Supervisor (D3): Eric Preven
Eric Preven, 50, is a television writer, line producer and consultant who has been a 29-year resident of Studio City.
Two supervisors have proposed setting up a permanent citizen’s commission to oversee the Sheriff’s Department. Are you in favor of that?
I fully support the idea of setting up a citizen’s oversight commission and personally attended and participated in most of the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence [CCJV] hearings in 2012.
The crisis of leadership in the Sheriff’s department has resulted in some very disturbing realities. To restore a sense of confidence and mutual respect between residents and the Sheriff’s department, during the leadership transition currently underway by election, a strong reminder of who is working for who is needed.
Miriam Krinsky, the executive director of the CCJV, explained the need for “golden key” access. The basic idea is that everybody, law enforcement included, behave as better citizens, when there is feeling that a group of witnesses might walk in at any moment.
Sheriff Baca seemed for this idea, so the idea that the Third District vote did not materialize is a big disappointment and contributed to my decision to run.
What role should the supervisors play in the management and operation of the Sheriff’s Department?
The Board has enormous power over the Sheriff’s $2.8 billion budget and though there is evidence that the Board is willing to wield that power from time to time — Supervisor Molina certainly made the case last year that the contract cities in her district were not getting their money’s worth in Patrols, generally, and all too often, the board relies on CEO Fujioka’s judgment. The same Mr. Fujioka from whom the board took DCFS oversight away a couple years ago.
One reason I personally stepped in alongside the ACLU to compel the Board’s lawyers to provide the contracts for our implementation monitor, Richard Drooyan and two very low profile “Board Consultants” Joe Brann and Joe McGrath is that this triumvirate of long time law enforcement insiders, are making recommendations to the CEO who then recommends them to the Board and the Board generally accepts them, regardless of whether or not they make any sense.
This closed system produced the much ballyhooed estimate that the board received from the Sheriff that it would cost $63 million dollars to put Lapel cameras in service in our custody division. Our consultants agreed.
When it came out that such cameras would cost only a fraction across the street at Los Angeles Police Commission, under Steve Soberoff’s leadership, my antennae went directly upward.
The decision to give the department, that sorely lacked the basic leadership to self manage itself, a massive expensive rollout of mostly senior supervisors and internal affairs personnel, is astonishing. Not in a good way. The reason that the Sheriff’s Department issues have persisted for so long is because we keep repeating the same mistakes.
Former Sheriff Lee Baca has proposed replacing the Men’s Central Jail complex. What do you think should be done with the facility? If you believe it should be replaced, how large should it be?
Rather than an expansion of jail money, we should invest in diversion programs for the mentally ill population. Jail is not a therapeutic environment. Typically, incarcerated people with mental illness experience severe exacerbation of their mental illness, become more resistant to treatment and leave jail with worse disabilities and prognoses. They suffer far higher rates of physical and sexual abuse from other inmates and guards than do inmates who are not mentally ill.
Steve Lopez, a columnist for whom I have great respect, wrote a column in December on the subject of a new jail and I found myself disagreeing with his take.
I visited the jail myself recently and was most disturbed, not by the old facility, but by the fact that there were four grown men in one small cell. If we were doing the pre-trial releasing and split sentencing and electronic monitoring that we should be doing, the reduction in population would alleviate that.
I responded to Steve’s points and I thought readers might benefit from a slightly shortened version of my endless email. Steve’s comments are in quotes, SL, while, EP signifies comments by me, Eric Preven.
SL: “The Men’s Central Jail has long rows of cells facing a wall. “It’s clearly inefficient, and it’s arguably inhumane and unconstitutional,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told me this week. ”
EP: The costly and recent installation of almost 1,000 CCTV cameras is an interim solution to surveillance in the corridors, until we successfully demolish the facility and replace it with a park or international art installation.
SL: “Of course, problems at the scandal-plagued Sheriff’s Department go well beyond jail design.”
EP: Right, and thus we want to minimize costly custodial solutions and maximize in-community services and jobs. Rebuilding a brand new jail, with an emphasis on mental illness, Twin Towers 2.0 is among the worst ideas on the table. Vanir Independent is not independent. http://lusk.usc.edu/membership/people/dorene-c-dominguez We farmed management of the Coliseum out to USC, let’s hold off on doing so with the new jail.
SL: “A county report estimated that a jail with a more practical design would require far fewer guards, for an annual staffing savings of $25 million. There would be an additional $10 million savings in operating and maintenance costs. ”
EP: Steve, we just approved $88,000,000 [tk.] on new Sheriff stuff, much of which recurs annually in the budget, per the CCJV. The Sheriff’s budget is $2.8 Billion so the $35 million in potential staff and operational savings, you reference, that needs to be carefully scrutinized and studied, is not the reason to build a new jail. At $50,000 per year to incarcerate an offender…versus $2,600 to monitor electronically, we’ll save far more by going out of the jail business. If you crave savings, like I do, consider that there are over 1,000 Sheriff’s Department employees who drive home in unmarked county cars every day, at enormous cost to the taxpayers, $4.00/gallon.
SL: “And if a smarter design leads to fewer altercations and lawsuits, there could be a savings in legal costs.”
EP: Conflicts occur in all settings new and old. “No one other than us is entitled to know how much we’re spending,” said Roger Granbo, assistant Los Angeles county counsel in charge of handling law enforcement cases. Mr. Granbo told the Daily Journal that recently. As you know, I vigorously disagree with that, frankly, insulting assessment. Granbo, who I do not know, has a tough job, upholding tradition and fear in the face of ‘evidence based’ alternatives. One effective way to reduce conflicts and legal costs is to not build a costly jail.
SL: “Critics of proposals to spend more than $1 billion on a new jail say that the money should be spent instead on education and crime prevention, and that sentences of nonviolent offenders should be reduced and drug addiction and mental illness be treated as diseases rather than punishable crimes. I’m for all of that, but I think we will need a new jail too.”
