LA Councilman and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti took to social news site Reddit Tuesday to answer Angelenos' burning -- and sometimes controversial -- questions. He hosted a live question-and-answer session that Reddit calls an "AMA," standing for "Ask me anything."
Councilman Garcetti started this discussion saying, "I'm Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilmember and candidate for Mayor. Ask me anything."
He answered questions about everything from marijuana to councilmembers' high pay to condoms in porn… and threw in a gangsta "true dat" in one of his answers to boot.
Check out the best questions and answers below:
LA CITY COUNCILMEMBERS' PAY: How do you feel about the LA city council being paid more than congress when LA is the only major metropolis, other than Detroit, that can't afford to keep its main library branch open.
The pay of City Council was set by voters years before I got to City Hall. In contrast to other cities, where city council members have other jobs, the voters of Los Angeles voted for the creation of a strong ethics system, including banning councilmembers from having paid outside employment (so there are no conflicts of interest), and back then, pay was pegged to be the same as what county judges receive. I have not taken raises (even though county judges have received them) over the last six years or so, since I didn't feel it right in a recession. The main library branch is open thanks to the voters and Measure L, which I helped put on the ballot two years ago and which has restored library hours across the city.
MARIJUANA: Why did you vote to ban medical cannabis dispensaries? Why didn't you show up to vote three months later when the rest of the council decided to repeal their own ban?
I was supportive of the repeal of the ban and stated it publicly. I was in Washington DC the day of the vote on a previously-scheduled trip to the nation's capital. Speaking of the nation's capital, I have publicly and repeatedly stated the best thing that the federal government could do is reclassify cannabis so that we can actually get folks the medicine that they need. Second, it would be good if the state were to define regulations for managing medical cannabis for municipalities, which to date hasn't happened (hence much of the courts confusion). Third, I have consistently supported measures to enforce and maintain a reasonable number of dispensaries for sick individuals to get their medicine. I voted for it the first time, only voted for the original ban due to the courts (as a precursor for getting back to the original number permitted in the city), and will support a measure on the ballot this year that would allow the city to regulate and keep open that original and reasonable number of dispensaries.
… As far as recreational use, if the voters of the state were for it, I'd be happy to regulate it like alcohol, especially to make it less easy for underage use and to make sure it isn't the wild west situation we see in some neighborhoods.
CAP ON MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES: I propose to you that we not cap the number of dispensaries at some arbitrary number and instead just levy a higher tax and regulate them. If there is demand for a dispensary in an area, it will survive, and if there is not, it will fail. p.s., Nice break-dance skills.
First of all, no one really wants to see a guy in a suit break dance, but thanks. Second, thanks for the enthusiasm and kind words. I hear you, but with no cap, some streets have had two or three dispensaries on a single block. They have caused problems and I wouldn't want three Starbucks or three car repair places on a single block. I am a believer that the market should dictate a lot of this, but until we can show that we can collect enough fees to comfortably regulate out the bad actors, I support a cap.
CONDOMS IN PORN: What are your thoughts on the recent condom [mandate in porn]?
There are real health concerns, but not my top priority. I wonder about enforcement and jobs issues.
"SUBWAY TO THE SEA" TUNNEL UNDER BEVERLY HILLS (BH) HIGH SCHOOL: Garcetti supports the route under the high school, which is great. Some of the other candidates want a new route, expressing safety concerns that seem kind of scientifically dubious. ... The other candidates are just pandering to the insane BH groups that are having a grand old time scr*wing around with major public projects.
Thanks--we need to get the Wilshire extension moving and I am optimistic that the differences with some folks in BH can be addressed and settled. Most of the rail/busway lines that I would like to see have been at least in some initial planning stage. But some have just begun. For instance, I am very supportive of a transit tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, with a transit line and a toll road--to help pay for the transit--finally relieving the most choked artery in this city. I'd like to see that connect to a north-south line in the San Fernando Valley that is badly-needed. I'm very supportive of the Crenshaw Line as well, but would like one day to see it extend north up towards the Beverly Center/Cedars-Sinai if possible.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Do you believe in publicly financed campaigns to remove corporate and union influences on politics?
