Sharp Focus

• News

In the first debate ahead of the November 3rd general election, the priorities and differences between the two candidates, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Grace Yoo, came into sharp focus.

This was most apparent on the issues of law enforcement accountability and affordable housing.

In response to a question about racial unrest and tensions around law enforcement practices in Black and Latino communities, Ms. Yoo said the solution is for police departments to hire more women. By contrast, MRT insisted law enforcement itself must be reimagined with a proactive, anti-racist agenda.

“I know exactly how to make [changes to LAPD] in one simple move: when you bring in more female officers you have a fundamental shift,” Ms. Yoo said.

MRT argued that improving policing culture will take more than a one-dimensional approach. “It’s time to reimagine the way we deal with policing issues in our community. We now have a [new] construct that says care first, jails last…and we are not to be intimidated by traditional forces of law enforcement. I have respect for law enforcement. No desire to demonize them, but there needs to be fundamental change.”

“You seem to have a more sanguine picture of law enforcement than I heard from Mark Ridley Thomas,” said moderator Jody Armour, a professor of law at USC.

“I know LAPD is actually one of the folks, the areas in which they’re known for doing things right,” Ms. Yoo responded. “I know this is crazy, but I am not someone who says there is no wrong done by the police, but overall I know our officers have done what is good.”

MRT called for independent investigations into the shootings of Andres Guardado, Dijon Kizzie as well as the recent arrest of KPCC reporter Josie Huang while she was reporting.

Ms. Yoo did not.

The differences between the two candidates were even more dramatic on the subject of building affordable housing.

MRT has called for, and developed, affordable housing throughout the County, while Ms. Yoo has personally worked to stop such housing from being built.

In 2017, both candidates were addressing the issue of homelessness, but in diametrically opposed ways.

MRT authored Measure H to create dedicated funding to provide services to homeless people. The measure, which passed by 70%, today brings in $355 million per year and leads to housing for more than 200 county residents per day.

At the same time, Ms. Yoo backed Measure S, which would have blocked the development of most affordable housing had it passed, but voters rejected Ms. Yoo’s motion by 2 to 1.

MRT noted that he has built thousands of units of affordable housing in his Supervisorial District and that he would bring the same know-how to the 10th District.

“The difference really is clear,” he said. “I build and Ms. Yoo blocks.”