Bernard Parks Interview Transcript

This is a partial transcript of Bernard Parks’ interview with the L.A. Weekly’s editorial board. As with all of the candidate interviews, it has been only lightly edited and has not been fact-checked. L.A. WEEKLY: I recall that in your final address as chief to the City Council, you spoke of many things, including corruption in City Hall. You actually used the word corrupt. BERNARD PARKS: That’s right. L.A. WEEKLY: And you distinguished between the LAPD on the one hand and City Hall and politics on the other. You mentioned people being fed up with City Hall. But I’m struck by that word corruption. Did you know then about many of the things that we’ve been reading about in the newspaper, over the last year or so? BERNARD PARKS: I did not know about the pay to play. It’s clear to me that the mayor’s office moved money to the union so that they could run their ad campaign, which just happened to coincide at the same time the mayor made his announcement for his non-support. L.A. WEEKLY: Okay. BERNARD PARKS: They weren’t supposed to get the money until they assumed the full duties of defending officers on their payroll versus the fee. It was unambiguous language. The mayor’s office made sure that they received over two million dollars worth of city funds, well in advance of them assuming the duties. They were able to put forth their ad campaign that just happened. Not that it was, you know, a plan. It aired the first day. The same day that the mayor made his announcement L.A. WEEKLY: Okay. Was that your first experience, in all of your years with the city of Los Angeles, with something that you would call corruption in City Hall? BERNARD PARKS: No, we’ve had a number of times where we’ve arrested people for individual acts. But the one thing I thought was interesting. They came in with an attitude that clearly the mayor could do anything. They had that attitude when we got there the first day. L.A. WEEKLY: Well, now I’m intrigued. Who are they? BERNARD PARKS: Their staff. L.A. WEEKLY: Everybody in the staff? BERNARD PARKS: The staff that he dealt with. From the deputy, from public safety, to their chief of staff. That was their attitude from the first day in operation. L.A. WEEKLY: Can you relay a couple of specific incidents of this? BERNARD PARKS: Well, the specific incident is when we talked to them about the issue that I just mentioned. Beth Barrett did a very extensive story about it. One of them…was a policy issue where they were wanting us to approve a reserve …authority for Councilman (Dennis) Zine and I wouldn’t do that ‘cause I thought it was inappropriate and violated policies that you can’t be a city council member and be a reserve officer. The administration thought we should ensure that happened. There are several things like that. I don’t have any more specifics but time has passed. But if you go back and look at that one-hour presentation, you will find a number of those issues came true. L.A. WEEKLY: Mm hmm. BERNARD PARKS: Not that I was a prophet but it just happened. L.A. WEEKLY: Okay. Also, on the subject of the LAPD, you were critical from the beginning of the 3/12 schedule. And you have said in the campaign that, as mayor, you would work to reverse that. BERNARD PARKS: Yes. L.A. WEEKLY: What other reforms, things that have been characterized as reforms in the LAPD, would you work to reverse? Specifically, would you want to keep Chief Bratton? Would you do anything about reversing anything on Proposition F? BERNARD PARKS: No, I would not reverse Prop F. The thing that I would change in the department is the two-day workweek because I think we lose 30 percent of our resources. We also know that we piloted the three-day workweek before I became the Chief of Police. The number one mission of the commission was to get rid of the three-day workweek. That was the number one mission given to Lewis. Because everyone knew it was ineffective and that it was not something that the department supported for a number of reasons. Anyone that talked about a three-day workweek, you’ll find, there’s never a mention about the community benefit… it only benefits officers. I can live farther away. I can have a part-time job. They come to work roughly a hundred days a year and 85 percent of them live out of the city. Yet you’re talking about community based policing and how people relate to the issues in the city. It’s inconsistent to have that. I believe that many things within the department have been altered to compensate for the three-day workweek. The elimination of DARE. The elimination of many of the prevention and intervention programs that were a hallmark of prevention of crime. The current administration never talks about crime except in the last 18 months. They forget the mayor’s been there since 2001. Look at 2002, your crime went off the map. We became the murder capital of the world. The only initiative within the LAPD was to give officers a two- and three-day workweek. If you take credit for crime dropping since 2002, you may want to take credit for it going up in 2002. The mayor talks about the whole picture. But if you go back and look at his tenure in the four years before that we’ve