Leading Mayoral Contender Supports “Sanctuary City” Status

Mitchell Schwartz, a Windsor Square resident and candidate in the 2017 Los Angeles mayoral election.

Windsor Square resident Mitchell Schwartz has emerged as the leading contender against Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in the upcoming March mayoral election.

Steve Barr, his closest rival and a Silver Lake resident, pulled out of the race on December 7th.

According to fundraising totals reported through September 30th on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission website, Schwartz has raised over $250,000, which puts him far ahead of the remaining 10 contenders—with the exception of Garcetti—who have reported individually raising $1,300 or less.

“I have a campaign that’s up and running,” said Schwartz. “We’re doing everything that a real campaign does.”

Schwartz, 55, lives in Windsor Square with his wife and three school-age children. He has extensive experience in public relations, media and political consulting.

According to his campaign website, highlights of Schwartz’s career include his appointment as the Communications Director of the United States State Dept. during the Clinton administration and running then-candidate Barack Obama’s California campaign in 2008.

Here in Los Angeles, according to the same website, he launched the Dept. of Water and Power’s “Green Power” Program in 1999, which became the largest and most visible green power campaign in the country.

Schwartz, a Democrat, said he has been spending his days meeting with neighborhood councils, attending “meet and greets,” visiting farmers’ markets, writing op-eds on his positions and “doing a lot of voter contact.”

According to the same city ethics commission, Garcetti’s campaign has raised over $2 million.

“He’ll outspend me,” Schwartz said, “but that’s what comes with being an incumbent and getting money from developers and lawyers and lobbyists and all those people. I’m not going to get the money from insiders and the people who count on city hall to do them favors, but I’ll have enough money to get my message out.”

Schwartz has pledged not to accept campaign contributions from any political action committees.

One of the issues Schwartz has to face as a candidate is the status of Los Angeles as a “sanctuary city” and the pledge made by president-elect Donald Trump to conduct mass deportations of undocumented immigrants nationwide. Trump has threatened to block federal funding to cities that don’t comply, including San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Sanctuary cities are those that have indicated they are “safe zones” that will limit enforcement of certain federal immigration policies.

Schwartz said he is “100% in agreement” with Los Angeles’s decades long position as a sanctuary city and believes Trump will pull back from his pledge after he is inaugurated.

“The idea of just going in and doing sweeps and removing people and moving kids from schools and all that…is so destructive…it’s untenable,” said Schwartz.

If Los Angeles continues with its safe city policy and Trump does block federal funding, reports indicate the city stands to lose approximately $500 million a year.

Schwartz said that loss would be difficult for Los Angeles, with “an already stretched very thin” budget.

“We have major problems in a host of areas from the streets, to the parks, to the homeless,” said Schwartz. “We need more police and have a ton of unmet demands on infrastructure, so a $500 million [annual] hit would be huge.”

The city has also been expecting hundreds of millions of federal dollars earmarked to rehabilitate the Los Angeles River.

But Schwartz said it’s a moot point.

“This is where the mayor has kind of misled people,” he said. “Yes, he got the Feds to agree to it, but we have to come up with 75% of the money [for the project.] And obviously, he has no plan for that so nothing’s happening with the Los Angeles River than what happens through state or local [measures].”

Multiple attempts to interview Garcetti through his campaign were unsuccessful.

Schwartz said if he were elected, and Trump does block federal funding to Los Angeles, he would look for allies at every level of government to fight back.

“The first step would be to work with other leaders throughout California, including Republicans, [particularly] high-ranking ones like Kevin McCarthy [Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives],” said Schwartz. “The Conference of Mayors, I’m sure, would also take it up.”

Schwartz said that although California has more at stake than many other states due to its large undocumented population, it also has more leverage.

“We in California give more money to the Feds than we get back,” he said.

According to the California Dept. of Finance, California receives nearly $96 billion a year from the Federal government. However, numbers for how much California pays to the federal government were not readily available.

In addition, after this interview was conducted, the creation of a $10 million legal defense fund for undocumented immigrants in L.A. County was announced. The funds will come from Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles and private foundations.

According to the Los Angeles City Clerk Office, other candidates that have qualified for the March ballot by reaching a threshold of received signatures are: YJ Draiman, David Hernandez, Eric Preven, Paul Amori, Diane Harman, Dennis Richter, Frantz Pierre, Yuval Kremer and David Saltzburg.

The primary election is March 7, 2017, and the general election is scheduled for May 16, 2017.

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