LONG BEACH − The two top candidates vying to replace Don Knabe on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed the county must do a better job of supporting the region’s most vulnerable communities during a Tuesday night forum in Long Beach.
“L.A. County is a safety net – and it’s our job to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks,” said Rep. Janice Hahn, (D-San Pedro).
The congresswoman – and former L.A. city council member – is running against Steve Napolitano, a former mayor of Manhattan Beach and Knabe’s senior deputy since 2005.
First elected in 1996, Knabe is being termed out of his Fourth District seat this fall.
“You deserve a voice and I want to be that voice,” Napolitano said before a sanctuary of 400 people at First Congregational Church of Long Beach.
During the candidates’ forum, hosted by the Coalition for a Just L.A., nearly a dozen community organizations and advocacy groups presented Hahn and Napolitano with a broad range of chronic issues facing the Fourth District.
Responding to questions, the two candidates differed less in ideology and most in style. While Hahn framed herself as a heartfelt visionary with national experience, Napolitano portrayed himself as a knowledgeable problem solver with local experience.
Both agreed in the need for expanded affordable housing and increased revenue to pay for such projects. Last October, the county moved to create a new affordable housing fund intended to set aside $100 million by 2021.
“We need to put that money in a lock box like we do in Congress so we don’t even talk about using it for anything else,” Hahn said.
Napolitano, however, said the county can’t rely on just money alone, but must incentivize housing developers to incorporate low-income and senior housing into new developments.
Each candidate committed to safeguarding benefits for undocumented immigrants by increasing access to health care and protecting residents from deportations that separate families.
Hahn also promised to use her experience in Washington D.C. to jumpstart the county’s early childhood education program by acquiring available federal funding.
She affirmed support for the county’s efforts to seek a special tax on people earning more than $1 million per year. The funds would go towards homeless services, namely transitional housing.
Napolitano does not oppose the tax, but maintained it isn’t enough to tackle the problem comprehensively.
“The ‘Millionaires’ Tax’ only brings in $250 million and we need $500 million,” he said.
Taxing things like marijuana sales could help raise more money for this housing, Napolitano added.
Both candidates advocated for new environmental policies to address air pollution.
“We don’t have to choose between clear air and jobs – we can have them both,” said Hahn, who suggested third-party oversight of emission levels at the ports of Long Beach and L.A.
Conversely, Napolitano added the need for a broader policy that looks into clean truck lanes on freeways that would encourage eco-friendly trucks.
The primary election between Hahn, Napolitano, and Whittier Union High School District board member Ralph Pacheco – who didn’t raise enough fundraising dollars to participate in Tuesday’s forum – takes place June 7.
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top finishers will face-off in November. The winner will represent nearly two million people in the county’s Fourth District, which stretches from the South Bay, down to Long Beach, and up through the Gateway cities to Diamond Bar.