City Council Candidate Forum at Echo Park's Bedrock L.A. recording studio

     On April 18th,  the Bedrock. L.A  recording studio was an interesting venue for Los Angeles City Council District 13 candidate Mitch  O'Farrell and District 1 candidate Jose Gardea to state their positions to area residents before the upcoming May 21st election runoff.

        The music studio building at 1623 Allesandro Street at the west end of Echo Park had parties and recording sessions going on. In one room, assorted cakes , pies, and cookies covered a table before you got to the sitting area where neighborhood residents gathered to hear the candidates speak. O'Farrell's opponent , John J. Choi, and Gardea's opponent , Gilbert Cedillo, both reportedly declined to participate in the forum.

         Among the issues the candidates addressed were encouraging the growth of small business in the Echo Park area, as well as methods to alleviate the traffic congestion and parking problems. "I have a lot of experience making people feel they are listened to. I have run businesses, and running businesses in Los Angeles has been very difficult for a long, long time. I will play a leading role  in how L.A. City deals with small businesses regarding permitting," O'Farrell said. "We need complete reform in permitting. If small businesses give up on expanding or opening, it hurts our economy. We must get Los Angeles back to work. My hallmark goal will be to reduce the unemployment rate."

         Gardea has lifelong roots in the area. "I grew up two blocks from here," he said. "Echo Park is home." He outlined work he has done with tree planting in the area, and has worked with the Office of Urban Planning. "We have a master plan for the Los Angeles River and Elysian Park." Gardea also discussed how he helped secure $1 million for a recreational center south of Temple Street , where he encouraged the city to operate a pool, a park, and a Boy's and Girl's Club as one complex.

         "I want growth," Gardea went on. "As a city we have failed to create jobs over the last 14 years. In Los Angeles, the small business economy is what is important. In some neighborhoods, street vendors are part of the formal economies. I want a cosmopolitan city that takes care of the street vendor." Gardea favors creating an Economic Development Department, with a body, staff and structure. He also favors the realignment of departments dealing with job growth and development. "Mitch and I want to put the meat on the bones of development."

           O'Farrell told the audience that he favors the creating of Echo Park's own business improvement district, complete with a staff to run it. "It's not easy to form one. How about if Jose and I get elected so we can get this done sooner? The city also needs to accommodate volunteerism," he said.

            Gardea outlined changes in a Business Improvement District: "We've always had the BID program in the City Clerk's Office. The red tape nightmare happens because it has been in the City Clerk's Office. I want to put the BID program in the Economic Development Department.

            The next issue discussed was how to alleviate traffic and parking problems in the Echo Park and Silver Lake areas. "I would push for a two-hour limit on the parking meters," O'Farrell said. "We need to connect with the mass transit system to get people out of their cars . We need a world class mass transit system and we need Federal money for that. Dodger fans should be encouraged to park in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. " As it is,people have been parking in the surrounding neighborhoods, causing congestion, to avoid paying to park in the stadium lot.

           Gardea recalled one attempt to deal with traffic congestion: "We had a dedicated bus line that didn't work because it was stuck in traffic. We're working with Parking Enforcement to stop stadium access on Solano Avenue. We need to have dedicated bus and bike lanes into Dodger Stadium. And the quarters you put into an Echo Park parking meter should stay in Echo Park.

            Gardea also told the audience about a smear campaign when area voters were called and told he is Republican. "I am a Democrat. If you want to make an impact on the community, you have to get involved."

            O'Farrell also said: "It's too bad our opponents didn't show. I just can't wait to get back to work July 1st as your council member."


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