Supervisor (D3): John Duran
A city councilman and former mayor of West Hollywood, John Duran, 54, is a civil rights attorney active in a variety of LGBT organizations.
Two supervisors have proposed setting up a permanent citizen’s commission to oversee the Sheriff’s Department. Are you in favor of that?
Yes. A citizen’s commission will assist the new sheriff and the board of supervisors in gathering information and implementing reforms.
What role should the supervisors play in the management and operation of the Sheriff’s Department?
The new sheriff will have a mandate from the electorate to implement badly needed reforms. The supervisors should work in partnership with the sheriff and his department to ensure adequate funding for whatever reform is necessary. The supervisors should not micromanage the sheriff or his top commanders/captains. However, the supervisors have a role in protecting taxpayers from lawsuits/judgments and making sure that public safety funds are used prudently.
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?
The facility should be demolished. The new facility should increase inmate population from 4,000 to 6,000-7,000 depending upon the impacts of continuing realignment and transfer of alcohol and drug convicts to rehabilitation facilities instead of la county jail to make room for the serious and violent felons.
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?
No. Punishment is only half of the equation in criminal justice. The other half is rehabilitation to prevent recidivism. Rather than transfer taxpayer money out of Los Angeles County, we should redirect funding to rehabilitation facilities within the county for low level alcohol and drug offenses.
What would you do to improve the juvenile detention system, which is under federal review following the misuse of force against children?
Excessive force, substandard living conditions, use of solitary confinement or overcrowded dormitories does not foster rehabilitation of youth. Rather than use large dormitories with 100+ juveniles per unit, the dormitories should be reduced to smaller cottages with 10-12 individuals. Smaller groups means more intimate peer to peer formation which better supports education, social skill training and job training. Other counties have used this model successfully and reduced recidivism.
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?
State prison realignment is another example of Sacramento shifting its responsibilities onto the backs of the counties and cities. It has not worked and has created additional problems for local governments. It has had a huge impact on public safety. Misdemeanor offenders now serve only 10% of their sentence because of jail overcrowding. It has removed a deterrent tool used by both prosecutors and defense lawyers. The county should shift funds into alcohol/drug rehabilitation programs to house those offenders serving time on alcohol/drug cases. The county should also expand work programs in lieu of jail time to put low level offenders to work on community labor projects.
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 current system of graduating deputies from the academy and assigning them to jail service downtown first is contrary to all good community based policing programs. Early on the job training in the militaristic setting of the jails is not easily transferable onto the streets. Therefore, the two functions should be separated. Deputies can either be assigned to work in the jails/courts or work on the streets of Los Angeles. Their encounters in the jails with felons should be distinguished from their encounters with law abiding citizens on the streets of Los Angeles.
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?
Yes. And yes. Democracy works best when there are checks and balances.
What would be your top priority in improving the county’s child welfare system and how would you accomplish it?
My top priority to improve the county’s child welfare system would be to reduce the case load of our social workers. I would work to accomplish this by expanding the use of private sector non-profit organization social workers to ease the burden on the system.
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?
I do not believe that a master’s degree should be required. There are qualified social workers who do a good job without a master’s degree. The issue is not the education of the social worker. The issue is high case loads which prevents many social workers from having the time to dedicate to individual cases. Higher compensation may be necessary for those social workers who wish to serve in troubled areas in the county where poverty, illiteracy, and drug use exacerbate the situation. Currently, new social workers are assigned to these less desirable areas. That thinking is illogical. Those areas may require more tenured social workers who have highly developed assessment skills. There should therefore be compensation incentives for those seasoned social workers who will take on the more difficult home visits.
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?
Yes. Public reports serve in a watchdog capacity over the procedures of DCFS. There is still a way to protect confidentiality of minors by using numeric or first name/last name initial reporting systems. The public has the right to know about the system’s improvements and failures.
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?
I support overhauling the child protection service and oversight on private foster care providers. However, I do not support creating a child welfare czar to coordinate services. There is already a DCFS director who has been recently hired and is accountable to the board of supervisors and the public. I do think that we have to give Director Phillip Browning a chance to succeed in improving his department rather than creating another position with the title “czar” who would not carry the authority of director browning to implement change.
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?
I do agree that the caseworkers are severely overloaded. However, I would be more interested in contracting with non profit organizations in the private sector to fill most of the new positions to avoid saddling the county with additional benefits and pension obligations.
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?
Phillip Browning has only been in place for about 2 years. He needs additional time to determine whether he is being effective or not. I do support his retention until the end of this year to determine whether or not the department has seen improvement over the years since his hiring.
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?
I support the construction of permanent housing for the homeless with attached social services. The united way has developed an extraordinary “home for good” model that I support in my city. I do believe that each of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County should work with county, state and federal officials to develop permanent housing for the homeless with attached social services to prevent relapse.
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?
Temporary shelters are short sighted solutions. Permanent housing for the homeless with attached social services including mental health programs, alcohol and drug treatment programs, and education programs to teach new skills will help reduce the amount of homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.
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?
