerable citizens rely on. He will lead the fight to reform our broken foster care system, protect services for disabled residents from cuts, and work to ensure that our animal shelters are adequately funded.

Darrell Park believes that we can create quality jobs and reduce our impact on climate change by making Los Angeles County the green energy capital of the United States. As our new Supervisor, he will ensure our county is investing in nonpolluting energy sources, and he will work to expand incentives aimed at creating new jobs in wind and solar energy production.

Darrell Park understands the important responsibility that government has to protect the quality of our air and drinking water. As our Supervisor, he will work to combat corporate polluters and hold water districts to the highest possible standards. He will also support needed investments in water conservation infrastructure.

How do you plan on addressing higher education if you are elected?

Many young people are caught in a trap. They took out student loans to pay for their education and now are burdened with massive debt that limits their choices and lowers the quality of their lives. Many of these recent grads don’t have employment opportunities that enable them to be free of this burden and will sadly be stuck paying off this debt for decades.

I am committed to creating a green economic boom that offers true opportunity to everyone, especially recent college graduates. There is NO better County in the country to have this type of boom NOW. Many of the Colleges and Universities in LA County will become world famous centers of green energy innovation and will help fuel our boom. Students will come from all over the word to be a part of the incredible transformation about to take place in LA County.

Ara Najarian, Mayor of the City of Glendale

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

I graduated from Occidental College with bachelor’s degree in Economics. I later graduated from U.S.C. with a law degree. I worked in Washington for Congressman Carlos Moorehead. I also worked in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. After opening my private law practice, I served as a volunteer judge and settlement officer for the local courts.

I have recently concluded my third term as the mayor of Glendale. I was elected to the Glendale City Council in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and 2013. Prior to city council, I was elected to the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees.

In 2006, I was elected to represent many of the cities in the 5th supervisorial district on the MTA board. I served as MTA chairman 2009-2010. I also currently serve on the board of directors of Metrolink.

I have served as two term Chairman of the San Fernando Valley Council.

Public safety is a top priority for me and I have worked to keep Glendale as one of the top ten safest cities in California over the past decade.

Job creation is critical, and over the past five years I have helped to create over 300 new jobs in Glendale. Due to our favorable business climate, Glendale was voted most business friendly city in Los Angeles County last year.

Fiscal responsibility is important and I have passed a balanced city budget, without depleting reserve funds, each of the past 12 years.

On transportation, I have had a hand in approving and funding each and every one of the major transit projects competed or under construction in the county, including the Gold Line, the Expo line, the Crenshaw line and the Purple line.

I am endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and many local elected leaders.

What are the two most important issues of this election?

The two most important issues this election are keeping the public safe from the increase in crime caused by the early release of prisoners and the lessening of severity of certain crimes. The advent of AB 109 and Proposition 47 have caused previously incarcerated prisoners to be sent to the county jails and then released due to overcrowding in those jails. When released these convicts have no job and many times no other means of making a living other than returning to a life of crime. They know that if they do not commit a sexual, violent or serious crime they will not be retained in the county jail system and often times released after being booked. A true revolving door. We must take steps to make sure that these released prisoners are not returning to crime by giving them job training, education, and the mental health and substance abuse care that they need.

The second important issue before the Board of Supervisors, is job creation and economic development. It is critical that there be a consistent effort in creating new jobs in the county across all levels of skill and salary ranges. Without a steady flow of new jobs we will not be able to sustain the current economic standard and will face an increase in problems caused by economic slowdown, such as recession homelessness, crime. Good jobs are the best way to lift residents out of the cycle of poverty and to ensure a bright future for them and their children.

How do you plan on addressing higher education if you are elected?

How do I plan on addressing higher education? Education is a key component for the success and vibrancy of Los Angeles County. I have had invaluable experience in education by working as an elected member of the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees. Two years of a community college education should be available to every person, whether a high school graduate or not, at no charge for those who cannot afford tuition. The community colleges are the gateway to higher education in Los Angeles, and those gates should be wide open for everyone. Additionally all college students regardless of which school they attend should be awarded free Metro transit passes so they may travel to and from school even if they lack private transportation.