EP: I’m for all of that, but I don’t think we will need a new jail. Read the Austin Report a few summary pages are attached.
SL: “Especially with the added load of state inmates serving county time due to the federal crackdown on overcrowded prisons.”
EP: The added load, to use your term, is diminishing. Post-realignment we need to be sure that non non non’s don’t recidivate. What one does in jail, matters, and the Sheriff enjoys putting an Education Based Incarceration spin on things, but what about a Community Based Education spin on things? Hard to connect the dots on how a new jail will reduce recidivism.
SL: “A new jail, done right, would have a mental health evaluation and referral center to reduce that population of inmates.”
EP: You ought to go back and look at the transcripts from when they were setting up the Twin Towers project. It sounded so good you’d want to make a reservation, if you didn’t know better.
SL: “It would have a veteran and homeless court.”
EP: We’ll get you a veterans and homeless court without a new jail, Steve. Jackie Lacey has talked about rolling those out, asap. We’ll see.
SL: “And a way for inmates to occasionally make court appearances by video, rather than being in transit all day for proceedings that often last a minute or two.”
EP: First of all, “Court Call” has been around for years and a Skype system can be set up wherever you put the computer. We can accomplish this without a new jail, but we do need prosecutors and judges to agree and cooperate.
SL: “This is an antiquated system,” a sheriff’s official said on my tour of the jail as we strolled past moldy walls and walked under a plastic tarp that was suspended from the ceiling to catch the trickle from bad plumbing.”
EP: Infrastructure falls apart, and AECOM writes a to-do list, but remember the big goal is to phase out the dungeon. We can make Men’s Central functional for the short period we’ll need it. Fast forward to the day they demolish Men’s Central… the population will be directed here and there. Now freeze. That’s the final outcome we want. An empty Men’s Central… for good. Hold the Billion dollar tab!
SL: “Each day, beginning at 3 a.m., hundreds of inmates are herded out of cells.”
EP: If we spend a billion dollars on a new jail, they’ll still be herding them from here to there and back. Nicer cells, with fewer staff, won’t reduce the numbers of inmates. Connecting those offenders with something in the community is our only chance. We need to focus on that piece, not a new jail.
SL: ” It’s a massive daily movement that is made more cumbersome and dangerous by the long corridors and poorly lit alcoves.”
EP: Steve, we spent a bloody fortune rigging the jail with cameras, let’s focus on reducing the population of incarcerated people because it really doesn’t work. The space we do need for the really dangerous offenders is available, according to James Austin and other experts.
SL: “Teams of inmate plumbers help with the backlog of breakdowns, but it still takes up to five days for repairs.”
EP: Five days for repairs is upsetting, and a new jail would probably work better, but if we build it, aren’t we going to fill it?
SL: “One inmate told me that conditions are much better in the state prisons he’s been in, including San Quentin.”
EP: I believe that there is support for that one inmate’s POV on Yelp.
SL: “Ridley-Thomas said he’s shooting for early in the new year.”
EP: Thanks for the heads up. We’ll get the word out fast and early that a brand new jail is not in tune with what LA county residents want or need in 2014. And if the youngsters, who will ultimately be left with the bond payments, could speak, they’d probably say, no thanks, too.
Some officials believe the Sheriff’s Department should use vacant jails outside the county to relieve crowding and reduce the need to release inmates early. Do you agree?
A deal to bring 500 offenders to the Taft facility in Kern County was approved briefly, on 9/24/2013, before being ‘un-approved’ a couple weeks later. Taft is a good example of why, in general, sending offenders way up north is a non solution for LA County. 1) The facility is in Valley Fever country (a scary illness that has been widely written about, and contributes to an unwanted health risk for all.) 2) The lower cost per offender is a mirage because of health care and transportation considerations 3) The concept of busing folks over 120 miles up the 5 Freeway is very costly, and makes visitation by family members less doable. The absence of community contact directly contributes to recidivism, and thus, by any estimation it is a bad solution to farm offenders out of county.
Peter Laarman of the Justice not Jails coalition said it right in just over a minute.
Transcript for 9/24/13 here.
What would you do to improve the juvenile detention system, which is under federal review following the misuse of force against children?
Follow Paragraph 73 and release the kids unless a specific public safety threat would prevent it!!
The board met in closed session on October 23, 2012 regarding the Federal case against the county’s probation department. The US attorneys outlined a number of concrete steps that should be taken by December 31, 2014 to resolve the matter completely. Those steps were outlined in a Paragraph 73, of the Memo of Agreement originated in 2008.
Page 10 of 18 is the powerful Paragraph 73.
In lay terms, the US Attorney proposed a series of encouraging ideas that add up to: “Let the youngsters go!” As with our Child Protection system, the current portfolio of programs is so flawed, that we often do more harm than we do good by adding kids to our system. This must change and yet when Paragraph 73 was agreed in October 2012, it was not publicized. I asked for records to see how the US Attorney’s recommendations were disseminated to the departments: The DA, the Sheriff, etc.
There were no letters from our Criminal Justice leaders to their staff’s about the settlement. How is that possible?
Specifically, Paragraph 73, states that we shall (not should) Minimize Juvenile Hall Confinement, Divert Minors from the Juvenile Justice System, Make Community Based Services available!
That effort resulted in a $2.3 million budget request for juvenile day reporting centers so youths can be diverted from probation camps.
Are we doing enough? No.
Intake and Detention Control Officers shall, after conducting a risk assessment utilizing an evidence-based screening tool, must consider the following intervention options for youth: Cite-back and release to parents, guardians, or other relatives with a future court date within 60 days; Community Detention Program with electronic monitoring pending court hearing.
And yet our Electronic Monitoring program has been an abject embarrassment. We have endured endless RFP iterations that have resulted in a dramatically underused system for years.
