Now running to represent Council District 11, prosecutor Tina Hess says her 25 years working in city government makes her the most qualified for the seat, and, if elected, she plans to streamline "bureaucratic processes that inhibit government."
President Obama's reelection finally swayed her to finish getting all her signatures to join the race, Hess said.
"Women have 20 seats in the U.S. Senate and [after] looking at candidates for L.A. City Council, it's quite likely there's no women in city council next year," she said in an interview Wednesday. "This is a city that prides itself on diversity and the thought that having no women represented was just unacceptable to me."
Hess is currently the deputy chief of the Complex and Special Litigation Division of the criminal branch at the city attorney's office. She's handled cases against large corporate banks, insurance companies, environmental polluters and billboard companies.
A Del Rey and Mar Vista resident for the last 20 years, Hess' campaign launch party was last weekend at a private home in Mar Vista, and her website is up and running. Earlier in her life, she also lived for several years in Pacific Palisades. She's been out campaigning for the last six weeks, and says she's looking at CD11 through new eyes, with an appreciation for its striking diversities.
"My campaign is about bringing perspective to problem solving," she said. "Everything from gangs to drugs, to code enforcement, to community involvement. I know what works, what doesn’t work and I know how to solve problems within the context of that."
Hess thanked City Councilman Bill Rosendahl for his service.
Hess calls for more collaboration, teamwork to solve common problems
Implementing a method called the Strategic Multi Agency Response Team (or SMART) as a new approach to solving chronic city problems, Hess said she supports enlisting the help and brainpower of neighboring cities and universities—like UCLA, USC and other cities within L.A. County—to solve shared problems, like traffic, homelessness, budget issues, and emergency preparedness. Rather than incorporate outside, independent thought to tackle problems, the city instead relies on old methods.
Hess said she has used that strategy throughout her time in the city attorney's office on public safety projects and others. If elected, she said she will take that approach to solve problems on the Westside.
"The same old ideas and solutions that got us into this mess can't be resolved by the people who've created them, who've let it go on for eight years," she said.
"We need to prioritize the issue and allocate [funds] based on the resources we have and bring in expertise and new ideas, new perspectives," Hess added. "City departments have monovision and don't typically look outside their traditional method of production."
City budget needs honest, accurate numbers
Looping back to SMART, Hess said L.A. needs to take a look at pension reform and its present drain on the general fund.
"Unions have to come back to the table and things have to be open to discussion," she said. "I'm in favor of a number of proposals, and part of Gov. Brown's proposal, such as raising the retirement age and no salary spiking.
Hess said the city council has only enacted one of many "intensive" reviews from the Committee on Revenue Enhancement (CORE) on its city departments and other programs.
"CORE recommendations would save half a billion dollars over the next several years, if implemented," she said. "One is the city needs to confer on its bidding process. Give city businesses a preference to keep taxes coming into the city."
Another problem is that every city department is outdated in its approach, all operating on different platforms with different data management systems.
"If one is perusing Building and Safety, the housing department, the finance department or the Los Angeles Fire Department, nothing is integrated," she said. "Data systems should be vertical, so that Building and Safety can access to see whether LAFD has issued permits or if they have any outstanding fines."
CORE also addressed the issue of collecting parking revenue.
"Part of that is because operators are sleazy and don't report on cash transactions and don't pay their fair share of taxes," Hess said. "The city needs to do better job of monitoring those types of actions."
Following through with solutions for the homeless
Hess said her area of the district still has a "proliferation" of homelessness and RV parking, especially in Venice.
"When they do sweeps in Venice, it moves to Mar Vista and Del Rey, and there's no tolerance for that in those communities," she said. "I don’t think this council office has done good a job addressing issues of homelessness. They've talked about designating a place for overnight camping and RV's in CD11. That wasn’t followed through with."
Also, Hess said there were discussions about working with the VA center in West Los Angeles to build more veterans' housing, and that hasn’t happened.
CD11's density due to continued influence from special interests
As CD11 neighborhoods take close looks at their community plans, Hess said she believes the city is selectively enforcing restricitions on certain types of development.
"Applying for permits with certain owners, the city obligates themselves somewhere along the way," she said. "They don't enforce those covenants after the development has been completed. On conditional uses, the same doesn't apply to low-end density housing. Developers of complexes need to set aside for low income housing, and it's happened within CD11. Properties have been developed and those units have not been set aside."
In the marina area, Hess said anything adjacent to the waterfront is county-owned, so areas like Washington Boulevard leading to Culver City have been heavily built up.
"I think it comes back to special interests in the city," she said.
Other issues to use SMART approach
- Hess said she supports the community care facilities ordinance, saying it's necessary and L.A. has an obligation to accomodate facilities that don't belong in R-1 or R-1.5 zones.
- On the LAX expansion, Hess supports alternatives 2 and 9, saying she does not think it's necessary to move the runway north. She said there are other solutions to the air bus, and the need to modernize LAX, such as making sure mass transit has access from all points from al destinations so there's a hub. Hess said she believes special interests are prevailing at the moment on the LAX expansion talks.
- Hurricane Sandy on the east coast magnified how citizens need to rely on their municipality for immediate resources, and, as a top priority, Hess said it brought to mind whether L.A. is prepared to cover 465 square miles in case of a natural disaster. Preparedness and ongoing educational resources need attention, she said.
Related CD11 election coverage and upcoming:
- Frederick Sutton Enters Council District 11 Race
- L.A. Streetsblog profiled all four CD11 candidates this week during the "Liveable Streets" candidate forum. Click here and scroll to the Jan. 23 entries.
- Patch will be interviewing candidate Mike Bonin in the next week. Stay tuned.
- Candidate forums are gearing up on the Westside. Patch will provide that list soon.