Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver

Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hopefuls Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver want voters to judge them on their political experience

For the first time in 20 years, voters in Venice and Santa Monica will help choose a new representative on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

In the race to replace Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is retiring in December due to term limits, former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver and former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl are beginning to sketch out differences in their approach to governance ahead of the Nov. 4 vote.

Neither campaign has employed attack ads thus far, but the tenor of the race has become a little more contentious as the campaign clock winds down in that Shriver and Kuehl have been wielding their political résumés as a cudgel against the other.

Shriver has publicly labeled Kuehl as having a disconnected, out-of-touch “Sacramento approach” to solving problems, attempting to turn her 14 years in the state Senate and Assembly against her while playing up his local government experience.

Kuehl counters that her time at the state capitol representing many of the communities she would serve as county supervisor has given her unique insight into the concerns of its residents and prepared her to “hit the ground running” if elected. Shriver, she argues, has only served on a “part-time” city council and thus does not have experience working with the big budgets and large-scale policy challenges — including health care, education and water — that come into play at the county level.

Kuehl edged out Shriver in the June 3 primary, winning 36% of the vote to Shriver’s 29% despite being outspent by Shriver.

Shriver’s backers include prominent business, real estate and film industry leaders and groups. Kuehl has drawn heavy support from labor, women’s and environmental groups.

The five members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors represent 10 million people, control a budget of more than $26 billion, preside over the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept., the foster care and juvenile justice systems, the L.A. Dept. of Public Health and are voting members of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

— Gary Walker

Shelia Kuehl
Party: Democrat
Age: 73
Residence: Santa Monica
Occupation: College institute director

Endorsements: L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, former L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project, L.A. County Lifeguard Assoc., L.A. County Firefighters Local 1014, state Sen. Ted Lieu, Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor

What makes you the better choice in this race and sets you apart from your opponent?

Kuehl: I think my experience in the issues with which the county deals is one way. My experience of serving on the budget committee in the state Senate will allow me to hit the ground running, because after the election, our first board meeting will be Dec. 2. One needs to be prepared from the beginning. The second is a matter of scale. When you serve on a part-time city council in a city of 88,000 people it’s very different than having to deal with hundreds of health clinics for millions of people and a whole range of transportation issues. And third is the ability to work in a collaborative fashion. I carried through 177 bills that were signed by three different governors. You have to work collaboratively in order to convince your colleagues to work with you.

Do you support Measure R2, the proposed 2016 ballot measure that would increase the county sales tax to fund transportation upgrades?

I strongly supported Measure R [2008’s half-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation upgrades] and I am strongly supportive of Measure R2. Even though supervisors sit on the Metro Board of Directors, they are not the majority of the Metro board because Mayor Eric Garcetti gets to appoint members and the Santa Monica mayor is also on the board. So again, it’s a matter of collaborating to convince the other board members of the benefit of certain projects for everyone and not just for one’s district.

The Project 50 housing first initiative to combat homelessness, started by Supervisor Yaroslavsky and expanded to Santa Monica and Venice, has been called a success, but what can be done to lower the program’s increasing mental health costs?

I support permanent supportive housing with supportive services like mental health treatment. Project 50 is a good starting point, but it needs to be scaled up. Regarding mental health costs, I want to see what reserves might be available that can be used for mental health services and also what funding can be accessed through legislation. So Project 50 was a good start, but it definitely needs to be scaled up.

The Clean Water, Clean Beaches tax measure proposal would have property owners pay an additional $54 per year to fund storm water capture projects. As a supervisor, would you vote to put this on the ballot?

I support putting this on the ballot. I’m not sure that it had the support across the county that it needed in order to get put on the ballot last year. I would favor a ballot measure that would help support new technology on storm water capture. I’m really excited about the new technology that can help recycle water. Many cities have begun to engage in theses water-saving practices. The virtue of having a countywide measure is the potential of scaling up the recapture and reuse of storm water.

You have stated during the campaign that “this is not an entry-level position.” Is that meant to draw a contrast between the levels of experience of you and your opponent?

Yes it is. When I started in the Assembly, I had the luxury of time to learn what I was doing. I was one of 80 members. But when you’re one of five people with a county the size of Ohio, I believe that you have to have a lot of experience — and not just the experience of serving on a part-time council that meets every two weeks. I believe that you need to have a lot of training in the minutiae of governing.

How do you respond to Shriver saying you favor a “Sacramento approach”?

I would say that my opponent knows nothing about Sacramento and large-scale projects. I know this district from end to end because I’ve represented it. If having a “Sacramento” approach means acquiring 160 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains for my constituents to enjoy, authoring legislation that has made schools safer and laws that protect victims of domestic violence, I would say residents of this district agree with that approach.  A Sacramento approach, in his mind, means being remote from the district and it can’t be further from the truth.

