By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California, March 23, 2014
The seat hasn’t been open for decades, so the local pols competing for it are pulling no punches.
The first skirmish in the race for Zev Yaroslavsky’s 3rd District supervisorial seat happened on Thursday night at UCLA where the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), showcased West Hollywood City Council member John Duran, former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver, former state legislator Sheila Kuehl and former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich.
Up first for the introductory portion of the debate, John Duran, a West Hollywood City Council member, said that he was proud to have been on a council that has put together a $100 million reserve and is one of only 8 percent of all American cities to run in the black.
Second up was Pamela Conley Ulich, a lawyer and former Malibu mayor, promised to act on 13-year old Dillon Strickland’s advice, “Money is basically a system by which you can cheat in politics and drown out everyone else’s voice if you have enough cash.”
Additionally, she promised to be an innovated, creative and collaborative Supervisor.”
Bobby Shriver, Maria’s sister and a nephew of the 35th president of the United States is also a city council member in Santa Monica. He bespoke his activism in several areas, including cleaning up one of the most polluted stretches of beach in California, tamping down the endemic homeless problem in Santa Monica.
He also pushed for more homeless treatment for vets and said he has been able to supply 7 million people with HIV medicine through a non-profit.
Sheila Kuehl picked up key backing from the San Fernando Valley Democrats, a coalition of 27 Democratic clubs, as well as was the overwhelming choice of the LA County Democratic Party – 80 percent of the vote went to her.
Ms. Kuehl, who represented portions of the West Valley during 14 years as a state lawmaker. The former State Senator (and the first openly-gay person to be elected to state office in California) has been running for nearly a year and has raised $429,400 for her campaign. In her introductory comments, she spoke of her experience in government, effectiveness and knowledge base in State affairs.
After introductions, the moderator, Warren Olney, asked into the scandals that enveloped county agencies over the past few years, the sheriff department abuses of prisoners and the cover-up that followed and the county assessor scandal.
Ms. Kuehl pointed out that the sheriff is independently elected, the county assessor is independently elected… that being the case, we do not supervise the sheriff.” She advocated the use of the budget to promote better behavior. “You can sequester the money,” she said, to force the department to come back again and again for the funds.
Mr. Duran said that he is on the side of a citizens’ oversight committee to keep an eye on the sheriff, but also decried the central jail’s condition as problematic – and in part causing the deputies’ grief. “If you have ever been to the jail,” he said, “it doesn’t work. The way that it’s designed doesn’t allow the jailers to supervise all the prisoners simultaneously…
“Plumbing doesn’t work, the toilets don’t work, there are six men to a cell. A large part of the jails are allocated to those with alcohol and drug abuse; if we were to allocate those dollars to beds for addicts, we would open up space for criminals.”
He also decried the practice of placing new graduates in the jail until they move up to community policing, which he said was backward.
Bobby Shriver agreed that an increased emphasis on housing the mentally ill in appropriate settings. “It’s an exciting moment; we’ll have a new sheriff and four new supervisors in the next few years. Perhaps there’s a way to collaborate on the budget…” to create the desired change.
So too, Ms. Ulich agreed that the opportunity to make changes exists and the problem of abusive deputies is large. She asserted that no communications between the sheriff and the supervisors existed on the problems. “The power of the purse is necessary.”
The 3rd district has nearly 2 million people from the Westside and Hollywood in Los Angeles to Calabasas and San Fernando. However, roughly two-thirds of them (and half the vote) live north of Mulholland Drive and the Santa Monica Mountains.
In a recent interview with the LA Times, Zev Yaroslavsky said turnout “could be low for the midyear contest in which Gov. Jerry Brown is considered a shoo-in for reelection.” But the paper says he agrees that the Valley portion of his district will play a key role in determining his successor.
“The Valley’s up for grabs whatever turnout will be,” said Mr. Yaroslavsky.
The Valley is a little bit less liberal and a little more tax and spend conscious, although the infrastructure needs are massive.
When Warren Olney asked what the four liberals around the table have to say to the more conservative Valley, all of the candidates offered their prescription for our suburbs.
