Nick Antonicello speaks to council candidate Allison Holdorff-Polhill on homelessness, city finances and the current and future state of the district moving forward!
By Nick Antonicello
1. Your campaign has been competitive from a fundraising standpoint. Handicap the race for us and do you anticipate a runoff and will you be one of the two candidates on that November ballot and why?
Yes, I am hopeful that I will be one of the top two candidates in this race. I entered this campaign at the end of October 2021 and have a strong team of consultants, fundraisers and volunteers. I have a solid field operation with texting, emailing, canvassing and phone banking. I have participated in well over 200 community meetings to understand constituent concerns.
As the former chief advisor to the vice president of the LA school board, I am the only candidate with widespread support across the entire district. I have 100 community leaders who have endorsed me in all corners of the district.
I am also the only candidate with a proven track record navigating large government entities to solve problems during an emergency. I have the resources to effectively communicate my plans to address and tackle the challenges we face in CD11. When voters learn about my plans they support me.
2. Centennial Park is now probably the largest homeless encampment in all of CD-11, certainly in Venice. You have visited the encampment. Name three “action steps” you would provide or propose to reduce and eventually eliminate this situation in the middle of a residential neighborhood?
People experiencing homelessness are suffering and staying on the streets is not safe AND it’s unsafe and unhealthy for neighborhoods to be surrounded by encampments — we need to act swiftly.
We need a plan with dates, deadlines and deliverables. This is what I do. From day one, we will treat this crisis as the emergency that it is. The unhoused are not monolithic – some are in need of career skills and affordable housing, some are elderly and need room and board facilities, some had an astronomical medical bill, some are mentall ill and some are drug addicts. Through our outreach workers, our unhoused will be given a menu of choices, temporary shelter with an umbrella of services, rehabilitation options, mental health beds, diversion programs, housing, and other options. Staying in an encampment will not be an option. I’m the only candidate in this race with direct experience clearing encampments. AND, I will focus on preventing homelessness. I have a detailed on this topic on my website at allisonforla.com – including on mental health treatments and building more housing.
Three action steps to address Centennial Park will include:
- Treat Centennial Park like the emergency it is and deploy outreach workers to contact each person experiencing homelessness;
- Identify and provide menu of choices to all those camping in Centennial Park, but remaining in the encampment will not be one of the choices; and
- Enforce the no camping ban.
3. How can we use technology to track the homeless population and would you support a “homeless directory” that would be managed and compiled by LAHSA?
I support data-based technology to track and assist those on the streets. Some nonprofits have tracked data well and those systems should be replicated. It is important that all systems and all entities are coordinated. I will support a homeless directory managed and compiled by LAHSA.
4. The DWP accounts for roughly 50% of all municipal spending with nearly 10,000 highly paid employees. Would you consider “privatizing” the DWP and freeing up billions budgetarily to say nothing of the windfall in cash of such a sale of this public utility?
At this time, I need to gather more information possibly, audit by an independent inspector to analyze efficiencies and productivity, before weighing in on this subject matter regarding feasibility and impacts of privatization of the delivery of vital resources such as water and power. In the interim, excessive salaries for those working in the public sector should be reviewed and if need be adjustments should be made in the short-term.
5. LA has a $7.5 billion dollar payroll and 50,000 employees. What would you do to “audit” these positions in terms of production and need?
I would recommend an audit by an independent inspector to analyze efficiencies and productivity.
6. Overtime is a tremendous cost to the City of LA. There are some employees “earning” over $300,000 in overtime alone!What will you do to control overtime costs moving forward?
Overtime payments account for a significant cost to our City. I will advocate that we strive to reduce overtime where practical by working with management and addressing workforce shortage.Currently, a large percentage of LAPD resources go to the same people with mental health challenges, over and over again – who are in need of mental health services. LAFD receives 1300 calls a day and many are to address mental illness and issues for the unhoused. That is not the highest and best use of our officers’ time and resources. As your councilmember, I will advocate to deploy social workers and mental health workers to address mental health issues on our streets. This will free up critical time for our police officers to focus on crime and for our firefighters to focus on crime and fire safety.
7. 84 employees earned more than $400,000 for the City of LA and employee health benefits and pension credits are unsustainable. What would you do to control employee salaries, healthcare costs and pension credits?
It is imperative that we have a balanced and sustainable budget. We must evaluate all of the City’s unfunded liabilities and ensure that going forward we are able to meet the budgetary needs of our City. I am the only candidate in this race that has experience with large budgets, at LAUSD we had an annual budget of $20 billion. By working out bargaining agreements with healthcare benefits, we were able to reduce the unfunded liabilities by $6 billion dollars.
8. Sidewalk repair is a huge concern and tremendous cost. How will you prioritize sidewalk improvements, shade tree, street paving and other essential infrastructure maintenance and repair?
I will make potholes, paving, shade trees, sidewalk repairs, and essential infrastructure a priority. We can reduce our liabilities and lawsuits by fixing our infrastructure. It is cost effective to do so. These problems are made worse and more expensive by long delays. We must ensure a timely response to these projects to keep costs down. As your councilmember I commit to listen to your concerns, bring people together, and fix problems. Overseeing 150 schools, I was known for being responsive, bringing people together, and solving problems.
9. What is the correct number of police officers and sanitation workers LA needs to become safe and clean?
People do not feel safe. We need officers patrolling the streets and ensuring the community’s safety, rather than sitting behind desks. We can civilianize office jobs and put hundreds of more officers on the street as identified in the audit by Ron Galpern. The key to preventing crime is a strong partnership between social workers and law enforcement. We also need to update our technology. Once we civilianize these jobs, have social workers addressing mental health, and update technology, we can reassess how many more police officers we need. To be clear, in the interim, we certainly need more officers than we have now. LA has the lowest per capita police officer ratios of any major US city — 4 times fewer than New York City. I will increase the number of officers. I believe, based on interviews with experts, we may need 11,000.