Probation recently rolled out it’s ‘mea culpa’ but that, quite frankly, is not what we need. The most maddening part of the department’s willingness to accept some blame for failing to train probationers in the monitoring technology, for five plus years, was an estimate that it would still require another 10 months to define the criteria for an RFP. Nonsense. There is no good reason it should take so long.
State prison realignment has shifted more felons to local law enforcement oversight. How well do you think it has worked? Would you do anything to alter it? Has the program had any impact on public safety?
The realignment process from State Prisons to County Jails is here, and despite the preference among certain factions for whipping up ‘public safety’ hysteria, crime is once again down. Homicide rates in Los Angeles in 2013 were at their lowest in six years. Since 1994 violent crime in the United States has fallen by more than 40%.
I have no tolerance for folks who point up at the State as if LA County is not the largest contributor to the overcrowded state prisons, that for those who forgot, were found to be flagrantly unconstitutional.
We have lagged behind other counties in deploying proven techniques for dealing with this mostly not dangerous population.
Contra Costa County is a good example of a county doing a better job on Split sentencing and smart probation reforms. The statistics about how Los Angeles County uses Split sentencing, are simply too embarrassing to publish.
Until we focus on the root causes of violent gang crime we will continue to tragically cycle young and old through our system and the violent behavior of urban street gangs will continue.
So the immediate question for law enforcement appears to be, how to deal with the urban violent crime? But it’s not the role of law enforcement to address the root causes. That is the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors and if elected, I will take if very seriously.
Programs like The Community Safety Partnership and Homeboy Industries need to be supported and or cloned.
If the police explain the law to suspects and treat them with respect, then community leaders will cooperate with the police to reduce violent gang crime.
Is the Sheriff’s Department doing enough to lower the cost and frequency of use-of-force, harassment and traffic-related lawsuits against the agency? If not, what should be changed?
The Sheriff’s legal bills are in three words: out of control. Over 40 million dollars in 2012-13. Just last week, the board agreed to “appeal” - that means keep fighting at our expense - a case involving a finding against the department for excessive force.
The department and county counsel have adopted what has been described by critics as a “scorched earth” litigation policy and there is apparently “no limit” to the amount of legal fees the county will endure to push off additional liability.
I am hopeful that the next wave of Board of Supervisors will wield the power to “settle” or “defend” more wisely.
Of course, the boys in blue deserve a fair defense, but indefensible actions and “out of policy” behavior is where the “scorched earth” policy should be applied.
It irks me that Supervisor Molina is frequently pressing for longer sentences and harsher punishment, yet has been, by her own admission, totally ineffective at policing our own department.
The new Sheriff, needs to adopt a zero-tolerance leadership approach, and the Supervisors need to send that message to the new Sheriff by holding the line on legal bills.
Would you support state legislation that would give more authority to Sheriff’s Department civilian monitors? Would you support legislation that would make county sheriffs less autonomous and more accountable to county supervisors?
I certainly would support legislation but to quote the great Zev Yaroslavsky, “the devil is in the details.” The Sheriff should be accountable to the people. “Let the chips fall where they may.” Whatever that means.
The Board of Supervisors should systematically installing civilian monitors. The obsessional discussion between supervisors and lawyers over the type of statutory authority over the Sheriff misses the point.
In fact, it is not statutory power over the Sheriff that the public craves, it is the power of public scrutiny. If twelve citizen monitors were given “golden key” access that Miriam Krinksy talked about, and not muzzled by the attorney client privilege, our problems would improve substantially.
What would be your top priority in improving the county’s child welfare system and how would you accomplish it?
On February 4, 2014, the supervisors finally shared out loud and in public, at item 10, their frustration about the regulatory framework for the way our DCFS and public health nurses cooperate.
We have 80 nurses in each group and so far we have been unable to deploy the Public Health nurses as an important check and balance, the way we need them deployed.
This is intolerable and I have reached out to senior departmental leaders in both groups seeking clarity on this problem to understand how it has persisted. So far, neither department has provided much in the way of follow up. Diane Von Furstenberg said recently, “One thing you cannot fake is clarity.”
The Los Angeles County child welfare system has been criticized for mishandling victims of abuse or neglect. Many experts say social workers are insufficiently trained to know when to separate a child from a parent. Do you agree, and if so what would you do to improve the system? Do you believe social workers should be required to hold a master’s degree in social service, as some others counties require?
Misguided or incorrect training is clearly a vulnerability for children and families because it leads to failed judgments about families.
The curriculum at six local universities that channel social workers to the county is being standardized, revamped and expanded from 8 weeks to 52. This is a sensible idea, but we should make sure that during the year of this training, cases can be discussed anonymously, to use this more protracted training effectively.
A requirement for master’s training does not seem to be a tenable solution, as it appears we are already struggling to hire social workers without such a high-end requirement, in place.
There is a good ‘simulation’ training program currently in use, where actors play the roles, and new social workers can break down the scenes in the interest of learning.
I think more seasoned workers, should participate, too. Everyone can improve. And those who don’t want to improve, ought to call it quits.
Trainings like this can also give supervisors a real feeling for who would be best for various assignments.
In my opinion, hiring more workers with a master’s degree in social service, is a reasonable goal, but as the Blue Ribbon Commission reported last week, we currently send our least experienced social workers into the most difficult decision making moments. This needs to change.
The Children’s Special Investigations Unit looks into problem cases and recommends ways to prevent the deaths of juveniles under the oversight of county workers. Because findings in each case have been declared confidential, the public and front-line case workers never learn what happened and how it might have been prevented. Would you support making the unit’s final reports public?
This is a systemic problem and the Los Angeles County Counsel and the Board of Supervisors need to reset the terms of this critically important relationship. Too often, until recently, the board has allowed legal counsel to set policies that fight the very purpose of our shared mission, to help children. It’s all in the interest of reducing liability, but it’s wrong. Dead wrong.
On April 11, 2013, after a brief appearance at the LA city ethics commission meeting - http://ethics.lacity.org/ - I jumped on the 70 bus to the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court to check out a case involving, Anonymous, a mother who has been testifying about her DCFS nightmare at weekly Board of Supervisors meetings for months.
