Below is the full transcript of the second installment of a wide-ranging interview that Eagle Rock Patch editor Ajay Singh conducted with CD 14 in his City Hall office downtown on December 6.
Patch: This is our first interview since your re-election in March. Does it feel good to have won in a landslide?
Huizar: Well, the people have spoken. People have mentioned that they feel good about the work my office has been doing in partnership with the community over the last six years. We have accomplished a lot and the numbers tell a lot. And it comes at a time when throughout the country people are not happy with government, people are not happy with their elected officials—and rightly so: People are losing their homes, they’re losing their jobs, and for the people of Council District 14 to give me such a huge victory shows that we’ve been working hard to improve the quality of life there, with things that pertain to them locally with City government.
So I think we’ve done a very good job—and it shows—and the people spoke very loudly.
Patch: What would you say are some of your accomplishments?
Huizar: In Council District 14, I’m very proud of the new public projects improvements that we’ve brought to the community. We’ve seen about $2 billion in public projects improvements, whether it’s coming from the City, from the Metro, which I sit on the board [of], or the School District—I once sat on the School District as a board member. [It’s] a huge victory, given the economic times—and the tough time that exists for the public agencies to deliver.
Secondly, [we’re] continuing to work with LAPD and our public enforcement officials to keep crime low. In these tough economic times, we thought we’d see a bump in crime, given the economy, but we’ve kept those numbers low—and a lot of that has to do with the approach we’re taking to crime now: Number one, the community partnerships we’ve created, and number two, also focusing on youth—and giving them opportunities and things to do that are positive.
So I think we’ve got to continue on that trend, provide the quality-of-life issues that come with these public projects improvements, keep crime down—and also to continue to focus on supporting our local small businesses in all of Council District 14. If we improve the commercial quarters where our businesses exist, that not only helps our small businesses, but it builds community. And so, whether it’s the City coming in and providing better landscaping, streetscaping—we also have to do a whole lot more to see how we assist our local small businesses, so that we could build those commercial quarters as communities and support our local community.
Patch: Do you consider the City of L.A. to be a Sanctuary City in which the interests of illegal aliens—a legal term in the federal code books, not a derisive one—appears to be heavily favored while the general public’s interests become subordinate? For example, in DUI stops, drivers without a license are let go without their vehicle being impounded.
Huizar: Los Angeles is not a Sanctuary City. I think there are only a few cities in California that have been called Sanctuary cities and it’s really a term that was started to be used in the 1980s, when you saw the civil wars occurring in Central America, you saw a number of refugees and others who were looking for a safe country, and many of them came to the United States. Some of them, while they waited—to be determined whether they were political refugees and if they could seek asylum here in the United States … some of the cities in California consider themselves Sanctuaries cities, so that they could provide protection to other victims of crime in their own countries.
So: We’re not a Sanctuary City in Los Angeles. We haven’t been declared one. What is under discussion right now is the way we treat unlicensed drivers when they’re pulled over by an officer—and whether we should detain their cars for a certain number of days. Now, I give thanks to [LAPD] Chief [Charlie] Beck, who made the administrative decision to allow these drivers to [retain] their cars, and allow [them] to be cited.
Why? Because sometimes that [driver’s] family depends on the automobile to get their kids to school—maybe it’s the only vehicle in that family that allows those families to get to work. And a lot of times, there have been other cities that have used these police stops—not as DUI checkpoints, but as ways of raising revenues by towing cars. And we want to make very clear that that’s not what the City of Los Angeles is doing.
So at the end of the day, we keep our roads safe by citing drivers who are unlicensed—but at the same time we allow that automobile to be released immediately to a licensed family member or friend who will allow the family to continue using the automobile for the business that all of us would agree upon makes sense: take your kids to school, get to work to continue being a productive member of society.
Patch: Should the L.A. City Council be the goal of termed-out state legislators? We have five now. Does L.A. need such persons when the state has been—and is—run so poorly?
Huizar: Having so many legislators on Council—it helps sometimes. We have issues pending before us [that are similar to those] in the legislature; we have legislative knowledge that comes to the City Council—for example, in issues of environment, transportation, budgetary issues. We’ve found that some of the former state legislators have been very helpful to us in the discussions and debates and in coming up with solutions.
And, you know: let the voters decide. The decide whether they want to elect a former state legislator or someone who’s running for the first time—that’s what democracy is all about. But like I said—in general, I’ve found some of these state legislators to be very helpful.
