Damian: I’m here with Katrina Kaiser. Katrina is with Streets for All and last week Katrina hosted a forum in Monterey Park for City Council candidates.
Streets for All is a 501c(4), so their forums are usually part of an approval process to help people interested in bicycling and pedestrian and transit advocacy get a clear idea of which candidates they should or shouldn’t support.
So welcome to the Katrina Podcast, and let’s get started.
Katherine: Thank you Damien and I’m really happy to be here today.
Damian: Before discussing what happened in the debate, let’s quickly talk about what Streets for All is and your objectives.
Katherine: Streets for all is somewhat unique among nonprofits and transportation and mobility advocacy organizations. We are an independent spending committee that allows us to do things that many other mobility organizations are forced to do, including direct approval and lobbying for specific legislation. It allowed us to have a really big impact on some of those races.
What is exciting and unique about this particular debate is that Streets for All has been able to partner with a handful of local grassroots activists, in Monterey Park and the Alhambra, organized under the banner of Safe Streets for SGV . They’re not set up to do things like do political endorsements, but they still wanted to impact their local races.
That’s why Streets for All was asked.
Damian: I’ve moderated debates before, and even though it’s been a while, one of the challenges we faced was that so many candidates would just say the same thing as their opponents if they weren’t well informed. On the question. Sometimes we even saw candidates taking notes on what their opponents were saying before repeating them.
Did you see any real differences in what the candidates were saying?
Katherine: Before answering this question directly, I would like to speak a little about the difference between this debate and those which we organized before the primary elections of June 7th. We were really focused on LA City Council before June 7th. So, in some cases, we have an incumbent or we’ve had candidates who weren’t necessarily incumbents but who come from the kind of progressive activists that people in the city and people on the streets for All already knew.
When Streets for All was approached by the Safe Streets for SGV activists, one thing these guys made it clear to us was that the candidates they were considering voting for not voting or not voting for did not have not the same level of political literacy in this area that may be candidates for the city of LA are required to. We worked with them to adapt our approval process to include both the approval questionnaire and this debate for the city council.
In Los Angeles, we organized a debate and then sent out the questionnaire to obtain more detailed answers. In Monterey Park, we reversed the order: the questionnaire first, then the reception of the debate. The reason for this was that candidates could take the time to familiarize themselves a bit with transport policy in their spare time while they were filling out the questionnaire. That way they could come back and join the debate, hopefully with a little more preparation.
So your question was whether any other particular candidates came forward or not, correct?
Damian: As a moderator, were there any first impressions that really stood out to you?
Katherine: As a moderator, I think what I noticed is that there is some sort of age or generation difference between the contestants who showed up that night. There was a candidate Delario Robinson, who was quite outspoken saying things like ‘I would much rather drive my Porsche’, ‘I think cars represent freedom and I think a lot of other people in this community are probably Okay.” When people see this kind of attitude, I hope it will be really helpful for voters.
I want to tell you about Jose Sanchez who is a bit younger and comes from professional training. He really focused on the safety of students walking and cycling to school by bus and he understood things like the difference free transportation would make from an equity perspective .
Damian: I remember the worst answer to a question I ever got when Streetsblog did one of these things. We asked candidates to tell about an experience they had had while taking the bus from home to somewhere, to try and get a story about someone using local transit after hearing both candidates answer a question similar regarding public transport in other cities.
And this one answers our question with a question: “Which of my houses are you talking about?” »
Katherine: Wow, that’s helpful for voters to hear that.
Damian: When I hosted these types of events, I had a lot of very broad answers about things. There are questions that get more revealing answers than others. Were there any questions or answers that elicited answers that you think will help people decide who to vote for?
Katherine: When Streets for All structures debates, we somehow structure them on purpose, from constructing softball questions to more intense questions that should generate more conflict between contestants.
Thus, the first question in these debates is usually: “Do you think the time has come to think differently about transport in your region? They will always tell us yes, although they may say so for different reasons.
We go from this kind of easier question to questions that generate more clash between the candidates.
We got some really pretty detailed answers on the proposed land expansions that came from receiving money from Metro after the 710 project ended and asking for firm commitments from applicants on rollback for the lane expansions offered.
In the end, I think the candidates learned from each other. As you said, they listen to each other’s responses and don’t necessarily sound too different from each other. Although I will say you know one candidate, Robinson, said later in the debate, “Sometimes I feel like it’s three to one.” We were therefore able to generate a certain clash between the candidates by revealing the differences with their approaches in this way
Damian: The last question was about lane extensions, so is that a thing you do when you build these debates where you try to start with ones that are easy enough for candidates to feel comfortable and open up, then hit them with the most controversial ones on the road? Is that the idea?
Katherine: This is more or less true. It’s an approach we’ve come to after a few of these Los Angeles City Council debates.
If you have incumbents, and that’s not necessarily the case in the Monterey Park Senate, but if they have incumbents who participate in these debates. Streets for All is an advocacy organization, and we generally want to maintain at least a fairly good relationship in order to achieve some of our other policy goals outside of whatever is happening in the current election cycle.
Damian: Because you’re not just an electoral organization, the goal is to move the needle to safer streets, and that’s one of the processes.
We are starting to wrap up this interview, why not talk about what’s next? You mention that it’s part of an approval process, is there a timeline of when Streets for All might do an approval, are we still kind of an information gathering stage.
Katherine: So, in Monterey Park, I think we gathered all the information we want together. We filled out a questionnaire and animated this debate. I’ll get back to the Safe Streets for SGV advocates and talk about the timeline for that.
We’ll probably approve, not necessarily August, although maybe August, maybe September. That remains to be seen. Now that the Los Angeles City Council approval process is largely complete, what Streets for All will focus on next are these smaller cities, including Monterey Park. But we also have endorsements coming to Culver City and we’ve already done quite a bit in Beverly Hills. You will just have to stay tuned.
Damian: I always like to conclude with an open question. Is there anything I missed that I should have asked? I admitted at the start of this conference that I hadn’t completely finished watching the debate myself, so if anything happened at the end that I really should have asked, I didn’t get the opportunity to let me know.
Katherine: What really surprised me at the end was a question from the audience about whether or not the candidates would commit to a car-free trip to work for the city council. The four candidates, despite their differences, have all made this commitment. Now that it’s on camera, I’ll be really curious to see which voters will hold them to that promise.
Damian: When I started Streetsblog in Los Angeles in 2007, we surveyed all existing city councils in LA to find out whether or not they would.
Only one office answered “Yes”. That the board member was already doing it. It was Eric Garcetti.
Although I know that some people are disappointed with what he has done as mayor, myself included; if you look at his record as a board member, he was one of the most progressive in transportation.
I really think those bike rides to work really helped inform that.
Katherine: I was really surprised by this. I hope this indicates a sea change when we talk about the more suburban areas of LA County.
Damian: Thanks for your time today. we run into what I always do because we artificially create a time limit of about 15 minutes and we can’t wait to hear what you do next in Monterey Park. Thanks again for your time, and we’ll be back soon