Elan Carr, Deputy District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

I’m proud to serve in our military. While deployed in Iraq I lead an anti-terrorism team in life-saving missions, then prosecuted terrorists who attacked American troops. And for the last decade I’ve fought dangerous criminals on our streets as a criminal gang prosecutor – prosecuting some of Los Angeles County’s most notorious gangs, as well as cases of domestic violence and animal cruelty. That’s why 66,000 police officers across California have endorsed me.

Good jobs are key to preventing crime. As Supervisor I’ll cut red tape to grow our economy and create jobs. And I’ll fix our schools because the way to a good job is a great education. My mission now: end gang violence, clean up the corruption in local government, reinvigorate our schools, create after-school programs for our at-risk youth, and create more and better job opportunities so that every child has a chance to succeed.

What are the two most important issues of this election?

Reducing crime is my top priority. As a criminal gang prosecutor I’ve made it my career to fight the worst criminals LA County has—murderers, notorious street gangs, and predators who abuse their loved ones. I’m proud to make our community safer by putting away one violent criminal at a time, but as your Supervisor I’ll focus the full resources of our County on making our communities safer. I’ll put more cops on the streets, allocate funding to the Sheriff’s department so we can keep violent criminals behind bars and not release them early, and make sure that we have robust treatment facilities as an alternative to incarceration for defendants who are mentally ill, drug addicted, or homeless.

But fighting crime is not only about handcuffs and jail cells.  It’s also about taking care of our kids so that we can stop crime before it starts. That’s why improving our educational system is also my top priority. In our County there is dramatic inconsistency in the quality of the education our kids are receiving, and in many cases it is substandard. It’s immoral and inexcusable for society to neglect its children, and such neglect also imposes enormous economic and personal costs on families in our County. Depriving children of a quality education makes it almost impossible for them to realize their potential. We need to fix our schools, increase the salaries of our teachers, and give our children the kind of empowering education that will allow them to realize their potential, including job training and after-school programs. We have no more precious asset than our children. We must give them the nurturing education they deserve.

Finally, I will work to make Los Angeles County business friendly. Too many Americans today are not finding the kinds of opportunities that our economy provided only a decade ago. Our County must implement a tax and regulatory structure that rapidly grows our economy and empowers our job creators, so that all of us, and our children, will be able to find the jobs and careers that they deserve.

How do you plan on addressing higher education if you are elected?

Higher education has become too expensive for many families to afford, and it is often seen as a burden rather than an investment. Many of our young adults leave college carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in education debt, and yet find themselves unable to get a quality job. We must change our perspective on education. Our young adults should finish high school with marketable skills that they could use in the workforce, should they decide not to attend college. We also need to ensure that public schools are preparing our kids for the rigors of higher education. Finally, we must do more to help kids get into college and stay there. As Supervisor I will introduce the “60 by 2060” plan — 60% of children from foster care who want to attend college should be able to do so (the current number hovers at 10%). I will also work closely with leaders in community college districts to ensure that students are getting the most for their money. These steps will go a long way to nurturing and empowering our young adults. And no less important, they would reduce our ballooning crime rates by keeping kids out of gangs and crime and giving every family the chance to succeed.

Kathryn Barger, Chief Deputy for the Office of Supervisor Antonovich

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

Kathryn Barger is the only candidate for County Supervisor who was born, raised, and is a lifelong resident of the Fifth District. After earning a BA in Communications from Ohio Wesleyan University, Kathryn began her career working in the private sector. Her interests in public service led her to return home where she went to work for Mike Antonovich. For the past 15 years, Kathryn has been Chief Deputy Supervisor where she manages the Supervisor’s Office and serves as the official liaison with community and local business groups. She has strong ties to them, knows their problems and delivers results. Kathryn is also an expert on healthcare, mental health and children’s issues because of her work with Supervisor Antonovich. He has encouraged her to run and endorsed her candidacy for Supervisor.

As Chief Deputy Supervisor, Kathryn strives to make government more efficient by reducing burdensome bureaucracy and regulation. She will continue that tradition of fiscally responsible county governance, holding down spending and taxes while investing in critical services like public safety, economic development, and transportation.

