Medical freedom protesters disrupt 3rd District supervisorial candidates forum

Although the forum between the two candidates for Los Angeles County 3rd District Supervisor was scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. last Sunday at the Malibu Library, there was a late start. 

People that RSVP’d to attend the Malibu Democratic Club-sponsored event were met in front of the library with a group of 20 or so vocal protesters with banners, signs, and bullhorns demonstrating against the event’s mask requirement, which mandated the wearing of an N-95 mask and proof of COVID vaccination to enter the venue. 

The “Free Weho Coalition,” billing itself as a “grassroots, non-partisan community coalition that creates space for freedom-loving LGBTQ people and our allies,” said in a press release they wanted “to voice support for medical freedom in LA.”

The group routinely conducts protests around Los Angeles on the issue.

Weho writes that, “Such egregious exclusion of the unvaccinated and those unable or unwilling to wear a mask or show government IDs is an affront to our democratic process and violates foundational principles of classical liberalism and bodily autonomy.”

The group succeeded in disrupting the forum, because it was difficult for many in the packed room to hear the candidates with the loud protest going on just outside the door throughout most of the program. However, sheriff’s deputies responding to the situation prevented protesters from entering the building.

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Malibu Mayor Paul Grisanti (left) was confronted by founder of the Beverly Hills Freedom Rally and well-known organizer Shiva Bagheri (center) while he seemingly tried to shut the doors. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

The president of the Malibu Democratic Club, Jane Albrecht, moderated the 90-minute forum and introduced the candidates, Bob Hertzberg and Lindsey Horvath. Hertzberg is currently a California State Senator (D-Van Nuys) and majority leader emeritus of the state Senate. Horvath is a West Hollywood City Councilmember who has also served that city twice as mayor. She’s been strongly endorsed by current 3rd District County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, while Hertzberg has the endorsements of the LA County Sheriff and Fire departments. 

Both candidates have a long list of credentials. Neither candidate is particularly well-known to Malibu voters, though, which is one of the reasons the forum was held. 

The County Supervisor position has a huge impact on Malibu when it comes to the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department, Beaches & Harbors, Water District 29, and funding for things like homeless programs. It is one of the most powerful elected positions in the U.S., representing nearly 2 million people.

Albrecht began by asking questions submitted in advance by attendees. She indicated the number one concern was “fire” — especially the risk of fire caused by unsupervised overnight camping in the hills above Malibu. Those camping sites are overseen by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) headed by Joe Edmiston, and approved by the California Coastal Commission and current district 3 supervisor Kuehl.

Residents have voiced complaints of Edmiston, described by Albrecht as a “bad actor” for what he’s done to neighborhoods like Puerco Canyon, Winding Way, Ramirez Canyon, and Sycamore Canyon. 

The candidates were in agreement on many things. For example, both said they would be willing to meet with Malibu representatives once a month for an hour, if elected, and both said they would be willing to reverse the ordinance that allowed unsupervised overnight camping above Malibu. 

Horvath said that in an effort to reduce fire risk, she would increase the number of park rangers, make investments in hardening people’s homes, codify the overnight camping ban into the Local Coastal Plan (LCP), and ensure that state funding to the MRCA is conditional with consequences. She promised that, despite having Kuehls’ endorsement, she would “reverse course on the things Kuehl did that didn’t deliver to Malibu.”

Hertzberg has known Edmiston for 30 years, and “knows how he works — he respects power.” He indicated Edmiston would make his properties more fire-resistant if he had a dedicated state revenue stream for operations; right now, he doesn’t. 

When the candidates were asked about the recall effort for LA District Attorney George Gascon, as well as whether county supervisors should have the power to fire the LA County sheriff, each said no to both. Hertzberg and Horvath both believe that if voters elect someone, that incumbent should finish the term. Both say recall efforts are a waste of taxpayer money, and that county supervisors should not be able to fire an elected sheriff.

“Gascon didn’t lie — he’s done exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office,” Hertzberg pointed out. Both candidates say the LA County sheriff’s job is to enforce the law — not to make policy.

On the homeless issue, Horvath, who has dealt with the topic first-hand in West Hollywood, stated that “It’s one of the issues that got me into this race … We need to get the money out of the county bureaucracy (LAHSA) and into solutions in the communities.” 

As attendees mingled afterward, many said they liked both candidates. One joked, “Well, Hertzberg gets points for punctuality,” referring to the fact that he got there on time, while Horvath was about 15 minutes late. Parking was an issue. Another attendee said, “Lindsey really did her homework [on Malibu], and Hertzberg didn’t.”

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