Two candidates for County Supervisor face each other in debate

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The two candidates running for the seat of retiring 3rd Los Angeles County District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl faced off in a debate on Sept. 28. Lindsey Horvath, a West Hollywood City Council member who has twice served as mayor, debated Bob Hertzberg, a former Speaker of the California State Assembly and current State Senator representing the San Fernando Valley. 

Both are Democrats. The position is powerful, representing two million people in the county, including Malibu. The supervisors preside over a $40 billion budget to provide services from law enforcement to public health and safety net measures for residents.

The two debated earlier in the campaign in Malibu. Wednesday’s face-off was intended for a larger audience and touched on broader subjects. One issue was how each candidate would solve the homelessness crisis in the county. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has come under fire for not spending and returning $150 million in federal funding. Hertzberg called it a management problem. “If you have a management structure, somebody has to be in charge. In the current structure, nobody’s in charge. Everybody points fingers.” He suggested a pilot project “that would create a framework where politicians were legally bound to meet achievables and deliverables, not something you delegate. The county and the state are integral. Ninety percent of the money is flowed through the state. A stand-alone project that includes Malibu, Venice, Santa Monica, huge contributors to tourism and the tax base. I would start over and do it through a state-mandated deliverable that would make sure people were held accountable.”

Horvath suggested “keep people in housing they can afford with rental assistance and counsel. We need real solutions, and LAHSA hasn’t been able to deliver.” 

Horvath favors scaling back bureaucratic obstacles and more transparency to show “where dollars are being spent in neighborhoods. We know the county has to step up because it is the social safety net for our cities, but we have to work together.” Horvath touted her experience “on the local level deploying street teams that meet people where they are, getting people connected to housing, services, mental health, and addiction recovery.”

Both candidates were questioned about Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the antagonistic relationship between him and the Board of Supervisors. Horvath answered first, saying, “I would work to make sure we have a leader in charge of the Sheriff’s Department that will help restore trust and accountability in the department. That’s why I’m not supporting the Sheriff. I think it’s disappointing that Bob won’t acknowledge the dysfunction that currently exists in the department as a result of the failed leadership of our current sheriff. We need to make sure we’re helping law enforcement succeed by providing them the resources they need to fight violent crime and keep people safe. We need to support them by enhancing the kinds of services we offer and taking things off their plate that they’re not uniquely trained to do by investing in unarmed security ambassadors to take on some of those issues.”

Hertzberg countered, “I just don’t think calling press conferences or writing op-eds and sticking your finger in people’s eyes is a way to fix problems. All you’re going to do is further exacerbate the challenges we currently have. Look, I don’t like what this guy’s done. I don’t like it at all, but I just think screaming and yelling about it has caused the problem that we’re facing.”

On climate change and helping the county’s most vulnerable residents, Hertzberg said climate is a big issue for him and his decision to run. “I took 12 years off (of elected office), I traveled the world, I won the World Bank award, talk about rubber meets the road. I have a plan of how to raise the money, bring businesses local, build those transformers and all the local stuff we’ve got to do to actually deal with climate change, let alone the issue of extreme heat.” Hertzberg touted projects he’s backed in the San Fernando Valley, “green schools” that fund more greenery at public schools to provide shade and support students’ well-being.

Horvath shot back, “Here he goes again. If Bob was so successful on these issues, why am I the candidate who’s endorsed by the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters locally, and even at the state level got involved because they know he’s the chair of what they call the polluter caucus.”