The Pacific Palisades Community Council hosted a Q&A session Thursday with Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), the area's new state senator. Environmental concerns, such as protecting open space from overdevelopment, and economic issues, particularly improving the economy dominated the discourse.
"Getting our fiscal house in order is my top priority," said Lieu, whose 26th Senate District now stretches from the Palisades down to the Palos Verdes peninsula and includes mostly coastal communities as a result of recent redistricting. "Job creation still has to be ... our first priority."
On legislative attempts to change California Environmental Quality Act regulations, Lieu said "there's always bills running up that want to change substantive CEQA standards." He pointed out one example that he supported last year involving changes that streamlined the litigation process for CEQA-based lawsuits, which allows litigants to bypass lower courts and have the case heard initially at the appellate court level.
PPCC Chair Emeritus Richard Cohen cited the need to protect parkland and open space and also voiced his displeasure with photo enforcement systems set up at traffic intersections in local parks administered by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
"In our community there are two machines that take photos of people, and a month later they get a ticket in the mail," Cohen said. "There's no traffic engineering reason for stop signs there. You could have yield signs, it wouldn't matter, there's no traffic."
PPCC member Jack Allen agreed with Cohen's remarks indicating that the Conservancy lacks sufficient accountability for its policies such as the photographed traffic enforcement.
Lieu promised to look into concerns regarding the SMMC.
"In terms of open space, I've always believed in the Native American philosophy that we don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children," Lieu said. "So I want to make sure that my children have the same or better environment than we have now."
Lieu supports a proposed statewide high-speed rail line. He characterized the $12 billion project as a form of "economic stimulus" that will bring a lot of money into Los Angeles County to upgrade existing railroad infrastructure.
"Thirty years from now I believe it will be a more environmentally friendly form of transportation than flying jets up and down the state," Lieu said.
The senator additionally touted a bill he has authored that is the first of its kind in the nation "that would ban what's known as ... 'ex-gay conversion therapy' for anyone under 18," Lieu said. "That's the misguided belief that a therapist can convert someone who's gay to straight, and it's caused folks to commit suicide."
Lieu officially will become the Palisades' state senator early next year. He will face re-election for another four-year term in November 2014.