had over 300 more murders. L.A. WEEKLY: The crimes that you just talked about. How much does this reflect deficiency in Chief Bratton’s term in office? BERNARD PARKS: I don’t know how much you can reflect on that. What I look at is how much better it may have been had we not had a significant increase in 2002. The city, if you recall, from 1992 to 1999, had 100 consecutive months of crime reduction. You had to go all the way back in the ‘60s to find the same level of crime we experienced in 1998 and ‘99. But the crime began to increase in 2000. It went off the map in 2002 because you can’t take resources off the street. In the last 24 months, this administration has made significant projections about crime reduction and backed off of all of them. So we don’t know how much it has an impact. We know that crime is cyclical. In the 40 years I’ve been in the city, for the first three months of almost every decade, crime goes up a little, a little bit. And then it begins…it will go down in the middle years. So, I can’t answer the question how much he made an impact. I just know that officers are spending more time at home than they are on the street. We have a ten-acre plot of land on 83rd and Vermont that’s been vacant since the 1992 riot. We’re going to have a $100 million dollar county building built there, which will bring in 1200 employees. We believe this will be a catalyst to develop the other six acres. We’ll have condominiums in Martin Square. We’ll have opportunities for home buying. We are going to change the dynamics of the whole community by having homeownership in an area that is almost exclusively renters. So that’s been an effort. The other issue that we have put a lot of energy into is the Vision Theater. We’ve committed about seven million dollars. It will become a catalyst for economic development in the area. L.A. WEEKLY: What’s going to happen there that’s not happening now? BERNARD PARKS: The Vision Theater. It will end up being a full service theater. The fact that we can put together several hundred events per year. For 20-plus years the Martin Luther King parade went eastbound on King Boulevard and stopped on Western. This year, we’ve reversed it. Thousands of people stayed in the park and in the business community until nighttime. We’re looking at ways, in which, to bring activities to the community. We’re going to have two ordinances that will be coming about in the Eighth district. If you go to poor communities, almost every piece of land is a carwash, a car lot, or an auto-related business. We’ll have an ordinance shortly that will call for any auto related businesses in the Eighth district to have a conditional use permit. We also will have one that’s going to come out very shortly that will affect developers. But those are two things that are zoning issues that we have… are correcting. L.A. WEEKLY: How would you describe Mr. Hahn’s efforts in Marlton Square? Was he generally helpful in making that happen? BERNARD PARKS: You know most of that deal was done before I got there. But I think the mayor’s office was helpful in basically it being funded by a number of sources. Certainly it would have taken much longer to get that job done had we not had the cooperation of the mayor’s office. But that deal is much better today than it was when I came into office. L.A. WEEKLY: Why would you want to give up your research while you’re doing all these important things? BERNARD PARKS: I think what I see in the city is that the things we’re doing in the Eighth district can be done in the First district, in the 13th district. The problem that we have in the city of L.A., is that we have no planning department. The planning department is working on projects, in the wealthier parts of the city, telling people what you can’t do. There are no limitations. That’s why when you drive to our communities, you may see 13 consecutive car washes, a liquor store and then three churches. Because there’s nothing that guides a plan. It takes ten years. We expect 50 million people in the state of California by the year 2020. If that occurs, we’re going to get our full share. If we do not start almost immediately on an infrastructure, meaning the street, sidewalks, sewers, housing, public safety, transportation, economic development, we will not be able to live in this city in the next five to seven years. We are talking about building an airport to bring 78 million people to one location, with no public transportation. So we need to have a short to long-range plan to address every infrastructure issue because without that we will not be taken serious at the state and federal level. Funding will not be forthcoming and we will continue to meddle around in dealing with 25 crosswalks, or intersections per year. L.A. WEEKLY: Do you consider yourself a pro-business candidate? BERNARD PARKS: I’m pro-Los Angeles and I think in order for Los Angeles to thrive you have to have business. I do believe that if you invest, you have a right to expect a return on the investment. I do understand the difference between non-profits and for-profits. I do not believe that government should get involved in making it more difficult for developers and for