On June 7, Los Angeles voters will select the next Controller for America’s second-largest city. Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz is a candidate for City Controller. A resident of the Beverly Grove District, Koretz is a proud family man, husband to Gail and father to daughter Rachel. Koretz is also a proud graduate of Hamilton High School and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
He has represented the 5th District as a Councilmember since 2009, re-elected to that office in 2013 and 2017. Koretz previously served on the West Hollywood City Council and represented the 42nd Assembly District as a member of the California State Assembly. The Sentinel spoke with Councilmember Koretz, and the following is a recap of that conversation.
LAS: Why have you decided to run for City Controller?
Paul Koretz: Well, it’s sort of an outgrowth of my time on the council when I first got elected in 2009. We were at the height of the recession, and some of my colleagues proposed laying off over 4,000 employees.
I thought that was a terrible idea. As a new Council member, I took on defeating that proposal and successfully led the efforts. We did it by finding efficiencies and working with labor partners and community stakeholders. I was determined to find good efficiencies to save the city money and, more importantly, to ensure implementation so that thousands of workers would not lose their jobs.
For 13 years, I have looked for waste or inefficiencies that can tackle the real crisis areas in our city, like homelessness for example. I am the only candidate with the relevant experience that has good relationships with city departments and [City] Council to get the job done. I bring 13 years of significant experience and can use that experience for the good of the people in Los Angeles.
LAS: Do you believe that Black and Brown communities know Paul Koretz and what you have accomplished on behalf of the city?
PK: You know, finding savings/efficiencies for the city is not a flashy issue. I think many people don’t realize that the Controller serves as an advisor to the city, a position that has a significant impact on the decisions that the mayor and the council must make.
I don’t think communities of color know me as well as I might like, but there are numerous initiatives that I have worked on over the years that benefitted those communities. For example, as a member of the California Assembly, I authored legislation around criminal justice reform. I was an early advocate of changing the purpose of the correctional system from its focus on punishment to rehabilitation and helping people readjust to being back in society.
California was one of the worst states in terms of recidivism, and this was an important issue to me. I continued that work as a city council member, using discretionary funds to support organizations that worked in that space. I also authored legislation to declare a moratorium on the death penalty.
I helped create and implement a local hire program, one that seeks to increase the employment of Angelinos, some who had felony records, to give them a second chance. I believed that the city should lead the way in hiring second chancers, and we did that.
I am a long-time environmentalist, and many pollutants and waste disposal wind up in the locations of Black and Brown communities, and we need to address that. As we clean up our environment and deal with climate change, I strongly believe we need to focus on those communities first.
I would like to also say that I am grateful for the support of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Councilmembers Curren Price, and Marqueece Harris-Dawson and State Senator Gloria Gray and others who are supporting my efforts.
LAS: If elected Controller, can you discuss your top initiative.
PK: I think our top priority must be homelessness, and I wouldn’t focus only on building which tends to be our focus, but also on preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place. I created a program called Eviction Defense that provides representation against illegal evictions, funding to assist people with rent so they can remain in their homes, family reunification for the homeless, and addressing transportation and counseling needs. This is a good starting point, but we must do more and this would be a top priority.
I have worked for 40 years fighting gun violence, banning assault weapons and currently authoring legislation that addresses the rise of ghost guns – unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home.
Again, I have been at the forefront of environmental issues, from protecting our wildlife to banning the use of plastic bags in supermarkets to cleaning up hazardous waste sites. That’s who I am, and these are issues I will continue to address as Controller.
LAS: Tell us about the fun side of Paul Koretz?
PK: I hate to say it, but my favorite hobby is working in politics. I’ve worked on more than 100 political campaigns beginning with volunteering for the late Mayor Bradley’s campaign. I was 13 when I heard him speak and I was so impressed that I walked half of the Westside to volunteer for him.
LAS: Let’s do it this way then – Lakers or Clippers?
PK: I love the Lakers and Clippers equally (laughing). I am a huge Dodgers fan, but love the Angels also. I love all L.A. sports!
LAS: Favorite LA beach, restaurant, places to shop, and how many times you have had a Pink’s hotdog?
PK: I love Venice Beach. It’s a mix of everything and everyone. My favorite shopping is the Grove and the Beverly Center because I live between them.
It’s difficult to choose a restaurant because there are many good ones. And I can’t count the number of Pink’s hotdogs I have had. I am disappointed that they haven’t named one after me!