We Ask, They Answer: Leading Candidates for L.A. County Supervisor State Their Positions

Vote Election 2015

The June 3 primary ballot will be crowded with candidates vying for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors seat being vacated by the Zev Yaroslavsky, who is stepping down after serving three four-year terms.

Early media reports often framed the race as a Sheila Kuehl-Bobby Shriver contest, with other hopefuls lumped together as afterthoughts. But West Hollywood’s John Duran’s profile has since increased, especially after he garnered an endorsement from the Los Angeles Times. What follows is brief bios of the three leading contenders in the race for the 3rd District Supervisor position and their answers to questions posed by WEHOville.

BIOS: A QUICK LOOK AT THE CANDIDATES

John Duran

Longtime West Hollywood resident John Duran, 54, has served on the City Council since 2001. A Los Angeles native, Duran attended Western State University and California State University, Long Beach. He is a practicing attorney.

Duran, a gay man and one of the country’s few openly HIV-positive elected officials, has been involved in LGBT and HIV/AIDS activism. He was a co-founder and a former board president of Equality California, and he now sits on the board of AIDS Project Los Angeles. He has also been on the boards of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; the ACLU-SC (American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California) Foundation Board and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Duran, who identifies himself as a pro-business, moderate Democrat, generated headlines with his outcry regarding the county’s handling of meningitis cases among gay men in Los Angeles. Among his accomplishments, Duran, who has talked openly about his experience as a recovering addict, notes his work to help create the West Hollywood Drug and Alcohol Recovery Center.

Sheila Kuehl

Sheila Kuehl, 73, has served on the California State Assembly (1994-2000) and the California State Senate (2000-2008).

A four-decade resident of Los Angeles County, Kuehl lives in Santa Monica and is the founding director of the Public Policy Institute at Santa Monica College as well as the president of Kuehl Consulting. She attended UCLA and Harvard, and she previously worked as an attorney and as a law professor.

Kuehl was California’s first female Speaker pro Tempore of the Assembly. She was also the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the California legislature, and she was a co-founder of the state’s Legislative LGBT Caucus.
Kuehl’s online bio touts her work on laws concerning abortion rights, domestic violence services and anti-discrimination legislation. She has spoken at the Democratic National Convention on the topics of family violence and diversity.

Formerly a child actress, Kuehl portrayed the character Zelda on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

Bobby Shriver

Bobby Shriver, 60, has served as a city council member (2004-2012) and as the mayor (2010) in Santa Monica, where he lives with his wife and daughters.

A former journalist who has also worked in the finance industry, Shriver is a Yale Law School graduate who has lived in Los Angeles County for 24 years.

Shriver has worked with Bono to found DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) as well as PRODUCT (RED). (RED) product proceeds support the Global Funds’ work to pay for AIDS medication in Africa. Shriver has also served on the state’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and he worked on Santa Monica Bay cleanup efforts.

Shriver is the brother of Maria Shriver, former first lady of California, and a nephew of President John J. Kennedy.

Shriver shook up fundraising in the race when he  declined to agree to voluntary spending limits  and decided to invest some $300,000 of his own money in the race. As a result, limits on how much other candidates could raise and spend were waived.

QUESTIONS

WEHOville.com reached out to Duran, Kuehl and Shriver with questions aimed at providing readers with an overview of their positions on certain issues.  Candidates were asked to limit answers to no more than 300 words for each question; answers longer than 300 words have been edited for length.

JOHN DURAN

John Duran
John Duran

Age: 54
Profession: City Council member / Business Owner
Education: Juris Doctorate degree from Western State University; Bachelors degree in Business Administration from California State University, Long Beach
Political experience: 14 years serving as both mayor and city council member in West Hollywood
City of residence: West Hollywood
Lived in Los Angeles County since: 1959

Running because:

I am ready to bring my sound leadership, strong economic policies and 14 years of local government experience to the Board of Supervisors.

The most important issues facing Los Angeles County generally, and the 3rd District specifically, are:

The three issues that people most often mention to me are:

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB CREATION

As a supervisor, I will work to support efforts of local municipalities to create business improvement districts, work with community colleges to train students with skills in new technologies, and support funding non-profit organizations to help deliver government services.

