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Meet The Candidates: Mito Aviles, West Hollywood City Council

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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 Council candidate Mito Aviles.

Other candidates in the March 8, 2011 West Hollywood race are Lucas John, Abbe Land, Mark Gonzaga, Scott Schmidt, 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 believe that I can infuse a much needed vitality in our city government and restore our city's priority of fostering and cultivating a thriving art culture. We try to hold on to epithets, such as "The Creative City," but our incumbents have consistently prioritized wasteful development over creative endeavors and community interests. And while I am young, I do not lack experience. I have been in politics and policy for over 12 years, and I fought for veteran affairs, worker’s rights, and renter’s rights while working for Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis, the current Secretary of Labor for the Obama Administration. I have also not taken a single dollar from developers or large businesses. Therefore, unlike the incumbents and some candidates, I will come to the office with no strings attached.

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

Government reform: I want to increase government transparency and accountability by increasing public participation, instituting term limits, and mandating that all developer donations are clearly disclosed. I also want to decrease rising government salaries and increase the relatively stagnant funding for social services.

Reevaluate General Plan and Protect Residents: I want to make development and developer incentives reflect the interests of WeHo home owners, renters, and businesses. In order to protect renters, we must increase the incentives for landlords to continue to own and operate their buildings, so they do not feel compelled to sell valued rental units to developers who, in turn, build expensive condos. This also includes eliminating the “bonuses” that allow developers to circumvent height restrictions in residential neighborhoods.

Reduce Traffic and Parking problems: I want to ensure that there are sufficient parking structures and increase the flow of traffic by synchronizing our lights. I also want to increase the ease and convenience of our public transit system, by increasing the hours of operation and fighting for a Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative and a light rail system.

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?

Our current reserves are estimated at approximately 68.5 million dollars. In order to protect our reserves, I believe that we simply need to reel in wasteful spending. For example, West Hollywood used 54 million dollars of public funds to build a library that residents largely believed was excessive, if not completely unnecessary. Also, if we look at West Hollywood’s budget, we find that government employee salaries are increasing rapidly. We obviously have strong sources of revenue; it is simply a matter of using the money we have more effectively and enacting policy that represents the interests of the residents and businesses of West Hollywood.

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

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No, I do not support the smoking ban. I was actually the only person on the Smoking Ban Task Force representing the interests of residents. I attended every meeting, but we all became acutely aware that the City Council already knew what they wanted to pass, and that our concerns about the measure were entirely ignored. Very few people can understand how to interpret or enforce the current language of the smoking ban. While I am not opposed to some sort of ban. I think it really needs to be understandable and straightforward, and it should not impact businesses that want clearly defined smoking areas.

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?

I think we should evaluate all buildings individually by its aesthetic beauty, its perceived and actual value to residents, and the environmental impact it has on the community. I do not believe that continued development needs to be at the expense of our unique and artsy small businesses. In fact, I think that the more we mitigate our traffic and parking problems, the more our small businesses and large businesses will benefit from each other, as individuals can walk around and no longer be restricted to one-stop shopping. In terms of affordable housing, there is a trend of buildings with rental units being sold to condo developers. These condos are unaffordable, which is why they are largely still unoccupied, and they have replaced rental units that have housed renters who have made our city an exciting and interesting place to live.

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

I believe that City Councilors and their Deputies are obligated to meet with their constituents, whether it is one-on-one or in a town hall setting. We also need to have reputable, unbiased research companies gather input from our residents and publish the reports. During the process of the General Plan, the initial consultant was fired because the findings were not consistent with the agenda of the incumbents. This cannot be allowed to happen. Similarly, task forces and committees should not be tools to reinforce your predetermined agenda, or charades to create the semblance of concern. The incumbents have raised over 230,000 dollars. I have not taken a single dollar from developers, and so my allegiance lies solely with our residents and businesses.

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

I believe that public transportation is vital for the development and evolution of West Hollywood. Our traffic and parking problems are examples of the problems cities face when they are largely dependent upon a car culture. We need to make our bus lines and hours more convenient for commuters and residents. I think it is especially important to have bus lines that operate late, so that people can drink and have a reasonable means of getting home. It would also allow people to have fun in West Hollywood without struggling with our parking nightmare. While the MTA did not approve a subway line to West Hollywood, I believe that there are light rail options that would greatly benefit our city. Therefore, I strongly support Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative, and I am glad to see that support is growing.

Partial List of Endorsements (provided by candidate):

  • Tony Torres, Vice President of Diverse Strategies for Organizing (DSO)
  • Eddie Martinez, Associate Director of The Wall of Las Memorias
  • Allegra Allison, Community Activist West Hollywood Neighborhood Alliance
  • Patrick Kibby, Realtor/ Broker Associate Keller Williams
  • Pat Russell, Community Activist, West Hollywood Resident
  • Edward “Ed” Garren, East Side Redevelopment Project Area Committee
  • Barbara Robertson, Artist, West Hollywood Resident/ Renter
  • Lynn Russell, Community Activist
  • Roy Rogers Oldenkamp, Co-Chair West Hollywood Neighborhood Alliance (WEHONA)
  • Joseph Clapsaddle, West Hollywood Businessman and Resident
  • Justine Ruddock, Small Business Owner

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.