Monday morning at the CBS studios in Culver City, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti met for their final televised debate of the campaign. The format was different from previous encounters — instead of a panel of questioners, KCBS/KCAL political reporter Dave Bryan alone tried to engage the candidates.
But despite Bryan's best efforts, the candidates mainly repeated themes from their mailers and TV ads — hammering each other on integrity and perceived conflicts of interest.
On the issue of the Department of Water and Power, Garcetti continued to talk about how much money the utility’s union has spent in support of Greuel. The Working Californians political action committee has raised more than $3.3 million for its own efforts on Greuel's behalf. Garcetti maintained that, as mayor, Greuel would not stand up to the union when its contract is up for renewal next year.
However, Greuel said it was her opponent who has a conflict of interest. She pointed to a 2009 email between Garcetti and Brian d’Arcy, who heads the union that represents DWP workers. In the email, d’Arcy asked Garcetti if a committee hearing could be delayed concerning a controversial solar plan supported by the union. Garcetti wrote back that he would “see what I can do.” At the time, Garcetti was the city council president; he did not chair the committee that was scheduled to discuss the solar plan, and the union-backed measure ultimately failed.
The hour-long debate was dominated by Greuel and Garcetti’s fights over City Hall inside baseball – from audits the public has never read to support from unions that are faceless to the rest of the city.
As far as specific policies, both Greuel and Garcetti praised the work of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. Asked whether they would keep Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings in his job, the candidates said they would want to review all of the general managers once they’re in office.
The candidates were also asked about 5.5 percent pay raises that city workers are scheduled to receive next Jan. 1. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has recommended forgoing those raises, though $21 million was set aside in an account for the salary increases. Greuel told the moderator “something has to give” when it comes to salary and benefits. Garcetti said he would look to negotiate a compromise on salary, health care and pension benefits.
The debate was videotaped and will air at 7 p.m. on KCAL. The runoff election is on May 21.