This is the first of five interviews in alphabetical order with the major candidates for mayor of Los Angeles. By JONATHAN D. COLBURN Staff Reporter The second to last of the major candidates to file for the mayoral election, State Sen. Richard Alarcon is comfortable in his position as an underdog, he says it’s one he’s gotten used to. Alarcon said he decided to run after becoming fed up with allegations of a “pay to play” scandal at City Hall, and he said he has plans to expand the police force, the city’s middle class and improve attendance in the city’s schools. Before serving in the state senate, Alarcon was a city councilman for six years, he also worked for Mayor Tom Bradley for 10 years as his top deputy in the San Fernando Valley. Valley leaders say that the Valley vote will likely split between candidate Bob Hertzberg and Alarcon, although it remains to be seen how much support the mayor has managed to garner in the two years after the Valley secession vote failed citywide. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote March 8, the two top candidates will face each other in a runoff on the May general election ballot. The Business Journal will publish interviews with all the major candidates in the Los Angeles mayoral race before the March primary. Question: Why are you running for mayor? Answer: I’m a life long Angeleno, my father’s lived in North Hollywood for 80 years, my mother has lived in the San Fernando Valley for 70 years. We’re very much rooted in this, and I believe I’m in a position given my history and my experience to offer assistance and to change Los Angeles for the better. Obviously I’m dissatisfied with the leadership in the office now, and I believe that I can inspire and energize this city with new ideas and vision and activism in every community. I think we can improve our communities, and in doing so improve all of Los Angeles. Q: What do you think Los Angeles should be striving for, and where do you think Mayor Hahn has fallen down? A: First of all, we should constantly be focused on improving the quality of life for Los Angeles. When L.A. was strongest it always had a very large middle class. A lot of people were making good wages and getting good benefits. Home ownership ratios were high, and that really should be our constant goal, to be what Los Angeles was. There has to be a harmony between business and the people that work for the businesses in our community. I believe that there has been a separation of interest between the two that has been harmful. We need to reunify around the notion that good business practices combined with a highly skilled workforce that earns good wages and good benefits is going to create a greater quality of life for everyone in LA. I think the biggest fault I have with the mayor is his failure to unify our city at either a community level or citywide level. I think it’s damaged our ability to apply for funding on major projects. To give some examples of what I think are lost opportunities LAX. ,I think the mayor has failed to unify the city and our neighbors, other cities that are impacted by the airport not to mention the entire region. You have all the communities of interest dissatisfied with one or two elements of the plan, you have many community members immediately adjacent to the city up in arms. You’ve got a region that is crying out for a better transportation system with regard to airline services and we’re not creating that uniformity of thinking. By bringing all of those groups into once consensus, I believe we can gain more from the federal and state governments. On transportation projects, we’re also seeing lost opportunities to unify our community behind specific goals. We can then lobby the federal government in particular, which holds the bulk of the purse strings on major transportation projects like subways, and because of that disunity we’ve lost ground. I believe that the largest crisis facing Los Angeles, of the many, is that we don’t have a unanimity of thinking on these projects, and I don’t think the mayor has demonstrated effective leadership in any of these areas. Q: How can the city improve trade security and port security? A: The city is a major player nationally, the Long Beach and Los Angeles harbor area as a whole is I think the 12th largest economy in the world, and so it has tremendous influence on every issue relevant to the economy including world trade, so security looms large. I also believe that issues of outsourcing loom large in the city of Los Angeles, and I don’t think the mayor has shown very much leadership in that regard either. Clearly we have issues of port security. Another thing that we failed to recognize for example in negotiating the Alameda Corridor is that the vast majority of goods shipped out of the Alameda Corridor, are shipped to middle America. I think we’ve failed to negotiate this from a position of strength. The rest of American needs the Alameda Corridor more than us, but our strategy in Washington has been one that has been sort of defensive, like ‘Los Angeles needs this,’ when in fact the whole country needs this. I think arguing from that perspective is a much stronger argument if we can gain votes in Iowa and Kansas, because that’s the end point of the goods that are received in our harbor. Then I think it provides more leverage for us to get more funds to support a more qualitative Alameda Corridor project. Q: One of LA’s legacy industries is aerospace, what can we do to make sure that the next company that designs rockets does so in Los Angeles? A: Well obviously the environmental degradation caused by Rocketdyne has made our position weaker, it’s been difficult to build community support knowing that history. I think with regard to business retention, we need to focus on jobs and businesses that cannot be outsourced. You can’t outsource healthcare workers, police officers, tourism workers. There has to be a focus s on those things that cannot be outsourced. