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Science Policy Group at UCLA hosts panel for LA mayoral candidates

LA Mayoral Candidates discuss their views on incorporating science in policy during a panel. The panel was hosted by the Science Policy Group at UCLA on Wednesday. (Courtesy of Anna Dai-Liu)

By Anna Dai-Liu

May 22, 2022 1:09 p.m.

Los Angeles mayoral candidates discussed how they would use research and data collection to address issues such as homelessness and climate change at an on-campus panel Wednesday.

Candidates Craig Greiwe, Alex Gruenenfelder, Gina Viola and Mel Wilson spoke at the forum, hosted in Geffen Hall by the Science Policy Group at UCLA. Bineh Ndefru, one of the organization’s presidents and a moderator of the forum, said the organization held the event to explore how candidates would incorporate scientific literature and the scientific community into their policies.

(Courtesy of Keaton Barr)
The Science Policy Group at UCLA hosts a panel with LA Mayoral candidates Wednesday in Geffen Hall. (Courtesy of Keaton Barr)

[Related: Los Angeles mayoral candidates discuss potential solutions for homelessness]

The forum opened with candidates discussing their plans to reduce homelessness in LA by expanding mental health resources and collecting more accurate data on individuals experiencing homelessness.

All candidates said they oppose policies such as section 41.18 of the LA Municipal Code, which prohibits individuals from sleeping or sitting on streets, sidewalks and other public locations.

Greiwe, chief strategy officer at marketing agency Rogers & Cowan PMK, said his administration would collect real-time data on the number and locations of individuals experiencing homelessness. He also said he would invest in resources addressing mental health and addiction to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place.

Gruenenfelder, a member of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council, said he believed it was important to consider up-to-date information from researchers to assess whether policies are actually helping to improve homelessness issues, referencing a recent UCLA report that found that sweeps of encampments at Echo Park Lake had been largely ineffective in improving housing outcomes.

[Related: UCLA research report examines effects of LA’s homeless encampment sweep]

Candidates then discussed their stances on policing and their plans to address crime and public safety.

Viola, a community activist and small business owner, said she supports defunding the LAPD. Gruenenfelder said he plans to reallocate LAPD funds to social services that address mental health issues and drug abuse.

Greiwe also said he plans to increase funding for nonviolent response teams, referencing a report published in 2015 by the United States Department of Justice on how to improve relations between law enforcement and the public. However, he added that he favored funding both groups equally instead of reallocating funds from the LAPD.

Wilson, a former member of the LA Metro Board, said he plans to prevent crime by investing in child care. He also said he wants to hire 350 mental health experts to accompany police when responding to crises.

Candidates also proposed solutions to climate change and poor energy efficiency.

Gruenenfelder said he would consult scientists and activists while pushing to meet some of the goals of the Green New Deal by 2030 instead of 2035.

Gruenenfelder and Viola said they would abolish fossil fuel drilling. Viola added that she wanted to implement more walking boulevards and biking lanes to move away from car dependence.

Wilson said he would aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and continue his existing project to convert all LA bus fleets to run on zero emission fuels. He also said he would build communities along transit corridors to increase walkability and offer discounted charging rates to incentivize the use of electric vehicles.

Greiwe said his policies would focus on investing in more sustainable materials for construction such as hempcrete, a concrete substitute that is stronger than concrete and gets stronger over time.

All of the candidates agreed that the current relationship between scientists and the mayoral office lacks trust and said they plan to integrate scientists and their research into their decisions in the future.

The primary for the LA mayoral seat will be held June 7 and the election will occur Nov. 8.

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Anna Dai-Liu
Dai-Liu is a News reporter on the science and health beat and a Copy contributor. She is currently a a second-year neuroscience student.
Dai-Liu is a News reporter on the science and health beat and a Copy contributor. She is currently a a second-year neuroscience student.
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