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Meet The Candidates: Stephen Box, Council District 4
City Council District 4 candidate Stephen Box
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 Council District 4 candidate Stephen Box (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) [Full disclosure: Box is a former LAist contributor]. The district includes Atwater Village, Griffith Park, Hollywood, Los Feliz, Miracle Mile, North Hollywood, Silver Lake, Studio City and Toluca Lake.
Other candidates in the March 8, 2011 CD10 race are incumbent Councilmember Tom LaBonge and Tomás O'Grady. Not sure about your district? See the map to find out if your neighborhood is within district boundaries.
I’m Stephen Box and I’m running for City Council, representing District 4, a place I’m proud to call home. It’s where I’ve lived for almost 14 years and it’s where I met my lovely wife, Enci.
I’m a community activist who came to Hollywood to work in the entertainment industry and that was my introduction to LA’s Byzantine city bureaucracy.
Along the way I produced a film in East Hollywood and established sustainability standards for film production, demonstrating that we can both support and protect jobs in LA while raising environmental standards.
Through it all, I blogged about the journey, forming the Bike Writers Collective and writing for LAist, the Transit Coalition, and CityWatchLA on everything from the Mandeville Canyon incident to the city’s budget crisis to arts & culture.
I’m an outsider, with strong experience in city government.
The city I love is struggling and here's how I want to fix it;
PLAN for enduring growth. BALANCE the budget so we can pay for the plan. CONNECT agencies and departments so they work together to eliminate overlaps. SET STANDARDS so government delivers what it promises—not by complaint. CELEBRATE the arts, culture and entertainment for jobs, the economy and tourism.
What are your top priorities for your district? How do you plan on tackling them?
The people of CD4 come from all over the world to pursue their dreams in the greatest city in the most populous state in the most powerful country in the world, yet our daily decisions revolve around avoiding traffic congestion, finding a parking place, finding a safe place to cross the road and avoiding collapsing streets. This must change.
The place to start is with a commitment to responsible land use, leveraging existing funding to rebuild our streets and sidewalks, supporting this vision with a long-term balanced budget.
Through it all, City Hall must partner with the local economy by creating LA City Works, a one-stop shop for small businesses, complemented by full support of the entertainment industry, arts & culture, and tourism as the economic drivers that will result in jobs and a robust economy.
How would you address the city's projected $350 million budget deficit?
The immediate opportunity is to commit to a long-term solution, forgoing the current trend of simply kicking the problem down the road.
a) Efficient Revenue collection. The Commission on Revenue Efficiency has laid out a very significant plan for improving the City of LA’s revenue. It’s a significant start.
b) Efficient Funding collection. The City of LA actually qualifies for funding and then fails to execute the projects, causing the city to be disqualified for future funding. On something as simple as Safe Routes to School funding, money that makes our streets safer for children on their way to school, the City of LA qualifies for funds but fails to do the work. This must end.
c) Efficient Operations. The City of LA has departments that duplicate services, compete for funding and then fail to deliver. From transportation to emergency preparedness, the results are missing but the bureaucracy grows while the money disappears. This must end.
d) Unfunded Pensions & Benefits. The City of LA has failed the City Family and it is imperative that leadership representing both sides have an adult conversation that addresses the city’s liabilities and the impending budget crisis. That won’t happen until City Hall treats those who deliver city services to the people of LA with respect and actually honor the deal. That being said, both sides have an obligation to resolve the budget crisis with a sustainable solution.
e) Community Development Agency. I’m the only candidate who is opposed to the city’s KELO authority to seize private property for the use of another private party, a process that has resulted in the loss of $1.5 billion in tax revenue to the City of LA during the incumbent’s term in office. I support Governor Brown’s proposal to abolish the CRA, resulting in $329 per child ($220 million) being returned to the LAUSD, $200 million to LA County, and $200 million to the City of Los Angeles.
How do you plan on working with your constituents in addressing their concerns?
I’m already working with them and I have been working with them for many years. I formed Budget LA ( http://budgetla.org ) to involve the local community in the city’s budget process. I formed the LA Bike Working Group to involve the local cycling community in the planning process for LA’s Bike Plan. Along the way, Enci and I have taken the “Get Connected” seminar on the road, sharing communication and outreach tools with neighborhood councils and community groups.
