Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica's Sheila Kuehl Guns for L.A. County Supervisor Seat
By Jason Islas
September 26, 2013 -- With County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky terming out after two decades, Santa Monica resident and veteran state legislator Sheila Kuehl is in the midst of a mostly uncontested campaign for his seat.
The only other candidate vying for the position so far is former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich who is largely unknown outside of Malibu. Former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, remains undecided.
“The County is really where the rubber hits the road,” Kuehl told The Lookout Tuesday.
Los Angeles County's Third District is home to nearly two million people and within its 431 square miles lie the cities of Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Calabasas, among others.
Each one of those cities, as well as unincorporated areas like Universal City, rely on the County for public health programs, homeless services, foster care programs and transit improvements.
“There is barely a government program that the County doesn't oversee,” said Kuehl, who was elected as California's first openly gay state lawmaker in 1994.
As State Assemblymember and Senator from 1994 to 2008, Kuehl chaired myriad commissions and authored 171 bills that eventually became law. That experience, she said, makes her particularly suited to the job.
“This county is bigger than all but seven states,” Kuehl said, who, if elected would be one of five supervisors on a board that governs the county of 9.5 million people. “And it has a bigger poor population than all but five states.
“There's really nowhere else to use all the things I've learned in 14 years,” said Kuehl, adding that the County deals with “a very complicated set of problems.”
Among those problems is homelessness. In the country, Los Angeles County has the largest homeless population, many of whom are veterans with mental illnesses.
“I'm totally devoted to social services” as well as affordable and transitional housing, said Kuehl, who also championed accessible healthcare and women's rights during her tenure.
She said that she intends to carry on much of Yaroslavsky's work to get vulnerable homeless people off the streets, including pressuring the West Los Angeles Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to build more supportive housing.
Durign the eight years she represented the area in Sacramento, Kuehl has opposed the VA using the land for reasons other than providing services to vets.
She has also been pressuring Sacramento to let money that once belonged to redevelopment agencies (RDAs) throughout California be used -- through County administrations -- for building affordable housing.
When the State killed California's 400 RDAs in February 2012, cities lost billions of tax revenue that had once been devoted to affordable housing construction and infrastructure improvements.
A healthcare advocate, Kuehl knows that the County will be a major player as reforms from the Affordable Care Act begin to go into effect.
“So much is going to happen over the next five to six years,” she said, pointing out that counties are the payment provider for Med-Cal.
Then there's the question of traffic and, as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) embarks on major public transit improvements, more can be done, Kuehl said.
“It still lacks the sort of cohesion that I'd really like to see,” she said, referring to L.A. County's growing network of light rails and subways.
Urging various local governments and councils join a “unified grid” is essential to easing the region's traffic woes.
And the County's expanding light rail network will go far to start “unraveling some of the sins of the 20th century,” she said, referring to Los Angeles' car-centric infrastructure.
There's also the question of prison reform, since the County oversees its own network of jails.
With the State facing a crisis of prisoner overpopulation, Sacramento is looking to counties to shoulder more of the burden.
“The governor wants to spend $300 million housing prisoners in other places,” said Kuehl. But that money, she said, is better spent on mental health services and literacy programs.
Kuehl wants to “put in place the kinds of services that make recidivism lower."
With a lifetime of experience, Kuehl believes that her track record gives her the edge against any candidate that runs.“I'm fine running against anybody,” Kuehl said. “I will hold up my record against anybody's record."
|copyrightCopyright 1999-2013 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.|