Q: How can you reduce crime, particularly gang violence, in the 25th District? Where will the money come from?
KEVIN BIGGERS – I believe the first and foremost way to reduce crime and gang violence in the 25th district is to increase the rate of employment in the district. The rate of unemployment in South Los Angeles is several percentage points higher than LA County as a whole. This disparity is not acceptable. If everyone had equal employment opportunities our young people would be less likely to join gangs. Public dialogue on the gang problem is also a key to combating crime. As the next state senator, I will be actively involved in our community. I will host nonviolent conflict resolution town hall meetings bringing together all the stakeholders to discuss the issues and solutions. The key is combating crime with real employment opportunities and real community involvement.
MERVYN DYMALLY – My Assembly Bill 128 is a Gang Alternative Education Program that passed and is now in the Appropriations Committee awaiting funding.
AB 128 requires the Departments of Education and Corrections and Rehabilitation to establish a program that will provide alternative education, counseling, and support services to students, grades four through seven.
If we reach young boys and girls before they become affiliated with gangs, we will ultimately reduce the number of gang members in our community and the subsequent violence that follows.
While my colleagues in Sacramento support this bill, I must continue to lobby for its funding, in light of our budget deficit.
ROD WRIGHT – I believe we have to increase our emphasis on vocational education. Many of our young people who choose not to go to college are getting short-changed by the current system. This would not cost any additional money. We will also need to ramp up drug treatment programs in the community. Much of the gang violence is drug related and we are using the criminal justice system to treat drug problems, which are more health based. Drug treatment is much less expensive than prison, so again no additional money is needed here as well.
Q: How will you champion business and reduce unemployment in the 25th District?
BIGGERS – There is no reason why we in the 25th district have to sit back and watch emerging markets being created in communities outside of the 25th district. We have access to the Port of Los Angeles, the Alameda corridor, plus a rich diversity of people and talents. We can develop new jobs and markets right here, concentrating on the environmentally friendly technologies. Once I am in the senate, I will push for massive transportation jobs including the super speed train and demanding that the residents of the 25th get their fair share in those projects. I will work hand in hand with developers and investors to employ our community and ensure prosperity vs. struggling.
DYMALLY – I spearheaded the development of an enterprise zone in Compton , which brought new businesses, living-wage jobs, and economic development. The cost of implementation comes in the form of direct investment from corporations who realize tax incentives, made possible through state law, from establishing operations in the zone.
I will launch additional enterprise zones with local elected officials and establish a medical enterprise zone to attract clinics, hospitals, and medical professionals to the 25th District. I will work to ensure that the 25th District’s $78 million Proposition 1B allocations are properly disbursed bringing jobs through infrastructure development and ensure that the $100 million I delivered in the overlapping 52nd Assembly District is funded.
WRIGHT – As a member of the Assembly I authored AB 505, which established the Office of the Small Business Advocate and mandated a review of regulations which have been driving business out of the state. By working with the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, the California Small Business Association and other labor and trade organizations we can find middle ground. It is important that we bring everyone to the table. We have to stop treating employers as the enemy. In addition, we want to be certain to pay fair wages and benefits to workers. It can be done; I know how to make it happen. This is why I have been endorsed by both business and labor.
Q: How will you address the serious need for emergency and trauma care in the district?
BIGGERS – First, I support Senator Sheila Keuhl’s bill, SB 840, which provides a single-payer type of program for health care. Under SB 840, universal coverage is achieved. It greatly reduces ongoing administrative burdens, consolidating those expenses into one program, thereby eliminating waste and duplication. It is also a highly equitable system and will virtually eliminate the two health care systems we have today, one for the members of our community who can afford health insurance and another for those members of our community who cannot afford health insurance. It is not without cost, however, and I recognize that. SB 840 will result in a higher budgetary expense at the state level. To deal with this issue, the bill establishes a commission to develop a funding plan to be approved by the state legislature and governor.
DYMALLY – I recently conducted an informational public hearing in Los Angeles on the closure of emergency and trauma centers in LA County. We are indeed in crisis and the need for hospital beds, medical staff, and trauma centers has been clearly established in the already, underserved 25th Senate District.
As Senator, I will work with local elected officials, as well as other legislators to establish a health safety net for our district residents.
I have proposed the review and implementation of reopening MLK Hospital under the administrative jurisdiction and leadership of the California University Board of Regents. This model works in Sacramento, San Diego and other parts of the state and can work here.
WRIGHT – We are in an emergency status right now. I will introduce legislation seeking to declare in law what we already know. Then we can seek the additional resources needed to address this regional problem. The state and the county have to work closer together if we are going to resolve this problem. A big part of the problem has been that the state has been absent, while the federal government and the county have been trying to face this crisis. This is a time for all hands on deck. The state must play a more active role.
Q: As a state Senator, what three committees would you like to join?
BIGGERS – Transportation, Budget, Rules
DYMALLY – I will serve on the Health, Education, and Budget Committees, and also, the Rules Committee. These committees will best allow me to address the specific needs of 25th District residents, while my participation on the Budget Committee will help to ensure that funds are fairly directed to the district.
WRIGHT – Budget & Fiscal Review, Energy Utilities & Communications, Governmental Organization
Q: What will be your signature issue as a State Senator?
BIGGERS – My signature issue is education. We must focus on the educational needs of our young people, including bringing back an emphasis on technical and vocational skills. We must continue to focus on math and science skills for those students headed to college so that our young people can compete in this global marketplace.
DYMALLY – Healthcare! I will build on my recent six years in Sacramento and as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health to deliver an affordable health plan for 25th District residents who have a disproportionately high rate of, often preventable diseases. Of the Governor’s veto’s, AB 1, (child healthcare), I will re-introduce the bill.
WRIGHT – Vocational Education. As I mentioned, so many of our kids don’t want to go to college and leave high school with no skills. Moreover, we are crowding the college preparatory classes with kids who don’t really want to take the classes. At present the system fails both kids. We have to allow room in the curriculum for college prep and vocational classes to co-exist.