business people. I think the community should have significant input when we talk about bringing businesses in. But, again, I don’t think we should be relegated to monopolies that can write their own tickets. That is anti-business. We do not consider people who own property a business. We believe that advocates should be able to tell those who are responsible for the deals that everything should be absolved until that advocate can dictate how you run your property. In fact, we have an argument for people who want to tell the St. Regis Hotel that you must go out of business before you can change your business. I don’t think that’s appropriate. I think if you invest your money, you should have a right to return. I don’t think you can do anything that you want and be a nuisance to your community. But I don’t think that we, as government, should be involved in interceding at every aspect to tell business, go away. L.A. WEEKLY: I think one of the arguments for the ordinance was that a store like Wal-Mart doesn’t give its employees much of a rate of return and that, besides being concerned for investors, does the city have an obligation to, you know, deal with the kinds of issues that were raised in the supermarket strike? BERNARD PARKS: No, I think you need to be concerned about several things. But just think about Wal-Mart. Do you prefer to have 500 people unemployed in a vacant store in a shopping center going under? Or a store that left in the middle of the night and didn’t even tell their employees? L.A. WEEKLY: You’re talking about the Crenshaw Mall. BERNARD PARKS: That’s right. And then you bring in a Wal-Mart that spends... L.A. WEEKLY: Millions. BERNARD PARKS: I don’t believe that Wal-Mart should have a monopoly. But I don’t believe we should have a vacant store and 500 people unemployed. I think if we look at the grocery store and use that as an example, the most recent strike, I think it was a sad day for the union to settle, what, six months after the strike? They failed to realize that the grocery industry is now national and international. We also have to realize the same stores that went on are the ones in poor communities that we get the most complaints about. That when you walk into a Food 4 Less, you have to unstick your feet off the floor. You can’t go as a senior because you must take somebody that’s able-bodied to package your groceries. Those are the kind of stores that those unions have put into the poor communities and do nothing as it relates to complaints about rude customers, bad product, and poor pricing. Yet, we would take a stand and say, let’s not let Wal-Mart come in and fill a void. When we go in Wal-Mart, it’s the only store I’ve been in that is almost predominantly women and minorities that are hired. That’s the only store I’ve ever been in Los Angeles that you get greeted when you come in and come out. It’s the only store I’ve been in where they hire a large percentage of disabled people. The only one who thinks $10 an hour is bad is somebody who has an $11 dollar an hour job. I would prefer people making $10 an hour and be employed than not making $10 an hour and be unemployed. I would prefer them to buy, in Crenshaw, than to drive 30 miles to another Wal-Mart. So I think, we have to look at the reality of the situation. I’m concerned about the people who live in Los Angeles. Most of the people that we find that get the good union jobs on trades and everything do not live in the city. The people that showed up in the chambers talking about building LAX, most of them are Orange County trades. We want to raise the living standards of Los Angeles. But I don’t think you raise the living standards in Los Angeles by having unemployment. L.A. WEEKLY: What’s your opinion on the Wal-Mart initiative? BERNARD PARKS: Well, I have not studied the initiative but I think that if the vacant lot is there in five years people are making the wrong decision. Is a vacant lot better? Do you get revenue off of it? I don’t see vacant lots doing a great deal of economic development. So I think we’ve got to be realistic. The issue is what can you put there that practically develops the community? That’s the real issue. L.A. WEEKLY: Do you think that this mayor and a majority of your colleagues on the city council are making a mistake by being vocally supportive of the hotel workers and their fight with the coalition of hotels? BERNARD PARKS: I have a very clear idea of where I think people should be on issues. Public officials should be in a position of neutrality. I don’t think they should take one side. You try to keep the parties together. You’re supposed to meet and confer about the issues dealing with their business. Then the elected officials step in and become an advocate against business and find out quickly as we all did at St. Regis, the owner said, thank you very much. I’m going to make condominiums. One of the things we’re working on, pro-football to bring it to Los Angeles, because we are... L.A. WEEKLY: We knew you were going to get to that. BERNARD PARKS: We’re going to do that. And we hope very shortly. Just think about what we have at the Coliseum. We have a historic stadium. It’s the only place in the world