My parents were Nazarene pastors and on the front door of their first church was a small sign that read “A Welcome Awaits You”. It is a four word philosophy that I will bring with me to City Hall.
This symbolic gesture is backed up by my track record as an activist in fighting for open and transparent governanc. From the LAPD Commission to the DWP Commission to the LADOT to City Hall, I have fought to ensure that the City of LA comply with the Brown Act which guarantees open meeting. That battle continues and the people of LA still use the back door at City Hall! I believe that must change!
Public transportation is an important issue for LAist readers. What role should public transportation have in LA?
California’s Complete Streets Act just went into effect on January 1, 2011 and sets in place a commitment that requires municipalities to support all modes of transportation, from pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit passengers to motorists as they update their General Plans. Yet the City of LA argues that it doesn’t apply to LA because the current revisions to the Transportation element don’t qualify as an update. That must change.
The people of LA need good choices, lots of them, so that we can live our lives based on our own schedules, not simply navigating rush hour congestion, limited parking, gaps in transit, bad road conditions and unsafe streets.
LA needs to lead the nation in public transportation solutions. I’m an urban cyclist, I ride a bike across town, from Hollywood to Pasadena and to Santa Monica. I ride to Sunland Tujunga, Woodland Hills and to San Pedro. I connect my trips with the bus and with the Red Line and via foot. And I even drive a car sometimes. I use all modes and I’m acutely sensitive to road conditions, conflicted engineering, the impact of speed limit increases, etc.
I’m on the Caltrans Safe Routes to School Committee, on the CalTrans 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee and I’ve been working for many years to bring money into LA and then the City defaults on them. That must change.
Tom LaBonge, the incumbent in district 4, has voted “yes” on every single speed limit increase that came to the Transportation Committee last year, while residents showed up against those motions. We, the residents, are fighting the current leadership for years, and nobody listens, nobody cares about our neighborhoods or our community.
Public transportation is a priority, the 30-10 plan is ambitious and shows great promise but it must be integrated into the larger land use plan and complemented with a connectivity to all modes. For too long, LA has failed to deliver on the basic human right, mobility - the freedom to move!
I will fight for our basic right to move in this city, no matter what mode. Our most vulnerable community members, including children, senior citizens, mothers, and the disabled need to be taken care of and not ignored.
“Regardless of your mode of transportation, your freedom to move in the public arena is a civil rights issue, and whenever one user-group gains access at the expense of another user-group, it’s a civil rights violation - plain and simple.” ~ Stephen Box from Illuminate L.A. regarding the Los Angeles petition for complete streets.
The City Council has had to revisit the medical marijuana ordinance repeatedly. How would you like to see the medical marijuana issue addressed?
Medical Marijuana is a land-use issue. The current ballot measure is a cry for litigation and the money raised through taxes will be dwarfed by the cost of the lawsuits. The measure is ill conceived and poorly written which makes it hard to support
I support workable regulations and the creation of a medical cannabis advisory board that includes patients and that works in partnership with the City Council to help shape future medical cannabis legislation for Los Angeles.
What are your priorities for development and planning?
The City of LA is the city of plans, we have a General Plan, Specific Plans, Community Plans, Master Plans, Vision Plans, a Golf Plan, a Tree Plan, a Street Lighting Plan...what we don’t have is the political will to connect these plans and give the people of LA a real plan that we can count on, one that makes sense and that is enforced.
This must change. The City of LA currently allows development to take place based on exceptions and variances which simply exhausts the people of LA who fight to maintain the personality and character of their communities.
This point is especially true in District 4 which is home to some of L.A.’s richest history. People from around the world make this district a destination because they want to be a part of the magic our planners take for granted. Preserving the historical feel of our neighborhoods is immensely important.
We need a strong plan that supports standards everyone can agree to.
A real Plan, supported by a real Budget, that protects and preserves the legacy of LA.
Endorsements (provided by candidate):
- Daily News
- Hollywood Highlands Democratic Club
- Mobile Cuisine Magazine
- Mobile Food News
- Hollywood Rent-A-Car
- LA Progressive
- Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association
- LA Clean Sweep
- Out of the Box Creative
Click here for a complete list of endorsements.
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.