Supervisor (D3): Sheila Kuehl
A former member of the California Assembly and Senate, Sheila Keuhl, 73, was the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the Legislature.
Two supervisors have proposed setting up a permanent citizen’ commission to oversee the Sheriff’s Department. Are you in favor of thatt?
I am strongly in favor of the establishment of a Citizens’ Oversight Commission to continuously evaluate the performance of the Sheriff and the Sheriff’s deputies, especially in their capacity as jailers. We have experienced an unprecedented lapse in discipline that has all but destroyed the public’s trust in the Sheriff’s Department. The Supervisors need to do all they can to correct and stem that tide. It is important to note, of course, that the Supervisors do not have direct authority either over the Sheriff or the jails.
However, in my service on the Public Safety Committee in both houses of the Legislature, it became apparent that budget authority may also be used in creative ways to enhance oversight, such as sequestering certain line items and require billing and reimbursement, rather than simply turning over the whole budget to the Sheriff. The Supervisors have also appointed an Inspector General, who is having a difficult time getting information on specific officers who are accused of abusing their duties. More information appears below, under more specific questions.
What role should the supervisors play in the management and operation of the Sheriff’s Department?
With no direct authority over the Sheriff or the operation of the jails, the Supervisors must use every tool available to reign in abuses in the Dept. and lack of supervision by the Sheriff. To that end, the Supervisors need to make the best use of the Inspector General and demand full disclosure of illegal behavior by any Sheriff’s personnel, as well as use their budget authority to make certain any funds they allocate to improve the situation in the jails is actually used for that purpose. Although many can indicate what they might do in the future, it is also important to consider the range of experience of each candidate in dealing with issues of government oversight, especially since the County of Los Angeles is more like a state than any of our small cities with parttime City Councils. With a workforce of more than 100,000 and a budget of more than 25 billion dollars, the County’s responsibilities, not only for the jails, include services to the populations going in and out of the jails, the mentally ill, the homeless, the unemployed. To affect the management of the Department, a Supervisor needs experience in the full range of healthcare, safety net, mental health, budget and public safety issues. I would:
•Consolidate individual investigations of abuses in the Department in the Inspector General.
•Use the power of the purse to sequester portions of the Sheriff’s budget under the County CEO and require the Sheriff to bill for expenditures targeted by the particular funds, such as jail safety, cameras in the jails, training, etc.
•Make certain that other County departments are engaged in helping to transition prisoners from jail back into society.
•Make rehabilitation services and literacy services available in the jails through funding these services in other departments.
•Make certain the Citizens’ Oversight Commission gets established and funded, with the fullest possible range of powers.
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?
I strongly support the transformation of the Men’s Central Jail complex into a facility for prisoners with mental health issues. In order to give the best chance to keep these prisoners from re-offending, I would like to see a diminution in the number of beds in order to provide space for the kind of on-site services and treatment necessary to help the program succeed. I do understand there are more prisoners with mental health issues than even this facility could support, but I think it is incumbent on us to begin to incarcerate this population differently.
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 don’t support the use of out-of-County facilities for low-level offenders. In analyzing the state budget on the issue of realignment, which is bringing more serious offenders into local jails, I concluded that there are two different populations involved in the Governor’s realignment plan. The first is those who are low-level, non-sex, drug dealing or violent offenders. These prisoners were the ones meant for early release and transition back into society, who can benefit from county mental health and substance abuse programs designed to keep them from re-offending. For these prisoners, proximity to their families and local services is key. The second group is those prisoners being transferred or directly incarcerated for crimes that would have drawn state prison time in the past. I do not object to housing these prisoners in other counties.
What would you do to improve the juvenile detention system, which is under federal review following the misuse of force against children?
As chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, I worked extensively with now-Congress Member Karen Bass on the issue of foster children. One finding, not surprisingly, was that many of these same children comprised a large portion of the population of our juvenile “camps”, which now look more like our state prisons. In order to concentrate on rehabilitation, which is the touchstone of juvenile incarceration, I would:
•Establish a Juvenile Facilities Citizens’ Oversight Commission. Unlike the proposed Commission dealing with Sheriff’s deputies, this commission could have real power to recommend changes that the Supervisors could actually put into place, as well as provide a good deal of sunshine to the practices inside the walls.
•Make certain that the court-ordered ban on solitary confinement of juveniles is strictly followed.
•Push for completion and opening of the new detention center based on the “Missouri Model” now being prepared in the Malibu area. This program has been much copied in other counties and states and is very promising. It incorporates smaller residential and study units, more counseling, and more education. I would like to eventually transform all our juvenile justice facilities to more closely mirror a program like this. All the studies presented to us in the Legislature concerning this model showed that it saved money by cutting recidivism in half.
Programs that utilize innovative solutions and also have demonstrable cost savings must become more of a norm across the County. It is important to scale up replicable, innovative models which have shown evidence-based, proven results. I was also pleased to see that the athletic program will be retained in another Camp. One of the hallmarks of my career in the legislature is something I would call “silo-busting”, that is, breaking down the barriers that prevent departments from collaborating. This is a problem in the County, as well as between the county and its 88 cities. California agencies, just like County departments, jealously guard their authority and their budget, even where there is overlap. Breaking down these “silos” is essential for good governance, greater efficiency and better delivery of services.
I would, for instance, bring the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) into a discussion with the camps as to barriers that may exist for fully providing educational opportunities in the juvenile facilities, which LACOE is under court order to do. I would pursue a better result through the Superintendent and Board of LACOE, all of whom are appointed by the Supervisors, and the Probation Department, which is under the direct supervision of the Supervisors.
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?
I don’t believe Governor Brown thought he had much choice about cutting back on the state prison population after losing a number of suits on this subject in the courts. That said, just as when mental health hospitals were shut without funding for community services, creating the mental health disaster now facing jails and prisons, the idea of having more felons housed locally may have been the only answer for the state but it is very problematic for the County.
•Allocate more budget to the County’s Probation Department now tasked with keeping track of all former state inmates now the responsibility of local authorities. There are a number of federal and state funds the County has not been able to access that were set up specifically to aid in this problem.
•Give those timing out of jail more aid and services to reduce recidivism, aid in their transition back to society and help to keep them from re-offending.
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?
To date, the Sheriff’s Department has not provided sufficient oversight to even know when incidents of excessive force, harassment and excessive speed chases occur. Many law enforcement agencies have begun using cameras, in cars, in jails, even on officers, to document force and serve as a deterrent, as well as a protection for officers. In addition, the Inspector General, the Citizens’ Oversight Commission and the Supervisors, themselves, must insist on being informed in a timely manner on all reports of these incidents.
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 would. On the State Public Safety Committee, I had the opportunity to observe the important and permanent changes wrought in the City of LA’s Police Department. The change was not easy, and required a combination of strong and insistent community engagement, a strong and empowered citizens’ commission, focused executive management, strong Council oversight and support, a dedication to new models of community policing and, of course, sufficient budget.
While in the Legislature, I authored and co-authored many bills creating more oversight of public safety officers, especially in the areas of domestic violence, investigation of sexual assault, treatment of the victims of trafficking, treatment of hate crimes and many more. I know what strategies work.
I would support legislation putting the question of whether the Sheriff should be appointed by the Supervisors or independently elected to the people. Until then, we need more oversight by the Supervisors, themselves. To that end, the depth and breadth of experience and knowledge I gained representing all the cities in the Third District, excepting the City of San Fernando, and the innovative programs I helped put into motion while representing a million of its residents will inform my approach.
What would be your top priority in improving the county’s child welfare system and how would you accomplish it?
As Chair of the California Senate Health and Human Services Committee, I had the opportunity to consider every piece of legislation, every program, every state agency, every budget line item and every recommended approach to the issues of child welfare. I received and evaluated information from every County and from state agencies about what worked and what didn’t.
My priorities, as more fully set forth in answer to your specific questions further below:
•Lowering the caseload for social workers so that each may more adequately attend to the children under their care. Currently, judges in the dependency courts report that social workers cannot complete their reports in a timely fashion, and this further hampers the ability of the system to work towards permanent placement. In order to lower the caseload, we must hire even more than the 450 new social workers just taken on. As the Times reported, there are sources of state money as yet untapped to accomplish this goal.
•Requiring new social workers, if just out of school, to undergo a year of intense training in the new Academy, including new models of training based on having to solve complex family problems on the spot. In the latest Academy programs, actors are used to provide the scenarios.
•Making certain that some percentage of experienced case workers are assigned to family visits and evaluations, and not solely to the “front end” evaluating the life-and-death situations of children that may need to be removed and placed under the aegis of the Court. Though these judgments are also critical, the day-to-day evaluation of how a family is doing and how a foster child is doing in their placement, must also benefit from the experience of veteran social workers.
•Adopting electronic record-keeping and access to files for workers in the field
•Adopting a secure electronic system to connect already-existing health provider and caseworker databases so that the health records of foster children may be accessed by workers, foster parents and youth.
•Giving additional support to foster youth aged 18-21 so that they can successfully make the transition to emancipated adulthood. The federal and state governments offer funding for this program and the County needs to make certain they receive every possible dollar.
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?
When a worker’s caseload is so high, it becomes virtually impossible to find and visit families as often as is required to make certain the child’s environment is safe. It’s not just training that’s at fault. Of course, every new social worker must receive Academy training, as described above, the kind of Academy training the Department has instituted, but I would like to also see a requirement of attendance in continuing education as new methods and information become available.
When I chaired the Assembly Judiciary Committee, my committee and I grappled with the setting of standards for separating parents and children. The rights of parents require clear guidelines for separation. Currently, the County, the State and the Federal Government have pages and pages of conflicting guidelines and these must be consolidated and simplified.
After Gabriel’s death, the filings sent to the court by social workers, asking the court to separate children from their parents, doubled, as social workers tried to be safe, not sorry. At the same time, the County has a very promising and innovative program attempting to provide services to families whose children are not in danger, but only hungry or homeless, in order to try and keep them out of the system. With more training, and lower case loads, I believe we can improve. In most cases, I would prefer a social worker with a master’s degree.
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?
I do support making the reports available to front-line caseworkers, as well as to the public. Secrecy can help protect family privacy, of course, but it can also lead to inaction and dangerous paralysis. In some cases, as reported by the Commission making recommendations on ways to improve the foster care system, the problem is not secrecy, per se, but, rather, the natural result of having more than five County agencies dealing with the same children and not sharing information. That is why I would devote the first several years of my service, if I am elected, to increasing collaboration across departments, as well as across jurisdictions that overlap, like the City of Los Angeles and the County. This is “silo busting”, and it’s what I did in the legislature and in my Senate and Assembly districts. This is one of the best arguments for experience, depth of knowledge and a history of innovative problem solving within government being brought to this job. It’s not an entrylevel position when lives are at stake, and one of the most important things we can do for this vulnerable population is to bring together all those working disparately on the same issues and force some efficiency and synergy.
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 do support both these recommendations. If we are to get our County departments to concentrate their information and their actions, we need an empowered task force and a chief officer for that task force directly accountable to the Supervisors. In addition, it is critical to take a much more thorough and tough stand about the agencies with whom the County contracts to find foster families. Some have done a wonderful job, others have been left alone for far too long, even after multiple complaints and violations. We need more rapid action in getting rid of these and more definite standards for evaluation.
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 have advocated for increasing the number of social workers for many years. Considering that not every social worker has the same caseload, as some are making the early, quick, decisions to file a case and some are doing home visits and evaluations, I would like to see no caseload over 15-18 for any one social worker. Perhaps even more importantly, I would like to see better communication between and among the various departments with whom they must interact.
The question of how to pay is difficult, but not impossible. One of the advantages of having served in the legislature and familiarity with the budget is that it is clear that LA County is not accessing all available funds for our children. This is partly the fault of siloing and partly the inability of Supervisors and their staff to access the various staff and Members who can help with these issues. I believe the knowledge I ave gained, not only in human services, but as a member of both the Budget and Appropriations Committees in both houses, as well as Chair of a budget sub-committee, will help bring additional resources from the state to the County for these very purposes. In addition, there are several private funding sources that have shown interest in these child welfare issues and I think we have a real opportunity to access increased federal and state dollars, simply by asking, as well as working with philanthropy on new models for assessing and protecting children across the system.
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?
I have watched this department extensively through fifteen different directors. Director Browning is doing a good job attempting to correct some of the most egregious problems and I support his retention. That said, I do have some ideas on how the structure of the Department might be more efficient and effective.
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?
That plan failed from a lack of community support and a vagueness of detail that made residents uncomfortable. There was also a failure to build any meaningful collaborations with local service providers who could have helped. The plan will not be revived, as it was proposed.
To begin to make a dent in homelessness in the County, it is important to commit to permanent supportive housing, which provides the most costeffective solutions, especially for the chronically homeless population.
The chronically homeless are those who have been on the streets for a year or more and who have mental or physical illnesses.
With families who have just lost their housing or who have short-term homelessness, the answer is rapid re-housing, not temporary, but permanent. The practice of rapid re-housing allows a more scattered approach as services don’t have to be as concentrated.
Los Angeles County has the largest population of poor people of any county in the country and, therefor, the greatest number of homeless individuals and families. Although the use of shelters has been widespread, they have not, in the long run, made any dent in the homeless population. In the past few years, a new model has emerged that needs to be stressed and implemented, as exemplified by some innovative programs.
Home For Good, a collaborative public/private program funded to the level of more than $200 million, led by United Way and the LA Chamber, has found housing for almost 2500 chronic and veteran homeless in the past two years by working together to provide housing vouchers, health, mental health and substance abuse services, and movein funds. These are not concentrated downtown but rather in several parts of the region, in scattered-site housing.
In 2013, 900 veterans were housed through the VA Supportive Housing Program (VASH), which coordinated the work of local non-profits with the VA. With over 6,000 homeless vets in LA, I would fight for more VASH vouchers for Los Angeles County to house more veterans immediately.
I would also advocate aggressively for more Section 8 vouchers and would support setting aside current Section 8 vouchers specifically for the chronically homeless.
In addition, the County Department of Health has a program called Home For Health, under which health department dollars are used to create permanent supportive housing for the most chronically homeless in an effort to lower the costs associated with their frequent visits to emergency rooms. The program has been shown to save as much as $32,000 per person placed.
In my 17 years of experience before I ran for office, both as Chair of the Board of the Ocean Park Community Center (which provides homeless services on the Westside) and the Sojourn Shelter for Battered Women and Their Children (which we founded after learning that domestic violence had rendered thousands of women and children homeless as they tried to escape), I learned that the County could make a big dent in the homeless population by adopting a strong program to bring concentrated services to them geared at helping them to want to get off the street. This must be coupled with providing a permanent place to go, supported by services. Other counties have done it and we can, too.
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?
When a homeless person is offered shelter and assistance, it is limited in time. It’s like saying, “Hey, get cured in six days, or else out you go.” The answer is permanent housing with services. Some, of course, do not want services and they take an additional kind of work, as so beautifully delineated in Mollie Lowery’s OpEd in this paper not long ago. And, as shown in Dr. Katz’ Home For Health approach, it saves money in our health system in the long-term.
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 support raising the general relief amount and I would seek state help in doing it. As indicated above, my experience on the Budget Committee in the legislature has shown me that we are not accessing all the funds we could, especially in these safety net areas. In addition, some of the “boomerang” redevelopment funds now coming to the County after the end of redevelopment agencies in the cities, must be used for affordable housing. This is one way to keep people from becoming homeless in the first place. This also allows housing vouchers to be used to help the homeless find permanent housing.
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?
As more and more doctors and hospitals have announced they are not accepting MediCal patients, it raises the question of the accuracy of the conclusion stated in the question above. There will be more, not less, MediCal patients signing up through the Exchange and many of these will come to the County through the public-private, non-profit, LA Care organization as well as other safety-net entry spots. The difference is, they will have subsidies, which will be good for the County. In addition, the County is considering adopting a managed care approach for the uninsured.
As Chair of the Health Committee, author of many of the healthcare amendments adopted between 2000-2008, and author of the bill that required specific ratios of nurses to patients in every hospital, as well as the author of a universal healthcare bill that got through both houses of the legislature twice, I have been privy to a great deal of information and understanding about the healthcare system and the part the safety net of the County plays. We have a real opportunity to use many of the incentives contained in the ACA to further improve services and outcomes in our four county hospitals and over a hundred clinics.
The County must aggressively market the services available and make the case for why our facilities are the best and healthiest option for working class and middle class residents, as well as the most affordable.
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 absolutely agree with this policy. What good does it do us to take care of our own healthcare if we’re coming into constant contact with those who have no healthcare? This is a matter of public health and a very good investment for the County. Uninsured people use emergency rooms for their primary care and I saw for many years how this cost the County more, not less. Insuring those who cannot be insured through the ACA is fiscally prudent and safeguards health.
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?
It’s not clear whether every delay or increase is justified. There must be continuous oversight over this project. I do believe, however, that MLK must re-open to provide services in our central communities. I like the idea proposed by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for a board to oversee the facility. It is also important to note that MLK is providing a number of critical outpatient services and is, therefore, still an important part of the County system.
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 don’t agree with the conclusion. When people have insurance, they do not generally choose emergency rooms for treatment. When I ran the Health Committee in the legislature, I saw study after study showing that insured people were encouraged to find a “health home” and choose a primary care physician to help manage their health. This is the model the County is using and it is, I think, a good one.
I would also like to work with all County Departments who continue to sign people up for insurance to make certain that people understand their options, as well as the benefits of going to a primary care physician.
Do you have any concern about the amount of influence business or organized labor groups exert in county politics and this race specifically?
Of course both business and labor have the right to support candidates as they wish, but, although the LA City Chamber of Commerce has endorsed in this race, the County Labor Federation has not. I have never personally made any policy decisions based on either labor or business attempting to exert their influence.
I was, of course, deeply troubled by the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gave free reign to international corporations to bring obscene amounts of money to bear in races.
One of the great problems candidates face is that, although they are appropriately limited in their fundraising, independent expenditure committees are not. County rules are drawn so as to try and level the playing field, but it is very difficult for a candidate who is not able to self-finance to fight both a wealthy candidate and independent expenditures for that candidate.
My position, throughout fourteen years in the legislature, has been, “Ask for a little from a whole lot of people.” It’s worked for me, so far, and I have never been influenced nor swayed by large support.
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?
First, new money:
•There will be millions in so-called “boomerang” redevelopment funds coming to the County because city redevelopment agencies no longer receive 100% of the tax increments created by redevelopment projects. This is a great opportunity to expand our ability to build both affordable housing and permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
•Realignment funds will be coming to the County for the next several years to help with incarceration of state prisoners. This frees up money the County was using for low-level offenders for treatment, rehabilitation and re-entry programs, which are so much cheaper than incarceration.
•There will be more insured patients who can choose the County and will choose the County for their primary care. An entire population of MediCal, former Healthy Families children and people with disabilities are already there and subsidies from the ACA will bring money into the County. The County along with non-profits will continue to make sure that everyone who is eligible for free or reduced cost healthcare will sign up.
•It is a little known fact that $100 million of the one billion dollars to be raised by selling “cap and trade” credits will come to the County and can be used for transit oriented housing, affordable housing and transportation passes.
Hopefully, this can help to free up existing resources to let us deal with the many problems in the Department of Children and Family Services and the Juvenile Justice system. We also need to use every original approach we can muster to get more of the available state and federal money for these issues. Our percentages do not match other counties and other states, and we need to devote more resources to gaining a lot more, the way non-profits do in assigning someone full-time to find foundation funding.
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 believe the County’s living wage amount should be incrementally increased. This is also an important part of driving the economic engines in the County as people tend to spend locally on goods and services and the tax money on goods comes back, in part, to the County.
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?
I do believe every worker should be able to look forward to incremental increases in their pay as they acquire longevity, not to mention to try and keep up with increases in the cost of housing, food, retail goods and education. It is also important to stress that increases in wages come back to the County, its 88 cities, and the state in taxes, as money changes hands again and again.
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?
251 agencies in California, including the California Public Retirement System and many of the cities and jurisdictions in LA County, now offer this 3% at 50 plan to their peace officers, as well as to some other categories of employees. Many do not, however, have the same health benefits now provided to retirees in the County. To bring peace officers up from 2% at 50 would be expensive and would have to be compared to the benefits of health, dental, and eye care insurance now provided.
Primarily this is a matter for collective bargaining, which looks at other chips on the table at the same time.
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 never liked the idea of changing civil service rules unilaterally.
They are in place to protect the thousands of workers who provide all the services the County is required to provide. Although, as stated above, I would like to see more experienced case workers serving populations all over the County, I don’t think the Supervisors should order the Director of DCFS to simply tell them to do so. It is important to take the burnout factor in this very difficult work into account.
I think the better way to go is to bring senior caseworkers together to help solve the problem. It is important to have their help in considering those neighborhoods where relationships are difficult to develop and where, therefore, longevity might be key to services.
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 chaired the Natural Resources and Water Committee in the Senate for six years and I was privy to many studies on oil and gas extraction.
Fracking is not safe. It’s not safe for groundwater, not safe for land stability, not safe for air quality and doesn’t even make economic sense, as it uses millions of gallons of water in a time of drought and extracts natural gas that is primarily sold to other countries.
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?
Virtually everyone is supportive of the idea of making the 655,387-acre forest now managed by the US Forest Service into a National Recreation Area. It would allow Congress to designate a larger scale national recreation area that would recognize and protect the significant resources in the San Gabriel Mountains and the Puente-Chino Hills, explore opportunities to protect and enhance interconnected ecosystems, provide open space connections for recreation and offer new educational and interpretive opportunities. Even the Forest Service is not opposed. I support it, so long as the National Park Service continues to be committed to actually funding the benefits to the public it has touted.
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 would like to see the County try again to ask the voters to approve a storm water cleanup fee, as the burden of cleaning up storm water before it is dumped into the ocean has fallen most heavily on coastal towns.
That said, it might also be good to explore ways to recycle that water, since it’s cleaned up to a high standard already before being flushed into the ocean. However, since the County is directly responsible for the cleanup of the storm water coming from all the inland cities, should the vote to fund cleanup through fees fail, I would support the issuance of bonds to pay for cleanup, thus spreading the cost out over several years.
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?
I was the author of SB221, which required any development of 500 or more units to identify a real, contracted-for, source of water. I do not favor limiting development as much as I favor requiring water-saving devices in all aspects of new development and identification of a real source of water.