that’s had two Olympics, Super Bowls and all the other things. But it’s a stadium that, in 1992, almost fell apart because of the earthquake. There is no revenue stream to develop it. Between the Coliseum and the sports arena, it makes up to a million dollars a year, between the two facilities. The sports arena will be relegated to church events and parties, which is not a revenue producer. So, if you have a multi billion dollar corporation called the NFL come into the city and say, I’ll build you a $500 million dollar stadium, just on that investment alone. The city and the county would make $200 million dollars in tax increments. Of which 20 percent, right off the top, go into housing. Now, should we remain as we are with a 1932 facility that’s producing little or no revenue? And six or eight games from USC and a couple of concerts? Or should we be looking to bring in the business that will attract people that will then become maybe a mini Staples Center? That people might even build a hotel or a motor inn or a restaurant and develop that whole corridor? L.A. WEEKLY: Why is it realistic that we can attract a National Football League to a part of town where people in the NFL have frankly said they worry about crime, they worry about the neighborhood? And it’s not realistic that we could bring in a first class supermarket or a first class project of some other kind to South Los Angeles. BERNARD PARKS: It’s very simple. First of all, the NFL has never said that it’s not acceptable. In fact, in ‘99, they deemed the Coliseum as the place of choice in Los Angeles. There’s just one hitch. A guy in Houston paid $700 million dollars for a team and the city and the owner built a brand new stadium. The city of L.A. and its millionaires only wanted to offer about $500 million. But the NFL also knows that no one is going to put public funds into building a stadium. So when they put $500 million dollars in a stadium, it’s going to be a unique situation for them. They will not be able to go to another city and say, we have no money to build a stadium. Because they have money to build a stadium. It’s a unique product. There will be 25 major events. About 80 thousand people per year in that stadium. It will enhance the whole park. It’s a totally different business than a supermarket. You can go to Superior or you can go to Food 4 Less. You have more variety. There is only one product called NFL and they need to be in the Los Angeles area. L.A. WEEKLY: Would it be unreasonable to work out the kind of deal with them in the Coliseum that was worked out with the Staples Center for living wages and community amenities and parts and local hiring and that sort of thing? BERNARD PARKS: I don’t think it’s unreasonable. We certainly would push for that. But we have to, in my judgment, identify what we call local hiring. I don’t think a person traveling from Orange County is local hiring. Particularly the community around the Coliseum doesn’t think that either. I think we have to define what is local hiring. L.A. WEEKLY: We have a couple of districts where it’s showing a high incidence of throat and lung cancer near the 110 and the 10 freeways. What are some of your ideas to clean up L.A.’s air and water supply? BERNARD PARKS: Several thousand people drive through the 8th and 9th district. They suffer from noise and air pollution by the airport. I think we have to stop the LAX plan. There’s no logical reason to consider bringing 78 million passengers to one location when we own four airports. No one that lives in the valley should ever come to LAX and no one that lives in the Inland Empire should come to LAX. Now, before you go any farther, you need to bring in public transportation at or near the airport. You certainly would not go forward on Manchester Square, which is supposedly not an expansion of the airport. It’s supposedly on the 3500 acres of the airport. Do we really want to do something with terrorism? So the airport has to be dealt with. The harbor has to be dealt with. You should be trying to reduce the number of pollutants significantly. The only way we can do that is to be able to deal with the tankers. Then you begin to look at how you can extend to Alameda Corridor to the east, to where you begin to get those trucks and lower the cost. You expand the workload of the trucks over a 24-hour clock. You move forward on the 710 expansions. There are a lot of things that could be done. We’ll educate people that public transportation is important. We need a leader at MTA. We don’t need a person at MTA that says I’d rather not be president. I’ll let a councilman be president. You don’t want to be the MTA mayor and not be an advocate at Sacramento and in Washington to get at least our fair share of revenue. So those are things that you have to do. It’s very obvious. It’s a matter of having the willpower to say it. We have a conflict in many of our issues. The mayor can only go so far because the unions. These are all the things that tie up the city of L.A. The mayor’s missed 140-some votes at MTA but he can’t vote because of conflict of interest. Now, how can he be the leader of the city and can’t vote on 140 issues? And you’re not there 30 percent