Mayoral candidates debate public transit and homelessness at Cal State LA

Black Lives Matter LA leader removed by police from debate

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Courtesy of J. Emilio Flores/ Cal State LA.

Rick Caruso, Karen Bass, Kevin de León, Joe Buscaino and Mike Feuer debate at Cal State LA.

Erik Adams, Reporter

Five mayoral candidates in the race for Los Angeles’ highest public service position met at the university student union theater on May 1. The event was co-sponsored by Cal State LA’s Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, ABC7 and the League of Women Voters of Greater Los Angeles.

Hate crimes, police reform, homelessness and public transit were just some of the discussions during the live televised debate.

Outside of the debate itself, forms of protest ignited while the event was preparing to begin.

Just seconds before it started, Dr. Melina Abdullah, a Cal State LA professor and a founder of Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter, was carried out by police. The professor demanded that the dozens of people outside have access to the event due to Cal State LA being a public school.

LAPD said they were not providing a statement at the moment.

United States Representative Karen Bass, who is running for office, said homelessness is “not a monolith,” and cited a multitude of reasons for someone finding themselves experiencing homelessness. 

“We need to get them off the street as soon as possible,” she said. “But then we need to address the reasons why they were unhoused to begin with.”

The homelessness topic tied in heavily with the conditions of public transit in L..A.

“In addition to having law enforcement there, we also need to have counselors there that deal with mental illness (and) substance abuse,” Bass said. “We need to make sure those people have housing and services so they don’t have to ride the train 24 hours a day.”

“Public transportation is worthless when it’s not safe,” said Joe Buscaino, a Los Angeles City Council member and former police officer. “My plan is, in my increase of LAPD, we will have a uniformed presence at all stops,” Buscaino said his policies around public transit safety will make the mode of transportation safer.

The candidates also gave their two cents about police reform in the city and county.

Buscaino pushed for a relationship-based “heart behind the badge” approach. 

“We have a district attorney that’s not prosecuting crimes,” Buscaino said about L.A’s District Attorney, George Gascon. “[L.A’s] a city without consequences, and that’s going to change under my laws.” 

Businessman and candidate, Rick Caruso, said that trust between officers and communities is a must-have. “That means community policing and senior lead officers,” he said. “It means you know the neighbors, you know the community, you know the business owners. You build that trust.”

Cal State LA’s latest data states that over 50% of students are first-generation college students.

Kevin de León, a city council member running for the seat, was a first-generation college student. He told the UT that stopping the “school-to-prison pipeline”was the main point on his list of ways to ensure a pathway for future generations to pursue higher education. 

“We need to give every student a real opportunity, irrespective of their zip code, an opportunity to succeed,” he said. 

De León reflected back on what it meant for him to be a first-generation student. 

“I’m the first one to go to college in my family,” he told the UT. “I’m the only one to graduate from high school in my family. I’m a product of affirmative action.”

City attorney Mike Feuer directed a remark at Caruso. “Imagine Mr. Caruso without the money,” he said. “Would that be a viable candidate? The answer is ‘no.’” 

As mayor, Feuer said he would lead an office that would focus on “lifting up people who are vulnerable, who are in need.”

Updated 10:30 p.m. to correct a candidate’s title.

Updated on May 3 to correct L.A’s District Attorney’s spelling of his name.