Supervisor (D1): Juventino Gomez
An El Monte city councilman and former aide to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Juventino “J” Gomez, 69, was a 38-year county employee.
Two supervisors have proposed setting up a permanent citizen’s commission to oversee the Sheriff’s Department. Are you in favor of that?
There is no question that there is a need of reassuring our public that the Sheriff’s Department needs improvement to be effective in completing its mission. The Sheriff’s Department is currently in the midst of undergoing change of leadership through the electoral process. Proposing and implementing radical changes at this stage may and can be detrimental to the overall effectiveness of its services. Our Sheriff’s Department of over 18,000 employees should not be subjected to changes for political expediency without in-depth study and review. At this time I do not favor a permanent Citizens commission.
What role should the supervisors play in the management and operation of the Sheriff’s Department?
County Charter implicitly gives the leadership responsibility to our Sheriff as an elected official. These come with responsibilities for the department’s performance. It also gives the County Supervisors oversight responsibilities through fiduciary and budget controls. This last December the Supervisors appointed Max Huntsman as Inspector General. I am encouraged that together with a newly elected Sheriff this Department will find a path to elevating the statue of the position.
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?
Los Angeles County is currently being stretched in its responsibility of housing inmates in our prisons as it is. Sacramento Leadership passed AB109 without consideration for the implementation problems it created for all local counties, especially for LA County. I do not support a furthering depletion of resources from our County residents that will reduce other vital services because the State failed in fulfilling their duty. On the contrary, I intend to work with the other Supervisors to reverse the damages AB109 is causing to our residents. Not expanding the Men’s Central Jail complex.
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?
I would need access to empirical data for inmate population growth predictions to be able to determine the need for utilization of empty jails to relieve current and future overflow challenges. I would also consult with legal council for a review of legal requirements. In short, if there is an obligation, I will consider expansion as an option.
What would you do to improve the juvenile detention system, which is under federal review following the misuse of force against children?
Our Juvenile system as all other County departments is suffering from the same ailment, lack of proper funds to modernize the systems and a realistic plan to attract, recruit, train and supervise departmental leadership to execute the mission of each department. The county has good people who deeply care for our youth and should be commended not chastised. Yet, employees at any level who do not agree in building a new culture of modernization should be removed from positions of responsibility.
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?
As a Councilmember for the City of El Monte and immediate Past President of Independent cities association representing 47 local municipalities. I have been and continue to be at the forefront in denouncing the negative effects of AB109 on the communities throughout the State of California. As a Supervisor for District 1, I will continue to work with Sacramento Leadership to find equitable solutions to the damage prisoner realignment are causing our communities.
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?
Like any other police agency the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is constantly dealing with changing demographical and legislative demands. All while ensuring fair treatment to general public, it is entrusted to serve. Agents of the Sheriff’s Department are also prone to human error and corrective actions should be swift yet fair. I will also work to defend all County departments from victimization by unscrupulous litigants who seek to profiteer at the expense of the integrity of our public servants.
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?
At this time I would not support enlarging the bureaucracy that oversees the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Diversifying accountability in leadership for political expediency should not yet be considered without giving the new Sheriff a fair opportunity to rebuild the department.
What would be your top priority in improving the county’s child welfare system and how would you accomplish it?
Fortifying the systems that work well and modernizing theses that are deficient. I intend to work with department heads and plotting a realistic plan that will address the challenges in the present as we plan solutions for the medium and long term.
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?
Certainly there are insufficient amounts of social workers to effectively manage their caseload. With over 38 years of working side-by-side with them, I recognize that there are shortfalls that can be attributed to budgetary commitments, training and supervision. I do not see adding an addition requirement of holding a masters degree as a solution. My intent is to take a top to bottom needs review and build a plan that will have buy-in from all stakeholders.
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?
There are existential limitations on what consent law allows disclosing. I certainly support finding a legal manner in which front line caseworkers are involved in preventing the deaths of juveniles.
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 would certainly support any process that standardizes and brings greater accountability to private foster care providers, but I would not want to add another layer of administrative bureaucracy without concrete evidence of effectiveness in implementation.