I would say this, though: The term limits for these state legislators need to get fixed. In the State Assembly, when you have a member running there for three two-year terms—you get there and you’re up for reelection right away. And one of the biggest reasons why you have these problems is that you have very little institutional knowledge—there’s been such a huge turnover in the state legislature of members who could help manage this crisis that we’re facing. So, fixing the term limits may help in members not running for office all the time … looking at the City Council or whatever else they could find to stay in office. I’m a believer in term limits—but not the ones we see in the state legislature, which are so short.
Patch: There was a controversy recently, around the time of the Eagle Rock Music Festival, regarding , and the charge that the restaurant’s permit for a beer garden during the festival was delayed by your office because the owner of Colombo’s supported your opponent in the March City Council elections. What’s your take on that? Some people feel you were vindictive toward the owner.
Huizar (initially lighting up and then lapsing into laughter): Hmm, hmm … Colombo’s! No … I think anything I do … there is some reason attached to it. Sometimes—most of the times—it may not be true. But in this case, anybody who is going to participate in the Eagle Rock Music Festival—which is a great festival, the largest, free outdoor music festival in the City of Los Angeles—and I’m very proud to be a sponsor of it along with the … What I don’t support is the [idea of] an outdoor beer garden lounge, which is what Colombo’s wanted. The reason I don’t support that for any restaurant—not just Colombo’s—is because we don’t want the Eagle Rock Music Festival to start being associated with beer and outdoor beer gardens. If we allow one, down the street another restaurant is going to ask, ‘why can’t I do it?’ and then everyone’s going to want a beer garden—they’re very profitable. And that’s not the type of music festival we want to promote.
So, whether it was Colombo’s or any other restaurant, the policy from my office, which we’ve expressed to the Center for the Arts, is that we don’t support beer gardens at the music festival. Like you said, people thought that since Colombo’s very vocally supported my opponent in the last election, and that [it faced] retribution for that—that is absolutely false. Whether it was Colombo’s or any other restaurant, we don’t support beer gardens at the music festival.
And we’re going to make it clear to the Center for the Arts that for next year’s music festival, in any restaurant that wants to participate, beer gardens will simply not be allowed. Otherwise we go down a slippery slope. This [musical] event could easily turn into a beer-garden event at every restaurant—because they’re so profitable.
At the end of the day, Colombo’s has to follow the rules. Whether it’s Colombo’s or any other restaurant—you just simply cannot apply for a permit to have a beer garden at the last minute. We asked all the [participating] restaurants to come up with their plans way ahead of [the festival’s] time. And in this case, number one, Colombo’s applied way late, and number two, it’s not the type of venue we want to create for the music festival.
Patch: So Colombo’s eventually got their permit?
Huizar: They did—they got their permit for a beer garden. And it made me ask, why the exception when, you know, we were not allowing those to happen for other restaurants?
Patch: But they got their permit even though you said you don’t support beer gardens?
Huizar: I’m not the person who says yes or no to that [the permit]. The ABC [California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control] says yes or no—not our office, not LAPD, although the ABC asks for our opinion in that. I expressed my displeasure—and I’m not sure what the LAPD did.
Patch: So Colombo’s was the only restaurant that applied? No other restaurant hosted a beer garden?
Huizar: That was my understanding—that was part of the music festival. There’s an informal understanding between the Center for the Arts—which helps operate the music festival—and the restaurants [even though] any restaurant can apply for a beer-garden permit. But we had expressed to everyone that we prefer they not. Because if they do, everyone’s going to want to have one—and it’s going to turn into a beer fest and we don’t want that to happen to the music festival.
Patch: You are scheduled to give your State of the Town address in Eagle Rock on February 1. Can you tell us what the highlights are going to be?
Huizar: Well then, no one would go if they get the highlights here! (Laughs). The highlights are:
• I’m a huge supporter of what the community has brought forward with Taking Back the Boulevard. That has a lot of potential.
• Talking about my work on York Boulevard to improve that commercial corridor.
• Updates on our —we recently put a bike lane on York and we want to make that loop around Eagle Rock Boulevard, Colorado, Figueroa, downtown to York. What type of commercial corridor support we’re doing.
• Obviously, medical marijuana will be a huge issue—and Council will be taking up my motion to ban medical marijuana dispensaries about that time.
• The work we’ve done on the massage parlors and the number of illegal massage parlors that have come up in Eagle Rock—we’ll take that up as well.
• Obviously, the good news that crimes continues to go down in Northeast L.A. We’ll go over some of those statistics.
What I’ve done in the past with my State of the Town address is that I’ve attempted to quantify some of these indicators that will allow us to better understand quality of life issues in our communities. So I try to go over the number of crimes, the number of streets we’ve re-paved, the number of trees we’ve trimmed—service-items indicators that show us improvements in quality of life. And I think in the last six years we have a lot to be thankful for.