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L.A. County Supervisor Debate Highlights Key Issues

Arash Zandi |
May 30, 2014 | 3:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The three candidates shared their visions and ways to help tackle issues affecting L.A. County. (Arash Zandi/Neon Tommy)
The three candidates shared their visions and ways to help tackle issues affecting L.A. County. (Arash Zandi/Neon Tommy)
With June 3rd's statewide primary election quickly approaching, the three candidates running for Los Angeles County Supervisor debated serious issues at Stephen S. Wise Temple on Wednesday night.

West Hollywood city council member John Duran, former California Senator Sheila Kuehl and former Santa Monica mayor Bobby Shriver discussed six main issues: affordable housing, homelessness, universal healthcare, transit-oriented development, returning citizens/re-entry and mental illness.

The candidates are each hoping to serve District 3, which spans 431 square miles and encompasses areas such as Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Santa Monica, San Fernando Valley and West Hollywood. The victor will be responsible for managing $26 billion in public funding for services such as transportation, housing, hospitals, prisons, courts, libraries, parks and cultural landmarks.

“Tonight, our goal is to engage all of you in dialogue about key issues and thoughts and your vision,” said Dr. Yolanda Brown, Pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish.

READ MORE: The Hot Seat: Bobby Shriver

The conversation began by focusing on affordable housing, a topic hat attained a heightened importance as people recounted their experiences of falling into sudden homelessness. 

According to Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, President and CEO of L.A. Family Housing, a working family needs to earn $32 an hour or $66,000 a year to afford a typical apartment in Los Angeles and up to $96,000 to purchase a home. Consequently 39,500 people in the county experience homelessness at any given time, said Kerry Morrison, a member of the Home for Good Business Task Force. 

“We had tremendous success [creating affordable housing] and I think that should be replicated on a county-wide basis,” said Shriver, who’s has made housing a focus in her work as mayor of Santa Monica.

Kuehl also expressed her support for permanent supportive housing, pointing out that for decades the county thought that temporary shelters would get people clean and sober, but past experiences showed that those were inefficient. 

“I want to make certain that the Departments of Health, Mental Health, Public Health, Children and Family Services are brought to work together for permanent supportive housing, in that the services are on-site,” said Kuehl.

READ MORE: Hot Seat: John Duran

Nancy Gomez of the LAHealth4All Coalition steered the conversation towards the issues of who receives healthcare coverage. “In spite of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there is still an estimated 1 million uninsured people in L.A. County, 40 percent of who do not have immigration status,” said Gomez. 

Duran opposes the idea of requiring proof of citizenship to gain access to healthcare; furthermore, he expressed his hope of working with new immigrants to get them full citizenship. 

“One of the things that I’ve done in my history as an elected official is taking tax dollars and investing them into local non-profit clinics as these clinics often understand the culture of their local community better than anyone else. Getting to work with those providers is a better way to provide access to those underserved communities,” said Duran, who was recently endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

Returning to the topic of housing, Francisco Flores of the Blessed Sacrament Parish emphasized that creating a transit-oriented development in Los Angeles County could provide many opportunities for low-income families to find affordable housing.

Duran proposed to solve the problem by incorporating tall mixed-use buildings throughout the city and increasing housing around Metro stations. “Los Angeles is a horizontal city,” said Duran. “We built L.A. around the automobile and now, we are paying the price. The only way to solve this problem is to go up.”

READ MORE: The Hot Seat: Sheila Kuehl

Marcus Allgood of Masjid Ibaadillah turned the discussion towards prison reform, quoting a two-year status report that claimed Los Angeles has the highest per capita amount of parolees of any U.S. city, with over 18,000 prisoners released to the supervision of L.A. County probation department, rather than state-supervised probation. 

“It seems…we are not interested in reducing recidivism, but more interested in building more prisons,” said Allgood.

Rather than rushing to refute the statement, Kuehl spoke of three areas where he thought L.A. County could improve in this respect.

“Firstly, while people are incarcerated, the jails have been a disgrace. I want a citizen’s oversight commission so we always know what’s going on in the jails,” said Kuehl. “Secondly, two thirds of people in county jails shouldn’t be there; they have mental illnesses and what they need are services. We need more diversion and less incarceration. That way, we’re having people getting into the kinds of services that can help them turn their lives around. And thirdly, we need preparation for people leaving jail.”

While these three candidates all defended issues that they hold dear, after Tuesday’s elections, only two candidates will remain in contention for the position of Los Angeles County Supervisorial District 3. The final election will be on Tuesday, November 4.

Contact Staff Reporter Arash Zandi here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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