TRANSPORTATION

We need a big picture plan that presents real solutions to alleviate traffic and make our communities more livable. I support continuing the expansion of the MTA subway, light rail, and dedicated buses (like the Orange Line in the Valley). I also support the Sepulveda tunnel connecting the Valley to LAX and a subway stop at LAX.

REFORMING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

I support creating a citizens’ oversight committee for the LA County Sheriff’s Department, splitting jail deputies from community-based deputies, increasing funding for alcohol/drug recovery programs, and reforms of the system between jails and courts.

Primary goals if elected:

As your next supervisor my primary goals are to cut wasteful spending, increase government transparency, create jobs, strengthen neighborhood safety and most importantly be a voice for the people most in need. In my fourteen years as both mayor and city council member of West Hollywood I have a consistent track record of delivering social services to those most in need. I created the West Hollywood Drug and Alcohol Recovery Center, which serves 9,000 residents a week who suffer from addiction and mental health issues. I plan to continue to be the voice of the people in the county who otherwise might not have one.

One of the specific plans that I have to address mental health issues countywide is to shift more funding toward rehabilitation facilities. Currently, a large majority of the cases in the criminal justice system deal with alcohol and drug addiction and mental illness. Not providing adequate rehabilitation services for these people causes them to re-offend and does not tackle the problem. Shifting resources and funding toward rehabilitation services will not only help solve the problem but also help free up the courts and jails to focus on the more serious and violent offenders.

Most important thing voters should know about me:

I have served as a local government elected official (West Hollywood City Council) since 2001. I have 14 years of experience in building a city that did not suffer through the economic recession of 2008 since we had built up prudent reserves of $100 million and a AAA bond rating.

I have served for half of the city’s lifetime and have created a city with a strong economic base, which produces the taxes to provide our residents with extraordinary public services. I have created the West Hollywood Drug and Alcohol Recovery Center. I have successfully created hundreds of new affordable housing units citywide. I have planned and approved numerous capital improvement projects including a new library, council chambers, restoration of city parks, hundreds of new parking spaces and business improvement districts.

Position/thoughts on:

•    The need for reform in the sheriff’s department

As a practicing attorney in the criminal justice system, I have firsthand knowledge and experience with the problems in the courts, county jails, probation department and sheriff deputies in the jails. I am the candidate best suited to work with the new Sheriff to implement reforms and establish a citizen’s oversight committee.

•    The recommended budget approved last month by the current board of supervisors.

The current budget approved by the board is upwards of $26.1 billion. I do not support raising taxes on our citizens to increase the budget or to create more government programs. Currently, there is a great deal of overlap in many of the county departments and programs. By getting rid of this overlap and investing in new technologies we can generate the necessary cost savings to make government more efficient.

•    Extension of a metro line through West Hollywood, with a stop there. 

I have always supported creating light rail to serve West Hollywood by running from Hollywood/Highland stop down to Santa Monica Blvd with possible stops at La Brea, Fairfax and San Vicente. The issue is to compete with other communities in the next round of funding to make sure that West Hollywood gets its fair share of transit dollars and infrastructure.

In L.A., there has been a proposal (on hold) to ban or restrict outdoor food programs for the homeless. Thoughts?

The City of West Hollywood has carefully balanced the feeding of the homeless with impacts on neighborhoods. The city has supported the feeding programs at various non-profits who have the mission of feeding the poorest in our communities. However, we have also balanced these feeding programs with outreach programs to attempt to move these citizens into homeless shelters and housing with supportive services to get them safely off the streets.  These are examples of the same programs I would support across the county.

•    The county department of public health has been criticized for its handling of cases of meningitis among gay men. What do you think of how it was handled?

I have been a constant critic of the county Department of Public Health over the years in its response to communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS and meningitis. The county has failed to more effectively partner with local municipal governments and non-profit organizations who are perfectly positioned to communicate with local communities. Cultural competence is the issue. And often cities, churches and synagogues and non-profit organizations understand local community sensitivity better than downtown county government.

