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Janice Kamenir-Reznik Up Close (Part 2): ‘Porter Ranch Lead Revealed that Lawmakers were Asleep at the Switch

CAMPAIGN 2016-Candidate Janice Kamenir-Reznik is the sole woman running for State Senator Fran Pavley’s 27th District Seat. The longtime attorney and social activist shared her thoughts about the implementation of the state’s expanded Paid Family Program, the housing crisis, and education. In the second part of this interview, we discuss the drought and infrastructure issues, utilities, campaign finance reform and criminal justice.

 

Water and Infrastructure: Water is an enormous issue in Southern California that will shake down over the next year or two. We’ve got to bite the bullet and the discussion can’t just be about conservation. We have a long way to go toward conservation goals but we also need to introduce new technology and ideas so that we are less dependent on Owens Valley for water.

This is all controversial because it requires infrastructure development, which depends on not only bond financing and other means of financing but also upon environmental issues, no matter which way we go. A government plan for tunneling, the expansion of desalination, or developing the infrastructure to capture storm water runoff may not have the support of environmentalists. The drought isn’t going away in the next year or two. Unfortunately, we didn’t really address this before we became a haven for nice green lawns and golf courses.

We need to look at purifying grey water for drinking. Technologies exist or can exist with research and development. We have to encourage and incentivize R & D and we need leadership including senators, congressional representatives, and mayors to do that. We need to understand that we have to collaborate to bring water to Southern California in ways that are earthquake-proof and sustainable over a course of time.

Porter Ranch and Utilities: The debacle in Porter Ranch, which is part of the 27th District, revealed that the legislature was asleep at the switch when it comes to overseeing utilities. We give monopolies that are otherwise illegal to the utility companies, which make big profits from rates, yet they are not responsibly maintaining the infrastructure, nor retrofitting. I would like to investigate not only Porter Ranch but all other utility infrastructures. The utility companies should not be allowed to self-regulate.

The legislature needs to be more actively involved in the oversight of all resources, including those regulated by the Public Utilities Commission. The utility companies are doing a poor job at self-regulation and it’s not fair.

Utilities and Political Donations: The law says the gas company is not permitted to make political donations – but its parent company can. Sempra Energy, the parent company of SoCal Gas is making money off rates and making political contributions. That loophole needs to be closed.

Sempra has made $5 million in donations over the past five years to the California state legislators and they have not been overseeing the gas company. They weren’t putting the screws to the gas company before today. One of my opponents has taken lots of money from Sempra and lobbyists. There’s a conflict of interest for the gas company and parent company to make political donations.

Campaign Finance Reform: I don’t think fundraising should be allowed while in session. There needs to be cut-off dates when officeholders can raise money and spending limits. This will open the legislature to qualified candidates who may be afraid of having to raise money. It’s more realistic for them to get into the process. We lose lots of great legislators by the ridiculous amounts of money that needs to be raised and spent, a minimum of $1 million. There are little things we can do to get on the right path.

Criminal Justice: Part of the issues facing the criminal justice system is the lack of mental health dollars and services, including for addiction and recovery. Emptying the prisons in and of itself isn’t always constructive or productive. Prison or the streets isn’t an either/or situation. We have to take a look at why people are committing crimes and provide services to prevent criminal behavior. There are usually other issues like problems socializing, mental health. I have a degree in social work and I believe in rehabilitation.

We are spending $64,000 per capita for prison inmates (L.A. Times, January 2016) but are not providing any transitional skills or rehabilitation. I serve on the board of directors for an addiction recovery center nonprofit. Half the participants have been in prison or jail for 18 to 30 years but they have been helped. I believe in the capacity of individuals to change with quality programs. There are plenty of examples throughout the U.S.

We need to apply some of the money spend punishing on positive programming and assistance. We’ll get great results by facing the problems head-on instead of building more prisons. We need to pay more attention to education, medication. A friend of mine provides drama therapy in a juvenile camp. These kids have gotten so involved in theatrical productions. Those are the kind of programs we need to emulate and support.

For more information on Janice Kamenir-Reznik, visit www.janice2016.com.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.