Last year, I decided to run for mayor of Los Angeles for two reasons. The first was to engage people in this city who've never been engaged politically before. The second was to propose bold new solutions to problems that have plagued this city for years.
Since July, my team and I have knocked on 40,000 doors and made 150,000 phone calls, all asking the same questions: "What would you like to see changed in your neighborhood? If you could tell your mayor one thing, what would you say?"
Whenever and wherever we ask that question, the first thing we hear is, "Wow. No campaign has ever knocked on my door. No one's ever asked me what I think. No one's ever reached out to me to make sure my voice was heard. Let me tell you my thoughts."
It's been great to hear the enthusiasm and thoughts of people all across this city from all walks of life. It's also been heartbreaking to hear how many of us are disappointed and disheartened by the current state of our city and by our politicians' care for special interests over everyday people. We hear people say, politics shouldn't be reserved for folks connected to the establishment, who rehash the same old ideas that haven't worked time and again. Politics should be a call to serve, to provide support for those in need, and to work for our children, so they can inherit a better Los Angeles than we had.
Like me, this city is tired. Tired of services getting cut. Tired of being unemployed. Tired of seeing our children drop out of school. Tired of seeing the same unpaved streets. Tired of crime. And tired, so tired, of sitting in so much traffic.
I want to tell my fellow Angelenos that we've heard you. Today, and over the next month, I'm going to propose solutions to the problems we've found in this city. Not the baby steps that our politicians are so fond of, but bold ideas that will solve these problems for good, and make L.A. the world-class city you deserve.
We've heard that this city is tired of the services on which we all rely -- fire and police, sanitation, street repair -- getting cut year after year. It's because we're running out of money. It's because our politicians made bad deals based on numbers they didn't understand. It's because they made false promises to hard-working men and women. What's their solution? Cutting more of your services, and raising your taxes. These are nothing but Band Aid solutions. They're temporary. They won't fix anything.
They're afraid and unwilling to tackle the root causes of our budget crisis -- unsustainable pension benefits that cost taxpayers $1.3 billion last year and will eat up one-quarter of our General Fund by 2016. Only fixing our pension system gives us enough money for the services we need and deserve
To fix our pension system, I propose a pension buyout plan -- the first of its kind in the country. It's a plan that would give city workers money today instead of nothing tomorrow -- which is what could happen if we continue to slide towards bankruptcy. Under my buyout plan, we'll cut our unfunded liabilities and give us a debt balance that's manageable. To do this, we'll need to raise the capital to pay our workers today. And we'll need a mayor who not only understands finance and budgets, but also has the resolve to get this done immediately. I pledge that by the end of my first term, I'll have our budget on a sustainable path.
2) Job growth and economic development
We've heard that this city is tired of being unemployed. L.A.'s unemployment rate still stands at over 10 percent -- among the highest of any metropolitan area in the United States. It's even higher for minorities and young people. Over 20 percent of African Americans in this city are unemployed -- even higher among those under the age of 30. That's not people can't or don't want to work. It's because we haven't provided the right opportunities in our neighborhoods nor made the right investments in our people.
I'll make the investments we need to put people back to work and grow the jobs of the future right here in Los Angeles. I will invest over $1 billion dollars in designated "economic development zones" over the next ten years. These zones will be in our most underserved and impoverished communities -- South L.A., the Eastside, Pico-Union, Westlake, and the East San Fernando Valley. These are the areas of our city that have the lowest employment and lowest growth, but also highest potential -- where we can make good, lasting impact with our investments.
We can invest directly into these areas and make an area like South L.A., ignored for so long by our politicians, the green manufacturing hub for the entire country. All it takes is a mayor who knows how to raise capital, identify good business ideas, and support entrepreneurs in making that idea a reality. I'm the only candidate who knows how to do this.
We've heard that this city is tired of our children dropping out of school. I'm the only candidate that knows what it's like in public schools in our worst neighborhoods. My friend and I used to walk home from school down different streets growing up. Because I came across some good influences, and he came across some bad ones, I went to Stanford, while he dropped out of school and is now sadly no longer with us. That happens in our neighborhoods every day. Only 50 percent of our students graduate from high school within four years -- the lowest rate among any comparable city in the U.S. That's sad, and that's unacceptable.
What have we done about it? Not much. Rather than address the root causes of the problem -- instability at home, poor school performance in early years, lack of engagement of our students -- we've argued about who's running our schools..