of the time? Well, who’s representing the city of L.A.? I also think it’s a mistake on MTA to make all your appointments elected officials. L.A. WEEKLY: Councilman, you’ve said publicly, on numerous occasions, because people like us have asked you this on numerous occasions, that it is or it is not your purpose in running for mayor, in order to get back at James Hahn for denying you a second term? BERNARD PARKS: Mm hmm. L.A. WEEKLY: I will come clean and tell you that I’m a little skeptical and I’m going to ask you to convince us, as best you can, that that has no place in your decision to run for mayor. BERNARD PARKS: Let me ask you this. Do you ask everyone else his or her intent? L.A. WEEKLY: Yes, actually. BERNARD PARKS: Oh, okay. Is Antonio’s intent to get back? L.A. WEEKLY: Well, we haven’t asked him yet. BERNARD PARKS: Well, first of all, let me say this. The mayor is not that important to me. For me to dedicate my life to him. If you believe that he has a good record, then you should support him. If you believe that his promises have not come through, then you should look elsewhere. If you believe he’s brought corruption here in the city, then you should hold him accountable. But my intent for running for mayor has nothing to do with trying to get back at him. I have shown, for 40 years, a leadership pattern that I don’t take a moment of my time to get back at anybody. Nor do I spend an ounce of my energy on anything that’s not positive. So if 40 years bases your question, if I haven’t proved it by now, I’ll never convince you. But I have a pretty clear open book 40-year record. And if you can find one parcel of getting back or spinning my energy in a negative fashion, show it to me. L.A. WEEKLY: Why has your campaign being saddled with the perception of disarray? BERNARD PARKS: Well, mainly because people haven’t taken the time to figure out what we’re doing. What happened very seriously is when I decided to run for mayor, I had a young man that was in my office that I’d known for 30 years. He wanted to retire from his job. I went to him and said: would you come run my council office for a year? He said, yes. That year came up. He said: I’m ready to go. I said, do me a favor. Go set up my campaign office. He said, fine. So he’s never intended, nor were we ever expecting, that he was going to work for the campaign. So he came and did what he was asked to do. We had consultants on board who we listened to, doing this great strategy. We knew from the beginning that we were not going to be the special interest candidate nor were we going to raise four million dollars. But we also know that we have the highest, one of the highest name recognitions. We also know, on every poll, we have the highest positives and the lowest negatives. So, we knew that if we raised $1.5 million dollars that was going to probably be our limit. With almost $900,000 to date. When people don’t know why you’re doing things and they speculate about them, they come up with all kinds of conclusions. My campaign is running the way I want it to run. I am pleased with what we’re doing, even though people on the outside may not understand it. They have no interest in asking. They have this perception. There’s reasons for everything that’s been done. Our consultants sat down with us and said don’t pay us any more money. Go put your money into design, ads, and media. Run your ground operation where you see the benefit. Because we’ve given you the best advice we can give. Now, that’s what we do. Plus, we’ve said to people, we’re not going to be the union candidate. We’re not going to be the special interest candidate. We’re not going to raise four million. But we do believe that with 40 years of service in the city of L.A, we don’t have to raise four million to be known. L.A. WEEKLY: You have a reputation as a lone ranger. BERNARD PARKS: You obviously have not watched my 40-year career. I couldn’t be a lone ranger and be Chief of Police. You couldn’t be a lone ranger if you had never run for citywide office and you are tied for second in the polling in every poll that comes up. You couldn’t be a lone ranger if you’re the only one that put together minorities and sexual orientation groups that were formed for the Chief of Police. I am a lone ranger on values and honesty. I will stand my ground on that. The people who don’t know me and haven’t seen what I do have all kinds of perceptions. But it takes time to understand. Those who work around me understand that. You cannot be successful in the police department or in life being a lone ranger. You can’t do anything in the police department without having people who support it. You can’t be a leader without followers. People believe the police just dictate, but that’s not true. We didn’t reduce crime in half because I dictated it. We reduced crime in half because we put police where they should be. We deployed them in a fashion that was relevant and got the community involved. You don’t get to 400 homicides in two consecutive years by just dreaming about it. You work 20 hours a day to make that happen. L.A. WEEKLY: You talked about the anti-special interest candidate. And I’m hearing today, for example, you