Flora Gil Krisloff Interview Transcript

This is a partial transcript of Flora Gil Krisiloff’s 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: Why this for you and why now?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Okay. Well, for the last 20 years, I’ve been super involved in all aspects of the community. I have been a community activist and advocate. I founded the first community council for Brentwood as well as the West L.A. area planning commission. I have been involved with my son’s schools to stopping massive development at the VA, which of course was on the federal level. It’s just a natural step now to go onto City Hall. Whatever I’ve done, I’ve tended to set a lot of precedence in this city, whether it is zoning a commercial corner to the lowest density ever allowed in the city or transforming San Vicente Boulevard into an attractive four-lane highway. In my community work, I’ve set a lot of precedence for the city and for quality of life issues. It’s a very logical next step to run for office.

L.A. WEEKLY: Why shouldn’t we endorse Bill Rosendahl?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Well, because I trust that you will dig deeper as to who’s qualified and...

L.A. WEEKLY: You’re making us work is what you’re saying?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: I am going to make you work. I think it absolutely comes down to qualifications and it comes down to proven trusted leadership. We can go into this in more depth or we can do it now. Out of the three candidates, I’m the only one who has a 20-year track record of really setting precedence, organizing community and working with elected officials all the way from congressmen, senators, and county supervisors to the mayor and city council. I brought together a coalition that stopped a flawed master plan in Washington, D.C., in one and a half years. You compare that to what’s going on with the LAX Airport, which was a 10-year severely flawed master plan. That’s federal jurisdiction as well. So it’s unheard of for somebody like myself to organize and to lead in such a short period of time. Of course, my opponent has all of these endorsements. He played with his talk show. Many of them were on his show and many of them have apologized to me for endorsing him so early — not knowing that I was going to run and who I am and my qualifications. They did it because they’re friends with him and they’ve been on his show. They’ve known him for a long time. I don’t blame them. I understand. I think what’s really important is that the incumbent, Cindy Miscikowski, endorsed me. I think that’s very significant. She is the person who currently knows and understands and has 40 years of history in this council district. It’s not something that was just given to me. She did it two weeks ago. So it’s something that she thought through. I asked her to endorse me when I started running a year ago and she said to me that she understood my request, but she would have to see who all was running and also look at the campaign. So, I feel I’ve earned it.

L.A. WEEKLY: Are you able to stop the LAX plan or do you want to?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Well, Bill will say a lot of things. But if you dig and look carefully, they are not things that he can really do. They sound good in sound bites, but that’s one thing I promised my constituents in this race that I am not going to be marching out all sorts of unrealistic pie in the sky plans. But I’m asking them to look at what I’ve actually done. But my stand on LAX, I will tell you that I am the first candidate to publicly state that I was opposed to the expansion of LAX. While Bill was trying to figure out which way to go, I had already taken a position and I said I was going to run for office in March when I stepped down from the area planning commission. Right then and there, you can go check the article; I stated that I was opposed to the expansion of LAX. It’s going to go through litigation. The way it’s written up — you’re talking about demolishing three terminals. I will wait to see where it goes because it could be that it has to be returned for a full environmental impact report and review process. If it stays in town and it’s going to move forward, then the tools for doing anything will be in the specific plan. To me, it’s modernization. It’s security. We should move forward. The airport is in dire need of upgrade, and for security. And that’s really not the most costly part of the $11 billion that’s being talked about.

L.A. WEEKLY: What about Manchester Square?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Most of it is all about Manchester Square because you’re demolishing three terminals and then having —