That's the wrong way to think about education, and the wrong way to make sure more of our students graduate from high school. When I'm mayor, I'll get us on a path to halve our high school dropout rate within a decade -- not by taking over the school system, but by making education family oriented and a 24-hour responsibility of our city and community. I will make sure every single child in the city is enrolled in an after-school program; that every single school offers wraparound services to students and their families; and that we supplement traditional curriculum with opportunities to learn skills in data, technology, and other industries where the jobs of the future lay. That's the only way we can make sure our children stay out of trouble, our families are healthy, and our adults have the right skills.
We've heard that this city is tired of commuting, tired of finding it so difficult to get from one place to another. L.A. commuters spend on average over 300 hours per year in cars. It's because our city's development has not been driven not by smart investment decisions but by special interests.
I can get this city on a path to halve car usage and commute time by 2025. To do this, we need to build things closer, and give people more mobility options. This means smart urban planning and transit-oriented development that centers jobs and retail near where people live, and emphasizes solutions that can be implemented quickly -- like dedicated bus lanes, synchronized signals, and cordoned zones where no cars are allowed -- over rail projects that cost a lot and won't get finished for decades. Over the coming month, I'll release an infrastructure investment plan that outlines how we can better connect all the different nodes in the city in a healthy and environmentally friendly way, and make L.A. a leader in innovative transportation solutions.
We've heard that this city wants cheaper, more environmentally friendly energy. We've heard that this city is tired of DWP rate increases that don't go towards making our energy system more sustainable, but that are instead used by our politicians to cover up their budget mistakes. I know that you value your money, your health, and our environment, and as mayor I'll make sure that your city values those things too.
I pledge to put us on a path to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in LA's energy production by 2030. LADWP accounts for over 16 million metric tons of carbon emission during energy production. New York eliminated that same amount of carbon emissions in a single year. New York's done great -- we can do better. We can make Los Angeles the first truly green, sustainable city. That's only if we encourage green energy innovation, open energy production up to private companies, and invest in places like South L.A. to be the hub of clean energy production. As part of my development package, I plan to invest heavily in green technologies and people, so that solar panels and other systems that provide clean energy to the world are all stamped "Made in L.A."
6) Public Safety
We've heard that in many parts of this city, people are still afraid. As someone who grew up in inner city L.A., I'm not satisfied with our celebration of declining crime rates in recent years. Yes, it's wonderful that crime is at its lowest point in this city in almost 50 years. But tell the people of Pico-Union, Boyle Heights, Pacoima, and Watts that our streets have never been safer. In these neighborhoods alone, there have been 150 robberies, 13 assaults, and 1 homicide in the last week. I don't want to rest on our laurels in crime reduction; I want to continue to make progress across the whole city.
When I'm mayor, I'll double the size of our public safety force -- not by hiring more police, but by empowering everyday citizens to protect their communities. That's how we can change the culture of "policing" from one of incarceration to one of prevention and intervention. That's how we build up, not tear down, our neighborhoods -- by teaching our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters to recognize those in need, reach out, and help them get the counseling and support they need.
7) Data and technology
Finally, we've heard that this city wants to be more cutting edge, more responsive to the needs of specific communities, and more efficient and effective in service delivery. That all stems from our use -- that is, our poor use -- of data and technology in this city. There's so much more we could be doing to make Los Angeles better, just by using the resources and information we already have. We should be using data to see how we can better target our services; map transportation and commerce to see what patterns and opportunities we find; provide educational content online at LACity.org; and spur the creativity and ingenuity of our people.
When I'm mayor, I'll build a team of data scientists who report directly to the mayor and will work tirelessly to improve our use of data and technology across the city. This means helping businesses and government better use the data they're collecting; using technology to deliver more educational opportunities to people in their homes; and making more data available to everyday people so they can use it to invent the latest transit, energy, and safety solutions. There's no limit to what we Angelenos can do. Let's be sure we give each other the tools to get those things done.
That's the L.A. that I want to live in, and from what we've heard, that's the kind of L.A. that you want to live in too. With these goals -- proposing a pension buyout; investing a billion dollars in underserved areas; halving the number of high school dropouts; halving our use of cars; eliminating fossil fuel use in energy production; doubling the size of our public safety force; and using data more effectively -- we can make L.A. a model for the city and the world. Over the next month, I want to share more about my plans to make L.A. realize its potential. And if you vote for me on March 5, we can make it happen together.
For more information please visit http://www.pleitezforla.com/issues.