I saw firsthand how a judge made a sensible court order aimed at a productive path to reunification of parent and children. The county counsel, went far out of it’s way, as the legal representative of DCFS, to block that court order and defy the judge.
Now, the county counsel favors closing court proceedings. This is a terrible mistake and we need to adjust the attorneys who want to work in secrecy, masking as privacy.
We have an army of attorneys fighting with insufficient resources over situations that should be addressed through mediation and various family education programs and strategies.
A special commission on child welfare is expected to recommend overhauling the child protection service and imposing greater oversight on private foster care providers. The group also wants to create a child welfare czar to coordinate services. Would you support such recommendations?
On March 28, 2014, at the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection meeting Commissioner Andrea Rich stated loudly and clearly that the system is facing a serious crisis or emergency. She even used World War II’s Supreme Allied commander, as an analogy to underscore what she felt was critically important and needed, a Child Protection Czar, empowered to lead the war against a set of bureaucratic crimes.
For example, the county sends our least trained and inexperienced social workers into the field to make, arguably the most important field decisions about taking children. We collectively know that this is wrong, and yet, this is what we do.
We provide more money for non-family care providers, even though the statistics show that ‘family-care-givers” struggle more with money and have significantly better outcomes — we know this is wrong, and yet, this is what we do.
The Czar, if approved, should be empowered to manage a zero-based budget, whereby he or she can direct resources where he/she sees fit. A ‘change agent’ with control over all the county departments working on these issues makes sense. This way, in theory, one small county nation cannot change the terms of the overall campaign.
I’m concerned that this may be the ‘magic wand’ that we constantly say does not exist, but it is worth reaching for.
Step number one: Identify the candidate.
I took the time to attend the meeting to ask the Blue Ribbon Commission to specifically tell the board who might serve in this capacity, because, all too often such recommendations result in a lengthy and ultimately disappointing search.
David Sanders, the current chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission, is well-versed and compassionate and smart. He told the smattering of residents who attended the last meeting that 5000 child protection cases have been opened by DCFS since December 2013. There was a gasp in the room. Time to “reduce removal” and “support reunification.”
On a positive note, let’s initiate a bold new campaign to educate county residents about how to be good baby-parents, since the lion’s share of our trouble is in that population.
I was fortunate enough, as a young parent to take a course at Women’s pavilion in Tarzana, let’s support new parents who are by definition ignorant, with education.
It was only two years ago, that it was revealed that our well funded, First 5 LA group transferred $87 million to (the Department of Public Health and Department of Mental Health) to fund programs that were not completely defined. Supervisor Molina’s comments are too inflammatory to print. Transcripts are available at the county website August 1, (search: Stealing)
A couple months later in October 2012, a coalition of organizations, including the AD council, launched the “Be more than a bystander” campaign to eliminate, or at least curb, “bullying” by urging parents to teach their children to face down such behavior.
I propose a similar campaign that will drive parents in crises to an alternative hotline — A hotline to call before things deteriorate…where help can be found without the possibility of losing your child.
And I will personally reach out to Beyonce, the ultimate baby mama, and others to help with such a campaign.
That would be a powerful and good use of Celebrity. Better than pushing Pepsi.
And I am hopeful that the President’s proactive childhood initiative signals a shift in American policy, one that could “significantly reduce inequality if it remained true to the evidence of what works — not to the politics of what is convenient.”
With more than 36,000 children under county supervision, social workers complain that they have too many cases to effectively handle. The special commission was recently told that 683 caseworkers oversee 31 or more children and that some even have more than 60. Do you believe more workers should be hired? What would you consider a proper caseload? And if more social workers are needed, how do propose to pay for them?
Hiring Social workers is underway and caseloads should be dramatically reduced by closing cases. This issue is a lightning rod, but not really the core issue we face.
The many workers we have are being asked to operate a system that is not functional. Many of the fixes we have been able to make, including the reduction of ludicrous amounts of pointless paperwork, has been thanks to the fine work of diligent and passionate child care workers. That said, in the simplest terms we must “reduce removal” and “support reunification.”
What is your view of the job being done by Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip Browning and would you support his retention?
Mr. Browning’s previous job was as the leader of the The Child Support Services Department, the largest locally operated child support agency in the nation. It typically manages approximately 450,000 cases.
So, We have the guy who increased revenue and improved efficiency inside the Family Law setup here in Los Angeles County.
In simple terms, revenue aside, that entire system is a colossal failure and regularly makes things worse for families. Toss Family Law on the pile of systems we need to improve.
Far too many DCFS cases are distorted by parents who hate one another. Our strategies to minimize that has failed. Lawyers are not helping, so much as they are billing.
If the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendation for a Czar over child protection is adopted, as it should be, Mr. Browning’s importance will be appropriately reduced, thereby obviating the need for an immediate change.
Whether he stays or goes, he should spend as many days in the field as possible. I was upset to discover how frequently he travels to Sacramento for various meetings. More than ten percent of his work days… so like 28 out of 260 days he was away. Not saying he shouldn’t take the appropriate trip, but he is one of the only set of eyeballs empowered to fix whatever he sees, so he should be roaming through our vast system, giving notes, as fast as he can.
A $100 million plan to regionalize homeless services by placing a stabilization center in each supervisor’s district was shelved after community opposition arose in 2006. Should that plan be revived? How should the county deal with the homeless?
The endless debate about a more Countywide approach (think federal) or a more district specific initiative (think local) is part of the problem. As long as people are willing to tolerate the warehousing of homeless people in downtown’s skid row and other havens, the problem will persist.
The board is regularly deliberating, in small groups, behind closed doors and even after they approve a way forward, it can take as long as two years for that approved funding to materialize. In the last two years Homelessness in LA County has spiked 23.5% since 2012.