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?
Our social workers work diligently to ensure that our children are protected with the least amount of trauma for the child and family, but their caseloads are strenuously heavy and although there is no magical number of cases that one particularly social worker can handle, less would be better. Our County’s investment in additional workers should be accomplished once a review of standing budgets is completed for streamline opportunities. Then if additional funds are needed, the general fund should be explored for additional funding commitments.
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?
A main priority as a supervisor is to review current department heads and their performance. In particular to Mr. Browning I am very disturbed by his continued assurances that he “will look into it” and failure to produce alternative solutions. I will be diligent and fair as I review this department first.
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?
As an ardent advocate for effective homeless services, I have worked with many agencies to find solutions that have deliver quantifiable results that include homeless veterans. The $100 Million plan you describe has merits that should be explored, just as long as we recognize that there is no equal population of homelessness in each district.
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?
It is important to recognize that there are different variations and reasons people find themselves homeless. Some are mentally ill and others are in a transitional stage. I also recognize that for a very select few of individuals, it is a life choice. All homeless people are entitled to rights and freedoms that cannot be suspended unless they pose the prospect to injury to themselves or others. Recognizing these challenges the county should strive to constantly deliver targeted services that prove to effectively promote transition out of homelessness.
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?
Recognizing that the County alone does bear the responsibility for those in homelessness. Thus, I would work with other governmental agencies and private entities to establish a triage system to help those that can most benefit from opportunities of job training, employment placement and housing assistance.
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?
I do not subscribe to the notion that the County Healthcare system is in the business of sustaining any particular level of “Customers”. Most users of County healthcare providers are indignant and do not qualify or cannot afford for medical services under ACA. If the implementation of ACA reduces the levels of revenue from the operating budget, I will ensure that the burden will be carried out by a combination of State and federal funds.
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 agree with the policy and will not seek to curtail the amount of accessibility to those in need.
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?
Although not privy to the specifics of cost overruns in the MLK hospital rebuilding, I observe through my experience from managing similar projects that there is a combination of failure to project budgetary costs along with lack of supervisorial controls. It should not take much to execute a project review in order to identify responsibility and address deficiencies. Based on those findings, I will use them as a learning tool for futures projects in order to maximize our resources and obtain positive outcomes.
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?
I am proud that the County has one of the highest quality ER’s in the country. This has been achieved by establishing deep relationships and partnerships with many outside organizations and agencies. I do think we should continue to seek opportunities for modernization and streamlining costs. If the county face with an unexpected growth in need for additional services, I intend to first address the challenges encounter, yet continue focusing on providing a better service, and then work to acquire fiscal relief from the State, Federal and private entities.
Do you have any concern about the amount of influence business or organized labor groups exert in county politics and this race specifically?
Certainly Businesses and Unions have a vested interest in the outcome of this election. My goal is to ensure that my vision and proven leadership reach the electorate without compromising my commitment to all the residents in District 1. It is my hope that the electorate judges by the amount of funds expended by special interest groups in this election to determine who will best represent them for this district.
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?
I certainly agree that holding robust reserves is overall in the best interest of the constituents. I will continue to promote holding strong reserves, but not at the expense of diluting needed services for the community. My first priority is to work tirelessly to streamline the current operating expenses and holding outside governmental agencies responsible for their fair share of expenses.
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?
I do not hold quantitative data to support additional increase to any “living wage”. My philosophy is that we must attract business opportunities to the county not deter them. If there is a national law to increase wages, I will support that, but there would be an equal playing field for our business community as well.
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?
Our County Employees deserve a fair compensation for their services and provide them good working conditions. I look forward to open conversations with their bargaining units to ensure that both the employers and employees have an equitable agreement.
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?
County Peace Officers and all other employees are entitled to fair compensation commensurate with what the market can bear to retain highly qualified professionals servicing our communities. If the opportunity arises, I always keep an open mind to negotiations on compensation packages for all our employees.
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?
Having worked in the human resources department for the County, I have clear knowledge of this rule. It was constructed to ensure that no individuals would be subjected to unfair assignments based on their experience and proficiency alone. I rather expend more resources and energy in ensuring that all workers regardless of years of service or district assignments are trained and supported in order to provide quality service.
