Candidates for the Los Angeles City Council District 5 seat debated homelessness, business development and other Westwood issues Tuesday night.
Challengers Jesse Creed and Mark Herd attacked incumbent Councilmember Paul Koretz’s record on city council items, while Koretz emphasized his experience and successes working with the city.
About 150 people attended the debate at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church. At the debate, which was sponsored by the Westwood Neighborhood Council and the Westwood Community Council, a panel of community leaders asked the candidates questions.
Clinton Schudy, owner of Oakley’s Barber Shop, acting as a panelist for the forum, asked how the candidates would work to prevent homelessness in Westwood.
Herd said he thinks the best way to resolve the issue would be to develop vacant county land into affordable housing units. He called the recently passed Measure HHH a $1.2 billion tax on property owners and said he thinks the measure would do little to combat the problem.
Koretz said he was hopeful the city would continue to address homelessness. He said a Los Angeles Police Department unit works with the homeles and Measure HHH will provide 10,000 housing units over the next 10 years. He added he helped secure $138 million in the city’s budget to help the city’s homeless.
Creed said there are 8,000 more homeless individuals in Los Angeles neighborhoods this year and he thinks the number will only continue to increase under current city leadership.
The candidates also debated issues regarding business in Westwood and the district.
Herd suggested the Westwood Village Improvement Association extend its services south of Wilshire Boulevard to improve sidewalks and businesses in that area. Creed added the association extension would be voluntary, but agreed the council should work with property owners south of Wilshire to improve businesses there too.
Koretz also agreed Westwood leaders should be working to unify the Village with the rest of the neighborhood.
One audience member at the debate asked whether the competitors would increase the amount of police officers patrolling the district.
Herd said he thinks the city’s police force is very understaffed and they would need more money to support new officers.
Creed said the city’s budget has gone up, but the police budget has not increased enough to combat rising crime across Los Angeles. He thinks the city council, including Koretz, does not treat the lack of police issue as a priority.
Creed and Herd said throughout the debate that city council often ignores the problems of neighborhood councils. Creed said he wants to create councils that are more representative of neighborhood populations, and Herd said he thinks councils need more power and money behind them.
“We need to bring more city council decision-making to the neighborhood council level,” he said. “The city council far too often ignores the little neighborhood councils.”
Koretz said he listens as best as he can to the neighborhoods in his district but added their councils are meant to be only advisory. He also pointed out that he had helped create the neighborhood council system in the first place.
The two challengers also said they think Koretz was constantly taking money from developers, rather than doing what was best for the city. Prior to the debate, Creed pledged to never take developer money once he is in office. He added that special interests have too much influence in current city government.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “It’s not good government.”
Koretz argued he was the only candidate with political experience. He added he had helped found the city of West Hollywood and is already endorsed by hundreds of organizations.
Creed said everyone should trust what they actually see in the neighborhood, rather than just what Koretz says he has accomplished. He said he was running because he wanted to work toward creating a better community.
Herd said he is running for office because he feels the city has not done enough to iron out its many difficulties with traffic, homelessness and other issues.
“None of this stuff is getting done,” he said. “And you people should be upset about this.”
City council elections will take place March 7. Westwood voters can vote by mail until Feb. 28 and must send their ballots to the registrar’s office by March 10, or drop them off at various locations in the area.