LOS ANGELES -- Emanuel Pleitez, the last candidate to join LA's 2013 mayoral race, is a newcomer to politics but a native of LA.
Pleitez, only 30, was a personal assistant to Antonio Villaraigosa from 2003 to 2005, when the now mayor was a councilman. He worked for three years with investment bank Goldman Sachs and is currently the Chief Strategy Officer for data firm Spokeo. He is a former appointee to the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition team and has worked for the U.S. Department of Treasury and the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Pleitez told HuffPost that his priorities are improving schools, attracting jobs and solving the city's budget woes partially by reforming pensions. The son of Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants, he grew up and still lives in East LA's El Sereno.
Click through for Pleitez's answers:
<strong>1. LA City Council voted in July to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/24/la-marijuana-ban-on-dispensaries-approved-by-council_n_1698671.html">ban all marijuana dispensaries</a>. The ban has since been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/29/la-marijuana-dispensary-ban-suspended_n_1840422.html">temporarily suspended</a> after patients and supporters collected 50,000 signatures for a referendum on the ban. How many dispensaries should be allowed in LA, and how should they be regulated?</strong> We need to rethink our relationship to marijuana. Growing up, I knew where to find it. My friends did as well. It’s no more difficult today for our kids to get marijuana than when I was young. Angelenos are suffering, and we need to do the hard analysis of the underground market and find the most effective way to disrupt it because what we’re doing now isn’t working. Illegal marijuana sales finance violence in our streets. We must do what we can to disrupt that and find more positive outlets for our young people. Let’s support the healthy growth of our communities by taking away marijuana as a lucrative option for our young people and cut off its attractiveness. Let’s eliminate the stigma on a medicine that could benefit people across our city. We should be understanding and compassionate toward those with glaucoma, cancer, and other ailments who rely on marijuana to ease their pain. That doesn’t mean having a dispensary on every corner, but it does mean having legally owned and operated dispensaries in our city, which are regulated to prevent negative impacts on our communities. We should let the market decide the right number of dispensaries and refine our approach with feedback from our communities.
Condoms In Porn
<strong>2. Both the city and county of LA have recently mandated condoms in porn films. However, citing present industry testing standards, porn companies have deemed the condom requirements unnecessary and have threatened to pack up and <a href="http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/03/05/porn-companies-threaten-to-leave-la-as-new-condom-law-goes-into-effect/" target="_hplink">take their industry to less restrictive counties</a>. Is the mandate a public health necessity? Or is it a government overreach and not worth the risk that adult film companies could leave LA because of it?</strong> The government shouldn’t be in the business of legislating what goes on in the bedroom between consenting adults. That goes for the adult film industry as well. It is overreaching and, in conjunction with the gross-receipts tax and our unfriendly business environment, very much risks the departure of the industry from LA. The public health aspect is in many ways an educational issue. There is still a lack of education about sexual health in our city. We must take an educational approach that supports and expands current efforts aimed at our youth while also supporting programs aimed at adults. Mobile testing clinics are helpful in keeping the people of LA informed on their health, but there has to be a focus on prevention methods, particularly in underserved communities. It would be naïve to scapegoat the adult film industry for the public health woes of Los Angeles.
<strong>3. In March last year, LA City Council <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/chinatown-walmart-la-_n_1376139.html" target="_hplink">approved a motion</a> to ban chain retail stores from downtown's historic Chinatown. The ban would have stopped Walmart from moving into the neighborhood, but the store obtained the permits it needed the night before the council voted. What kind of effort, if any, should LA make to stop Walmart from building more stores in the city?</strong> I support a living wage for all Angelenos, I support workers’ right to organize, and I will hold companies accountable under current law. I don’t support punitive action against specific companies, and I don’t support excluding companies that can put Angelenos to work. My goal is to create economic opportunity for all Angelenos, and that means improving LA’s business environment, investing in education, and investing in chronically neglected areas of our city.
