Q&A: Laura Friedman. Reject Polarization, Hold Government Accountable

Friedman is a candidate for the 30th Congressional District.

7 mins read
a woman smiling at the camera
Laura Friedman. Photo: Campaign
This entry is part 22 of 22 in the series 2024 Primary Election Candidates

Q – We wrote a guide for holiday shopping discounts and wanted to include the gift shop at the local Jewish temple. Regrettably, they had to decline even such a normal holiday promotion because of polarization.

A – The rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are their own separate issues that are related to polarization, but they’re not the same. They have different root causes, and the fact that so many communities are the target of hate and violence is a huge concern. I’m Jewish. I’m a member of the Jewish community. I recently went to Temple Sinai’s sisterhood brunch. It was the first time I’d ever seen a bunch of mostly middle-aged ladies having lunch who felt so unsafe that they had to have an armed guard. The Jewish Caucus, of which I am a member, was able to allocate money for security grants for vulnerable populations – not just for Jewish groups, but for any group that has had a history of being targeted. The governor put more money into it this year because we’ve seen such a rise in anti-Semitism, hatred and intolerance for our LGBT communities and for many marginalized minority communities. Everybody needs to be very intentional in rejecting and pushing back so everyone feels safe. Whether you’re in your place of worship or taking your child to a preschool, we see too much targeting of individuals because of intolerance. It’s something I’ve worked on with the Jewish Caucus every single day.

In terms of political extremism, I take pride in my values as a Democrat, but I also take pride in the times that I’ve been able to build consensus across the aisle. I’ve had a lot of legislation that either had its Republican co-authors or was supported by Republicans. I’ve been able to build consensus and work on non-ideological issues that move us forward as a state. We can’t be paralyzed by our polarization. We also have to be practical. I try to work on legislation that solves real problems. I’m proud that I’ve been able to do that with a lot of my legislation.

Q – Is that a skill set you can take to Congress? Do you have any new programs or policies you will implement in Congress?

A – I am not a lawyer and don’t come from a background of fighting with people. I was a film producer. I come from a background of having a vision, putting a team together, getting other people to believe in that vision and getting a project made, and I take that skill set to Congress.

I focus a lot on the environment because it is in crisis. California doesn’t have the kind of smog problem that it had in the 1970s because of our environmental protections. We can take more of that work nationwide. It will make us more resilient as a nation, create jobs, and help save the planet.

I’ve done a lot of work around getting rid of toxic materials and harmful consumer products with bipartisan support for this legislation. I shouldn’t have to do this because we have an EPA and an FDA. The federal government should be doing its job.

“I shouldn’t have to do this because we have an EPA and an FDA. The federal government should be doing its job.”

Laura Friedman

I will continue to work on putting teeth in those agencies to protect all of our citizens and all of our water. My work around the conservation of open space and wildlife is significant. I got California to join the UN Conference on Biodiversity (COP 15) as a sub-national, and I led the delegation. We signed a treaty with Quebec to preserve 30% of California’s most valuable biodiversity hotspots. The United States did not participate. We were the only country outside the Vatican not to participate in that important climate change conference. We should be leading the world on environmental issues.

Q – Concerning environmental issues, we have a San Gabriel Mountains Monument and a new program for the trails, but no money to support it.

A – Politico recently wrote that I was one of the Top Six Climate Leaders in all of California. This is an area that’s very important to me, and I think it’s important to a lot of the voters in the district.

It’s incredibly important that we preserve the open space that we all love in California. It’s so essential for our wildlife. We have to create access to that open space and enjoy it. I supported the San Gabriel Mountains Monument. I’ve always been an advocate for it. I absolutely will be there to fight for that funding, to support it to help people access those areas and to make sure that we make it fire resilient.

Q – Saving local news is important to us. Do you have any Congressional legislation you might bring to save local news?

A – Local news is absolutely the heartbeat of our communities and our democracy. Without it, we don’t have a way of keeping government accountable and transparent; Citizens lose the ability to ensure that their elected officials are really working for them. It’s local news that provides that information.

I had tried to raise a bill for several years where municipalities could contribute through a Joint Powers Authority to fund local news but with a complete firewall between any content and the funding entities. I think we should revisit that because there’s got to be a source of funding for local news beyond ad revenue. It’s just too important to our democracy.

