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State Senate candidates Antonovich and Portantino debate pensions, homelessness and 710 Freeway extension

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, left, and former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino are vying for Sen. Carol Liu's seat in the 25th District.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, left, and former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino are vying for Sen. Carol Liu’s seat in the 25th District.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Public employee pensions, addressing homelessness and the proposed 710 Freeway extension were some of the issues brought up during a candidate forum for the 25th District of the state Senate Friday night.

The Glendale/Burbank chapter of the League of Women Voters hosted the debate between Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who are vying for the seat currently held by Sen. Carol Liu. The debate was held in the Burbank City Council chambers.

To address the underfunding issue with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Portantino suggested that the state adopt a “pay-as-you-go” approach to the system’s budget, which he said he thinks defines “what revenue we have up front, how do we use that revenue and what are our priorities and obligations?”

“I’m going to bring that back to the state Senate because I think that’s the way to go,” Portantino said.

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Antonovich said that the county’s retirement system is in much better shape than the state’s, claiming that “Sacramento has no fiscal discipline.” His suggestion would be to adopt a tactic similar to the county’s and other cities, which is to have employees contribute part of their paycheck to the system and have the agency buy down the liability.

“We have a very serious problem that needs to be addressed, and it will only do that by having a change in leadership in Sacramento,” he said.

Views also differed when it came to the controversial 710 Freeway extension, which aims to finish the gap between the 10 and 210 freeways.

Antonovich said that he is waiting for the completed environmental report on the project and won’t make a decision on the extension until all the documents are finished.

“Until the plan is completed, you can’t make a judgment until you see what the facts are,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re shooting from the hip and that’s the wrong way of doing business.”

Portantino said he is “150%" opposed to the project, which he called a “boondoggle,” adding that the necessary documents that are needed to make a call on the extension are already available to the public.

“It’s a $20-billion hole in the ground that doesn’t solve a transportation problem,” he said.

It is well known that Los Angeles County and the state are facing a growing homelessness issue and the two candidates had differing opinions on how to address the problem.

Portantino said there has to be a dedicated revenue stream to fund projects aimed at helping homeless people and giving them the support that they need on a statewide level. Additionally, he would seek to change the housing element, which requires cities to identify low-income housing. Portantino said he would incentivize cities to follow through and build that housing.

Antonovich said there are various types of homeless people — those who are “economically deprived,” those that are addicted to alcohol or drugs and those suffering from mental illness. His approach to addressing the issue would be to offer housing to those who cannot afford it and offer longer-lasting programs for those who need medical treatment.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors 5th District race

Following the state Senate race debate on Friday, the League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum for the 5th District seat for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The position has been occupied by Antonovich since 1980. However, term limits approved by voters in 2012 will free up the position.

Kathryn Barger, Antonovich’s chief of staff, and entrepreneur Darrell Park squared off on several issues, such as the county’s new chief sustainability officer position and a parks-and-recreation needs assessment.

In March, the Board of Supervisors agreed to create its first-ever chief sustainability officer post to collaborate with other department heads to make the county more sustainable and efficient.

Having someone in that position is an opportunity to make buildings, parks and landfills “more green,” Barger said.

“I believe the role is critical, and this position is something that will truly be the eyes and ears of the board in helping us draw a road map to becoming more green,” she said.

Park, who touts himself as green energy entrepreneur and advocates for solar energy, said the chief sustainability officer would help in fully shutting down the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility and would help in finding a solution to the county’s landfill issues.

“We have an opportunity to change the way we deal with our trash, the way we deal with our energy,” he said.

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation in 2015 completed a needs assessment for all of its facilities. The candidates were asked whether they would support a ballot measure that would raise funds to address the needs listed in the report.

Park said that he would support a ballot measure, claiming that areas that have well-maintained parks “have much stronger communities than areas that don’t.

“We are not living up to our potential with our parks,” he said. “I’ve seen how good parks can work, and we’re not there yet.”

Barger said that she supports the assessment, but does not think a ballot measure is needed at this time.

“I don’t think the time is now,” she said. “We have many challenges ahead of us.”

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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