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?
It seems clear to me that you are referring specifically to a process commonly known as “Fracking”. This process can be implemented in urban settings in a safely manner with constituents consensus. However, we have to keep monitoring those projects for unexpected risks to the environment. It is important that as a Supervisor, I look to both side of the coin before making decisions and I will present those projects our constituents for opinions.
What is your position on the proposal to develop a 14,000-square-foot San Gabriel River Discovery Center in the Whittier Narrows wildlife sanctuary, which would be equipped with interactive exhibits and a 7,000-square-foot model of the San Gabriel River featuring flowing water?
I am open to the concept pending a comprehensive review of the proposal and implementation plan. I will certainly seek inputs for adjacent communities as well.
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?
I am strong proponent for protecting our oceans from untreated storm waters. I want to review current processes and budgets to seek immediate changes to streamline expense. If necessary I will work with the external agencies to enlist partners in properly funding mitigating expenses, but most importantly, I will raise awareness about this issue since most of the waste is public consumption.
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?
Engaging in frugal strategies to reduce consumption of water is always in the best interest of the county and the environment. But engaging in targeted water conservation campaign without first reviewing an effect to our residential and business communities can be counter productive. I will strive to work in conjunction with the State leaders to monitor opportunities, implement efficient targeted projects with measurable metrics.
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 strongly support the Brown Act and ensure that the business of the county is conducted in plain view of the people of Los Angeles County. The people and press should have access to request documentation of County business in a reasonable time frame and I will certainly champion that it is accomplished.
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?
As we continually see in the news elected officials are being investigated or prosecuted for malfeasance in exercising their oath of office, and the public becomes disenfranchised with the good work the majority of elected officials do. I agree that lobbyist should also be regulated to ensure that the work of the people is done without any sense of appeared or real impropriety. I commit to pursuing legislation that will curtail the obscure dealings between Lobbyist and elected officials.
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?
Working as a senior deputy to Supervisor Antonovich for 12 years, I have come to appreciate how this fund can be used to mitigate unexpected challenges that no one anticipates in the district. Supervisors can provide direct and expedient relief to the community and also serve as seed investment to determine viability of larger projects. I intend to invest this fund with transparency and in line with my philosophy of frugality.
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?
I do believe that today’s electoral races the system is stacked for those that have deeper relationships with big donor bases. I do not think that the $1.4 Million is too low, but the individual contribution limits are well below those of constitutional offices in the state. I am not willing to compromise support form big organizations at the expense of an ethical campaign.
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?
In concept such office sounds like a viable solution to ensure ethical process of the peoples business. In practice adds just another hurdle of bureaucracy to be concurred by those in power. We have sufficient amount of oversight, we just need higher quality review by those institutions.
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?
Although challenged by a wartime disability and geographic residency, I still ride our local bus system to ensure that the public is receiving quality service. I was instrumental in expanding the El Monte Transportation hub and constantly have kept informed of the challenges and proposed solutions of today and tomorrow for our public transportation users in our communities.
Should Metro’s rail system be extended all the way to LAX; and if so, how?
Only if we can identify funds that will not cause additional strains other services. We need to be careful of bait & Switch legislation that gives our county a few dollars and then spends a bulk of funds in other communities, putting our county on the hook.
What do you believe is the most pressing transportation issue that county residents face right now and how would you address it?
Certainly our freeway system posses the highest concern to our communities. Not for the inconvenience it provides its users, but for curtailing the ability to attract new business opportunities and the environmental impacts it has in our County.
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?
I do not have sufficient evidence that compels me to support another tax hike on our cash strapped residents at this time. Let’s finish our current projects first and reassess. I’m certain there will be special interest looking to continue providing more services but I say let’s take a breather.
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?
The State of California is investing in expanding the freeways but I feel people are rightfully upset that the state used public funds to build the freeway system in the first place and now they turn around and sell a lane to those that can afford to pay for FasTrak. It is unfair and I am yet to hear a good explanation for this practice.