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Former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver Wants to Change L.A. County Government

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 23, 2014 -- After eight years on the Santa Monica City Council, former mayor Bobby Shriver says he's ready to take on one of the most important local political offices in the country.

Shriver, who was elected to the Council in 2004 in a landslide victory, announced Tuesday that he would run to replace 3rd District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who will leave office this year due to term limits.

Although the bayside city of 90,000 is only a fraction of the 1.9 million people Shriver would govern if he is elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in November, during his stint on Santa Monica's City Council Shriver dealt with many of the same issues facing the County.

“The thing I learned in Santa Monica was how services are delivered to people,” Shriver told The Lookout Friday.

During his eight years on the dais, Shriver was known for his business-like analysis of the City's $500 million budget, his championing of housing and services for the homeless, particularly veterans and was a vocal advocate for the environment, sitting on the State Parks and Recreation Board.

While on the City Council, Shriver helped transform Santa Monica’s approach to combating homelessness by adopting a housing-first strategy, which seeks to get people into supportive housing first and then attempts to address their other mental and physical health issues.

That approach is something Shriver -- a member of the Kennedy clan -- hopes to bring to the County level.

“The number one thing is the County controls all the mental health services,” said Shriver. “Where those services are located and how easy they are to access is a matter of life and death to some people.”

The five-person Board oversees a region populated by more than 10 million people and controls a budget of more than $25 billion that pays for a vast network of social services for some of the County's poorest residents.

While the County handles mental health services, the cities control where supportive housing is built. Making sure that vital facilities are near to the homes of those they serve requires close coordination with local governments, especially with the City of Los Angeles, which makes up about 80 percent of the County's 3rd District, Shriver said.

Shriver wants to establish a citizen oversight commission for the embattled County Sheriff’s Department, a move that Yaroslavsky has resisted.

Long-time County Sheriff Lee Baca stepped down recently after his department came under fire over an investigation by the FBI into alleged prisoner abuse and other misconduct by deputies.

“I think the Board needs to take responsibility for the disaster that's going on in the (County) jail,” Shriver said. “It's a mental health disaster, too.”

He also wants to reform the County foster care system because case workers are overburdened, looking after some 40 children each.

In addition, he wants to see County hospital workers who travel to the homes of elderly and homebound patients, get paid more than minimum wage. They currently make $9.36 an hour and don't get compensation for travel, he said.

He also talked about the importance of improving L.A. County’s public transit network. And, as a Supervisor, Shriver would have a seat on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority's (Metro) Board of Directors, “with (Santa Monica Mayor) Pam O'Connor, I hope.”

O'Connor, who is up for reelection in November, currently represents the Westside & South Bay cities on the Metro Board.

Shriver is one of four candidates gunning to replace Yaroslavsky. In November, West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran announced his candidacy for the position. And, former Malibu mayor Pamela Conley Ulich is in the race.

Former State legislator Sheila Kuehl announced her bid for Yaroslavsky's seat last March.

Earlier this month, the former State lawmaker went after Shriver, painting a picture of him as someone who could “fund his whole campaign by writing himself a check” in an email to supporters. Kuehl has also touted her experience at the State level, claiming that it better prepares her for the kind of work done at the County.

Shriver, who has worked for decades in the private sector raising money for social causes like AIDS relief in Africa, said that he has every intention of raising money from supporters.

“I don't plan to write my own check,” he said Friday. “It just doesn't make any sense at all to me to try to buy an election.”

He also said that he was looking forward to campaigning. “I think it’ll be fun… getting out into the community,” he said.

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