Kathryn is committed to keeping our neighborhoods and communities safe. She helped implement Megan’s Law to ensure all residents have information about sex offenders in their neighborhoods. The wife of a retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, her anti-crime platform, which advocates for more local patrols and body cameras for officers, has earned her the endorsement of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the support of three former LA District Attorneys – Steve Cooley, Gil Garcetti, and Bob Philibosian.

Kathryn Barger is a recognized problem solver. Her record of service has won her bi-partisan support from leaders throughout the Fifth District and Los Angeles County, including Republican Supervisor Antonovich and Democratic Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

What are the two most important issues of this election?

County Government should provide vital services in a fiscally responsible manner, leading to a better economic, social, and cultural environment for its citizens.

Public safety and keeping our communities safe is one such vital service, and it is achieved in a variety of areas, including supporting and properly resourcing our firefighters, sheriffs, paramedics, probation officers and others. Less obvious services that are equally of vital importance include our social services, including mental health and family services. I am known for strongly supporting and working with these groups, earning the support of the Los Angeles County Firefighters and Deputy Sheriffs, our social workers, and other vital service providers.

As we fund county resources, the second great issue is funding them properly and with fiscal responsibly. As Mike Antonovich’s Chief Deputy and Chief of Staff, I have worked on the County budget for many years and have learned prioritize and allocate funds, while maintaining the county’s fiscal foundation. The county historically has provided vital services while holding the budget down and this must continue

How do you plan on addressing higher education if you are elected?

Higher education is a gateway to opportunity and creates greater social stability and economic growth. It should be available to people of all ages and backgrounds. As Supervisor, I will work to ensure Los Angeles County is a place where those pursuing higher education can flourish. 

Scholarships to deserving members of our community are one avenue to foster higher education. High School and after school programs are another, providing a lifeline to higher education by providing tutoring and other means of student support. In the case of the latter, I have worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations with missions to support and mentor children seeking higher education. Finally, I will work to encourage greater economic opportunity for private sector companies. Creating jobs for our graduates will lead to a virtuous cycle among youth seeking higher education.

Bob Huff, California State Senator

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

I’ve had the honor of representing Los Angeles County in the State Legislature since 2004. Prior to my service in the Legislature, I served on the Diamond Bar City Council from 1995 to 2004. With nine years of experience in local and regional government, and 11 years in the State Legislature representing Los Angeles County, I’ve learned how to work across party lines to get things done.

I’m proud that my efforts to improve the local jobs climate while fighting onerous regulations and frivolous lawsuits helped me earn 100% ratings from the California Chamber of Commerce, California Manufacturers and Technology Association and National Federation of Independent Business.

I was also named “Legislator of the Year” by the California League of Cities in recognition of my efforts to protect local government’s authority to create economic opportunity for their residents.

Working to keep taxes down on California families and small businesses, I received 100% legislative vote ratings from the California Taxpayers Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. 

Committed to improving our schools, I was proud to write the nationally recognized “Parent Trigger Act,” expanded school choice for parents and students and provided more funding for public charter schools.

I attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, graduating with honors. 

I grew up on my family’s farm in the Imperial Valley. Much of my professional and business experience has been in the agricultural industry. Working through the ranks to become the youngest vice president in a grain-handling corporation, I purchased and operated a small wholesale commodity firm shortly after moving to Diamond Bar in 1983. My wife Mei Mei and I have three sons, a daughter and six wonderful grandchildren.

What are the two most important issues of this election? 

What I hear time and again from the public is that their chief concerns center on reducing traffic congestion, lifting obstacles to job creation and addressing public safety concerns. 

We must have quality transportation infrastructure for our region. Traffic congestion negatively effects quality of life in our region it’s also a barrier to job creation and economic recovery. As the founding chairman of the Alameda Corridor East project, I have the experience to tackle our traffic congestion and transportation issues.

I served as a lead negotiator for the statewide water bond to build two new water storage facilities and clean up contaminated drinking water in our region’s underground aquifers.