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight to retain those businesses that can, but we should focus on businesses that provide good wages and good benefits. That’s why we must develop a more specific strategy around the entertainment industry, I believe the same is true for aerospace an high tech. For all of these things to work we have to raise the skill level of the work force. LAUSD’s dropout rate is higher than 50 percent, I believe that makes it very difficult if not impossible for us to meet that challenge for high skills. When I talk about growing the middle class, I’m talking about raising all skill levels. I want to make us more competitive so that more businesses will want to come here to acquire our work force and have more flexibility of who they hire. As mayor and as a teacher I would throw down the gauntlet with L.A. Unified, and demand that they lower the dropout rate, and work with them to help them do that. I think we have to inspire children to go through the 12th grade. The bulk of dropouts are in the 8th and 9th grade, students’ lifetime productivity is greatly reduced and that hurts all of us. Q: How are you going to make it through the March primaries? A: No. 1, I hope to use the platform of the campaign to address substantive issues. The water rate battle I’m fighting right now, is clearly the kind of issue to make people understand that you’re different. Three of the candidates voted for an 11 percent increase in water rates. One of them has ties to Fleishman Hilliard, and I’m the only one calling for a roll back of the water rates. So I think by distinguishing yourself as having a different agenda, not just campaigning about Richard Alarcon but campaigning on things the city really needs I think resonates with voters. Secondly I have the second largest district, I represent 821,000 people from the city of Los Angeles, about 25 to 30 percent of the citywide vote, I believe I am well positioned to garner my base of support there. We’ve also had a very positive in-road in other parts of Los Angeles, for example the East Side, South Central, even the West Side, Playa del Rey for example. The message is the same for all, when you talk about lowering water rates, there isn’t a person in Los Angeles voter or non-voter that doesn’t understand that. The city of L.A. raises water rates by 11 percent, they’re not doing any calculation on what that does to business operations. What does that do to cleaners. Nobody’s going to want to open a laundry in Los Angeles We need new laundries to be created, because the newer laundries have the high tech machines that use less water, and ironically we’re pushing these businesses out of L.A., not to mention that one of the highest users of water is hospitals when we are closing hospitals and trauma centers, the city should not be creating polices that make it harder for them to exist. Not to mention apartment owners who will absorb the cost of water from their tenants, and will be forced to raise rents at every opportunity. It’s the most regressive form of taxation that we can have, because people cannot choose not to have water, they will continue to use it and they will have to pay for it. So I believe that issues resonate, with everybody across the city and when they realize that there is an elected official trying to bring truth to the system, I believe that that kind of message is a very powerful message for all of the city of Los Angeles. I’ve always been in this position, but I know that David beat Goliath and the tortoise beat the hare, and Alarcon won for city council against all odds, and Alarcon won for state senate when I was 19 percent behind in the polls two weeks before the election. I’ve never been first in fundraising in my big races, in fact my first race I was fifth in fundraising, because I’m not one who focuses on fundraising as much as I focus on policies, and getting things done. So I’m going to offer my track record of improving the quality of life for the seventh council district, of keeping my promises. I promised to rebuild the GM plant, we brought 4,000 jobs. I promised to rebuild the Panorama Mall, I brought the first Wal-Mart to Los Angeles. I asked for an economic impact statement, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. We did it the right way in Panorama City and 30 other businesses were anchored as a result of that. They were falling apart, we protected the grocery stores within two blocks; we rebuilt Panorama City. Those are the kinds of things you can do. We expanded the neighborhood watch system and we put in more streetlights, more traffic signs, I created the speed bump system that slowed people down in residential areas. We built five new libraries, in my area, where there were only three. All of those things were promises I made that I kept, I believe that when you look at promises made by the four other politicians in this race, I believe that my record is very strong in that regard. Q: Last time it was essentially a two person race for mayor now support is more split, how will you do in that scenario and does it change your strategy at all? A: I think it helps me, clearly we’re running against a very powerful incumbent who has million of dollars in his coffers. I think it’s a very interesting situation, it’s the first time I can remember that you have such an even split in where the candidates come from. The four alternative candidates, represent a different quadrant of the city, and that’s where I believe the size of my district is a very powerful attribute. Q: If you were elected you’d be the first Latino mayor. This is still seen as a city with deep ethnic and racial fault lines, is that a concern for you? A: I worked for Mayor Bradley for six years, and if there’s one thing that Mayor Bradley taught me, it’s that no mayor of Los Angeles can serve on the basis of their ethnicity alone. I represent a district in the city, that when I was elected was only 26 percent Hispanic. That meant I had to reach out to other communities. I think outside of Rocky Delgadillo I’m the only Latino elected official who represents such a small minority of Latino voters. Which demonstrates that I have great crossover ability, because my message is not just for Hispanics, it’s for all. It’s for the all the ethnic communities I represent. All of them have heard the message about getting things done and keeping promises. Q: With Villaraigosa running, some people say the Latino vote will be split, is that a concern? A: I think the Latino community will vote for all five candidates in different numbers but I also believe the power of the City Hall incumbency will be split, in other words, Parks and Hahn attracted dollars from contractors in the city, and Antonio Villaraigosa will also participate in dividing that pool of dollars. The long standing attraction to Antonio Villaraigosa and Hertzberg from the Westside will be divided. I think in many ways Antonio Villaraigosa’s entrance into the race is helpful to me. It also lowers the budget necessary to penetrate with your message, because your target have to be more specific, clearly I’m going to focus the vast majority of my campaign in the San Fernando Valley. The only precincts Antonio won in the Valley were in my district, and I believe I will win those precincts. Richard Alarcon Title: California State Senator, Majority Whip Age: 50 Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from California State University, Northridge Personal: Divorced, four children, two grandchildren Most Admired People: Mother and Father.