Meet The Candidates: Scott Schmidt, West Hollywood City Council
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.
Other candidates in the March 8, 2011 West Hollywood race are Lucas John, Abbe Land, Mark Gonzaga, Mito Aviles, Steve Martin, John D'Amico, Lindsey Horvath, and John Heilman. Three candidates will be elected.
Image courtesy of weho.org
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?
On the inside and outside of government, I have been a fierce advocate for public transportation, taxpayers rights, government accountability and equality and freedom for everyone.
As a Transportation Commissioner, I have delivered results for seniors and the disabled of West Hollywood, while putting people ahead of the city’s revenues by advocating for more prominent and clear parking signage.
I’m a small business owner who chose to locate in West Hollywood, and my years of experience working in economic development and legislative affairs for chambers of commerce give me an understanding of what we need to keep the neighborhood-oriented businesses from leaving West Hollywood.
What are your top priorities for the city? How do you plan on tackling them?
As a member of the City Council, I will fight to keep West Hollywood a low-tax city, to prioritize public safety and social services ahead of city hall salaries and pension benefits, to synchronize our streetlights to address traffic congestion and reduce our reliance on parking tickets and new development to balance the budget.
The first step to accomplishing these goals is to assess the skyrocketing salaries at city hall. The largest social service program in our city are the municipal employees unions. I’ll revisit the compensation comparison study from 2006 to make sure salaries in cities like Bell did not skew its results and insist that we only have one inflation rate in the city that applies to landlords, renters and municipal employees so that salaries and fringe benefits don’t continue to increase 14% a year like they have for the past five 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?
The first thing that must happen is that we must take off the incumbents’ rose-colored glasses and Pollyanna budgeting. They keep taking about our “surplus” but I’ve never seen a “surplus” when a government is spending $20 million more per year than they take in.
Our reserves have been cut in half in three years and unless the economy improves, we will have to address what we are spending--not only on staff salaries and benefits, but on capital projects such as the $25 million parking lot for city hall staff. If we can’t afford it, withut dipping even further into our reserves, I won’t vote for it.
Do you support the new expanded smoking ban and why or why not?
I believe it was a mistake for Abbe Land and John Heilman to bring the outdoor smoking debate to West Hollywood because it was passionate and divisive, pitting members of our community against each other. I’d expect such tactics from Karl Rove but not our city’s civic leaders. Maybe that’s why they tried to sneak it through without debate on the Monday before Christmas 2009.
I was the first one to say that we’re all adults and we should be treated as such by our government. If you are a smoker and there are people eating outside, either ask them if they mind or move to another table. If you don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke, then don’t sit next to someone who is smoking, or choose a restaurant--like Taste on Melrose--that doesn’t allow it. I can’t find “al fresco dining” in my copy of the constitution.
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?
Development is a hot topic in local West Hollywood political circles, and everyone wants an easy answer. Some candidates are flat-out against it. The incumbents- John Heilman, Abbe Land and Lindsey Horvath-rely on new development as a budget solution.
Personally, I do not believe development is a four-letter word. To live up to our moniker as the "creative city," we must continue to renew and reinvent ourselves-and part of that process means building new buildings.
There are many historic treasures in our City, and they must be preserved and nurtured as resources for the community. There are also many buildings that could use a visit from code compliance.
Some people have asked me about creating a citywide four-story height limit. Other candidates have signed on to this simple solution. I cannot. With density bonuses for green building or affordable housing, four stories is not four stories.
Development must be appropriate to the neighborhood, and the neighborhoods of West Hollywood are as diverse as our people. Four stories on Melrose Avenue and in West Hollywood West is way too big. Along Sunset Boulevard, however, more density may be appropriate. But you cannot take a ten-story tower that would be fit for Sunset and plop it on the East side of the City along Santa Monica.
How do you plan on working with your constituents in addressing their concerns?
The first thing I’ll do is listen. I am humble enough to know that not only do I not have all the answers--I don’t even know all the right questions. I’ll also let people know upfront that they won’t agree with me all of the time--and I hope that they do not.
To encourage public participation, I’ll work to limit the time spent on resolutions and presentations at council meetings so that the people who show up can be heard. I’ll make sure that any significant contracts or actions taken by the council are given a hearing at commission or at council before I will sign off of them.
Public transportation is an important issue for LAist readers. What role should public transportation have in West Hollywood?
Public transportation is critical to West Hollywood. As a transportation commissioner, I worked to ensure that money from taxi franchise fees went directly to seniors and the disabled because they know best where they need to go and when they need to be there.
West Hollywood supported the subway extension and Measure R in higher numbers than any other community--yet Metro is leaving us out of the discussion now, because of the failures of incumbents like Abbe Land and John Heilman.
I'll bring up creative ideas--like extending the Crenshaw light rail up San Vicente into West Hollywood, or exploring a DUI Abatement Assessment District to create a per-cocktail fee to fund mass transit to West Hollywood. We need mass transit in West Hollywood and we cannot leave any possible way to get it on the table.
Partial List of Endorsements (provided by candidate):
- Bill Rosendahl, LA City Council member
- Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter, Milk
- Log Cabin Los Angeles
- Bradly Torgan, West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commissioner
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.