L.A. WEEKLY: What is your professional background?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: I came to this country as an immigrant when I was 11. My parents came on a Costa Rican passport and I’m a quarter Costa Rican and three-quarters Chinese. I grew up in Santa Fe Springs with my Costa Rican grandmother and my Mexican grandfather. My parents didn’t speak any English. They came of very little money. Anything my sisters and I did, we had to work hard to accomplish. In 1969, I earned a full scholarship to UCLA. That’s what brought me to the west side of town, and I’m really very grateful that I had that opportunity. My background is in nursing. In 1974, I finished with a public health nursing degree. Right then and there, I was sent as a volunteer to Idaho where they gave me a huge mobile clinic to drive to all the migrant farm workers along a river. I came back from Idaho and went to work in Compton with the county as a public health nurse, making home visits throughout Compton and Watts for two and a half years. I came back to UCLA and became a family nurse practitioner, earned a master’s degree, and got an MBA. So that’s my formal training. Along the way, I met my husband. I did some work in business consulting part time. But then my sons were born. I have three of them. While they were growing up, I was a fulltime mom. But the other career has really been 20 years of public service to my community and the neighborhoods — wherever the kids have been. I’ve been involved in their schools. I’ve been involved in charter reform in school-based management. I was one of the first parents ever elected to the whole decentralized program for L.A. Unified. I’ve been on the charter school board. I’m on the board of a healthcare rights organization. For me, it’s really a blend of my nursing background, getting a real sense of community as I raise my children, and then really feeling from the grassroots level, the frustration of not being able to make a dent in government, whether it’s on the city, county, or federal level. I’m a good organizer and I’m good at being very crystal clear about what the issues and problems are, and finding solutions.

L.A. WEEKLY: Is there a district that really doesn’t care much about the rest of the cities?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: I think that the Westside is a very protectionist type of district because you have people who have fought their way to the lifestyle that they enjoy. It’s definitely the wealthiest district and has the most natural beauty. There are people who have grown up and lived in that district all their lives. But there are also people who have fought their way up like myself. So, you’ve got very intelligent people, people who are very used to being in leadership roles and organizing, getting what they want. I don’t know if you know where the Brentwood Country Mart is? It is a commercial corner that’s very community-oriented. It’s really a historic landmark for Brentwood, and is similar to the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax, but on a smaller scale. When I moved in there was a developer who was trying to put a mini mall around the Country Mart, which would have destroyed that whole environment. That’s when I first got involved in my homeowners association. But I soon learned that they were very narrowly focused and really didn’t understand city regulations and the bigger picture of the city. I mean there’s a tendency to only view your own community and not really the rest of the district and city when it comes to protecting what you like. But this is where I excel. I brought 18 really strong-willed leader types — not just homeowner associations but environmental people — to the Brentwood Community Council. I have that ability to bring strong people from all different viewpoints together, to hear each other, to listen to each other, and to try to find their common ground. I have the ability to make them see that if they work together, they can get better results. It’s a matter of giving them a reality check that they are a part of a larger city. It’s about making the whole city a better place to live for everyone.

L.A. WEEKLY: What’s the most important problem?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Well, immediately, it is public safety, because of the understaffing that we have with the police department. Within my own district, we have much less officers compared to the rest of the city. Everybody is concerned about long response time up in the Palisades because there’s one patrol car, for most of the west area. A patrol car takes about 15 to 20 minutes to respond. A father and a son were held up by gunpoint and it took 20 minutes for a car to get up into the Palisades. Everybody’s screaming about not having the response time. In the end, it is about really staffing the police department with the number of officers that are needed. I’m very involved with our community police advisory board, with the captain for West L.A. and our senior lead officer and they’re very stressed. Probably the next question must be about is how they’re funded.

L.A. WEEKLY: Actually, do you support the chief’s decision to redeploy so many officers out of your division to other areas?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: I support that decision because if you feel life threatened then you have no quality of life. Life-threatening crime has to be first priority. I did not just grow up on the west side, I grew up in Santa Fe Springs in a low-income family and then worked in Compton and in Watts where I really did see the worst side of life and of crime and poverty. There’s no doubt in my mind that you have to allocate your resources to the areas that have the worst crime. It’s a matter of not being selfish. The rest of the city has much worse crime than we do. So I do support the deployment. But what people need to understand is that we wouldn’t be in that situation if we had more officers.

L.A. WEEKLY: How will they fund more officers?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Okay. I am not for automatically raising taxes. I think that we should be looking through our budget and doing the work that we should have been doing.

L.A. WEEKLY: Do you think City Hall is fraught with corruption?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Well, certainly, what’s been going on with the department of water and power. I think there is a real tendency for the city to use a lot of consultants and public relations. As for my experience with the county of Los Angeles, I certainly saw a lot of wasted time and energy. I think they can be more efficient.

