Council Candidates Exchange Their Views
Four City Council candidates spoke about their positions on a number of issues at a candidates' forum held at the Culver City Senior Center on February 5.
The candidates included incumbents Jim Clarke and Jeff Cooper, newcomer Christopher Patrick King, and frequent City Council and School Board candidate Gary Abrams.
Sharon Hyland-Elstein, new president of the Culver City Senior Center Association, introduced the candidates to an audience of seniors during the lunchtime hour at the Center, and explained that each candidate would receive four minutes in which to make an opening statement, after which they would answer questions from the audience, and then have two minutes for a summation.
Abrams led off the opening statements. "I'm a resident since 1991," he said. "I've been involved with politics for about five years.
"They call me the 'Truth-Teller of Culver City.' Some accuse me of being unsophisticated but I tell it like Columbo."
Abrams said he was working on a web site but that the site has not gone live yet. He advocates "long term solutions not quick fixes" to city problems and condemns "lying" in politics.
Clarke joked that he often calls himself "the newest oldest Council member" because he was elected in 2012 to fill a two-year term but on the other hand he is 65 years old.
"But I can't believe it because I don't feel 65. To many of you I'm still a kid."
Clarke praised the Senior Center for its membership consisting of people who also "refuse to act their age." He emphasized his own activities as a volunteer and occasional participant with the Center and talked of the Council's actions that have benefited seniors, including the anti-bullying policy instituted by the city to protect both children and seniors at parks and recreation centers.
Realtor and Rotary Club president King spoke about his grandfather, "Nono" who was his "childhood hero," and who survived the Bataan Death March and being a prisoner of war during World War II.
A nine-year resident of Culver City, King mentioned that he attends events like Temple Akiba's Coffee with the Clergy, where he hears the concerns of seniors.
"Four years ago when I asked for your support," said Mayor Cooper, "I asked for your help in envisioning Culver City some 20 years in the future. I'm proud to say that in my four years on the Council, we have put Culver City on track for the future."
He cited some of the Council's advances in areas such as the budget and affordable housing,
The first question fielded by the candidates dealt with the Fourth of July fireworks. A woman was upset that the fireworks were cancelled last year because the high school athletic field was being overhauled. Would there be fireworks this year?
Cooper explained that last year's cancellation was a huge disappointment for many, including the Exchange Club which runs the event. Talks with school superintendent David LaRose have not been fruitful but "there is conversation" now with West Los Angeles College about using their athletic field this year.
A woman named Edith expressed frustration with street maintenance, especially with the lack of visible lines(striping) on streets.
"We do have street maintenance," said Clarke. He said that the city might be behind on some street improvements due to the budget but as more money becomes available, there should be more improvements.
King suggested that Culver City should take a page from Los Angeles' mechanism and create an app with which residents can take a picture of a problem on the street and send it to Public Works so the problem can be taken care of immediately.
Abrams stated that Culver City has "a culture of negligence."
The Culver Ice Arena, which just closed on February 2, was another concern.
"When the ice melts, it's going to be developed," said Abrams.
Clarke explained the current situation, in which the Council is above all concerned with public safety and will not allow the arena to turn off the compressors until a safe closure plan has been submitted in a timely manner.
He also mentioned the discovery of a variance that would require a zoning change for a new business to move into the space, as it is currently zoned for an ice rink.
"The owner will have to go through the Planning Commission, the Council, CEQA review, and rooms full of angry people," noted Clarke." It will take time. The ice rink is not going to be shut down until it is safe to do so or until someone takes it over."
King said he was "absolutely in support" of the ice rink and was encouraged by the two recent council meetings that were "filled to overflow" with supporters, including children. "It was vital to introduce our youth to the advocacy process."
But he added that while the Council's research on the ice rink is an example of due diligence, he wondered if there is "fairness" in regard to other issues that might also need extensive research and vetting by the Council.
Also discussed were the issues of parking at the Culver City Expo Line station (King suggested bringing in Pedi-Cabs run by a private company to transport passengers from the station to the busy downtown area), funding for city projects in the post-Redevelopment Agency era ( Cooper thought the city's sales tax revenues have helped tremendously while King opined that the city needs better planning), pedestrian safety, especially for seniors who take time to cross streets(Clarke wants to take this issue to the Disability Advisory Committee), and the use of the Natatorium (Abrams said he had originated the conversation on the Natatorium but that nothing has been done to fund its restoration).
For summations, Abrams and King reiterated their goals, Cooper promised more progress by the Council and Clarke noted that "if all four of us said the same things it would be redundant. If all five council members voted the same way, four of them would be redundant."
He celebrated the diversity of opinions expressed by all the candidates.