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Thursday, April 28, 2016

County Supervisor Candidates Debate in Pasadena

(L to R) Moderator Marc Brown, Kathryn Barger, Elan Carr, Mitchell Englander, Bob Huff, Ara Najarian, Darrell Park

Five Republicans, one Democrat, discuss 710, homelessness, and water use

The six candidates vying to replace termed-out LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich in the Fifth District, met for a live Internet-streaming debate at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church Monday evening. The Fifth District, over two thousand square miles in area, includes all or part of the San Gabriel, Pomona, San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys.

Antonovich has held the office since 1980.

The evening, hosted by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, and moderated by KABC-TV’s Marc Brown, featured candidates Kathryn Barger, Antonovich’s former Chief of Staff; Gang Prosecutor Elan Carr, LA City Councilmember Mitchell Englander, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, and public policy executive Darrell Park.

Five of the candidates for the non-partisan office are Republican, while candidate Park is a Democrat.

Given only an hour for the debate, the candidates were given two rounds of questions from the panel of moderators. The questions ranged from the issue of homelessness , the gas leak at Porter Ranch, the 710 Freeway expansion, and the idea of the county hiring a sustainability officer to deal with day-to-day county environmental issues.

Park, the only progressive, set the stage for his presentation early when asked about the Porter Ranch methane gas leak, which affected thousands of San Fernando Valley homes last year.

Holding up a sign which read, “Shut them all down!” he shouted the same message to the assembled audience repeatedly, until his 30 seconds were up.

Most of the other candidates agreed on issues such as a half-cent county tax to battle the homeless issue, with Carr saying, “We have a moral obligation to help the homeless, but this is also a public safety issue as well,” though he would not support a tax to fix the problem.

Englander promoted a “Housing First” policy, which the City of Pasadena supports, but was also against any new taxes.

Huff said he was against a tax, and said he would “repurpose” existing County funds, and called on faith-based communities to do more.

Najarian, also against a tax, said the City of Glendale has about 300 homeless and a strong homeless program, with mobile teams out every evening to assist them in finding shelter. He called on other cities in the county to “do their fair share.”

Park cited the Utah “Housing First” anti-homeless example which moves the homeless immediately from the streets or homeless shelters into their own apartments, based on the idea that the homeless’ first need is stable housing, and that other issues that may affect the household can and should be addressed once housing is obtained.

Asked about the 710 expansion through Alhambra to connect with the 210 Freeway in South Pasadena or Alhambra, Huff said he “supports the gap closure for the greater good of the community.”

Najarian was adamantly against the 710 tunnel, saying it was dangerous, would not solve the problem, and would create “cancer clusters.”

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Park. “That tunnel is a death trap, and a waste of 15 billion dollars.” He advocated the expansion of rail lines instead.

Barger was also against a 710 freeway tunnel, saying there are “other alternatives, and the construction would disproportionately affect low-income communities.”

“Don’t spend any money on this idea,” said Carr.

Englander pointed out that Pasadena voters actually voted ten years ago in favor of the tunnel, but that “now, the mood has changed. There are other solutions.”

Asked about the need for a sustainability officer for the County, all agreed that maintaining the County’s infrastructure and environment was an important priority. Huff said that he might support a voter bond, but that “the bond would have to have a good allocation.” He also stressed that parks need to be maintained.

Park showed off his own rubber recycled wallet, and emphasized the need for recycling.

Barger advocated more clean energy as well as educating people on the importance of recycling, citing recent programs which taught residents not to toss paint in to sewers, for example.

“Landfills leak,” said Englander, who wants to eliminate them entirely, and move towards a zero-waste recycling policy in the county. “No more landfills,” he said.

‘We have a landfill in Glendale,” said Najarian, “and we take Pasadena’s waste. We are using and developing new technologies to recycle methane, and doing all we can to make that landfill safer.”

Asked about a Net Zero water policy, in which all water is recycled, Carr called for better water management, and said that water waste would be a top priority. He also called for the installation of smart meters, and more use of reclaimed water.

“Yes and no,” said Huff. “There should be exceptions, but we should definitely be cleaning up storm water.”

Najarian pointed out that Glendale already uses a dual plumbing system in its newer buildings, which have separate systems for clean and recycled water.

The debate was streamed live online, and will be aired on KABC at a later date before the election for County Supervisor June 7, 2016.

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