Torrance City Council candidate Mike Griffiths also responded to my seven questions, but he did not submit them to me in time.
Still, here are his answers:
1. Why are you running for city council this year? Did you ever plan on running for office before?
1. Sold my computer business in 2000, and have devoted myself to my family and the community since that time. My website details out my extensive involvement with the community (www.ilikemike2014.com). And I think that with my blend of business experience, community service and City government experience, that I have the needed skills, and experience to serve the community that I care about so much as a new member of the City Council.
2. What is your political party affiliation? Why?
2. I have never run for elected office before. And my party affiliation is "Undeclared" which has been my status my whole adult life. Partisan politics is clearly not working and making it impossible to get things done. I want to do what's best for the City of Torrance, not any particular political party's agenda.
3. Tell us about your prior professional/political experience and how they can help the City of Torrance?
4. What measures, reforms, and policies would you implement on a city level to bring in more business and increase economic activity in the City of Torrance.
4. As a former successful business owner here in Torrance, something I have said from the very beginning of the campaign is that we MUST ATTRACT AND RETAIN THE BEST BUSINESSES FOR OUR CITY. I'm endorsed by the Torrance Chamber PAC as well as the BizFed PAC because of my strong understanding of the importance of businesses in our community. We as a City must work in a 3-pronged approach to businesses - City Council, City Economic Development Dept., and Chamber of Commerce MUST be working together with the same mission of attracting and retaining the best businesses. Our economic development department should be strengthened with additional staff expert in the understanding of business development. We need to identify the top 250 employers in Torrance, and rank each business based on their potential for being lured out of Torrance, and then work the 'high-risk' employers to see what steps can be achieved to ensure that they do not relocate away. We need to work with the County and the State as well to ensure that we are ALL doing our best to be as business friendly as possible.
5. What concerns do you have about crime and public safety in Torrance?
5. Crime is a big concern of mine. Even though we are ranked 10th safest city in America for Cities our size, we are now facing increasing efforts by criminals to undermine our City's safety as a result of AB109, early prisoner release program. First and foremost, we need to ensure that the State and County are providing us the funds/resources needed to better deal with this issue, and I don't think that they are. We need to be ever-more diligent in being proactive in protecting our community from this increasing criminal population back on our streets. Education of our residents and businesses is critical so they understand the patterns of crime and what to look for so they can be additional eyes and ears for our Police is very important. And we need to let our lawmakers in Sacramento know that our citizens are outraged that criminals are barely serving the sentences that they are being given and that we want them to serve, and that this is a disservice to our law-abiding population.
It's good that city council candidates remark that they are not afraid to take their case to Sacramento lawmakers, too. They need to represent our values in our cities as well as across the state.
6. There are growing revelations about the city's massive pension liabilities -- $400 million, an online reports confirm that at least 600 city employees out of 200 are earning at least $100,000 a year in total compensation (per 2012 data). What reforms or steps do you support to deal with these massive pension liabilities?
6. Pension expenses are a significant concern to me and taking a bigger and bigger bite out of our budget each year, forcing other services to be cut to cover this expense without some other source of revenue to cover it. The State and our City have taken some steps to try to reduce this burden with recent policy changes, primarily affecting new employees. But we need to find ways to do more but at the same time, we can't put our City at a competitive disadvantage. We want the best possible employees working for the City. With that said, we, Torrance, can't do this on our own. We need to work with the surrounding communities, who face the same growing problem, and attack it in a concerted effort, so that the playing field stays as even as possible. And I also think that we need to change election campaign funding rules eliminating the financial contribution of public employee organizations to candidates, especially to those in office who make decisions about these same groups labor contracts.
I agreed with Mike's sentiment that there should be rules which prevent public sector labor unions from contributing to political campaigns. Still, there are a number of reforms which the city of Torrance can enact without passing state laws or overturning key court decisions.
The notion that comprehensive pension reform would put the city at a disadvantage, however, is not a compelling statement. Torrance is not a high-risk city like Los Angeles or Long Beach, and there are a number of prospective peace officers out there scrambling for jobs, as in other professions. In the city of El Segundo, there are at least one hundred applicants for every job opening for police officer or firefighter. If instituting pension reforms does diminish the number of qualified officers who apply for a position, that diminution won't have much of an effect.
I disagreed greatly with the idea that the city should work with other cities on resolving the pension issue. Honestly, that statement alone would have put Griffiths at a disadvantage of getting an endorsement from me.
Still, Griffith's prior business experience and present city service investments deserve recognition.
7. People have responded very favorably to my common sense approach to running our City Government, and to my experience. Most believe that I have the right mix of experience that will serve me and the City well as one of your next members of our City Council.