The 2013 number is 57,735 homeless in LA County according to the Department of Housing and Urban Renewal.
We need to minimize folks being charged with serious crimes like making criminal threats when those rantings were clearly aberrant acts induced by psychosis.
The Sheriff needs to promulgate a policy that makes clear that officers have the discretion to divert suspected misdemeants who are mentally ill rather than arrest and book them. The District Attorney needs to agree with the Sheriff and other law enforcement on this policy to implement the diversion program. The idea is charges would be dismissed pending the defendant’s satisfactory completion of an agreed upon treatment program.
The biggest problem, even when we do intervene in situations as described above, is finding a program. One superior court Judge wrote a letter to Supervisor Yaroslavsky last month explaining that it has become increasingly hard to find programs.
Miami Dade has had success with pre and post booking diversion programs and we ought to study that carefully.
The county periodically assigns the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to move people off the streets, offering assistance and shelter. Many who go in for treatment, however, quickly leave. How should the county close this revolving door while making sure money is not wasted?
Los Angeles County has a pilot project for Laura’s law and we need to follow up. In 2005 the New York Office of Mental Health surveyed those in an assisted outpatient treatment plan - meaning that a court ordered a patient to enter treatment and could be confined for up to 72 hours if he or she refused. The survey found: 74% fewer experienced homelessness, 77% fewer experienced psychiatric hospitalization, 83% fewer experienced arrest and 87% fewer experienced incarceration.
Those numbers are worth chasing, one way or the other. We must respect the “rights” piece, but mandatory treatment is a key tool. NAMI is behind this. Let’s build it so there is no racial weirdness. DHS director and part-time messiah, Mitchell Katz can certainly assist. I jest, he’s a mortal like the rest of us, myself included.
Mitch Katz’s program to provide 56 units of permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals in a blighted area is saving money and should be replicated.
Given the decrease in funding at the Community Development Commission and Housing Authority, in this post-CRA environment, we must be more efficient and pay very close attention to every dollar to ensure it is invested wisely.
The promising Family Solution Center program aimed at simplification and focussing services is worthy of careful attention and if sustainable expansion.
About 60% of those on welfare are homeless. Some say they remain on the street because their monthly check of around $250 is far less than what it costs to rent. How would you address this issue? With federal housing vouchers frozen and rents continuing to go up, would you support raising the general relief amount? If so, how would you pay for it?
GR provides financial assistance to indigent adults who are ineligible for federal or State programs. An average GR case consists of one person, living alone, with no income or resources. GR is not going to solve homelessness but I would certainly support raising GR while reducing the numbers of individuals who need it. Assisting GR participants, with money management is a good focus for volunteer efforts. We want to help people survive without the GR, but also we don’t want it put to poor use or squandered.
As the Affordable Care Act increases the number of people with health insurance, a once-captive client base for county hospitals and clinics will be free to seek care elsewhere—and to take their newfound insurance coverage with them. What can you do as a supervisor to insure that county facilities don’t lose these now-paying customers?
Dr. Mitch Katz is leading the charge on this and the next Supervisors need to support his efforts to do smart things that will make the network appealing to consumers. That includes getting the message out.
For example, encouraging coordinated, whole-person care: Better coordination, continuity, and patient management.
If everybody is in charge, nobody is in charge.
Payment reform: We need to migrate away from a fee-for-service billable provider visit, to what they call “care team encounters”:
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the “Patient-centered medical home model.”
We need to Improve Efficiency and Reduce Duplication — econsults are among the latest greatest thing — a way to use the internet to dial in quality assessments from charts while reducing clumsy and costly appointments.
One great example of a program that is working well, has to do with our screening program for diabetic retinopathy… a major curable cause of blindness in LA County.
By empowering medical assistants to take the tele-retinal pictures, the doctors are able to screen far more patients and serve the public more efficiently while saving money.
Efficient service starts by putting the money on the “screen” to use an entertainment industry term, meaning to deploy it wisely.
And the county has to play smart. If the county is not getting paid, and a patient’s insurance is paying another provider, the County needs to hold the line and direct those patients to the provider who is getting paid.
County health officials have said they will continue to care for people who remain uninsured, including immigrants without legal status. Do you agree with this policy? Should there be limits to this care?
We absolutely need to ensure that DHS and its community partners continue to be the safety net for the uninsured. It’s a thankless job, but in our system, that is what we got.
On a very practical note, every client at a county hospital gets a bill. One serious concern is that many of those bills rise quickly and yet will never be payed.
One major goal given that conundrum is to ensure that patients do not stay away from critical treatment out of financial worry. In the end this will cost us more and frankly, it raises a question of morality.
The projected $237 million cost for rebuilding Martin Luther King hospital rose to $281 million last summer. Its reopening has also been delayed for months. Do you think the delays and increased costs are justified? Is there more county officials should be doing to get the project completed; and, if so, what?
As Supervisor Ridley Thomas will attest, when you get into the walls of a facility sometimes problems that were not originally envisioned materialize. This has been the excuse for what amounts to serious cost overruns and delays.
The painful part of this stunning bit of mismanagement, is unfortunately, it is more of a “feature, than a bug” on county projects. All too often, estimates are missed and contractors and consultants come back repeatedly with little or nor accountability.
If elected, I will be a strong and dogged leader, willing to incentivize contractors on “must succeed” projects under time pressure.
But make sure that every stage is carefully monitored. If contractors want to make money, they have to really earn it.
Studies suggest emergency room use is likely to increase at least initially as newly-insured people drop their reluctance to seek care because of cost. Given that most county emergency rooms are already overcrowded, what would you do to manage this growth?
In a word, triage.
MLK has a special area to divert mentally ill patients who do not need ER attention exactly.
The board needs to resume the monthly updates and inform the public through advertising and other messaging that the clinics and primary care community based alternatives are a better more convenient first stop.
It’s like the message on the answering machine of Doctors everywhere — “If this is an emergency call 911… if it’s not… don’t call 911 — call Mitch Katz at XXX-###-#### and find your medical home.”