I would love publicly-financed campaigns. If people realized how long their candidates spend just raising money (I've been at it for more than 15 months, just to get enough money together to get my message out in mailboxes, on computers/mobile devices, on the radio and on television), they would be supportive of a system that allowed a good portion of that time to be for communications with voters that weren't donors. That said, I'm proud that over 70% of my donors have never given to a city race before (and if you are interested in donating, you can do so athttp://bit.ly/donateEric), which is the opposite of most campaigns.
VOTING IN LINE WITH MAYOR: [Continuation of question on councilmembers' pay:] Do you think that's appropriate, given that you guys just vote with the mayor 99% of the time?
As far as votes, we vote independently from the mayor (he has no vote on council, but acts more like the President, able to veto legislation). In contrast to places where there is frequent division, I think it is a reflection of positive work that there is usually agreement and given that most issues are non-controversial (should money be given to pave a street, should we crack down on a slumlord, should we put out a reward motion to find a murderer, etc.), the statistic about unanimous vote should be understood in that context. Secondly, we have a committee process where most items are in a committee before coming to the council and most disagreements are hashed out there and settled, as they should be. Lastly, meatier items often have plenty of dissenters--there was an item today in council that was not unanimous and a few last week--that is the way things should be and often are when they are larger items.
FROM COAL TO SOLAR: Los Angeles is universally renown for its sunshine. Yet 40 percent of its power comes from coal. If Germany can get nearly half its power from renewable resources, so can we. How will you step up local solar initiatives here in LA to get us where we all know we should be? Can you do it without a ballot initiative?
Totally agree and I often cite Germany (where it is pretty grey on most days) as a great comparison to sunny LA as well. I'm really proud to have provided the leadership to pass our recent solar initiative for a Feed-In-Tariff (basically a guarantee to allow large property owners to put up solar power on their roofs with the confidence that we will buy this clean power from them). Over the long term, it is cheaper than even coal, and it provides great jobs for folks in LA. I have put forward a plan to ramp this up to a 600 Megawatt project and this week we just got it expanded to 100 Megawatts at the Board of the DWP (so no, you don't need a ballot initiative).
ENTERTAINMENT JOBS: The entertainment industry, one of the biggest employers of our city, seems to be moving out of Los Angeles and California into other parts of our nation that that welcomes them with tax brakes and other incentives. What would you do as mayor to keep these jobs in Los Angeles?
I will do the following as mayor (some of these things I am working on now as a councilmember):
1) Have a Film Czar in the mayor's office--I would hire a senior person who has extensive experience in the industry to be an advocate and a resource for filming in LA--from helping us pass local and state legislation, to troubleshooting when shoots are going on, or helping bring the industry together to get out in front of the issue.
2) Pass my proposal to make filming pilots free in the city of LA. Three years ago, 80% of one-hour network drama pilots were filmed in LA, two years ago it was 40% and this past year it was just 2 shows! I have introduced an initiative to make it free to film pilots in LA (we will waive our city fees) and if a pilot gets picked up in LA, we will waive the first year of fees, so we can get more shows filming here.
3) Our tax credit is better than other states, in that we don't lose money from it. I agree that many tax credits, especially those that go to "above the line" workers (the stars and producers), can be money-losers for states. But studies have shown (http://www.headwayproject.org/downloads/Headway_Entertainment_Report.pdf) that ours returns at least a dollar to government for every dollar given out, so we don't lose money plus the multiplier effect of money spent in our state helps lift up our economic situation. As mayor, I will ask Sacramento to lift the cap (right now there is only $100 million each year given in credits) and to expand the categories of filming (to large movies, premium cable, commercials, video gaming, documentaries, etc.) to keep more filming here.
HE WATCHES TV: Are you a fan of "The Wire", cause I made a meme for you: Mayor confusion
Love The Wire--best part was when folks started wearing "Carcetti for Mayor" t-shirts as The Wire fans a few years ago, I started getting calls congratulating me for running for mayor. It is weird because he came first, so it is life imitating art, not vice-versa...
And last but not least...
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that "AMA" stands for "I am a" on Reddit. However, "AMA" stands for "Ask me anything." "I am a" entries on Reddit are shortened to "IamA."