LOS ANGELES — Two seasoned politicians are in a runoff for one of two open positions on Los Angeles County’s top governing body.
U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn is campaigning to replace Don Knabe as the Fourth District’s representative on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Her opponent is Knabe’s chief deputy, Steve Napolitano.
Voters from the wide-ranging district will choose between the two in a runoff vote on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
During an Oct. 26 debate held by Southern California Public Radio at the Cerritos Library. Hahn, 64, and Napolitano, 50, touted their resumes, explained why voters should choose one over the other and discussed policy.
The candidates will not be voting the same on Measure M, the half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot that would raise $120 billion for road, highway and transit projects.
Hahn said she supports the measure because it will create jobs and flush money into the county.
“It will create over 550,000 good jobs in the transportation industry,” said the daughter of beloved former county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.
She said she is not completely happy with Measure M, though, because it does not fast-track projects for the Fourth District.
“It is unacceptable to tell this part of the county that its projects won’t be funded until 2055,” Hahn said. “If I’m elected and I’m a member of the [MTA] board, I will guarantee that we will fast-track projects in the Fourth District.”
Napolitano said he would not vote for the measure, because it favors the city of Los Angeles and not cities in the district.
“This is a city of L.A. driven measure,” he said. “Make no mistake about it. This is what Mayor Garcetti is pushing out there for his political future, but it is short-changing the Fourth District. It is unfair to the Fourth District. I am standing with my cities in the Fourth District.”
The candidates also differed on their view of combating homelessness.
Hahn said the county has $100 million to help the county’s estimated 47,000 homeless people. She said state and city funding should help alleviate the shortfall in housing and services for homeless people, but it would take billions of dollars to reduce the county’s homeless population.
Napolitano said public-private partnerships could tackle homelessness. He said he was disappointed the county had not provided a measure of its own on the ballot to fund programs for those who need shelter.
“Our nonprofits are overwhelmed right now,” Napolitano said of the agencies that help the area’s most downtrodden of residents.
Even though the five-member county board is non-partisan, if the Democratic Hahn is elected it will push the panel further left. If Napolitano follows his boss into office, the Fourth District seat will continue to be manned by a Republican.
Both candidates said party affiliation does not matter when it comes to representing the district.
Napolitano said he is a fiscal conservative, social progressive.
“My approach to county government, my approach to local government has always been non-partisan,” said Napolitano, a lawyer and former member of the Manhattan Beach City Council. “I am a problem solver. I have been asked many times to run for partisan office, but I have always declined because I don’t want to get partisanship in the way of solving problems.”
Hahn said people are tired of Republican-versus-Democrats politics.
“They want us to solve problems, they want us to find common ground,” she said. “My record in Congress shows I was known to work across the aisle. I was known to co-sponsor legislation with my Republican colleagues.”
Over two million Los Angeles County residents live in the Fourth District. The district encompasses 26 cities, five Los Angeles City neighborhoods, and six unincorporated areas and stretches from Marina del Rey and LAX to the southwestern San Gabriel Valley.
Whoever is elected will have big shoes to fill.
Knabe, one of two supervisors being termed out of office this year, has represented the Fourth District for two decades. His replacement will work with the county’s other four supervisors in managing a nearly $29-billion budget and huge public agencies such as child welfare, the health department and the sheriff’s department.
Both candidates said conditions at the county Men’s Central Jail are unsafe for inmates and the staff who guard them. The two also said they want the county to end its reputation of not being business friendly.
Napolitano said he wants to hold business summits.
“I want to have a conversation with businesses, understand what their frustrations are … and find out what really is going to make L.A. County more business friendly,” he said.
Napolitano said if elected he would try expand a county program he helped Knabe establish that allows burgeoning businesses to deal with one county office, instead of many when getting started. He said he would look to lowering business fees and allow businesses license renewals and permit applications to be done online.
Hahn, a member of Congress’s Small Business Committee, said she has spent a lot of time working to remove bureaucratic red tape in attempts to make the county more business friendly.
“I’d really like focus on connecting small businesses to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” she said. “The international trade industry is a huge industry, which many of our small businesses have not had access to. I would like to do more trade connect workshops, where we help small businesses learn the ends and outs of the international trade industry.”