We ought to license the “Home” song from the Olympics a couple years ago and roll out a “Make this place your home! Campaign” It’s about small-time clinics in strip malls, providing quality treatment and improved outcomes.
Do you have any concern about the amount of influence business or organized labor groups exert in county politics and this race specifically?
Organized labor has a permanent and critically important seat at the county table.
In a county where voter turnout has been disappointingly low, the power and influence of labor can be outsized. The Rev. Cecil L. Murray, who I noted with pleasure during the CCJV, will not hesitate to quote Lord Byron with pulsating frequency, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This applies to the Board of Supervisors who serve as Management and our mighty workforce. It’s important to take care of county workers while ensuring constantly improving outcomes for the public.
One serious concern is that negotiations between the unions and the county are often handled outside of public view.
Most county residents have no clue about how much lobbying goes on in county government. Generally, we reserve our disgust for the Washington based influence game, though I have been developing a healthy disgust right here in LA County. The County democratic party has lost its way and clearly needs a leadership change. I’ll help with that, if given a chance.
A recent article in the Sacramento Bee noted, that in 2013, money spent by lobbyist employers lobbying the State of California rose 2.74% to $177,359,844. Yikes…alot.
The City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission reported that during the very same period the amount spent by lobbyist employers lobbying the City of Los Angeles rose 7.63% to $42,878,770. Impressive.
I sought the comparable county numbers with a straight face and was told by the Executive Office that that information would simply not be made available. What? This is not tolerable.
Government ethics reform is a major priority and the only way to curb excessive influence is to post it for all to see in the town square.
Supervisors boast of having maintained the county’s fiscal health by keeping purse strings tight during the recession. In that same period, the jails have been overcrowded and fallen under federal investigation; the child welfare system has been accused of failing abused kids due to heavy caseloads; public hospital emergency rooms have overflowed with patients, and programs to move tens of thousands of people off on the streets have seen limited success. What would you do as supervisor to raise new revenue or free up existing resources to address these budget challenges?
Reducing waste and maximizing efficiency should be a constant mantra in a big and clumsy bureaucracy. Anyone who has attended a board meeting knows what type of constructive but directed comments, I make, and will continue to make.
The next generation of Supervisors has a chance to finally deal with the costly and counterproductive silo mentality. As I tell the CEO annually around budget time, a high bond rating is nothing to brag about when the job is not getting done right.
If the county committed to finding 1% savings across the board that would amount to $250 million.
If the Sheriff’s group, during a period when there have been more Popes than Sheriffs, could find 1%… that would be $28 million.
The county has an enormous budget and there are plenty of places to make substantial savings. For one thing, there is no good reason to be paying 1.95% of every dollar to a firm in South Carolina to manage our Job Order Contracts.
And the county needs to do more than write a five-signature letter to the the Governor about runaway production. $1.5 billion of incentives were put out into the production market by other states and governments to lure away our business last year. The county has an opportunity to to be a leader on this.
The San Fernando Valley and third district is home to some of the most talented and valuable production workers in the world. We need to protect this amazing infrastructure and get the Studios and major entertainment companies to play the good citizenship card, already.
Folks who know say if LA can offer a 10% incentive, the shows would stay.
The reasons these companies are taking shows out of state has nothing to do with good citizenship, for sure. Keeping a percentage of the productions right here at home… and preserving the infrastructure is a key point on the roadmap home.
And rather than picking off one major Studio, we ought to get ‘em all at once. They like it like that. What about 5%?
The County currently requires many contractors to pay a “living wage” that amounts to $11.84 an hour. Given the current national and local movements to raise the minimum wage to a much as $15.37, do you believe the county’s required living wage should be increased; and if so, to what amount?
Full time $11.84 would be $24,627/year or at $15.37 it would $31,969/year. That’s the kind of math I’m willing to do, day-in, day-out. Tough to raise a family on that.
The rates need to go up as high as we can get ‘em. The solution to inequality takes work.
Contractors may be obliged to pay a “living wage” but too many employers have multiple county contracts, that are not tracked as a bundle, so the county permits economy of scale benefits to these companies, while continuing to pay sometimes a super-premium.
The companies often squeeze as much profit out of their workers as is humanely possible. American Golf Corporation, Diamond Contract Services, Classic Parking, Modern Parking Inc., Far East Landscape, Torres Construction, Mackone, Securitas are just a few of our multiple contract players.
My time as a citizen watchdog has given me a familiarity with the county players, which might be candidates for rightsize renegotiaions.
One sleazy trick we uncovered had a parking operator sneakily bidding on jobs using a lower “part time” rate. Disturbingly, the scandal was exposed, but the Supervisors looked as a lobbyist tied to one of our supervisor prevailed. See KCET.org “Family Ties”
Los Angeles County government has the largest workforce in Southern California, with about 101,000 employees. Many went without pay raises during the recession. Would you vote to give county workers higher pay at this point in the economic recovery?
Raises should first and foremost be merit based. In general, we need to reward competence over endurance. Though, I thought the Board of Supervisors was right to award ALADS, the Sheriff deputy union a 6% increase over three years, I felt they should have extracted more and better compliance and reporting to the board.
The deputies are not the group that is taking too much money, it is the upper leadership, and the audit of the Sheriff’s Department will be effected by the sudden early retirement of Wendy Watanabe, the Auditor Controller, who trained under Paul Tanaka.
Candidly, there has been an endless supply of disappointing news from the Sheriff’s Department, then… here comes the bump! This was a mistake. I’ve witnessed several cycles of this dance, and I am very eager to give Mr. Fujioka a different set of instructions in this work.
Los Angeles County is one of the few remaining jurisdictions that does not offer peace officers “3% at 50,” which would mean sheriff’s deputies can retire at age 50 and receive 3% of their highest year’s pay for every year of service. Do you believe the county should move to that standard?