SHEILA KUEHL

Sheila Kuehl
Sheila Kuehl

Age: 73
Profession: Director, Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute
Education: BA UCLA, JD Harvard University
Spouse/partner/family: Sister, Jerilyn Borack, is a Dependency Judge on the bench of Sacramento County
Political experience: California State Assembly 1994-2000, California State Senate 2000-2008 City of residence: Santa Monica
Lived in Los Angeles County since: For over 40 Years

Running because:

I have decades of experience with the myriad of issues with which the Supervisors deal every day. I served as chair of the Senate Health Committee, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Water, Energy and Transportation and the Assembly Judiciary Committee – which meant deep dives into policy, convening hearings in communities to learn from those “on the ground,” and working with large state agencies that implement programs. I was the first woman in California history to be named speaker pro tempore of the Assembly and the first openly gay or lesbian person to be elected to the California legislature.

Over 14 years in Sacramento, I learned a great deal about all the areas overseen by the Supervisors, including health care, foster children, social services, protection against discrimination, labor issues, transportation, environmental protection, water quality, land use, public safety, juvenile incarceration, rehabilitation, redevelopment and storm-water cleanup. I authored 171 bills that were signed into law, many of them creating groundbreaking change in systems that impact the complex issues faced by the county. I helped to forge problem-solving coalitions across sectors (public, private, nonprofit), and across jurisdictions (state, county, city). As an attorney and a law professor, I also understand how the very language of the law makes a difference. I don’t believe any other candidate has that breadth of policy and leadership experience. I also believe it’s time for one of our own LGBT community to have a place at the table, and I’ve demonstrated my commitment to ending discrimination against the LGBT community and all others who suffer discrimination.

The most important issues facing Los Angeles County generally, and the 3rd District specifically, are:

The four most important issues facing L.A. County are the continuing problems in the foster care system, the lack of affordable housing near jobs (which causes traffic problems), the juvenile justice system, and the continuing lack of affordable high quality healthcare to large numbers of County residents.

The above issues affect many of the residents of the 3rd District, but the issues of particular concern are the lack of affordable housing near where people live and access to affordable high quality medical care. That has a great impact on the everyday lives of 3rd District residents who have to spend hours in their cars to get to and from work. We must find a way to entice people out of their cars and get them safely and effectively to and from public transportation. Healthcare is also a big concern of 3rd District residents. The clinics and hospitals in our community are doing a great job adjusting to the larger volume of patients they are receiving due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but too many in our community do not understand the details of their benefits or are not eligible for ACA benefits. We need to find a way to ensure they have access to health services so that they don’t feel they have to use emergency rooms as their primary care facility, which raises the cost of healthcare for both the patient and the county, and therefore all of us.

Primary goals if elected:

I would like to see a full and useful roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in L.A. County. We have been able to enroll a large number of people in health plans, but many people don’t understand how their new coverage works, and far too many people still don’t have access to health care because of their immigration status or other barriers. I want to make the foster care system better protect our foster kids and work more smoothly with the courts. I want to further reform the juvenile justice system and emphasize rehabilitation for both our juvenile detainees and adult prisoners. I want the public transportation grid in the county expanded so that we can actually get from end to end of the county in all directions. I want to bring strong leadership, technological innovation, transparency and national “best practices” to solving all these tough challenges.

Most important thing voters should know about me:

I have a track record of fighting for principles and social justice. I was the first openly LGBT person to be elected to the California legislature. I was also the first woman (and, of course, the first openly LGBT person) in California history to be named speaker pro tempore of the Assembly. I authored the first bill signed in California protecting the LGBT community in any way in state law. That bill added sexual orientation to the categories in California’s hate crimes statute and also expanded the definition of gender in the statute so that those who were victims of a crime because of their gender identity, including dress and demeanor, were also considered the victims of a hate crime. I followed up with a bill protecting students in all California schools against discrimination, harassment and violence on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, including the same expanded definition of gender, so that gender identity was also included. These were groundbreaking bills in California.  Other groundbreaking legislative work included pioneering bills on water, nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, environmental protections, regulating HMOs and the first paid family leave law in the country. Many of my bills became model legislation for other states.

Position/thoughts on:

•    The need for reform in the sheriff’s department

I think it is very important for the Supervisors to work with the newly elected Sheriff. 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 the culture of violence that has manifested itself in our jails.