Ms. Kuehl said she will be doing a lot of listening and not much talking. In her time spent in
the Valley so far, she said, “Transportation is the biggest problem. What the Valley really wants is for people to come to the Valley to eat and shop go to their jobs, and people in the Valley get to where they need to go. What they really want, and there’s a consortium looking into this, is a train to LAX underneath the Sepulveda Pass.”
Mr. Shriver said her responses were inadequate, saying that in addition to transportation funding and good jobs is effect. He also said that he found many people in the Valley to have good ideas as well as extremely observant. He told a tale of a voter who told him he’d been wrong on a point of fact. Giving it some thought, Mr. Shriver said caused him to say, “Oh my god, I was wrong.”
Ms. Ulich agreed that rail would make more sense in the Valley’s future transportation needs, but she said, “What I think they really want is a voice; somebody who’s not bought and paid for. Somebody who is not going to beholden to special interests.
Making a pitch for Valley votes, Mr. Duran said, “I don’t actually consider myself a liberal Democrat, I do consider myself a moderate Democrat. Only in West Hollywood could somebody who support transgender rights and animal welfare issues, could you be labeled a conservative. That is what I’m called in West Hollywood. I’m called the conservative on the Council, which I guess makes me the moderate because I’ve very pro-business.”
In addition, he told the story of a life that began on the other pole from which Mr. Shriver hails. “I was raised in a lower-class Mexican-American family in Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk where we were confronted every day with gangs and substance abuse and domestic violence was all over the neighborhood.” He said that those life experiences have made him the moderate in fiscal matters and the liberal in social issues he is.
Mr. Shriver, who has decided to forego public financing so he can tap into his vast fortune, told the group that the independent expenditures have few controls whereas the candidates get increased scrutiny. He pointed out that the campaign laws work against a candidate without a potful of money, especially if independent expenditure committees, as he suspects, get involved against him.
“Voters don’t really care what’s in my pocket, but what’s in their pocket,” he said.
When Mr. Olney asked Ms. Kuehl for a reaction, asking, “Has it placed limits on you or evened the playing field?” she responded quickly and dismissively.
“He certainly hasn’t evened the playing field.” She went on to point out that Mr. Shriver is self-
funding, put in a minimum of $300,000… not out of fear of independent expenditure attacks, “the only independent expenditure committee that has even filed is for Bobby Shriver – it actually has his name in the name of it… that fudges the issue a little bit.”
Then Ms. Kuehl poked at him, saying with a grin, “Somehow I forgot to make a personal fortune in my life – don’t what it is [that kept me from it], just never got around to it.” Rather than campaign using her own or a handful of people’s money, she said, “I’ve had over 18,000 small donors in all my races. That’s the way it should be done. These people invest in you.”
She said she had nothing against inherited wealth, “just the funding of politics should be much more spread out and not belong to someone who can write themselves a check.” She did say that Mr. Shriver’s decision to self-fund worked out for her, “because it raised the limits on me, so now if you want to give me a big check, I’ll take it.”
Ms. Ulich passed around papers and asserted that Ms. Kuehl has said “she would raise $2 million to scare anyone else from running.” She decried the use of money in campaigns, saying, “Goliath didn’t beat David even though he had all that armor on.” She proposed that all of this year’s candidates tithe to an LA County charity after the campaign to show how they had improved Los Angeles.
The moderator asked Mr. Duran if he could raise sufficient money to effective campaign.
“I decided to jump in around Thanksgiving and now I’ve pulled together just shy of $200,000. Like Sheila, over 30 years of activism, I have a significant donor list…
“But the big question is ‘Where does this money go?’ Communicate with 2 million people. Of course I’m on Facebook, of course I’m on Twitter, of course I use all the social media I can. I’m here tonight and will go to every public forum, but can I physically meet all 2 million people in six months? No. So it’s got to be by mail. Unfortunately it’s one of the necessary evils of our democracy.”
The moderator asked a follow up, wondering if there was a quid pro quo behind political donations, to which Mr. Duran said, “I know that, particularly on the West Hollywood Council where I sit now, both sides contribute to my campaign and somebody always walks away unhappy.”