If elected, you would be the first openly gay supervisor. While you have not made this a focus of your campaign, would it have any special significance to you?

It has enormous significance to me. A recent study showed that a high percentage of children in foster care — an issue that is very important to me — are gay and lesbian. And I think that there should be some focus on that aspect of the foster care system. I think that having an authentic voice can be very empowering, and I want to be able to say to minority communities that I get it and I want to be a voice for them as well.

What would be your top priorities if you win on Nov. 4?

Health care, transportation and reforming the foster care system.

 

Bobby Shriver
Party: Democrat
Age:  60
Residence:  Santa Monica
Occupation: Nonprofit director / businessman

Endorsements: Santa Monica City Councilman Bob Holbrook (former mayor), Reps. Janice Hahn and Tony Cardenas, West Hollywood Councilman John Duran and former Malibu Councilwoman Pam Ulich, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, former Rep. Howard Berman, former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan

What makes you the better choice in this race and sets you apart from your opponent?

Shriver: I have local experience as a former member of the Santa Monica City Council, and in many ways I see county government as a form of local government. A lot of it is about delivering services, and that’s what I did in Santa Monica. That’s a very different view from my opponent, who wants to take a Sacramento approach to things. I’m also a pro-businesses person. During the recession, the council was able to keep our city going and work with small businesses and bring in jobs.

Do you support Measure R2, the proposed 2016 ballot measure that would increase the county sales tax to fund transportation upgrades?

Transportation is the most pressing issue in the county. [Supporting R2 or not] is a political question because you have to get people in the San Fernando Valley on board with it and they need to feel that they are getting their fair share out these transportation dollars. So we have to have a regional strategy, because transportation is a regional issue. That’s where the local approach comes in again, working with city council members on the Metro board. During the primary my opponent called many of us who were on city councils, like John Duran of the West Hollywood City Council and me, part-time members and I find that to be very disrespectful.

The Project 50 housing first initiative to combat homelessness, started by Supervisor Yaroslavsky and expanded to Santa Monica and Venice, has been called a success, but what can be done to lower the program’s increasing mental health costs?

In Santa Monica we retrained our police officers to engage differently with our homeless population and unfortunately LAPD has not been trained that way. I would like to work with [Los Angeles City Councilman] Mike Bonin on that. This is an issue that I have worked on for a long time and it’s an issue that I’m very passionate about. In Santa Monica we have adopted a similar approach about supportive, permanent housing and we’ve been very aggressive about building more affordable housing. I supported the affordable housing production program [requiring developers to build affordable housing or pay in-lieu fees]. In the county there is an acute shortage of workforce housing and the county needs to do a better job of building more. I’ve been very involved on homelessness, especially for veterans and women veterans.

The Clean Water, Clean Beaches tax measure proposal would have property owners pay an additional $54 per year to fund storm water capture projects. As a supervisor, would you vote to put this on the ballot?

If we continue to pour dirty water in our ocean we’re not going to be able to swim in it. The ocean is a tremendous economic engine for the coast and for the county as well. We generate more money than Disneyland because of our beaches and our ocean with our hotel bed taxes and restaurants and tourism from tourists who want to come to our beaches, so we have to protect them and our oceans. I think [Clean Water, Clean Beaches] has to be explained very carefully. We have to explain to voters and give them a specific benefit that it would bring. The right measure might be a solution to a lot of our storm water problems.

You accepted spending limits in the general election but not the primary. Why?

I needed to get my name out there to other communities in the district. My opponent has been representing communities in our district for a long time. She had a big head start on me and was campaigning very early and I thought that I needed to catch up to her.

You outspent Kuehl in the primary but she won more votes. How important is money in the general election?

It’ll depend on how much everyone raises. If the labor unions that support my opponent spend what they did on [Supervisor] Mark Ridley-Thomas’ campaign, then that could have an impact. But I think the voters of our district are politically smart voters and they’ll vote for whom they think is the best candidate regardless of how much money is spent. Money alone won’t decide the race. The more people get to know my record in Santa Monica and what we got done, the better I’ll do at the polls.

During a recent debate, you said, referring to your opponent, “Sometimes in politics and in life you have to be able to say no to people.” To whom are you willing to say no if elected?

I used a specific example with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, when I said no to them over a minimum wage for the county. I support it, they don’t. And they endorsed me. That’s what I was referring to. My opponent has had a hard time saying no to special interests. I don’t think she can cite an example of having ever done that when she was in Sacramento.

What would be your top priorities if you win on Nov. 4?

My highest priority would be expediting the construction and connectivity of our transportation system that will lead to job creation in the county.

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