Pubdate: Thu, 27 Mar 2014
Source: Argonaut, The (CA)
Copyright: 2014 The Argonaut
Author: Gary Walker


West Los Angeles Democratic Club hosts first political forum 
featuring candidates in an eight-way race

Questions about how to protect the environment, whether to legalize 
marijuana use and whether to tweak Proposition 13 came to the 
forefront during the first public forum for candidates seeking an 
open Westside state Assembly seat.

Sponsored by the West Los Angeles Democratic Club, the March 13 forum 
at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Mar Vista was one of the first 
public events introducing a field of hopefuls seeking state office 
for the first time in the June primary election.

Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D- Gardena) terms out of his 62nd 
Assembly District seat later this year. The district includes Marina 
del Rey, Venice, Playa Vista, Playa del Rey, Westchester and part of Mar Vista.

Democratic candidates Autumn Burke, Gloria Gray, Paul Kouri and 
Simona Farrise answered questions for more than 90 minutes before an 
audience of approximately 60 people. Inglewood City Councilman Mike 
Stevens and community activist Adam Plimpton, also Democrats, did not 
attend but were invited, organizers said.

The field includes one Republican, real estate agent Ted Grose, and 
student Emidio "Mimi" Soltysik, who has declined to state a party affiliation.

The contenders who spoke during the forum worked to set themselves 
apart by focusing on what they consider their strengths.

Kouri, a former Venice High School social studies and government 
teacher, mentioned his experience in education and as a veteran. He 
said one of his first acts if elected would be to push for a 
reduction in class size in all public schools.

Farrise, a civil rights attorney, cited her professional experience 
as one of her strengths.

"As a lawyer, I have the ability to decipher and understand complex 
problems," Farrise said.

Gray noted that she was the only candidate with legislative 
experience, currently serving on the West Basin Municipal Water 
District and previously as an Inglewood school board member.

"I have experience creating policy for thousands of people in 
Southern California," Gray said. "You need practical experience in 
Sacramento. This is not a job where you'll have a lot of time to 
learn on the job."

Burke, a business development consultant, talked about her passion 
for the district and her experience in economic development.

"No one on this dais has ever been an assemblyperson," said Burke, a 
Marina del Rey resident and daughter of former Los Angeles County 
Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. "I think it's important to not 
just understand the problems of the urban portion of the district but 
also the coastal areas of our district."

Moderator Loren Scott, the club's political vice president, asked the 
candidates whether Proposition 13, the 1978 landmark initiative to 
restrict property tax increases - often called the third rail of 
California politics - should be restructured or repealed.

Kouri, a Mar Vista resident, said perhaps after a year or two the law 
might merit another look.

"Now is not the time to repeal Prop. 13," he said. "I don't want to 
raise taxes on homeowners right now."

Farrise said large corporations that own large commercial properties 
have benefited the most from Proposition 13.

"Prop. 13 is about fundamental fairness, and it is not fair to 
everyone," she said.

Gray said the law should get a second look for a possible revision.

Burke said while single-family homes need to be protected, she was in 
favor of closing some of the corporate loopholes that Farrise mentioned.

On the environment, the candidates took similar positions. A question 
from Scott regarding the state's "official" position of using 
bulldozers in its planned revitalization of the Ballona Wetlands 
brought out nearly identical answers - all four saying they were 
against using bulldozers to in the restoration of the 600-acre state 
ecological reserve. None pointed out that there is no "official" 
state alternative for restoring the ecological reserve yet, though 
using bulldozers is one option pending an environmental review.

Kouri and Gray, whose backgrounds are in education, decried what they 
believe is an attempt by some education reform groups to privatize 
education as well as the recent cuts to funding schools.

"We don't put enough funding into education in Los Angeles or 
statewide," Gray said.

"I'm against any effort to privatize our schools," Kouri said. 
"Public schools are not created to make a profit."

The topic of legalizing marijuana drew applause from the audience.

Farrise said that, as a parent of three, she found the argument for 
legalization difficult. But she also feels that current laws have led 
to mass incarceration of many young people.

"It's become the new 'Jim Crow,'" the attorney said.

Burke said it was hard to deny "the kind of revenue" that legalizing 
marijuana might bring the state, but she expressed concern about 
those who might drive after using the drug. "How do we test for the 
effects that marijuana can have on someone who is driving?" she asked.

Each of the candidates voiced their opposition to hydraulic 
fracturing, commonly known as fracking, an energy production 
technique used to obtain oil and natural gas supplies that are 
trapped in rock and sand formations.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom