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L.A. County Board Of Supervisors Candidates Debate

Max Schwartz |
March 20, 2014 | 9:29 p.m. PDT

Senior Reporter

The candidates at the debate, before it started. (Max Schwartz/Neon Tommy)
The candidates at the debate, before it started. (Max Schwartz/Neon Tommy)

Four candidates running for the 3rd District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors debated at UCLA on Thursday night. SPJLA President Navid Monahal said these were the candidates who were publicly declared when the invitations went out.

The debate, which included John Duran, Sheila Kuehl, Bobby Shriver and Pamela Conley Ulich, was put on the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and moderated by Warren Olney of KCRW.

Olney said the county’s budget is $25 billion and there are a total of 10 million people, which means the five supervisors represent 2 million residents. He also explained that the Board of Supervisors is different than other political offices.

During opening statements, Duran said he has been on the West Hollywood City Council for 14 of the city’s 30 year history. He explained that West Hollywood has a triple-A bond rating and he said West Hollywood did not lay anyone off during the Great Recession.

Ulich said she promises to be an “innovative, collaborative supervisor who puts people first.” Shriver said while he was on the Santa Monica City Council, the water beach underneath the Santa Monica Pier was cleaned up. He also said that Los Angeles County has the largest VA campus in the country. Kuehl spent time discussing the foster system and said, “I think experience, effectiveness and a deep and broad knowledge base is very important for this job.”

The first question was about the scandals that have engulfed the county and whether the candidates would do anything about the various scandals, specifically those surrounding the Sheriff’s Department, by using the budget.

SEE ALSO: Critics Applaud L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca's Resignation

Kuehl, the first one to answer, said that the Sheriff, Assessor and District Attorney are all independently elected, so they cannot “supervise the Sheriff,” and that they cannot make the Sheriff do anything. She discussed that the budget could be changed, but she said, once it is passed, the Sheriff does not have to follow it.

Duran spent his time discussing the jails. He says they are over-crowded where people are “bunked six to a room” and where “the toilets do not flush.” He said it can no longer be used as a “deterrent” because inmates are released early. He said the two functions of members of the Sheriff’s Department “need to be segregated,” so new deputies do not go from acting as jailers to law enforcement officers in the community. He said that the Board of Supervisors does not have that power, but they can use “the power of the purse” to make the Sheriff make the change.

Shriver said that one-third of the prisoners are mentally ill. “Perhaps there’s a way to create a culture of collaboration” on the budget between the supervisors and the Sheriff, he said. He also said the second year is more important than the first for budgeting because the Board of Supervisors can use it as leverage if the Sheriff did not do what he said he would do during the first year.

Ulich also stressed the power of the purse to ensure changes are made within the Sheriff’s department.

The second question was about the conservatives in the San Fernando Valley, specifically the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.

Before going into her answer, Kuehl said she represented part of the valley when she was in the state legislature. She said that the valley wants people to be able to get to where they need to go. She said,“what they really want is a train that goes from the valley to LAX….” She said it is a “bedroom community” and not as industrial and that they are fighting for “their fair share.”

Shriver said he would give the valley “respect” and that he will “listen carefully to what their concerns are.” He also said he would go into the valley “everyday.” Shriver said the valley wants industrial jobs and “I think the supervisors…need to be…careful” about good-paying jobs being taken away from the valley. In terms of specific industries, he spoke about solar power.

At the beginning of her time, Ulich emphasized that her campaign headquarters are in the valley and said that her “kids go to school in Calabasas” and her “kids play sports in the valley.” She made sure to mention that she already goes in the valley everyday. She talked about the entertainment industry because there are lots of studios in the valley and there are other businesses that depend on the entertainment industry and its workers. She also talked about Measure R and said that she wants that money to be spent here and not out of state. She wants whoever is elected “to keep the jobs at home.”

Duran started off by saying he is a “moderate democrat…because [he is] very pro-business.” He then talked about economic development. “Manufacturing is no longer the staple it was in Southern California,” he said and he mentioned the work-force is changing to more people being “self-employed,” and that lots of people are becoming consultants. He said the county has to work the cities.

The third question was to Shriver about how he is going to use his own money and not follow spending limits, which would ensure the campaigns will be expensive.

His response was that it “was always going to be an expensive campaign.” He said, “I have a very large number of very small contributors,” and that has made the campaign reach out to people in all parts of the City of Los Angeles.

The fourth question, about whether she thinks what Shriver is doing is wrong, went to Kuehl. 

She did not mention a name, but eluded to Shriver, when she said one of the candidates is putting in his own money, starting with, $300,000. Kuehl said, “I just think the funding of politics should be much more spread out…and not just those who can write themselves a check.” 

Olney then invited Ulich to answer. Ulich said she received a mass email from a female candidate who was part of the debate that said “she wanted to raise $2 million,” so others will be scared of running. Ulich emphasized that she does not want our democracy to be bought. She wants the candidates who have excess money to put 10 percent of it “back into L.A. County” via non-profit groups.

Olney then asked Duran whether he can compete against candidates with big budgets. He said he is in the “center,” meaning he does not have the largest amount of donations or the smallest.

Shriver than clarified that “the caps have been lifted from [all the other candidates],” but not him.

When discussing what people get back from donating to her campaign, Kuehl said that she tells people to “look at [her] record.”

Questions from the audience were then taken and the first was about foster system in Los Angeles County.

Duran said that the case loads for social workers are very high in the 2nd District. Duran said, on a county-wide level, he would like money to be given to non-profit organizations who are close to the process, “instead of hiring more caseworkers….”

Ulich said she “agrees” with what L.A. County is doing in hiring more social workers, but she would like there to be changes, so students in the foster-care system are able to graduate.

Shriver wants “performance based contracting,” so money is paid based on child successes.

Kuehl said there are 26,000 kids in the foster care system and more who are in programs that tries to keep families together. She said the county is “responsible” for the kids in the system. She does not believe the current system - in terms of where experienced social workers versus new social workers are placed - is the best system.

The next question was about cleaning up storm water that pollutes Santa Monica Bay.

Duran said the cities have done a good job at this, but the county has work to do. Ulich said this “is an issue,” and Shriver said the clean up happened in Santa Monica and he “obsolutely believes” it can be done county wide. Kuehl said “not every city” is cleaning their storm water and now the county “is totally responsible.” She said that there may be a bond, so the cost “is shared by everyone” because some of the cities have said they will not pay to clean up their runoff water.

During her closing statement, Kuehl brought up the county’s health system. Shriver called this “a very big election” and he said he is running because he thinks he “shares the values” of all of the county’s residents. He said he has “a proven record as a problem solver.” Ulich said, “I would like to see, if maybe, we can have…nine or 11 supervisors.” Duran said he “just wants to know what your ideas are” regardless of ideology. He said the winner has to “hold the center.”

All of the candidates who appeared in the debate are attorneys.

Reach Senior Reporter Max Schwartz here; follow him on Twitter here.



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