LA's Next Mayor: How Mel Wilson Would Tackle The Big Issues Facing The City
LAist sent all candidates actively campaigning for L.A. Mayor the following questionnaire. Their responses have been published in full, adjusted only to fit the formatting and style of the page.
We also highlighted 12 questions that we think give you a sense of where the candidates align with your own views on issues that are important to Angelenos. And we wrapped it all up in our interactive "matchmaking" quiz, Meet Your Mayor. Curious? Take the quiz!
About The Candidate
Mel Wilson is a businessman and former member of the Metro board. As a housing and small-business advocate for nearly three decades, he supported policies that expanded opportunities for working families to own their own homes.
He has also served on the Los Angeles Fire Commission and Business Tax Advisory Commission. He lists his occupation on the ballot as Realtor/Community Advocate.
Q: California is in a chronic drought. Which of the following strategies most closely reflects what you think should be done at the city level to improve individual water conservation?
A: Encourage voluntary rationing and institute rationing
Q: What should the next mayor prioritize to lower the costs of converting to more sustainable electric options for homeowners and businesses? (i.e., solar power, electric vehicles, etc.)
- Offer LED light bulbs to all Angelenos
- Offer discounted charging for vehicles registered in L.A.
- Convert all Metro buses, LADOT buses and LA fleets of vehicles to use zero emission fuel sources.
Q: As mayor, Eric Garcetti promised to get to 100% clean electricity for city operations by 2035 by electrifying city buildings, vehicles and public transit. Will you continue working toward this goal? Why or why not?
A: Yes, I will continue working toward this goal. Carbon emission (GHG) is warming our planet. The negative effects of climate change causes wildfires, increasing the intensity of droughts and other negative environmental impacts.
Q: Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles. Where do you see the biggest opportunity to lower those emissions?
A: The biggest opportunity to lower emissions is to target and require cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships and planes to use zero emission fuels in L.A. I will convert Metro’s 2,000 buses, hundreds of LADOT buses and thousands of L.A. city fleets to zero emission fuels. We will phase out the use of fossil fuels in vessels that enter the Ports of L.A. We will electrify cargo cranes, phase out the use of carbon generating trucks that enter the ports of L.A.
Q: What's the most important action the next mayor can take to help the city's most vulnerable residents deal with extreme heat?
A: Aggressively combat climate change. Targeting the transportation sector is the largest generator of greenhouse gas emission. Increase tree canopy by planting trees in the low-income and minority communities. Reduce the use of concrete and asphalt surfaces for sidewalks, streets and roads.
Q: What should the next mayor’s top priority be for addressing the city’s poor air quality, especially for those communities most impacted by pollution?
A: Clean the air by phasing out fossil fuels in vehicles, ships, trains and planes.
Q: Climate is also affecting fires in the city and its surroundings. How would you tackle this problem?
A: Combat greenhouse gas emission generators. Have an annual brush removal program for all government properties and privately held properties located within 1000 feet of residential and commercial land uses.
Q: Los Angeles Municipal Code 41.18, better known as the “anti-camping law,” bans people who are unhoused from camping on public property close to locations such as schools, parks, libraries, and underpasses. Should 41.18 be kept as is, repealed, or changed (and if so, how)?
A: Should be kept in place.
Q: Should the city be clearing encampments where people experiencing homelessness have taken up temporary residence? Why or why not?
A: To clear up encampments, the city should immediately offer housing [and] ban illegal drug use in encampments. Give homeless a choice of entering an extended drug rehab program, change the Lanterman Petris-Short law extending the conservatorship period from 72 hours to a longer period of time. Require people living in encampments to enter into drug rehab, supervised mental health therapy, accept temporary [housing] and transit to permanent supportive housing.
Q: I believe the primary cause of most homelessness in Los Angeles is…
A: Undiagnosed, untreated mental illness, drug addiction, people who cannot survive the high cost of living in L.A., youth who were emancipated out of the foster care program.
Q: The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) estimates that 25% of people who are unhoused have a severe mental illness. What is your opinion on the current state of mental health support for unhoused people?
A: The mental health system is broken. We need a minimum of 55 mental health beds for every 100,000 who live in the region. We need to change the conservatorship holding period to longer than 72 hours. We need to offer free mental health care or offer mental health care with a means test based on one’s household income.
Q: Do you agree with Angelenos who say that the large number of people living outside makes the streets less safe? Why or why not?
A: Yes I agree. Untreated mental health individuals are a safety risk to themselves and to the public. Open drug sales and use is contributing to criminal behavior. Drug users are committing crimes on the public and committing crimes on each other. Mentally ill people are a danger to themselves and to the public. Biohazard conditions (used hypodermic needles; methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl use is a public safety hazard). People living on the streets without proper sanitary receptacles to defecate and urinate are a health hazard. People living on the streets creates an environment for diseases to grow and spread.
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Q: Should the next mayor commit to ensuring that people who are experiencing homelessness are at the table when decisions are made on the city’s homelessness policies?
Q: Proposition HHH is a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by voters in 2016 which supports the development of 8,000-10,000 permanent supportive housing units within the city of Los Angeles over 10 years. Has its implementation been effective?