If an officer worked for 25 years he could get 75% of his/her salary for life? That’s a lot and we can’t underwrite such programs for folks to retire at 50. I would rather increase the salaries when the workers are working. The idea of calling it quits at 50, fat, dumb and happy is not in step with what the public expects in 2014. We revere these men and women, but we can’t send ‘em to Palm Springs at 50 with pushing six figures… c’mon.
Current civil service protections prevent the county from moving some veteran employees to posts where their experience may be most needed; for example, social workers who have already spent time in a difficult region of the county cannot be sent back without their permission. Would you do anything to change that civil service rule?
I have no tolerance for rules that are contrary to the public’s best interest. That said, fair and equitable policies should be respected and quite frankly, if people are going to have to drive over an hour to Lancaster, that effort should be spread around equally, and we should consider nominal hardship compensation. Maybe subsidize ride sharing if that is not already being done.
Oil extraction is on the rise in parts of the county and residents fear that some techniques might pollute the air and water. Do you believe it is acceptable to extract oil and gas in urban settings? Do you believe hydraulic fracturing is safe?
I am against fracking in urban settings in earthquake-prone California.
What is your position on the proposal to transform the San Gabriel Mountains’ Angeles National Forest into a National Recreation Area either managed or co-managed by the National Park Service?
Char Miller of Pomona College says, “We may proclaim that the public lands are national treasures, but we treat them like dirt.” The Park Service investing in the San Gabriels and the surrounding communities could be good. It’s important to manage the expectations and not permit what’s left of the pristine forest to become … to be treated like dirt.
Should the county make another attempt to ask voters to approve a storm water cleanup fee? If not, how should the county address the cost of cleaning up storm water?
Public Works has an enormous budget and quite frankly you can find far more than 1% in this robust section. I’ve made inroads to this group, myself.
Last year, the Clean Beaches initiative failed because the public was not properly brought into the loop and the astonishingly deceptive, almost duplicitous lack of transparency, resulted in more unwanted delay.
We ought to get a comprehensive look at what specifically we are doing about runoff currently countywide and then focus our attention on that. Then we can see if those resources can be better deployed before we go for another costly surcharge.
Given the statewide drought, should the county be doing more to conserve water; and if so, what? Would you limit new residential or commercial development?
Water conservation is a top priority and the county should be doing even more to educate residents about smart effective solutions to conserve. We simply can’t waste a drop. I demand short showers in my house.
The simple act of using a broom to sweep a driveway over hosing it off can make a huge difference, yet residents need to be tuned up to think before they act.
We should add “Smart” controller sprinkler systems but not enrich the companies blindly that provide this technology including access to the weather forecast for $50,000 a year! Let’s re-deploy our Information Technology [IT] guys with a focus on smoking out ‘BS‘ — that’s a technical term.
Systems that automatically adjust daily watering to the weather are smart, the way we set up the deal however requires careful scrutiny.
The supervisors have been chastised for violating the state’s open meetings law, as they did in 2011 when they met in private with Gov. Brown to discuss state prison realignment. What will you do to improve government transparency and avoid violating the open meetings law and public records act?
I have been a tireless advocate for open government and am currently a named party in a lawsuit to compel the board of supervisors to produce legal billings for cases in which we payed outside law firms.
As a regular attendee at board meetings I have first hand knowledge of how to improve and update our meeting system, with an eye to stimulating rather than stifling public participation.
One of the great disappointments has been the public integrity division of the District Attorney’s office unwillingness to admonish, where best practices have not been followed or worse. The District Attorney needs to step up and force the board to comply.
It would be great to waive parking fees in a lot we own at the Music Center for members of the public who participate in our meetings.
Unlike a standard practice at Los Angeles City Hall, people paid to lobby county officials are not required to disclose the issues they work on, and they sometimes violate existing reporting standards without punishment. Would you do anything to change the county’s lobbying rules?
I have been lobbying [pun intended] for changes to the way the county reports about its lobbying activity. I have spotted a number of omissions from published lobbyist reports and quite frankly, the fact that the Board of Supervisors ethics oversight is handled by the Executive Officer, Sachi Hamai, something the Chief of Staff for the five-headed-entity, is absurd.
I have made a proposal to both the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors to farm the ethics work at the county out to the City’s ethics group. The city does a fairly good job and have better software.
Also, the quasi-independent nature of the City Ethics Commission, in that it is not a county group, is an additional benefit.
During one of the most contentious matters like the transfer of American Golf Corporation and it’s county contracts from Goldman Sachs/Starwood Capital to Fortress Investment Group in Dec/Jan, the board bungled and refused to fix a report that radically under-reported the amount of money a lobbyist tied to the Supervisors took from American Golf. Appalling, comes to mind. It was not the first egregious error. See KCET.org “Family Ties”
Each supervisor has a pool of money that can be spent at their discretion and without full board approval. What would you do to insure that the public easily sees how you spend your share?
In my book it is not appropriate to deploy such money out of public view. It ought to be a requirement to post the details. I would post it, myself.
Zev posts much of his, to his credit. Gloria occasionally announces a little of this and a little of that. And one very interesting detail is how Mike Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas frequently vote against donations Supervisor Yaroslavsky makes, but they do not explain why.
I feel the public would benefit and understand what our leaders are thinking if they explain their “no” votes. Maybe not every time, but I find the absence of comment, disturbing. What is wrong with the third district supervisor giving to charity X or Y or Z? Is it that the supervisors who are voting “no” do not feel it is a worthy cause? Were they denied an endorsement?
The county’s current campaign finance law is designed to reward candidates who stick to a voluntary spending limit for elections. But critics say the current limit of $1.4 million is too low. Do you believe the campaign finance law should be changed; and if so, how?
The third district is vast and diverse so reaching deep into it, is a challenge no matter the resources. The fact that the press-supported debates were set well in advance of the filing deadline is “off.”