Other issues taken up included the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services scandals, with the candidates finding common ground in giving the agency more oversight and help in lowering the agency’s case load.
On storm runoff polluting the Santa Monica Bay, Mr. Duran suggested retrieving the water and returning it to aquifers, Ms. Ulich said that Malibu already has such an ordinance and Mr. Shriver boasted of his city’s cleaning up what was once one of the most polluted beaches in the state.
Ms. Kuehl though, had the final word and a wagged a scolding finger at the other 86 cities in the county not represented at the debate. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not every city is like Malibu or Santa Monica or West Hollywood. They’re not controlling their storm water runoff, they’re not cleaning it up.”
That left the beach cities responsible for the costs of the cleanup until the County assessed the cities for their share. They sued and won. According to Ms. Kuehl, the County is now responsible for the expense and must put up a bond measure before the voters to pay for it.
In closing comments, Ms. Kuehl mentioned the role the county plays in health care, having the largest health care system in the country. Mr. Shriver said he is “running because I think I share the values of everybody in Los Angeles County… I have extensive experience in [getting federal financing].”
For her part, Ms. Ulich returned to campaign financing, mentioning her Three R’s plan – Reform… but rather than telling the audience about R numbers two and three, she promised to cut the size of the supervisorial districts so that there would be nine or 11 supervisors.
Mr. Duran emphasized the difference between serving in Sacramento and serving a local community. “In Sacramento you have Democrats against Republicans… local government is non-partisan. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, an Independent; I just want to know what your ideas are so we can get practical solutions.
“One of Zev greatest legacies, he was the moderate on the supervisors race,” said Mr. Duran. “There were two on the left, two on the right, and Zev was the solid center, the solid center in terms of fiscal integrity, fiscal prudence, not giving too much to one side or the other in terms of labor negotiations, holding the center on the Board of supervisors.
A video of the debate can be viewed on the SPJ website. The primary election is June 3.
3rd District Overview
LA County is one of the most magnificent places in the country and the 3rd District its richest gem. From Santa Monica to San Fernando, Hollywood to Westlake, it is loved by residents and visitors alike for our sunny beaches, majestic Santa Monica Mountains, thrills at Universal Studio, and the diversity of the Valley, inclusiveness of West Hollywood and excitement of the famed Sunset Strip.
The cities in the district include…
Agoura | Agoura Hills | Arleta | Atwater Village | Bel Air | Benedict-Coldwater Canyon | Beverly Glen | Beverly Hills | Brentwood | Calabasas |Calabasas (adjacent) | Calabasas Highlands | Canoga Park | Chatsworth (portion) | Cornell | Encino | Fernwood | Franklin Canyon | Glenview | Hancock Park | Hidden Hills | Hollywood (portion) | Lake Balboa | Lakeview Terrace | Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon | Los Angeles (portion) | Los Feliz (portion) | Malibu | Malibu Bowl | Malibu Highlands | Malibu Lake | Malibu Vista | Malibu/Sycamore Canyon | Miracle Mile (portion) | Mission Hills (portion) |Monte Nido | Mount Olympus | Mullholland Corridor | North Hills | North Hollywood | Northridge | Pacific Palisades | Pacoima | Palms (portion) |Panorama City | Park La Brea | Ranch Park | Reseda | San Fernando | Santa Monica | Sawtelle (portion) | Seminole Hot Springs | Sepulveda | Sherman Oaks | Silverlake (portion) | Studio City | Sun Valley (portion) | Sunland (portion) | Sunset Mesa | Sylmar (portion) | Sylvia Park | Tarzana | Toluca Lake | Topanga | Topanga Canyon | Triunfo Canyon | Universal City | Valley Glen | Valley Village | Van Nuys | Venice (portion) | Veterans Administration Center | Warner Center | West Chatsworth (portion) | West Hills | West Hollywood | West Los Angeles | Westlake Village | Westwood | Wilshire Center (portion) | Winnetka | Woodland Hills