know, you’re not totally fond of unions. BERNARD PARKS: Not true. I’ve been in the union all my life. But when people make decisions that are contrary to general public, we separate. So when a union member tells me the three-day workweek is wonderful for 8,000 employees and people are dying, we separate on that issue. L.A. WEEKLY: Okay. What do you support and what organizations support you? BERNARD PARKS: People I support? The four million people that live in the city of L.A. I will always be a voice for them. I do not support people who take advantage of the city of Los Angeles. The people that support me are people such as business people. People that support me are people in the community like the Sherman Oaks homeowners who say, ‘you’re the only Chief of Police that’s ever been in our community that came and sat in our bedrooms and listened to us about our issues and made sure crime went down.’ People appreciate the fact that you are working on their behalf. My endorsements run the gamut from Michael Antonovich to Yvonne Burke. We have a list we can give you. But none of them are going to be of star-quality. We get money from the library to the guy who gave us $20 dollars and said ‘don’t cash it until my welfare check comes in.’ So, that’s the gamut. But everybody we get money from are voters. L.A. WEEKLY: Are you sort of at concerned that you don’t have the black political support? Bernard parks: No. Because I’m not a black candidate. If I was only running from the black community, then I would be concerned. L.A. WEEKLY: What are your views on injunctions? BERNARD PARKS: Injunctions are an effort to give the community a sense that something’s going on, a perception. It may not do much at all but it gives the community a sense that they believe someone’s trying to help them. It also makes gang membership less visible. Because when you start putting limits on gangs and things - you can’t wear this, you can’t do this, you can’t congregate…it at least reduces the intimidation in the community. Now does it reduce gang activity? I don’t think so. We’ve had gang activity all my life in the city of L.A. The issue is addressing the gang problem. If you go back and look at what the mayor has accomplished, you cannot find results. He’s the only mayor I’ve seen that’s offered up goals about reduction of crime, and backed off of them almost immediately. You can go right on LAPD’s website and look at the crime stats for four years and look at the previous four years and you can interpret them yourselves. He shouldn’t be telling you that crime’s down. Everyone of you knows a crime victim. They don’t believe crime is down. Probably the only crime statistic that is fairly accurate is homicide ‘cause it’s a body. But when you look at the thousands of missing persons, you don’t even know how accurate homicide is. The issue is we can play politics with crime. Look at the issues that are affected by it. Look at how the department has dissipated most of its prevention and intervention programs for the benefit of a three-day workweek. Then look at the results. L.A. WEEKLY:You’re running as a Democrat? BERNARD PARKS: Yes. I got a lot of insight going to the convention. But when you spend a month trying to debate whether you’re a war hero or not, you lose all of the momentum. We wasted a month. Although the Democratic Party is inclusive, sometimes it’s so inclusive that it can’t get on the bus. Sometimes they miss the point. L.A. WEEKLY: So do you have an agenda for making it better? BERNARD PARKS: You got to get more focused. You have to get people involved. They have to feel as though something’s going to happen. The one thing I feel good about, in the 8th district, when I ran, not only had we won by 80 percent but we got 5,000 more people out to vote than ever before. Somebody has to be able to develop an agenda that people believe in, that they see themselves in, and that they see as a reality. We have to be able to let people know it’s a day-to-day process. It’s not an every four-year process. That is where we get into the confidence in public officials. We just can’t come up with a slogan and a drive every four years and think people are going to show up. There has to be an ability to think something’s going on every day that makes you want to be a part of it. That’s where public officials and elected officials lose their constituents. People don’t see how they connect with their life. Until the Democratic Party is able to deal with that at the graduate level, you’re going to find folks on these varying subgroups that will not pull it together. L.A. WEEKLY: What do you think of the other candidates? BERNARD PARKS: I’ve worked with Antonio for years. When he’d worked on the MTA. I have not seen that he has been dishonest. I think there is one issue that is certainly relevant today. People believe he clearly said I’m not going to run. But I don’t view him as being dishonest. The mayor has not been necessarily honest. Some of it is how you cut the line and how you draw the line on material or statistics or whatever. I’ve only had a situation where one person has reflected a level of dishonesty.


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