James hammers City Hall veterans for not solving L.A. problems
The top contenders to become Los Angeles’ next mayor divided into two neatly aligned camps at a debate Tuesday night, with the elected officials touting their records and the City Hall outsiders questioning why voters ought to trust them to solve the city’s problems if they have failed to during their combined decades in office.
Attorney Kevin James and former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez repeatedly hammered Controller Wendy Greuel and City Council members Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti throughout the two-hour forum.
James, as he has in recent meetings, repeatedly honed in on Greuel.
“Ms. Greuel always makes the point that she knows where the bodies are buried. That’s because she buried the bodies,” he said after she advised him to “loosen up” after making a joke during a discussion of city hiring practices.
With vote-by-mail just underway in the March 5 primary, the mayoral candidates are increasingly showing friction and are sprinting through a series of debates this week, trying to leave their mark on an electorate that includes large numbers of undecided voters.
With the forum at Loyola Marymount University taking place minutes from Los Angeles International Airport, the spotlight turned to a controversial plan to separate the two northern runways by 260 fee -- proposal that was endorsed by airport commissioners on Tuesday. Proponents say such a move would give large airplanes more room to take off and land, and would increase safety. Opponents worry that such a move would increase noise and air pollution, and increase congestion at LAX rather than spread commercial air traffic among the region’s airports.
James announced that he opposed the runway expansion, drawing applause from the crowd. Perry said if she were mayor now, she would veto it if it came to her desk, but since she is not, she needs to visit the site to fully understand the potential noise and air-quality issues before she takes a position.
Garcetti and Greuel demurred and pledged to talk to the community. Pleitez said these positions showed what was wrong with city government.
“These are our elected officials. They’ve been in elected office 10 years. They’ve had enough time to study, to talk to the community, to go to the site,” he said. “They need to make decisions.”
James and Pleitez need to make the biggest marks in such forums because they are both long-shot candidates without the fundraising coffers of the elected officials. Garcetti, Greuel and Perry largely stayed positive, touting their records.
-- Seema Mehta
Photo: Kevin James, left, Jan Perry, and Emanuel Pleitez at Tuesday's debate. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times