Lead Story Northeast Edition

Assembly candidates discuss housing, health care

HIGHLAND PARK — Wendy Carrillo and Luis Lopez debated for 90 minutes Oct. 24 at the Ramona Hall Community Center about the future of the 51st Assembly District, and how to build consensus in Sacramento and Washington to get funds for a single payer health care system run by the state.

After she obtained 21 percent of the votes on the Oct. 3 primary, Carrillo’s campaign has been the target of Lopez, who said her bid was propped up by at least $314,000 in contributions from political action committees representing unions in Los Angeles and Sacramento for leaflets and canvassing.

Carrillo emphasized the money came from chapters representing gardeners, janitors, homecare and blue collar workers with whom she worked as communications director, and said she welcomes it as long as those supporters are willing to stand by her.

“If they decide to support my campaign, I will use the money. I’m proud to be their candidate,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo reported to the secretary of state three donations worth $8,800 each from two locals representing homecare workers in Los Angeles, and another from a chapter encompassing public employees in local and state governments.

The committees donating to Carrillo are the California State Council of Service Employees, the Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, which represents 95,000 public employees in the state, and the SEIU Local 2015.

The California Fair Political Practice Commission sets a cap on campaign contributions at $8,800 from single donors who support candidates running for Assembly or Senate posts, only if they are recognized as “small contributor committees,” or political contributors.

Carrillo denied any cash came from oil companies such as Chevron, and said the oil giant supported the Women in Power, an organization that endorses women running for office in Sacramento.

Until Sept. 16, Lopez reported contributions for $154,398, and said most of his funds come from donors located in Los Angeles.

On the issue of housing, both candidates said more local and state resources should be invested to increase the number of units available for low-income and middle-class residents, and said a mix of public and private measures should provide better results to resolve the ongoing homeless crisis in the county.

“We need solid social services for homeless folks,” Lopez said. “Once we have them in housing, we can bring services that would work for folks with addictions or who need jobs. But we have to get them homes first.”

Carrillo called for less stringent regulations for housing developers, said minority residents in Boyle Heights and other gentrified neighborhoods suffer the brunt of housing displacement and encouraged gatherings among residents to understand who are greatly affected by overly expensive rents.

“We need to structure dialogue on what neighborhoods are affected by gentrification,” Carrillo said. “We can compare Boyle Heights with Eagle Rock and with Culver City, and the effect on communities of color are not the same.”

On health care, Carrillo indicated she can work with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in a committee he formed to study likely funding sources for a universal health care system, including a possible overhaul of Proposition 13, a measure passed by voters in 1978 that caps property tax increases at 2 percent a year.

In addition, Carrillo explained Sacramento politicians would have to negotiate with the federal government to allocate funds earmarked for Medicare to anchor the new health care program.

She said she supports the candidacy of Kevin de Leon for the U.S. Senate against Diane Feinstein, praised his blue collar roots, and said it would be easier to work with him and with Rep. Jimmy Gomez on the issue.

“I’m open to work with de Leon or Feinstein. But I think de Leon brings a different perspective, he comes from a working family of immigrants with little money compared to Feinstein’s,” she said.

On public education, Lopez, who ran for the same position in 2012 and lost in a runoff to Gomez, said he would encourage more transparency in the operation of charter schools, and pledged to keep directors accountable for expenses and the education of poor children.

“Charters are part of our educational system, and we need to make sure they are accountable,” Lopez said. He criticized Los Angeles school board member Ref Rodriguez, a major supporter of the privately managed schools, who is embroiled in a controversy over campaign contributions.

For her part, Carrillo questioned the lack of teachers represented by unions, and pushed for better cafeterias and food services within charter schools.

“Charters provide an option for better education for minorities,” Carrillo told an audience of nearly 200 people. “They reduce the number of students per classroom, but in Los Angeles teachers don’t have” enough clout to negotiate better labor contracts, she said.

Both candidates lambasted sexual predators in the film and media industries, said they don’t have a place in politics, and indicated they would legislate to bring zero tolerance policies to harassment at work and in public areas.

Lopez and Carrillo encouraged victims of sexual harassment to report attacks with police, called for men to discourage this behavior and join the movement if they are bullied or abused.

The runoff election will be held Dec. 5.