Right now, most LAPD and LAFD calls address homelessness and mental health issues. This is not the best use of their skill set and time. Some of our unhoused need services, not enforcement, so we need more social workers and mental health workers out on the streets that work in conjunction with LAPD and LAFD. If we want to solve homelessness, we need to address these issues with the people who are properly trained to do so.
In order to keep our City clean, sanitation must be a top priority. We need to assess how many sanitation workers we need and whether we could allocate work schedules to ensure that our City is cleaned during the evening or overnight to maximize efficiency.
10. All the candidates keep repeating the phrase of “getting people out of their cars.” If that is your position, would you turn down a city–owned vehicle and gas card should you be elected?
Yes, I will.
11. What is your assessment of neighborhood councils? How will you reform or improve the neighborhood council system?
Neighborhood councils play a critical role in each community. As your councilmember, I will ensure that I attend these meetings and/or a member of my staff attends these meetings on a regular basis. I am in favor of meeting with the leaders of each neighborhood council on a monthly basis in order to understand exactly what is happening in each community. This representative community model gathers stakeholders’ concerns, positions and needs. Understanding each community’s concerns is important for me to successfully represent your interests.
I have served on my local community council and understand first-hand the importance of these organizations and their impact on policy. I worked closely and collaborated on many projects with all of the neighborhood councils within Council District 11 when I was at the district. Many neighborhood councils went above and beyond to support their communities during the pandemic. For example, I worked with the Del Rey Neighborhood Council to ensure they could pick up meals at Marina Del Rey Middle School and deliver them to the Mar Vista Gardens community.
I am happy to work with each neighborhood and community councils to identify how we can reform and improve their systems if need be. Neighborhood Councils are as good as the community volunteers that participate. It is imperative that the process for participation is as open and transparent.
11. LA has 4 million people and 15 council districts. In sharp contrast NYC has over 8 million people and 51 council districts. Would you support charter reform and expansion of the size of the LA City Council to say, 30 members?
I appreciate that effort to reform the City’s charter and expand the size of the City Council should be evaluated to ensure representation is fair. That said, the homelessness crisis is an emergency and it must be treated like one. I do not believe that we have the bandwidth to reform the City Charter and contemplate adding City Council members at this time. Once this crisis has been adequately addressed, I would be in favor of evaluating growing the number of representatives on our City Council. That said, large councils can be ineffective.
12. You have an education background and skill set with LAUSD. How does that experience assist you in managing another large bureaucracy like the City of Los Angeles?
My experience successfully navigating the second largest school district in the nation, a large government entity, to solve problems makes me uniquely qualified to be our next LA City Councilmember. I am the only candidate that has been in a position of leadership during an emergency – the pandemic. Right now, we have an emergency in this City – homelessness. I have a proven track record getting things done during an emergency.
- I’ve done big: our school district has 500,000K kids and 84% live in poverty, and the District has a budget of $20 billion, whereas the City’s budget is $11.4 billion.
- I have a proven track record
- Being highly responsive to all constituents
- Stressing deadlines, dates and deliverables
- Example we doled out half a million computers and iPads overnight
- I was directly involved in rapidly shifting from school based meals to the largest community feeding program during the pandemic – 140M meals were served
- I am the only one that had to clear encampments when we reopened schools
- But you don’t have to take my word for it – 100 community leaders have endorsed me in their individual capacity. I invite you to check out my video testimonials on my website.
- Solving this homelessness crisis is going to require someone with my experience – this is a systems failure
- capable of navigating a large bureaucracy
- Herding cats – getting people together
- Contacting the right person and following through to ensure the tasks were completed
- Honestly that’s why they call me “the fixer.”
I’ve worked across various boundaries. My LAUSD leadership experience has given me a record of high constituent engagement, rapid response, cutting through a bureaucracy to make positive change.
I have deep operational experience in a public organization. My responsibility in LAUSD district 4, which is larger than CD11 in size and budget, was characterized as listening, engaging and collaborating with all players. It isn’t a top down autocratic, adversarial approach.
I was directly involved in rapidly shifting from school based meals to the largest community feeding program during the pandemic. We didn’t have the luxury of time when it came to replacing the primary source of food to our disadvantaged students and their families.
- I cleared encampments around our schools. I am a bridge builder. I have been involved with labor negotiations.
- I offer a path to positive change in CD11.
- I offer proven experience in navigating a bureaucracy.
- I managed and balanced a budget larger than the LA CIty budgets
Finally, two effective women that worked at LAUSD and went into the city council – Nurey Martinez and Rita Walters.
13. Many in Venice believe we have become a “containment zone” for the rest of CD-11. Do you agree with that assessment and can you pledge that Venice will no longer be a “dumping ground” for homelessness moving forward in terms of new encampments, shelters and other supportive housing?
I pledge that Venice will no longer be a “dumping ground” moving forward. With the community’s input, we need to invest in improving the Venice Beach Boardwalk and it is important the Venice community provide ample input.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk should be restored to the iconic place it once was with community members and tourists feeling safe and able to enjoy the sunshine, surf, art and various outdoor activities.
I will advocate to continue the creative warm artistic community events that bond the community and tourists. There are many courageous possibilities. We could support concerts at the beach, movie nights, art exhibitions, and other restorative activities.
We need to make an investment in this incredible community. With the 2028 Olympics coming, we could partner with generous local business partners and build a beach volleyball court or another athletic venue to create community events going forward. We could also raise funds to create a multi-purpose room to house community events like dances for all ages, art exhibitions, community meetings, and more. The possibilities are endless – we have the landscape, generosity, and creativity in this vibrant Venice community and we can do this!