I really appreciate you putting a spotlight on this race and the candidates. Without the local press, there’s just no focus on this race. What you’re doing is a real service, and I very much appreciate you highlighting all the candidates. I am anxious to have the local press cover any race. I’ve been walking door to door. A lot of people out there don’t know there is a race.

I really miss the days of having all those reporters bugging me all the time. Because I could let my constituents know what I was doing or what my colleagues were doing. I like that, you know, I want that coverage. I want that participation. Right now, it’s hard for me even to find out sometimes what’s happening. We need that again.

Q – What other topics are important to you?

A – Women’s Health Rights: My mom started the first chapter of NOW in Broward County, Florida, when I was a child. I grew up canvassing for the ERA and for abortion rights, and to see my mother’s work wiped away by one vote of a corrupt activist Supreme Court is completely unacceptable to me. It was women who fought for abortion rights, and it’s women who are going to regain those rights. The thought that my daughter would not be able to have control over her own body is completely unacceptable to me. It’s a prime reason why I’m running for the seat right now – why I’m giving up four more years in the state legislature to run for this Congressional seat is because I feel an obligation to my daughter and my mother to win back those rights.

“It was women who fought for abortion rights, and it’s women who are going to regain those rights.”

Laura Friedman

Voting rights: We saw just this week an appellate court take away the right of minority communities to advocate when there’s unfair gerrymandering in their states and rob them of their electoral voice. I believe that Congress needs to act to guarantee every person in this country the most fundamental constitutional right of all, which is to elect your representatives…that states allow everybody to vote and have all those votes counted and not make it a crime to help people standing in line to vote.

Transportation safety: We’ve seen a 30% increase in serious and fatal accidents for pedestrians and cyclists particularly. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work in California to push back on that and to make our roads safer through the use of automated speed enforcement, giving cities the ability to cap and lower speed limits, etc. This is something that I want to bring to the federal government. We make sure that car companies continually improve the safety of the inside of their vehicles. Yet cars have been getting more dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists. We have not regulated safety on the outside of vehicles, and our children and pedestrians have paid the price in terms of their lives. I will focus on safety by putting more revenue into mass transit and taking cars off the roads.

I’ve done the most meaningful work of anyone in this race when it comes to providing affordable housing, and that’s why I’m being supported by Abundant Housing LA and others who care about creating affordable housing in this state. One of the biggest crises in California is the lack of housing affordability. It’s something that I’ve worked directly and impactfully on over the years and that I will continue to work on in Congress.

We have robbed a whole generation of having the stability of homeownership. We’ve robbed people of the ability to be able to work in a middle-class job and be able to afford a decent place to live. We simply have not kept up with housing and affordable housing production.

“We have robbed a whole generation of having the stability of homeownership.”

Laura Friedman

The fastest-growing population on the streets is senior citizens. For every ten people who need permanent housing or even emergency housing, we only have maybe four beds for them. So, we are way out of whack in terms of the number of units that we need for our population. If someone all of a sudden can’t afford their rent because their rent was increased, they lost their job, have an illness or can’t work and can’t pay their rent, there is no magical housing fairy for them. We don’t have enough subsidized housing for low-income people. And we certainly don’t have housing affordability for people who are middle class. So we need housing at every single level. We get calls in my office all the time about this. Someone will call and say there’s an 80-year-old woman who lives down the hall from me. They just raised her rent by 30 percent, and she’s behind three months. Can you help her?

Even though that woman will go on a priority list, it’s very, very hard. We should be trying to keep more people housed where they are. It’s just a tsunami of people ending up unable to afford where they live.

Going back to my city council days in Glendale, I authored tax credits for building affordable housing or parking reform that were really meaningful, and I’m very proud of that. It’s work that I will take to the federal government.

But we also need a better partner in the federal government. We need to have the flexibility built into programs like Section Eight to make them more usable for landlords. We need the federal government to see housing as part of their responsibility and as a national crisis. It’s not just California that’s having these problems. This is happening around the country. And if you can’t house your population, you’re not guaranteeing people’s safety. You’re not giving them the chance to thrive.

We absolutely need the federal government to help us more with mass transit because we’re never going to unblock housing in Los Angeles. Everybody has to drive around. If we have the kind of mass transit they enjoy in Washington, DC, Boston, and other major cities, we can add density without adding misery. But we need the federal government’s help.

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Sheryl Turner

Sheryl is Local News Pasadena's Publisher and Pasadena Media Foundation's Founder. When not saving local news, she devotes her spare time to finding the best meatloaf in town.
Email: [email protected]

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