It is important to note, of course, that the Supervisors do not have direct authority either over the Sheriff or the jails. Though they create and pass the Sheriff’s budget, once it is given to the Sheriff the Supervisors have no say on how the money is spent. 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. I would supporting giving the Inspector General the power to subpoena records.

  • The recommended budget approved last month by the current board of supervisors.

There are some items in the current recommended budget with which I disagree. I believe more money must be given to the Department of Child and Family services in order to hire a greater number of social workers and lower the caseload for each social worker. In addition, I do not favor the plan to replace the current men’s central jail with a similarly large, multibillion dollar incarceration facility, instead of working toward more diversion that makes treatment, both in mental health and substance abuse, a condition of probation. Too many mentally ill prisoners are not getting the help they need to avoid reoffending and cycling in and out of the jail.

  • Extension of a metro line through West Hollywood, with a stop there

I would be in support of a metro line through West Hollywood so long as the process solicited meaningful public input and the configuration included easily accessible stops in West Hollywood.

             •    In L.A., there has been a proposal (on hold) to ban or restrict outdoor food programs for the homeless. Thoughts?

I am not in support of the ban or restriction of outdoor food programs for the homeless, if those being fed have no other meaningful options. The real solution for homelessness, however, is permanent supportive, housing (housing with wraparound services) and I will work to bring more state and federal funds to the county, and to increase collaborative fiscal and service programming on homelessness with the 88 cities in the county.

  • The county Department of Public Health has been criticized for its handling of cases of meningitis among gay men. What do you think of how it was handled?

I believe the county Department of Public Health eventually acted appropriately in their handling of the meningitis outbreak, but could have certainly acted faster to make the vaccine available for low income and uninsured individuals. In some cases, the county DPH has been paralyzed by questions on how to balance privacy with advising the public about an outbreak.  There is also a heightened sensitivity in our community regarding those with HIV/AIDS and privacy. I do believe the county Department of Public Health could have done a better job at being sensitive to the community and at recognizing and addressing those fears.

BOBBY SHRIVER

Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver
Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver

Age: 60
Profession: Self- employed
Education: Yale Undergrad and Law School
Spouse/partner/family: Malissa Feruzzi Shriver
Political experience: Former city councilman and mayor of Santa Monica
City of residence: Santa Monica
Lived in Los Angeles County since: 24 years

Running because:

I am running to shake up county government and fix tough problems. I have worked all my life to make a difference in people’s lives and I want to bring that difference to county government. We need fresh eyes on the old problems, and I am committed to dig in, consult with experts and constituents, and make a difference in neighborhoods and individual’s lives. I have done this before by tackling debt, poverty and AIDS in Africa and starting and running several global organizations including (RED), ONE.org and DATA. I have done this in Santa Monica by working to end homelessness, cleaning up the bay, and working to make our neighborhoods better. I have done this as chair of the California State Parks Commission by standing up against a toll road to protect state beaches. I will use my experience and expertise in nonprofit management, finance and local government to bring urgency, innovation and cost-effective solutions to county government.

The most important issues facing Los Angeles County generally, and the 3rd District specifically, are:

  • Employment in the county has dropped by over 200,000 jobs in the past twenty years.
  • Homelessness in L.A. County has increased by 15 percent in the last two years. We have the nation’s largest population of homeless veterans, with 6,291 on a given night, including women combat veterans.
  • Over two dozen Sheriff deputies have been indicted for behavior in the L.A. County jail and there are about a thousand of misdemeanants in the jail who suffer from mental illness and should be treated by mental health professionals.
  • Traffic and gridlock drives away businesses, wastes millions of dollars and robs us of countless hours with our families.
  • Accountability and transparency to reforming our foster care system are desperately needed. Implementation of the reforms of the Blue Ribbon Commission need to be acted on quickly, which will save children’s lives.
  • The drought emergency underlines the importance of protecting and cleaning our local water.

Primary goals if elected:
(Note: This response was edited for length)

Retain and attract businesses that provide good jobs … I will be a leader in attracting capital to invest in our regional economy and to make it easier and less expensive to get permits and information. I will personally lobby Sacramento and the governor to expand and make permanent the film and television tax credit program to retain good paying creative sector jobs here. I will use funding from the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency to invest in housing and economic development.

