If his new bid for a spot on the Los Angeles City Council is successful, Assemblyman Warren Furutani will have just a few months to leave his mark on Sacramento politics.
Earlier this month, the assembly member announced he would be running for the open Los Angeles City Council seat that was vacated by former councilwoman Janice Hahn when she was elected to Congress in a special election last July. Furutani joined a number of Angelenos, including Los Angeles Police Department officer Joe Buscaino, former City Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., and San Pedro firefighter and president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Pat McOsker, who announced their interest in the open council seat.
Last week, Furutani announced that he received endorsements from more than 50 California leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Furutani is serving his second two-year term as an assembly member representing the 55th district, which covers an area that stretches from Carson to parts of Lakewood and south to Wilmington/West Long Beach. He’s now in his fourth year in the Assembly. Assembly members are limited to serving six years.
In an interview with Furutani on Monday, he explained that his decision to run for city council instead of seeking a third term as an assemblyman was influenced by proposed district line changes that would likely break up the 55th district. These changes are based on early drafts of the proposed maps for representation at the Board of Equalization, State Senate, Assembly and House of Representative levels released by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Based on his analysis of the Commission’s draft maps, the district boundaries would shift west, with Normandie Avenue as its eastern boundary. According to Furutani, Torrance, Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach would be in his district.
“I don’t even know what my district is going to look like in the future, and all the maps that I’ve seen up to now have me in areas that I’ve never represented in my life. I’ve never been a beach person,” Furutani said.
Furutani was born in San Pedro and raised in Gardena, and has been a resident of the Harbor Gateway area for about 20 years.
With a primary nomination election in Los Angeles on November 8 and (if one is necessary) a general election on January 17, time is running short for Furutani who has set a number of priorities for his work as a California lawmaker.
Furutani said he’s focused on a number of bills that deal with career technical education. He authored a bill that included career technical education classes among the class options students would have to satisfy a high school graduation requirement. Another bill would create pilot programs for high schools that link academic studies to career paths so students can see the relevance of their classes.
Furutani has often focused on education. He has served on the Board of Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District as well as the Board of Trustees for the Los Angeles Community College District.
The assembly member is also pressing for pension reform before he leaves office. One bill, AB 340, known as the “Anti-Pension Spiking Act,” has been passed by the state Senate and will be reviewed by the Assembly in August. It’s one of a number of pension reform bills that Furutani, as the chair of the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee, hopes to see passed.
AB 340 would prevent new public employees from using housing or car allowance benefits to calculate their retirement pension. It would also give broad authority to county pension boards. According to analysis from a consultant for Furutani’s committee, these boards could deny compensation that would spike an employee’s allowance.
No analysis has been offered to determine exactly how much the pension reform bills would affect the state budget.
Furutani said that he was trying to address pension reform with a “scalpel, not a meat cleaver or sledge hammer.”
“I think people appreciate that message in terms of how to fix this so that we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” said Furutani.
The assembly member acknowledged that a few of his battles over the state budget still must be resolved. He also recognized the steep criticism that he and fellow Democrats received when they threatened to shut down redevelopment agencies across the state. California lawmakers passed two bills concerning redevelopment. One bill would end redevelopment agencies altogether, and if they aren’t dissolved, another bill would force agencies to pay a significantly large amount to benefit schools. City officials throughout Southern California threw their support behind a lawsuit that hopes to stop these two bills.
According to Furutani, the leaders of the Assembly and Senate have promised to put together a committee to review their options. They will be considering how to continue redevelopment in the “context of meaningful reform and improvement,” Furutani said.
“It’s still a work in process,” Furutani said of redevelopment agencies, “but I think the best description of it is that we’re trying to fix the airplane in flight. So it gets a little chaotic.”
The press offices of the assembly speaker and the senate president pro-tem did not confirm that a specific committee as described by Furutani has been formed, however they did acknowledge that redevelopment is still an ongoing issue among a number of committees and staff members in Sacramento. The senate president pro-tem’s press office indicated that other redevelopment legislation may be proposed later.
The legislature reconvenes on August 15 and ends on September 9 for the winter break.