NFL Stadium/Dodgers Stadium
<strong>4. Proponents of building a football stadium in downtown LA say it will <a href="http://www.ourweekly.com/los-angeles/black-leaders-call-california-lawmakers-support-farmers-field" target="_hplink">bring a team, jobs and tourism</a> to the city. Opponents raise <a href="http://www.laprogressive.com/no-farmers-field/" target="_hplink">numerous concerns,</a> including <a href="http://www.scpr.org/programs/madeleine-brand/2012/04/10/25954/can-downtown-la-handle-farmers-field" target="_hplink">air quality, noise, artificial light and traffic</a>. After the news of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to funnel $1 million of taxpayer money toward the stadium's construction, many were furious and <a href="http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2011/09/26/controversy-raised-over-public-funds-slated-for-farmers-fields-architectural-firm/" target="_hplink">said city money should be spent elsewhere</a>, such as towards helping LA's large homeless population (much of which can be found blocks away from the proposed stadium). Do you think the football stadium should be built -- and with or without city assistance? Are you in support of also expanding Dodger Stadium to be like LA Live (pictured here)?</strong> I opposed the AEG deal and I think it will hurt Los Angeles. Our politicians made a deal with a private developer that could leave taxpayers footing the bill once again. We’re raising debt that we think we’ll be able to pay off in the future, but we’ve seen that the city, and this particular council, is not particularly good at understanding the risks associated with such deals. We also don’t know with whom we’re doing business. By agreeing to the deal now, without knowing AEG’s buyer, we limit the City’s options in case future AEG ownership does not agree with all terms of this deal—a very real possibility. A football team and stadium will bring in new revenue, but our money and energy could be better spent elsewhere. Our priorities are in the wrong order. We shouldn’t be borrowing to invest in new entertainment venues downtown. We need to invest in South LA, the Eastside, and the East Valley – communities we’ve ignored for too long but that have the potential to be economic drivers of this city.
<strong>5. Should undocumented immigrants be granted separate driver's licenses? Or should the police go back to impounding unlicensed drivers' cars for 30 days? What will you do to advance Latino rights?</strong> Yes. Immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are people first and foremost. The need to get their kids to school, they need to go to the store, and they need to get to work. I think this decision is a step in the right direction, but I think we should go even further by allowing everyone to get a license and access basic city services regardless of citizenship. I have a lifetime of commitment to the Latino community that extends back to my life growing up in some of our city’s most underserved communities as the son of a single immigrant mother from Mexicali, Mexico. I will continue doing what my campaign and I have been doing for the last 7 months, walking the streets and personally inviting young people to get involved. My whole life I have been involved in creating opportunities for young Latinos to become leaders and gain valuable experience they can use to help themselves and their communities. I created Latinos on Fast Track and currently chair the Hispanic Heritage foundation and the Salvadoran American Leadership and Education Fund.
<strong>6. To what extent should Angelenos pitch in (read: pay higher taxes) to improve the city's public transportation? What efforts will you make to alleviate traffic and make the Subway to the Sea a reality, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/21/opinion/la-ed-subway-stop-beverly-hills-20120421" target="_hplink">despite Beverly Hills' resistance</a>? Is expanding our freeways (i.e. current widening of the 405) a worthwhile traffic-alleviating strategy?</strong> I disagree with regressive taxation or forcing the people to pay for poor planning by our city officials. Traffic congestion needs to be reduced and we have to increase mass transit options, and we need to do this with a strong plan in mind before we tax or borrow. I’ll create a Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning, who’ll be responsible for creating a long-term vision and plan for LA’s infrastructure, and making sure all investments we make fit within that plan. That’s the way we bring efficiency and equality to urban development in this city. And to pay for it, we should tap into private capital sources to bear some of the costs. Rail projects and highway expansions are exciting projects to talk about, but they take a long time to complete, and we need more efficient and effective mass transit options today. I will prioritize buses, ride sharing programs, and bike lanes as well as focus on making our city more pedestrian friendly. People should be able to walk or take public transit to meet all of their needs (work, school, etc.) if they chose to do so. I want to make that a reality sooner rather than later. That means emphasizing transit-oriented development, so people live near where they work and play, and creating an infrastructure bank as well as partnering with private companies and financiers to get this development done as quickly as possible. The Subway to the Sea, for example, would be a good option to have if we can get it done in a timely, cost-effective way, but I don’t support it being financed solely on the backs of taxpayers.
