With Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky being termed out later this year, the race is heating up for who will be elected to his position to represent the third supervisorial district.
The district includes Santa Monica as well as Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, San Fernando, West Hollywood, Westlake Village, and a handful of unincorporated areas such as Agoura and Universal City.
The last day for voters to register is May 19, 2014. The California Primary Election will be held June 3, 2014 with the General Election on Nov. 4, 2014.
Sheila Kuehl discusses her candidacy for the elected position with Mirror Columnist Susan Cloke.
Susan: What made you decide to run for Supervisor of the Third District?
Sheila: My whole adult life has been in public service. Issues of social justice are the focus of my life’s work: health care, foster children, the safety net, transportation and traffic, environmental protections, the arts, juvenile justice and education.
Since my 20s my work has been focused on protecting people who need protection, fighting against any kind of discrimination and working to help people who need help.
I decided I needed to go to law school so that my work could more effectively help people.
Out of Harvard Law I began by providing legal services for battered women. I chaired the Sojourn Shelter for Battered Women for 17 years and served on the Board of the Ocean Park Community Center.
I went on to run for elected office so I could be more effective in my work. I was the first openly gay person elected to the State Legislature. I carried groundbreaking legislation protecting children in all public schools in the State against harassment, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation.
Being a Supervisor is not an entry-level job. The five Supervisors have enormous responsibility. It’s not the place for on the job training. For me, being the Third District Supervisor is a continuation of the work I have done all my life.
Susan: What in your experience makes you a good fit for the Supervisor job?
Sheila: I gained an enormous amount of knowledge and experience of the very issues the County Supervisors oversee in my 14 years in the California Legislature; six in the Assembly and eight in the Senate.
The County is the implementing arm of much of state and federal legislation on issues of social justice. When I chaired Health and Human Services Committee in the State Senate I oversaw legislation and was intimately involved with all the laws and the budget on these issues.
I worked closely with the Board of Supervisors and especially with Zev as we greatly overlapped in the geographical area and the people we both represented.
I represented more than half of the Third District when I was a State Legislator. One of the things I heard over and over from constituents was that I had a great and hugely helpful District Staff. That is key to being a good representative and it will be key in the Third District.
Susan: You worked intensively on environmental and sustainability issues at the State level. What are the environmental and sustainability issues facing the County?
Sheila: Water quality, the Santa Monica Mountains, the beaches, and coastal areas are all the responsibility of the County Board of Supervisors.
The Supervisors have jurisdiction over water quality. They are required to find a countywide solution for the pollution of storm water runoff and other pollutants entering the storm drain system and being carried to the rivers and ocean.
The Supervisors have to find a way to spread costs across the County of storm water treatment plants and other actions to prevent polluted water from entering our waterways. And I would hope to do so without too heavily impacting the inland cities.
Los Angeles is the only City in the U.S. that has a real mountain range running down the middle of it and most of that range is in the Third District. One of my primary responsibilities will be the protection and preservation of the Santa Monica Mountains as a natural resource and for public access and use.
In addition the Third District has a significant responsibility for a major swatch of coastline. We must maintain and protect the beaches for public use and to protect and enhance the cleanliness and quality of coastal water.
When I chaired the State Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee all environmental regulations and issues came before my committee and I learned both about the issues and the proposals to solve the problems facing the California environment.
I was able to work closely with Supervisor Yaroslavsky and Senator Pavley to secure Ahmanson Ranch, Gillette Ranch, and other properties so there would be no development of those properties and they could be used for public recreation and the benefit of the public.
Susan: How will you meet the energy needs of the County and protect the environment?
Sheila: It’s important to work collaboratively with the State and Federal government and the 88 cities in the County to best prepare a future in which we will have to incentivize alternative energy. Being collaborative is the key to a solution.
Susan: Transportation and traffic are constant issues in the L.A. area. What are you thoughts and how will you think about solving these problems?
Sheila: Transportation is the most challenging issue for the County. Everyone complains but few people get out of their cars. We have to provide alternatives, most especially rail.
The light rail is coming to Santa Monica but it’s unclear that it will have sufficient parking for people who want to use the 4th and Colorado station. So I’m uncertain if it will be comfortable using the station and safe to get home from the station late at night. We will need to solve that problem and make it comfortable for people to use light rail. Perhaps something like the downtown DASH system (a downtown LA small shuttle bus) to get people to and from the station.
I think we will eventually see a line from the Valley to the airport. That will greatly reduce congestion on the 405.
Locally we need to focus on alternatives such as bike valets, including at the Expo stops and we better Apps for people to know what the transportation alternatives are and how to get around town.
My criteria for judging programs to reduce traffic will be ease and comfort of use and affordability.
Susan: As Supervisor how will you approach creating affordable housing?
Sheila: One of the most important things the County can do in the next few years is to make certain that the “boomerang” monies coming in because the cities no longer get redevelopment money (which will go, in part, to the County), is used to create and support affordable housing.
This also means a more creative approach to helping the homeless find permanent housing, housing that will include wrap-around services to give them a chance to re-integrate into society and pick up the interrupted threads of their lives.
My caring family taught the importance of kindness and problem solving and I have a demonstrated track record of innovative thinking and problem solving. I’ll bring those values to working on affordable housing and all the issues of the Third District.