A: No, 10,000 homeless shelter units were promised to voters. Less than 8,000 units were produced. At $250,000 per unit, tiny houses (8 feet by 8 feet), no bathroom or kitchen are much too expensive. Creating a one-bedroom unit at a price of $600,000 to $800,000 is an outrageously expensive cost.
Q: Who should build housing for the unhoused community: the city or private developers? Why?
A: The private sector should build the housing, take the risk for development cost of material and labor. The public sector can agree to a delivery cost and the public sector either buys or leases housing units from the private sector. This will shift the construction risks from the public to the private sector. The private sector can assess the cost, risk and time for delivery and require a reasonable return on their investments for building the housing units.
Q: LAUSD is the largest school district in the country in which residents directly elect their school board and the mayor doesn’t have direct control over that board. This means the mayor has little to no influence over education in the city of Los Angeles. Should anything about this arrangement change?
A: If voters want to change this jurisdictional issue, this should be taken to the [ballot]. In the interim, the mayor should collaborate with LAUSD, with components of education, training of students, shared use of facilities, public safety and policing responsibilities and cost.
Q: What role does the city play in addressing a lack of affordable child care, which is particularly acute in low-income areas?
A: As mayor I would offer subsidized child care based on household income. The less you make, the higher the childcare subsidy the City of L.A. pays on behalf of the family.
EQUITABLE ECONOMICS AND HOUSING
Q: I believe the biggest barrier to building more affordable housing is…
A: The high building and permit fees the city of L.A. charges builders.
Q: Due to the city's emergency decree, rent increases are currently not allowed for tenants living in most apartments built before 1978. But before the pandemic, Los Angeles generally capped annual rent increases at 3% for apartments covered by local rent control. Should the city keep its existing rent control ordinance, eliminate it, or modify it?
A: The city should change the ordinance to allow for housing providers to pass-through some of the cost-of-living expenses to the housing providers. Forty-eight percent of housing providers are small mom-and-pop owners of apartments and single family dwellings. Pass-through fees include trash collection, water and power rates.
Q: Landlords also say they’ve been struggling amid rising costs, inflation over 7%, and pandemic-era restrictions such as temporary bans on rent increases and evictions. What, if anything, should the city do to help landlords?
A: The city should help housing providers with any environment or seismic upgrades. Soft-story earthquake upgrades, conversion fossil fuel to all electric appliances.
Q: What statement best reflects your position on the minimum wage of $16.04 that goes into effect on July 1, 2022?
A: It’s too low
Q: Mayor Garcetti piloted a universal basic income program. Do you support the idea of a universal basic income in Los Angeles? Why or why not?
A: No, I do not support the idea. I do support the idea of the city offering low-interest forgivable loans to small businesses who pay 20% above minimum wages.
Q: Street safety advocates say at the current pace of improvement, it will take 200 years to fulfill Vision Zero, which was supposed to be accomplished by 2035. What’s the first step to getting Vision Zero back on track?
A: Offering safer pedestrian passage and bikeways. Offer more public transit options. Encourage development near transit and commercial corridors.
Q: Should the Los Angeles Police Department remain at its current size of 9,500 sworn officers, should it be downsized, or should it increase? Why?
A: No. I will budget for hiring up to 11,000 public safety offers. That public safety core includes hiring 350 mental health experts, hiring community public safety ambassadors (youths and seniors).
Q: The current LAPD budget of $1.76 billion represents almost 16% of the overall city budget. Should LAPD funding stay the same, increase or decrease? Why?
A: Increase to accommodate 350 mental health experts and community public safety ambassadors.
Q: Is it possible to reduce crime in the city without increasing the LAPD budget? If so, how?
A: No. Violent crimes are on the rise. People in every part of the city are asking for more public safety.
Q: A rising number of Angelenos say that Los Angeles no longer feels safe. As mayor, how would you address their fears?
A: Increase the number of patrol officers on the streets. Reorganize Metro budget by creating a dedicated Metro Public Safety Core with officers, ambassadors and community customer care specialist boarding buses, trains, and regular stops at bus stops and rail platforms.
Q: Media investigations have found that LAPD officers have disproportionately stopped Black drivers and were much more likely to search Black and Latino drivers. Do you believe racial profiling is a problem, and if so, what should be done to address it?
A: Yes, it is a problem. Hold cops accountable, hire community ambassadors to work with the department. Have communities directly part of community policing deployment.
Q: Would you be willing to meet with groups that have been sharply critical of the police, such as Black Lives Matter and Reform LA Jails?
A: Yes, I'm open to meeting with any groups and listening to them. In fact, I've already met with Black Lives Matter by speaking with Dr. Melina Abdullah on her show, "This is Not a Drill," on KBLA Talk 1580 and participating in the People's Budget LA Forum hosted by Black Lives Matter LA. I welcome the opportunity to meet with other stakeholder groups in the community who are critical of the police.
A: District Attorney George Gascón came to office on a progressive agenda that includes fewer prosecutions for low-level crimes. What statement best reflects your opinion of his agenda?
A: His agenda goes too far
Q: Who should be sent when a call is made about a mental health crisis?
A: Mental health experts, backed up by police officers.
Q: How would you want the police chief to address the frayed relationships between the LAPD and many of the communities it serves?
A: Accountable Community is my plan. Community policing starts at the top with the Mayor, Police Commissions, Police Commander and frontline patrol officers.