I do not support raising the general relief amount. Welfare should be a temporary source of relief, not a permanent status. Dependency on the county should be disfavored and re-employment favored.
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?
The county hospitals and clinics will have to compete with the private sector in the delivery of health services. Raising the skill level of county health care workers and upgrading delivery systems will allow the county to participate in competitive markets.
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?
I do agree with this policy. To prevent the spread of infectious and communicable disease, there should not be a service requirement based on legal status. Additionally, preventative care on the front end prevents extraordinary costs for taxpayers in emergency rooms when unchecked health issues worsen.
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?
Delays are sometimes unavoidable. In the future, general contractor bonuses should be considered when a project is completed ahead of schedule to encourage time sensitivity.
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 order to manage the growth of emergency room use, I would work to expand the use of both county clinics and private sector non profit clinics for routine health care and preventive treatments.
Do you have any concern about the amount of influence business or organized labor groups exert in county politics and this race specifically?
Yes. When either business or labor exerts too much influence on county politics, the residents of Los Angeles County suffer. The new supervisor should maintain a moderate path favoring neither side of the equation, but always doing what is best for the residents of Los Angeles County in the long term.
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?
The supervisors have done an extraordinary job of keeping the county in the black with a “aa” bond rating. My city is also in the black with a “aaa” bond rating which gives us additional resources for capital improvements when needed. Each of the issues identified above are complex and there are a multitude of reasons for the failures and challenges. The answer is not always to throw more money at the problem. The answer is to make the most efficient use of the resources that are available without having to raise new revenues or cut services. This is what we did in my city over my 14 years of public service.
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?
This is an issue that is best resolved at the national level. However, I have supported increases to living wage amounts in my city before – but only after a careful analysis of the impact on consumers, construction costs, and a possible decrease in workers and jobs.
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?
Yes. A cost of living adjustment is necessary to ensure that worker salaries keep pace with the increases in rents, groceries and other costs of living. We are not completely out of the economic downturn yet so I would proceed with caution until markets fully stabilize and correct themselves.
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?
No. Retirement ages are now on the rise in the private sector beyond the age of 65 to 70 or higher. While I acknowledge that sheriff’s deputies have extraordinary working conditions with high stress levels, the county taxpayers cannot afford to give retirement at age 50 when private sector employees are having to work until age 70 or higher.
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?
Yes. It is illogical. I would open a discussion during labor negotiations for pay/benefit incentives for those more tenured workers to be attracted to the more challenging posts.
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 do not support fracking.
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?
I am supportive of limited use of the national forest for campers, hikers and other recreational uses provided that the impacts on the native plants and animals is not significant. I would consider a bid from the national park service but also explore competitive bidding from the state or other private sector non profit organizations who may have an interest.
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?
Yes. We need to do a better job educating voters across the county about water management in a desert environment. Water is scarce. If we are going to ask the voters to pay for storm water clean up we should also engage in a public education process to educate on protection of estuaries near the ocean, clearing up dams to enable more water to percolate into natural underground aquifers and wells, and better conservation efforts across the county.
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?
Yes. We need to do better to educate residents on water use in the desert, natural urban landscaping with desert plants, and capturing more water in reservoirs and underground aquifers. We still face a severe housing shortage in Los Angeles. So I wouldn’t limit development. I would instead propose smart development with electric and water conserving devices in new construction.
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?
Transparency in government is critical and I would always follow the open meetings law. The problem is not that the open meeting law is inadequate. The problem is in adherence to the law.
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 would gather best practices models from not only the City of Los Angeles, but also from other counties in California in determining what would be the best practice for the county. The County of Los Angeles is the most populous county in America. There may be better ways to make this information more transparent and accessible.
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?
Provide an accounting on my supervisorial website and district offices for any member of the public to inspect.
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?
No. I believe that the $1.4 million cap is adequate. What I do find frustrating is that donor information is not readily available to the public online for inspection. The system needs upgrading (like most of la county information systems).
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?
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?
Yes. I occasionally use the red line to travel to the civic center. However, the system today is still not adequate for continual use since it does not reach my destination points in a timely fashion. When the Metro system has enough lines/connectors/parking to make transit cost effective and efficient, people will abandon their cars and use it.
Should Metro’s rail system be extended all the way to LAX; and if so, how?
Yes. Finish the Green Line to LAX Airport until we are able to connect other lines to the airport in the future.
What do you believe is the most pressing transportation issue that county residents face right now and how would you address it?
The county needs to build additional lines/connectors/parking for the metro rail system. Plans must be made to connect the San Fernando valley to the other side of the Hollywood Hills by tunneling along Sepulveda and possibly Cahuenga. An entire grid light rail system must be developed to serve the entire San Fernando valley. Explore the construction of robo automatic garages near metro stations to make parking easier to access the metro lines. The problem with focusing on buses in the short term is that they travel in the same congestion as automobiles. To build an efficient system for the future, we should focus on underground and above ground rail systems that are not stuck in congested traffic patterns.
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?
Yes. I support funding for expansion of rail lines, connectors and parking.
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?
Yes. Any effort that moves traffic more quickly should be considered and expanded.
Photo: John Duran. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times./