L.A. WEEKLY: What do you think of LAUSD?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: I spent three years with my oldest son, who’s 21 now, at Canyon Elementary School, which is an L.A. Unified school because I wanted my children to grow up in public school. But what I soon realized is there are a lot of conflicting interests in the school system. Teachers are really concerned about their pay and their benefits. It’s rightly so. It doesn’t translate down to curriculum though in children and class sizes and resources.

As a city council person, you really don’t have that ability to affect the curriculum or management because that’s L.A. Unified. But even now that I’m out of public school and my son has gone to private school, I’m the chair of the board at the school. I’m really concerned about curriculum and how the kids are being taught and the class sizes. I think the best thing that a city council person can do is support the infrastructure for the school, wherever we need to build more schools, and that is the answer in the end. It’s s criminal that they’re riding the buses at 6:00 in the morning to get to a school that doesn’t have all the resources there to accommodate them. So we need to build schools and the city can help with the actual building of them.

L.A. WEEKLY: Tell us more about LAX.

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: We need to force Palmdale to become a viable airport. The only way that we’re going to force other areas to take more responsibility is by constraining LAX so that it doesn’t continue to have the capability to absorb all the capacity. Right now, I believe we’re at about 55 million annual passengers. What I’m real concerned about is the current plan that has been approved that’s going to go through litigation. If you knock out those three terminals — I think that as long as we continue to have unlimited capacity, there isn’t an incentive to look at other areas. I also think that we have to have the mass transit to connect us to Palmdale.

L.A. WEEKLY: What issues that your opponents might oppose would you take leadership on?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: Well, it’s really about housing. We’ve got a real housing crunch in this city. People on the Westside feel that we have overdeveloped and link that to traffic. Last night, there was a forum and one of the candidates is calling for a moratorium on the entire district. That to me is very unrealistic, we belong to the city. The district does not operate in a vacuum. When we’re talking about mandatory housing — where you support more affordable housing to be developed — it’s very unlikely that the rest of the council is going to let the Westside stop any kind of development. But the next year’s model is a real key and that it’s done properly because we need to get people out of their cars. I think we have to go back to the notion of community. Communities where you can walk to shops, and you can bike. When you have everything that makes up a community — schools, parks, community retail — people don’t have to commute so far to get what it is that they need. So, it’s a matter of convincing people that we need more of the appropriate responsible type of development, and that not all development is bad. That’s really what I stand for in all of my work. It’s explaining to them that a community is really made up of both commercial and residential interests. You live somewhere, but you need to work somewhere and you need to shop somewhere. If we can work together and really have retail in there that has the best interest of the community. I think that you have to really face the reality that people aren’t going to get out of their cars for a long time. Even maybe more parking in areas that really don’t have adequate parking so that people can shop.

L.A. WEEKLY: Who are you voting for mayor?

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: I’m not going to say. I’m staying out of that race in terms of my personal choice. I’ve got too much to deal with in my own campaign. Can I give you guys a challenge?

L.A. WEEKLY: Sure.

FLORA GIL KRISILOFF: All right. This is a race where there are three people that are distinctly different. I am definitely from the grassroots. I’m someone who’s really organized and proven myself from the community all the way to Washington, D.C. But, Bill Rosendahl is my main opponent and so far the papers are not really acknowledging his role at cable television. I mean he’s getting away with painting himself as someone who was victimized by — He’s marching that out now saying that his customers love him and the workers love him and that he was let go because he fought for better salaries for the communication worker. He’s marching out his talk show with — I give him a lot of credit for. But he was the regional vice president in charge of operations for two and a half decades beginning with Century Cable. It’s only in the last 10 years that he’s had a talk show and that talk show, of course, has given him the benefit of rubbing shoulders with all the electors. But it’s deep because he was the lobbyist for ... Every year, they have to get their franchise renewed. And everything he talks about in terms of transparency and — the insider game that he’s so opposed to he’s been in the inside. There is a reason why he had that talk show. It’s helped him get their franchises renewed. He promises all these great plans and proposals. But he has not really delivered in terms of cable television. He brought us great hype, he brought us cable television services, and he stifles the competition. I mean, at one point, he was fighting over open access and he stifled that. So this is very serious in that the constituents really need to understand his full background in management and leadership. So I challenge you to do a full story on our background.

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