In terms of conservation, Los Angeles has actually done a fairly good job of conserving water. In my experience, I have seen the tiered pricing system provide the greatest incentive for conservation, along with cities and counties offering help in replacing plumbing, lawns, and crops.
Many of our nationally renowned non-profits have suggested other innovative approaches: permeable parking lots and on-site cleaning of storm water in interior cities.
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 eetings law and public records act?
I have never supported closed meetings for any other reason than the discussion of sensitive personnel issues.
As Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, I supported limits on the use of closed meetings, and wider access to public records, including putting them online. If there is to be any chance of restoring people’s faith in government, there must be transparency in decision-making, openness of the process, and greater opportunity for input and answers,
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 vote to update the current lobbying rules to bring them more into line with the City. I would also put a moratorium, as we did in the state, on how quickly a County employee could turn around and become a lobbyist in the County. Most jurisdictions require a wait and I support that.
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?
Each Supervisor has an allocated amount to spend on projects in his or her own district. No one else pays for these improvements, such as clinic upgrades, recreational equipment for parks, or children’s rooms in libraries. I don’t think there should be any secrecy about these expenditures. They should be reported the same as any other expenditures, openly and online.
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 don’t think the cap is too low, so long as everyone plays by the rules. Generally, about half the two million residents in each Supervisorial District are registered. Far less actually vote. We can take advantage of new media and try to reach out by email, Facebook, Twitter. A candidate can use volunteers, which is generally positive because it shows that real people believe in your candidacy. The problem, as I indicated above, is the myriad of independent expenditure committees, which are not limited in any way, and the unfettered use of personal money, which skews elections.
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?
I would strongly support a County Ethics Commission. It not only sheds light on the activities of electeds, it also lets the voters know how they are behaving, compared to adopted standards.
However, the most significant factor in any elected body is the ethics of the electeds, themselves. It has always been important to hold the people for whom we vote to a high standard. I was extremely pleased and honored to have been chosen two years in a row by my colleagues, staff, and the press, voting together, as the Assemblymember with the most integrity and the most intelligence.
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 don’t use public transportation, yet. But I can hardly wait for the Expo Line to get out to Santa Monica and open. I’m excited! I have always been a big fan of public transit and always rode streetcars as a little kid growing up in LA. However, in order to get people out of their cars, we need a comprehensive plan to actually get them to the nearest light rail station. I favor something like the DASH system downtown, as well as bicycle valets or lockers so that everyone in the County can get where they need to be easily, conveniently, affordably and at all hours. I was very pleased to see that the new proposal for the extension of Measure R includes a light rail line from the Valley to LAX.
Should Metro’s rail system be extended all the way to LAX; and if so, how?
I would like the Green Line, the Crenshaw Line and, eventually the Sepulveda Pass Line to end at a terminus near Terminal One or Terminal Seven, where people could disembark, check in, check in their luggage and access a people mover to take them around the airport. It is not necessary to build a line all the way into the airport, which would cost much more.
What do you believe is the most pressing transportation issue that county residents face right now and how would you address it?
The most pressing issue is traffic. Many of my one million Senate constituents, on the Westside and in the Valley, have actually given up on going to the Music Center (run by the County) or the Hollywood Bowl (run by the County) because of the huge amount of time involved in simply getting there. I want trains everywhere, connected through the downtown area, with, as I said above, the ability to get to them and home again. This is absolutely an achievable goal.
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 support a slight tax increase (which is what is proposed) for transit. I would like to see a light rail through the Sepulveda Pass from the Valley to LAX, as well as a north-south line in the northeast Valley. If we can get it, it may also be possible to convert the Orange line from a bus to rail.
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 do not generally support toll lanes, as they have proven neither economically beneficial nor better for traffic. There is a proposal, however, to use a kind of public-private partnership to build a toll road alongside the rail through the Sepulveda pass as a way to help finance the project. I would support this, as the 405 would remain free and no lanes would be stolen from it. I do not support toll lanes on the 405 or the 5.