<strong>7. LA has the largest homeless population in the U.S. What specific strategies would you implement to combat homelessness?</strong> Addressing homelessness means addressing the root causes of its existence. That means addressing poverty, affordable housing, unemployment, and provision of mental and physical health services. We need to target these services to our most vulnerable groups. Veterans, for example, are among the groups with the highest incidence of poverty and homelessness. We need to both support the sustainability and expansion of programs for people most vulnerable to homelessness and create affordable locations that also function as wrap around centers that are equipped to respond to the needs of their occupants (mental services, addiction response and recovery, financial literacy, and employment assistance). The City needs to be proactive with vulnerable groups, and we need to emphasize programs that break the cycle of poverty and homelessness for good. We need to try new programs that emphasize education, for example. Conditional cash transfers, where recipients of financial assistance must also enroll in a jobs or training program, help make sure that people are on their way out of poverty for good.
<strong>8. What specific steps would you take to increase employment in LA? What sectors would you focus on?</strong> To foster job creation, we must support local businesses and entrepreneurs and make sure our workers have the skills needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Los Angeles is typically rated as one of the worst cities in the country in which to do business. There’s too much regulation, too little infrastructure, and the skills employers want are in too short supply. As Mayor, I will create an impact investing culture. South LA, the Eastside, and the East Valley – ignored by too many of our politicians – are undervalued assets. I’ll invest in the infrastructure and businesses of these areas not just with public dollars, but also by encouraging and incentivizing venture capitalists and private donors to invest in these areas too. Second, I’ll support entrepreneurs across LA. I propose creating one “entrepreneurship hub” in each council district within my first year as Mayor. These hubs can support the energy, creativity, and drive of LA’s entrepreneurs with expedited permitting, specialized training, consulting services, and free office space. These hubs can bring great minds together in one space, and our entrepreneurs can learn and work with each other. Combined with the private investors we attract with our impact investing culture, LA can rival Silicon Valley in number of startups. Finally, we need to ensure that our workforce has the skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The fastest growing industries are those in data, technology, and healthcare. Our workforce needs specialized skills for these jobs. We need to increase educational and learning opportunities for young and old, so that they have the skills needed for these and other jobs. We need more internships and partnerships with businesses so our students get exposure to these industries sooner. And we need to open more training centers for adults so they can continue learning as industries and the economy changes. Businesses that are especially active in training Angelenos can get extra advertising and tax breaks as rewards for investing in LA. I’ve worked in finance, consulting, and economic and educational policy at the highest levels of the federal government – I’m the candidate best prepared to attract, retain, and grow LA’s economy. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
<strong>9. Should teacher seniority be protected or should schools lay off teachers based on who is the lowest-performing? What changes would you make a priority for LA schools?</strong> I believe principals should choose staff based on merit. We need the best teachers for our students. How we determine the best teachers – through test scores, peer and student evaluations, or some other method – we need to figure out, but we shouldn’t be afraid to use data to make smart decisions. Whether it’s for hiring teachers or developing programs for students, we shouldn’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best in our educational system. I will always be loyal to our students first, even if that means replacing ineffective teachers with the best teachers available. City Hall should also be doing more to increase educational and learning opportunities for young and old. Education should be made a 24-hour priority, and there’s so much the city can do to increase educational opportunities outside the classroom. Expanding after-school programs, starting internships and partnerships with businesses, providing specialized technology training online, supporting proactive role models in our communities – these are all things the City can do to supplement classroom curriculum. Too few of our students graduate from high school. LA’s high school graduation rate stands near 50 percent – the lowest among all major metropolitan areas in the US. I want to focus on these students, the least likely to graduate from high school due to their socioeconomic background, family hardships, or other factors. These students need our support. We need to provide ample opportunities for them to learn, get help when needed, and be invited back into our schools and communities should they fall off the right track. We should turn schools into true community centers. Let’s keep schools open a few extra hours each day, and offer counseling, training, and health programs to parents and the community. This way we can improve service delivery as well as address some of the root causes of low graduation rates.