Many of our communities have experienced an increase in crimes and other public safety issues as a result of AB 109 and Prop. 47. We need to make sure we have enough probation officers to keep an eye on the felons that have been let out; we need to do the best job we can with training programs to strike at the root of the issues that lead to incarceration; build a new jail; and support and reform our educational system so we have fewer dropouts and more job opportunities.

How do you plan on addressing higher education if you are elected?

Education is the first rung on the ladder of success. Educational attainment and opportunity has a direct impact on quality of life, economic stability and employment. For decades California was world renowned for our outstanding public educational system. Unfortunately, access to an affordable higher education has become increasingly out of reach for many California students. That is why I was proud to help enact the Middle Class Scholarship Act. I worked across party lines to help keep the middle class from being squeezed out of our public universities by cutting UC and CSU tuition by 40% for California families making under $100,000 a year and 10% for families making less than $150,000.  

Throughout my career I have also championed career technical education. In the Legislature, I was the principal co-author of SB 148 to restore the State’s commitment to Career Technical Education (CTE) by appropriating $600 million to a CTE incentive grant program for local school districts and regional occupational centers. 

My experience in serving in the State Legislature has led me to a broad understanding of the challenges we confront and where the opportunities exist to improve and enhance higher education in California. As Supervisor, I will continue to be a strong advocate for affordable higher education and career technical education that will promote job opportunities for our students and meet the needs of our region’s employers.

Mitchell Englander, Councilmember for the City of Los Angeles

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

As a Los Angeles City Councilmember, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Reserve LAPD Officer, non-profit leader, former small business owner, and native of the district, I bring a unique mix of experience, perspective, and track record of delivering results for this community that is unmatched. I am deeply committed to this community and have dedicated my life to it.

On the City Council, I have built a reputation as an effective coalition builder and problem solver. I have been elected by my Democratic peers as President Pro-Tempore of the Council despite being the only Republican member. As a member of the Executive Employee Relations Committee, I played a key role in several successful contract negotiations. As Vice Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, I helped lead our City during difficult economic times, protecting vital services while helping to erase a projected 1 billion dollar budget deficit and making investments in our communities.

My commitment to serving our communities goes beyond my work as a City Councilmember. As a sworn public safety officer, I still regularly patrol our neighborhoods in uniform. I have also served on the board of numerous community organizations including the North Valley Family YMCA, American Diabetes Association, San Fernando Valley Jaycees, West Valley Boys and Girls Club, The Jewish Home for the Aging, Valley Leadership Institute, Devonshire Police Activities League (PALS), New Directions For Youth, New Horizons, and Supporters of Law Enforcement in Devonshire (SOLID) and more.

What are the two most important issues of this election? 

1) The safety of our communities is always the number one issue. As a Reserve LAPD officer and the Chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, I have firsthand experience patrolling our streets and preventing crime. I have added police officers and reduced ambulance response times while providing critical life safety tools and technology. I’ve also built at-risk youth centers to keep kids on the right path and out of trouble. I will use my unique experience to focus on the challenges of reforming the Sheriff’s Department and the improving the juvenile justice system.

2) Realigning the county’s resources to to its need based on data – to maximize and equitably distribute resources for those most vulnerable including children in our foster care system, those experiencing homelessness, poverty and unemployment and those that depend on county health resources. I instituted Performance Based Budgeting in the City of Los Angeles and will employ a data driven approach to these critical functions, as well.

How do you plan on addressing higher education if you are elected?

While the Board of Supervisors does not have direct authority over our higher education system, I believe that the Board can play an extremely important role in working to connect higher education institutions and regional employers. In addition, supporting the expansion of our colleges and universities through infrastructure investment is key. Finally, I would like to see County and regional governments partner more closely and frequently with colleges in our region to identify innovative ways to address the many issues the County faces including challenges related to transportation, housing and the modernization of government service delivery and administration.

Partnerships with local universities and colleges are critical to create not only the workforce of the future, but also the employers of the future. I have worked successfully with student researchers and interns on important projects where much value was added from this participation. I also support the robust development of incubators, that are key to the scale up between the university-based research and pilot stage of industry to the critical commercialization phase –  an area that we need to do better in if we are to retain the best and brightest after we educate them.

For the full photo album from the forum, visit Flickr or Facebook

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