Provide better transportation options … As Supervisor I will prioritize getting projects done faster and on budget in order to save money and time. Specifically, I will work to finish the completion of the subway to West L.A., expedite the connection between the Valley and West L.A., connect rail to LAX and actively support neighborhood transportation that helps people get to transit stops.

L.A.County has the nation’s largest homeless population … I will push the county to commit a percentage of the “boomerang” funding made available through the state’s dissolution of local redevelopment agencies to provide funding for both permanent supportive housing for the homeless and for financial assistance and case-management for rapid re-housing of both single and family households. I will lead the county’s Department of Mental Health to fund permanent, supportive housing for the chronically homeless under the Mental Health Services Act and will work to lobby the state to fund affordable housing.

Provide clean and local water supplies. Failing to address our unsustainable and polluted water supplies will grow significantly more costly due to environmental lawsuits, federal fines and the consequences of the drought. …Cleaning our water will take leadership from the business community and I commit to working with you to develop proposals that make sense.

Most important thing voters should know about me:

I am not running for Supervisor to ratify Sacramento decisions. I am running for Supervisor to represent this community and make decisions about our local community here. I think of each of you as my client. I have spent my life working to make a difference in people’s lives, and I want to work for you and be your voice on Los Angeles’ Board of Supervisors.

Position/thoughts on:

  • The need for reform in the sheriff’s department

I support a citizen’s oversight commission for the Sheriff’s department. Community oversight will help shine a light on the Sheriff’s department and speed reforms and make it more responsive and accountable. Supervisors have a responsibility to make sure that policing both in the jails and in our communities is constitutional and community based. This is true in part because it is the law and what we deserve, but also because the failures of the Sheriff’s department are going to cost the county for years to come. I will support and advocate for resources and independence for the Office of the Inspector General and the new Inspector General Max Huntsman. I will urge the new Sheriff to immediately implement the reforms recommended by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence to address these issues. And most importantly, I will use the power of budget authority to hold the Sheriff accountable.

  • The recommended budget approved last month by the current board of supervisors.

The county needs to invest in upgrades in technology and system reforms that in the long run save money and provide better outcomes.

  • Extension of a metro line through West Hollywood, with a stop there

I would support the extension of the Crenshaw line to the Red Line in West Hollywood. I want to make sure it is easy for every person to get to his or her local stop. If it isn’t, the community won’t use public transit. We need to provide parking at stops, as well as access to neighborhood transit and safe, pedestrian-friendly access.

  • In L.A., there has been a proposal (on hold) to ban or restrict outdoor food programs for the homeless. Thoughts?

In Santa Monica, I hired former L.A. County Supervisor Ed Edelman to work with food programs to connect those programs to services and housing rather than litigating laws to ban feeding programs. I think it’s important to connect food or service programs to housing options in order to better connect outreach to housing.

  • The county Department of Public Health has been criticized for its handling of cases of meningitis among gay men. What do you think of how it was handled?

The county should have done a better job to convey this information sooner to the public and affected communities. We should have smarter health alerts and a LGBT health page on the Public Health website. We need to constantly improve upon communication techniques and how we engage communities. We cannot have any delay that can greatly affect those who are sick or who can be at potential risk.


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Lynn
Guest
Lynn

Since Mr. Duran is not exactly a detail oriented individual, one should pay close attention to the details in Mr. Duran’s tenure and decide if his has been a career of public service or self service. Mr. Shriver and Ms. Kuehl have long demonstrated their credibility. Mr. Shriver brings brings fresh eyes to problems that infect and affect our experience locally and globally.

Hillary
Guest
Hillary

Duran, along with his City Council co-members, has done an amazing job of ignoring numerous complaints made to the City of West Hollywood. We’re constantly told it’s not their job – but then, if not to handle issues that affect citizens, then just what is a council members job? I believe it is to identify and discuss issues impacting the City Of West Hollywood, to receive and consider public input, make appropriate decisions and exercise the powers held by Council Members to lawfully govern the community. Mr. Duran has failed to do this.

Marla
Guest
Marla

Don’t vote for John Duran…..he is the worst candidate for this job. His decisions have cost the City of West Hollywood $$$$. Poor leadership. He is a scary joke!