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Meet The Candidates: Abbe Land, West Hollywood City Council

West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land
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To prepare for the upcoming March 8, 2011 elections, LAist has contacted each candidate on the City of L.A.'s Official Candidate List to participate in a Q&A. All candidates received the same set of questions, with the exception of West Hollywood city council candidates, who received a WeHo-specific list of questions. LAist does not endorse political candidates, and responses are posted in the order they are received.

In this edition of "Meet the Candidates," we hear from West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land

Other candidates in the March 8, 2011 West Hollywood race are Lucas John, Scott Schmidt, Mark Gonzaga, Mito Aviles, Steve Martin, John D'Amico, Lindsey Horvath, and John Heilman. Three candidates will be elected.

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Tell us about your background and what you'll bring to the table. What makes you different from the other candidates, and what qualifies you to represent West Hollywood?

I have a background as an elected official, a grassroots organizer and an administrator. I also have a long history as a passionate advocate for renters’ rights, affordable housing, social justice, and health care for all. It is this unique background that makes me different from the other candidates. I am able to take my decades of activism, as well as my experience as a chief executive of a not-for-profit health care organization, and turn it into good sound public policy - policies that improves the quality of lives for people who live, work or play in West Hollywood, as well as move forward a progressive agenda beyond the city's borders. My commitment, experience, values and proven record of leadership qualifies me to represent the City of West Hollywood.

What are your top priorities for the city? How do you plan on tackling them?

Maintaining and building affordable housing: My record shows this is an issue that I will continue to take head on. I will continue to advocate for changes to the Ellis Act in Sacramento. I will continue to look at incentives for the development of affordable housing as we work on our Zoning Ordinance. I support increased density at some key transportation nodes as a way to build more affordable housing, especially for young people who want to live in West Hollywood.

Transportation: I will continue my advocacy for rail here in West Hollywood. We must be linked to existing routes, not only for those of us who live here, but as a way to help curb the pass-through traffic. I recently co-sponsored a Bicycle Task Force, with a goal to have bikes as a real transportation option. We need to help build a regional bike network to create more options for cycling, to increase safety for those who ride and to provide incentives for people to use bikes versus cars. I will look at expanding the City Line Shuttle, providing more routes that link to other transportation options.

Homelessness: I am working on ending chronic homelessness in West Hollywood, and for our community, it is a realistic and doable goal. I have been working hard over the last two years to identify who the homeless are in our city, get resources to house them as well as supportive services to help ensure that they can succeed. We have been awarded 20 Shelter + Care vouchers specifically for the chronic homeless and I will be working to identify landlords and other housing providers to help get people off the streets and into housing.

Job Attraction: I want to work to get a variety of jobs into the city. We currently have approved some projects that will increase service industry jobs, but we must also identify businesses to bring into the city that will provide other types of jobs as well -- from entertainment technology to green businesses, as well as arts and culture related businesses. This is an effort that I will lead by working with the City's Economic Development division, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and other key stakeholders, as we create a business attraction strategy to see these new businesses locate here over the next four years.

As WeHo continues to draw down its reserves to balance the budget for consecutive years, what are the plans to begin balancing the budget before the reserve runs dry?

I have been a fiscally responsible steward of the City’s resources. During my last Mayoral year, during an incredibly challenging global economy, the City of West Hollywood received a AAA bond rating - a rating level that was just recently reaffirmed.

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The city of West Hollywood is NOT drawing down on its reserves to balance the budget. Over the years we deliberately built up reserves for capital projects. We are now using those reserves to build the new library, the parking structure and improve West Hollywood Park. Those funds helped pay for the renovation of Sunset Blvd. We will use them to renovate and improve Plummer Park. We do not use them for operating. In fact as part of every budget we put aside operating reserves , in fact more than most cities. Due to city council's long time commitment to fiscal responsibility, we are in a strong financial position.

Do you support the new expanded smoking ban and why or why not?

I brought this item to the City Council, and do support it. Second-hand smoke is a public health hazard, and part of my job as an elected official is to respond to public health issues. The City of West Hollywood has been a leader on these issues, and I’m proud of our work.

This particular ordinance won’t go into effect until next year, and only prohibits smoking in outdoor dining areas - we exempted bars and nightclubs so that our policy would mirror that of the City of Los Angeles.

In addition, we will be bringing forward an educational campaign and offering cessation programs to our residents as well. We will offer incentives for businesses who want to come into compliance earlier, as well as those businesses that might be exempted, but who see the importance of offering a smoke-free environment for their patrons and employees.

Current statistics show that only 9% of Californians smoke, and while our rate in West Hollywood is higher, this gives us an opportunity to reduce the prevalence of second-hand smoke and to create an even healthier community.

How would you balance the various desires of the residents between continued development by some and the desire to hold onto the unique, artsy, affordable city WeHo used to be?

Our General Plan is working to do just that - we’re moving through a process to adopt that in the next couple of months. The adoption of the General Plan and the accompanying zoning ordinance will ensure our collective desire to maintain our unique community. We will allow smaller units, reduced parking requirements when near transit, live-work spaces and ensure a pedestrian-friendly community. As we attract new businesses we want to attract those who share our values and fit into to the fabric of the community.

How do you plan on working with your constituents in addressing their concerns?

People know they can call me and that we will follow up on their concerns. My office is always responsive to West Hollywood constituents. My staff knows that addressing issues that are impacting people's lives is our number one priority. I try to attend as many neighborhood meetings as possible so people can tell me directly what issues they may have. I often say that I do my best constituent work while shopping at Pavilions. I have held community events and forums that encourage people to come out so I can hear their concerns. And many of the items I propose include creation of task force or working groups to ensure we are getting the broadest input possible on the issues. I am also bringing forward an agenda item that will create a working group to explore how to better use social media as a way of further engaging people and providing another vehicle to inform and hear from residents on a range of issues.

Public transportation is an important issue for LAist readers. What role should public transportation have in West Hollywood?

Public transportation is an important issue for me as well, and it is my goal to see public transit play a bigger role in West Hollywood. We will continue to advocate for additional transit options, while at the same time continuing to examine our existing transit and determine how to expand ridership.

Our roads are our biggest public transit investment, and we need to look for creative ways to make them safe and usable for bicyclists and pedestrians and to ensure that bus and rail can be accommodated, not only today, but in the future.

Our City Line shuttle is one of our best options - in the short term - to provide more opportunities for routes that meet the needs of people who live, work and play in West Hollywood.

Partial List of Endorsements:

  • John Heilman, West Hollywood Mayor
  • Lindsey Horvath, West Hollywood City Councilmember
  • John Duran, West Hollywood City Councilmember
  • Jeffrey Prang, West Hollywood City Councilmember
  • Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor
  • Judy Chu, United States Congress
  • Lee Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff
  • Betty Yee, Board of Equalization
  • Paul Koretz, Los Angeles City Councilmember

LAist does not endorse political candidates. All candidates from the City of L.A.'s Official Candidate List were contacted to participate and were given the same set of questions, with the exception of West Hollywood candidates, who were sent a WeHo-specific list of questions.