<strong>10. What slows down LA in implementing environmental measures, and what steps will you take to make LA greener, faster?</strong> LA has the potential to be the first truly sustainable city in the US. But we’ll only get there if we have a Mayor who puts clean, affordable energy for consumers before special interests. We need more energy options in LA. LA’s Department of Water and Power monopolizes energy provision in this city, slowing the implementation of clean energy sources. Rather than pursue policies that could lower the cost of energy, our politicians prefer to use the DWP as a piggy bank, increasing rates and transferring revenue to the city to cover up their poor budgeting. I don’t support any rate increase that’s used to transfer funds from taxpayers to the city’s general budget. I only support rate increases that are earmarked solely for making our water and power systems more sustainable and environmentally friendly. We need to expand the Feed-In-Tariff program. We need to let even more innovative companies provide power in LA. If we increase the amount of energy providers, the price of energy will go down, easing the burden on a large part of our population. We need to make sure that our vehicles, homes, and businesses reduce their energy consumption. When I worked on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, we created Home Star – a retrofitting program where we switch homes and businesses over to solar energy. We need to set aside more money for these programs, and encourage experimentation with the latest and greatest clean energy technologies. Clean energy jobs are the jobs of the future. By opening the DWP up to competition and encouraging uptake of new technologies, LA can lead the country in solving energy issues.
<strong>11. What city services, if any, should be privatized to save the city money?</strong> I would privatize operation of the Convention Center, move to private provision of ambulance services (like most cities), and propose cutting elected officials’ salaries as measures to help balance the budget. However, I don’t believe we can balance our budget by cutting services. Pension reform and increased revenue should be the ways through which we balance the budget.
Film And Television
<strong>12. What steps will you take to make LA more attractive to production companies and help keep entertainment industry jobs here?</strong> We need to invest more in our people – the true drivers of our creative industries. We need to create a production ecosystem where the best talent wants to be here, not elsewhere, for the opportunity to create. That means supporting artists with collaborative space and opportunities to create with each other. That also means supporting art programs outside the classroom, so we can grow the next generation of creative professionals right here at home. I also want to reward LA-based companies, in entertainment as well as other industries, for their impact in the community. I want to reward those companies that hire locally, invest in underserved communities, and commit to public service – with a tax credit for every dollar invested in development zones in the city, for example. That way not only do we keep a valued industry here, we work together to improve the city.
13. What are your top three priorities for the city of LA? What are the very first actions you would take as mayor? I will solve our city’s financial crisis by reforming our retirement system. Because of poor decisions by our elected officials, pension liabilities continue to increase and essential services continue to get cut. As Mayor, I’ll make our pension system sustainable, protect key services, and expand our tax base by developing our most underserved areas. Education is a 24-hour job and it should be a 24-hour responsibility of the city. I will implement new programs aimed at keeping students in school, I will increase the number of options for learning outside the classroom, and I will increase training programs for people of all ages who need new skills to be part of the today’s workforce. I will create, for every community in the city, a development plan to make sure we’re investing in areas that have great potential but have been chronically neglected.. Jobs are most needed in these areas and the only way to bring them to areas like South LA, the Eastside, and the East San Fernando Valley is to make sure the city provides the necessary infrastructure and support.
Earlier on HuffPost: