The Santa Monica Daily Press sent candidates for Supervisor, Congress and State Senate a list of four questions. Each candidate had up to 800 words to use as they saw fit answering some or all of the questions. We will print their responses, over the next few days. Answers from Supervisor candidates ran on May 28. Below are the responses from candidates running for State Senate who responded to our requests. Responses have been edited for spelling and punctuation.

 

State Senate candidates were asked:

 

1) Given the controversy over the Santa Monica Airport, where do you stand on the proposed closure of the facility and how will you advocate for that position once elected?

2) Santa Monica is in the midst of a serious debate about affordable housing. How can the State facilitate construction of affordable housing options and should the burden of developing affordable housing be shifted from cities to the state?

3) Who is best equipped to address the ongoing problem of homelessness in our communities? How can government agencies work together to find solutions and should there be more reliance on solutions from the private sector?

4) The dissolution of Redevelopment agencies was pitched partly as a means of increasing funding to local schools. However, local schools continue to struggle with funding, increasing class size and new educational standards. What can the State of California do to stabilize educational funding and guarantee that all children are afforded the same opportunities?

 

Barbi S. Appelquist:

1) As a more than 10-year resident of Santa Monica, I understand the importance and environmental impact of the Santa Monica Airport. As State Senator, I will represent the community’s voice in this local versus federal issue. What began as a landing strip for World War I aircraft and a hosting airport for Amelia Earhart in the Powder Puff Derby has become an environmental and public health problem. Since the 1960’s, our City has struggled with how to balance community concerns about noise, environmental pollution, and public health with existing FAA contractual obligations.

If elected, I would focus on the needs of our residents, while working with the FAA to partially close the airport at the end of the initial lease period of 2015 and work towards likely full closure by the end of the 2023 period. I would also support negotiating a return of the federal airport improvement grant of $250,000. A partial closure allows for continued use by smaller aircraft with organizations like Angel Flight West, but with higher fees for private corporate use to offset the increasing environmental and health costs borne by Santa Monica. These funds could be used for abatement of noise, water, and air pollution as well as supporting existing aircraft to adopt green tech.

I will advocate for this position by increasing transparency to residents about the environmental and fiscal costs and benefits of a full closure and hosting town hall forums with neighborhood associations. I would also work with residents and City Hall to ensure that residents are compensated for the necessary abatements required by the existing airport conditions. In addition, I would work with residents and elected officials to establish a non-partisan community-based committee, separate from the Airport Commission, with community leaders from neighborhood associations, Residocracy, and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce to evaluate and disclose the impacts of complete closure, including the increase in real property values, the costs to remedy environmental impacts of the airport, the loss of direct and ancillary revenues from airport closure, and possible opening up Santa Monica airspace to the general LAX air traffic.

2) Affordable housing for working families and individuals must be made a priority in Sacramento.

First, I support a statewide net zero approach to affordable housing, with respect to the number of units and types of units (e.g., bachelor/studios, 2-bedroom apartments, etc.). Second, I would develop public/private partnerships to provide for our most vulnerable transition populations: military service members who are finishing their service and foster youth who are aging out of the foster system. Third, I would work with business community to identify economic opportunities for our state. By implementing my proposed changes to the existing Film/Television Tax Credit, we can increase the number of production and post-production jobs, as well as jobs in ancillary businesses, thereby providing expanded economic opportunities.

3) As a Community Development attorney with Public Counsel, I analyzed how homelessness is a complex issue and requires coordinated public/private partnerships from addressing mental health and substance abuse to creating jobs and affordable housing opportunities as well as providing safe transitional housing for vulnerable populations. The private sector must be a partner in this process.

To accomplish these goals, I would champion three specific actions. First, I would support preventative measures, like education opportunities and job training for the most vulnerable populations as mentioned earlier. By connecting these populations with organizations like Got Your Six and First Star we can hopefully prevent homelessness by giving the necessary mentorship and support. Second, I would create and support statewide homeless courts to provide access to substance abuse centers and mental health clinic. When a homeless individual experiences a conflict with law enforcement, compassionate support should be considered instead of immediate incarceration. Third, I would fight for increased appropriations for financial training to give the necessary transition skills to keep the formerly homeless in stable environments, like those programs required by Upward Bound House.

4) Education funds should be spent in the classroom. There are two specific measures I would support. First, I support changes to Proposition 13 to incrementally increase corporate real property values so that corporate real property is reassessed in a similar way as individual real property. Second, I would increase transparency about the costs of public education, from pre-K to higher education, by creating a non-partisan public education pension reform evaluation committee. Third, I would support a reevaluation of district pooling of PTA funds. How do all students benefit when the whole pie of available funds shrinks? The State has an obligation to provide a baseline of funding support for our children and, as State Senator, I will fight to ensure that these funds go to our children.

 

Vito Imbasciani:

1) I believe that when it comes to community resources, the wishes of local governments should be honored whenever possible. The Santa Monica Airport is a community resource and I believe that the Santa Monica community should have the final say over any use of that land. Seeing how the City Council, Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, and all seven of the city’s neighborhood groups have voiced their desire to close the airport, I would stand with them to make that happen. A city with the density of Santa Monica deserves ample quality open space for citizens’ recreation, especially one that features ecological diversity.

2) Affordable housing is an issue that all of Los Angeles County faces. We need to make sure that the people who keep our cities and neighborhoods running can afford to live in those same cities they serve. In addition to joining Los Angeles City Councilman Bonin in his support of AB 2222, which tries to close the loopholes that currently exist in affordable housing, I would support the designation of zones surrounding transportation nexuses to have a higher allocation towards affordable housing. We also need to expand our current mass transit system both in the LA Metro area and through the whole state, both of which are things that can be done at the state level. By doing this, we can ameliorate both the affordable housing problem as well as the problem of traffic all across the West LA area.

3) While there are several reasons why people are homeless, it is undeniable that a large proportion of them suffer from mental disorders. In this matter, the homeless share in the larger mental health crisis in our State with the jail population, our crowded Emergency rooms and our veteran population. One of my first priorities in the Legislature would be to work with people like Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey and experts in fields like mental health and public health, judges, epidemiologists, police and sheriffs, prison wardens and representatives of the not-for-profit world. Supplying appropriate mental health treatment options would cost pennies on the dollar compared to the cost to society to address the homeless, the 20 % of prisoners who are mental health patients, and our homeless veterans.

4) Investing in a world-class education system from pre-school up to higher education is the single most important action we can take to ensure the long-term prosperity of the state. As a former university professor, I understand the transformative power of education first hand. The fact that California is at the bottom nationally in terms of per pupil funding is absolutely unacceptable and must be addressed. Proposition 98, in my view is a baseline, not a ceiling for education funding. I strongly believe we must continue to invest more in K-12 education. Secondly, we desperately need to identify a dedicated revenue stream for higher education and invest more in early education by moving to universal pre-K for all  children at three and a half. By investing in early education, we can reduce our costs in the long run and achieve better educational outcomes for all children.

 

Betsy Butler:

1) Because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the Santa Monica Airport and will ultimately make the final decisions about its future, I believe that in the interim we must work to reduce the number of flights going in and out of the airport, the size of the aircraft and we must tightly regulate the flight school traffic.  I will do everything in my power in the State Senate to ensure that the Santa Monica Airport is a good neighbor and respects the community by addressing the safety issues presented by the aircraft as well as particulate and pollution matters should the airport remain open.

2) With the closure of California’s roughly 400 redevelopment agencies, our state lost around $1 billion annually for below market cost housing.  California must commit to building more affordable housing and make up for this devastating shortfall.  I support Senator DeSaulnier’s California Homes and Jobs Act to create more than 10,000 low-income homes each year as well as Assemblymember Nazarian’s Assembly Bill 2222 to improve density bonuses so that we incentivize the construction of more low-income housing. Santa Monica has been on the forefront of fighting unscrupulous developers and standing up for tenants’ rights but California state law must do more to prioritize residents and the construction of housing that does not bar individuals from living in our region based on their income alone.

3) We all have to work together to address the issue of homelessness in our community.  There is no single solution as every homeless person has a different set of needs and levels of assistance to be able to get off the streets.  We must take a holistic approach and invest in case-by-case analysis, mental health services, training and rehabilitation to ensure individuals have the resources they need to lead healthy lives, find gainful employment and become active citizens of the community.  This may mean addressing transportation, child-care or a temporary place to live in addition to other needs. It is also incumbent upon us to care for our homeless veterans and elders.  It is unacceptable that California is home to more homeless veterans than any other state.  I support Proposition 41 to fund housing for poor and homeless veterans but we must also continue to work with the VA and local organizations to address the thousands of homeless veterans in our district. We must also fight to ensure that our elders are not easily removed from their homes.

We are fortunate to live in a district where there are caring individuals and institutions such as the Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC) established to provide community support to those with the greatest need.  I believe we will be most successful when we pair community support with state legislation to build more affordable housing and address the various problems creating homelessness.

4) California has never made up for the education funding lost following the passage of Proposition 13.  We must be committed to reforming Proposition 13 by closing the corporate loophole and creating a “split-roll” system so that everyone pays their fair share in taxes.  We must dedicate resources to funding public education for four year olds through post-secondary learning.  I support using funds from the institution of a carbon-market tax and implementing oil extraction fees to further fund our public education system.

California is ranked at the very bottom of the list of states in terms of per-pupil funding.  This is unacceptable as it means that crucial aspects of a child’s development including arts and physical education are no longer available to all students. It is also imperative that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is taught in primary school so that California’s students are prepared for the 21st Century jobs that are prevalent throughout the state and in the 26th State Senate District.

 

Sanda Fluke:

1) With an increase in jet operations  and the development of schools, daycare centers, parks and residential neighborhoods in the surrounding areas, we must protect the health and safety of our community by closing the airport.

Federal standards mandate a 1000 foot runway safety buffer, a requirement that the FAA waved for this airport, putting the homes and residents living just 300 feet from the runway in grave danger. Since the airport started accommodating jets in the 1980’s, there have been 80 accidents, many of which ended in serious injury and death.

I am also concerned about the health consequences. Due to a recent growth in the number of jet operations at the airport, a study was done to explore the health impacts to the neighboring communities. They found that jet take-offs and landings are contributing to elevated levels of black carbon and other harmful pollutants in the surrounding area, which can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular disease, decreased lung function, and cancer.

I share many of the community’s concerns about the airport, the most significant being the health and safety of Santa Monica and surrounding residents. While as a State Senator I won’t have the ability to directly impact the decision on the airport, I will use my position to strongly advocate for its closing and to ensure that its place is taken by community-oriented businesses. We must replace the economic activity generated by the airport, but not through overdevelopment that doesn’t respect the character of the community.

2) There is a great need for affordable housing in Santa Monica and throughout the 26th District.  This is illustrated by the fact that the City of Santa Monica Housing Division received over 33,000 applications in 35 hours for the wait list for affordable housing programs. Such wait lists are so extensive because funding for affordable housing is needed to replace that lost through federal sequestration and other cuts.  In addition, counter intuitively, more affordable housing could be created and preserved by reforming SB 1818, which was ostensibly passed to encourage affordable housing development. Currently, SB 1818 provides bonuses for developers who include affordable housing within their project, but there is no requirement that the number of affordable units created be greater than those eliminated by the development. Thus, our communities are sometimes left with fewer affordable units than prior to the development. I also support reform to ensure that low-income renters are not forced from their homes through abuse of the Ellis Act.  I believe both the state and cities play a role in ensuring affordable housing.  We must work to provide affordable housing throughout the district and the state while allowing cities that are able to make greater progress the freedom to do so.

3) Because of the clients I have represented, I have seen first-hand that welfare reform merely camouflaged the poverty in our country without eliminating it. Instead, it made it more difficult for families to lift themselves out of poverty because they are continually ensnared in bureaucratic requirements. I believe that a housing first strategy coupled with investment in services is the right path forward. We must also address the underlying causes of homelessness by reinvesting in our social safety net after years of cuts: extending long-term unemployment benefits, and increasing funding of mental health services, addiction treatment, veterans assistance, and services for survivors of violence. Particularly vulnerable groups like gay teens and trans folks require specialized outreach programs as well. Obviously, there is much to be done and this work requires the involvement of the private sector, non-profit and charitable organizations, as well as all levels of government. Private sector involvement is desirable and should be encouraged, but our entire society, and thus our government, is ultimately responsible for the welfare of these most vulnerable residents, and cannot shirk that responsibility.  Because we have faced the challenge of homelessness for far too long, we do have data and research on the most effective solutions, and agencies must be guided by these best practices in working cooperatively.

4) We’ve made good initial steps toward restoring funding to public education, but there’s much more to be done to adequately equip our schools to meet the challenges they face. Proposition 98 funding alone is not adequate. I support increasing per pupil funding, via an extension of Proposition 30, to increase California’s ranking well above our current place at the bottom of the state rankings.

Early childhood education, including subsidized universal pre-school and mandatory kindergarten for all five-year-olds, would go a long way to equalizing educational outcomes. Early childhood education is crucial in adequately preparing students and helping to close the achievement gap for children from lower-income families. However, we must fund these efforts without compromising funding for K-12. As a member of Raising California Together, I have been an active proponent of increased investment in early childhood education.

 

Ben Allen:

1) I support the City’s efforts with regards to the airport.  Ultimately, the reduction in pollution and noise will benefit residents of the City of Santa Monica and adjacent neighborhoods in Los Angeles, in addition to the safety concerns.   However, I keep getting told that we’ll never be able to close the airport given where the FAA is on this, and given federal rights over aviation regulation.

2) We can increase the construction of affordable housing in a number of ways.  I support efforts to restore Community Redevelopment Agency funding for real estate developments that include the construction of affordable housing units.  I support the creation of incentives for developers to include affordable housing in their developments and legislation that works on making it easier for local municipalities to construct affordable housing and support or encourage the development of affordable housing.  I also would like to work to help make sure that developers build as many replacement affordable housing units as they take away when they replace an old building with a new one.

While I would not fully shift the burden for affordable housing from cities to the state, I think the state should shoulder some of the burden.  This is for two reasons.  First, the state has the power and resources to add to the supply of affordable housing in ways that localities often cannot.  This includes power over the tax code, money for development programs, and the ability to collect additional taxes and fees.  Second, shortages of affordable housing in cities often create far-reaching problems that affect the state as a whole, from traffic and congestion to reduced buying power and support for children.

3) Homelessness, especially among our veterans, has long been an area of great concern for Santa Monicans.  We have a homelessness crisis on our hands, and in so many ways, it’s shameful.  Homelessness is clearly an area of multiple levels of responsibility-federal, state, regional, and local-and it is vitally important that various levels of government agencies work closely together given the complexity and multi-dimensionality and shifting geographies of this problem.  I have participated in homeless counts in the City of Santa Monica, and know that the City works closely with the VA, LA Homeless Services Authority, United Way, HUD, and our School District to provide support services.  But it also appropriately and actively works with private philanthropy, both churches, foundations, and other private non-profits, as well as developers who seek to provide transitional housing to homeless or transitioning individuals.  I am proud to have the support of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who has been a great leader in this area, particularly in his pursuit of a “housing first” approach that emphasizes permanent supportive housing, like that provided by Step Up in Santa Monica.  I would want to be an advocate for more supportive housing within both our VA system and more broadly throughout our all of our communities.

4) We should start by extending Proposition 30, which has brought in critical revenues to our state’s public schools (in addition to higher education).  On the School Board, I worked on several successful efforts to increase funding for local schools; this is an area of great passion and interest for me.  Re-authorizing the Prop 30 revenues would allow the state to keep education funding coming without raising tax rates.  The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula has brought an eye toward equity in the distribution of educational funding around the system; I now think that we ought to change the threshold for parcel taxes to make it easier for school districts to pass local school funding measures.  More broadly speaking, I am excited about the current conversation about expanding early childhood opportunities for kids-all of the research shows that investment in the early years has such a high payoff and is probably our only hope in resolving some of the enormous disparities that emerge through the educational system.  We’ve got an exciting early childhood initiative here in Santa Monica-Cradle to Career-and it’s an effort that should get attention more broadly as we seek to address this issue statewide.

 

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