You may be interested to know that two of the candidates for Third District Supervisor will have candidate statements in the Sample Ballot. I am proud to say that I will not be one of them. I examined the $18,800 price tag to be included and realized… Sheesh, that’s a lot. Still cheaper than a highly targeted Regional Planning letter, but by a crude calculation it’s not bad value, since the Sample Ballot will be sent to over 5 million households and over 1 million Third district voters before being deposited in 4.99 million third district trash cans.
Anyway, the two candidates who coughed up the $18,800 and will be included in the Sample Ballot are the two gentlemen who participated in the LA Press club debate. I don’t think it should be illegal for a wealthy person to fund their own campaign, but, as a credible candidate, who is not that wealthy person, without a political machine behind me, I was expecting a bit more of a level playing field.
Eric Bauman would be happy to supply a RED LINE copy of the last couple iterations of the County Dem party Bylaw/Constitution changes, sorry unhappy to supply, my mistake.
The absence of a level playing field dissuades players from playing.
Should the supervisors create or seek voter approval of a regulatory body similar to Los Angeles’ City Ethics Commission, which attempts to shape, administer and enforce laws regarding governmental ethics, conflicts of interests, campaign financing and lobbying?
When Aids Healthcare Foundation decided to sue the county over an embarrassing cavalcade of ‘sole source’ contracts, amounting to many millions in contracts, I learned for the first time that the City contracts with the county for Public Health Services.
With that precedent in mind, I have been raising an idea, that would have the far richer county fund and empower the far poorer city’s ethics commission to act as one city/county ethics commission, like in San Francisco. Similar to the way the City contracts out public health to the county, only without the lawsuit from Aids Healthcare Foundation.
If such an action were taken, the county staff who have been struggling under weak leadership to serve the public’s interest in timely relevant reporting, could be redeployed, thereby reducing our ever increasing and puzzling reliance on temps.
A quick glance at the Lobbyist report over at the city, will arouse anyone who favors sunshine. They do a mesmerizing top ten lobbyist report. http://ethics.lacity.org
Everybody is a better citizen when they feel ordinary citizen eyeballs are potentially paying attention.
Supervisors also serve as members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, overseeing billions of dollars in subway, light rail and bus transit services. Do you use public transportation? If so, how often and what routes?
I ride the Red Line to board meetings and other downtown appointments on average two days a week. I have also used the park n’ ride service for the Hollywood Bowl and have concerns that the cost for a family of 4 over the next couple years will rise from $20 to $28. Yikes. This is supposed to be affordable for all county residents, not just the phat-cats.
A word about the Supervisors serving on MTA. To an outsider, this is almost laughably absurd. Why in the world wouldn’t it be a different group, charged specifically with the transportation issues? We constantly have to endure “I am not a jail expert!” “I am not a Child Care expert!” “I am not a coliseum expert” from the Supervisors, and yet… they are confusing transportation experts? Pffft.
It seems that too much power rests with this very insular group that is already mired in other protracted problems, where they are regularly confessing that they are not experts. I will try to become an expert in all of it, if elected, because that is what I feel the job of Supervisor should be about. Working hard for the public’s interest. The way each and every one of the sitting Supervisors probably did earlier in their political careers.
In Sacramento there is a motion to expand the MTA by two seats, which I think should be heard fairly at public hearings, to see what the people think.
Should Metro’s rail system be extended all the way to LAX; and if so, how?
At this point, people movers is the most cost effective solution, but frankly, it is hard to see how we landed in this awkward situation. If the train can get close to JFK and Denver Airport and many other airports… it comes down to vision and resources and compromise.
What do you believe is the most pressing transportation issue that county residents face right now and how would you address it?
Traffic is off the charts bad. We need to increase transit ridership and reduce automobile congestion, stat. I certainly support accommodations for bicycle commuters.
Since World War II, the car has been king, perhaps its time for an orderly transition — time for the bus to assume the throne here in the County of Angels. Buses have some very compelling advantages over underground rail systems; they’re flexible and can serve the residents by population and can be made more efficient. We need to be sure that our public transit system serves the communities that use it, equitably.
Also, bus lines do not require ten years of digging and a whopping price tag that we’ll be paying down for years and years.
Dedicated bus lanes can be changed as needed to reflect traffic flow considerations.
A clean shot from Brentwood to Dodger Stadium would take half an hour without traffic. It can be an hour and forty-five minutes. We can beat that with a set of bus lanes and smart phones.
Alternative fuel technology is also exciting and worthy of serious consideration.
But mostly we need to inspire people who generally drive to actually use alternatives. The way to get them to opt in, is to provide a really good service.
I drove to Board meetings until I tried the subway, once, now the thought of driving is just a bad dream about a $22 fee to park at a public meeting.
On day one, I will put a motion in for the Civic Engagement Parking subsidy. Anyone who comes down and goes on the record, can park in the Music Center with validation by the Executive Officer. End of story, beginning of new era.
A sales tax for transportation projects (a new Measure R) will likely be on the 2016 ballot. Do you support a tax increase for transit? If so, what specific projects do you think such a tax should fund?
This should be a countywide conversation because if a family in Lancaster is asked to pay an extra half cent, they should enjoy some benefit, beyond the knowledge that West Hollywood continues to be a thriving development zone. From the Huntington’s of olde to the present day… railways often lead to prosperity. There is no reason we can’t have a first class functional bus service.
A year ago, Metro and Caltrans converted the carpool lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways into experimental toll lanes that solo drivers are allowed to use. Would you support a similar conversion to toll lanes on other county freeways, like the 405 or the 5?
I think this type of congestion reduction program is worth of consideration, but tolls and “Freeways” are not a perfect fit. In New York, the cost to cross the George Washington Bridge is $13. That, and Governor Christie’s misbehavior is almost sufficient to dissuade one from taking a trip to New Jersey…any exit!
High tolls without an alternative becomes an equity issue because we’ll be pricing people off the road. If we do go the toll route, we need alternatives to driving… like dedicated lanes for buses.