[Editor’s note: This is the first of two video interviews with the candidates for L.A. County Supervisor. Check in tomorrow for our interview with former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver. Videos are directed and edited by Saul Rubin.]
Veteran State legislator Sheila Kuehl is one of two candidates running to replace Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who will have to step down this year due to term limits after two decades in office.
Kuehl, who served in the California State Assembly from 1994 to 2000 and then the State Senate from 2000 to 2008, is running against former Santa Monica Mayor – and member of the Kennedy clan – Bobby Shriver in what is arguably one of the most important local elections in Southern California this year.
With an annual budget of about $25 billion dollars and a constituency of nearly 10 million people, the five-person Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is one of the most powerful local government institutions in the country.
Yaroslavsky’s district, the 3rd District, alone is home to about two million people. It includes well-heeled westside cities like Santa Monica, Malibu, West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, but its boundaries also include historically underserved neighborhoods in the valley, including Sylmar, Pacoima, and part of San Fernando.
Aside from overseeing the County’s vast network of social services, including hospitals, homeless shelters, and libraries, all five Supervisors also sit on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), one of the nation’s largest transportation agencies.
Los Angeles Streetsblog/Santa Monica Next sat down with Kuehl at her home in Santa Monica’s Sunset Park neighborhood to talk about her history with multi-modal transportation, her views on Measure R-2, what she believes the County can do to address the region’s housing crisis, and her vision for a more sustainable Los Angeles County.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
- At the 30 second mark, Kuehl discusses her own personal history with active transportation: “I’m not a bicyclist anymore, though I was, of course, all the way through, I guess, the first four decades… But I am a walker.”
- At the 1:08 mark, Kuehl talks about traffic: “A lot of people have asked me during this campaign, ‘What are you going to do about the traffic?’ and my answer to them is always, ‘I’m going to try to get you out of your car.’”
- At the 2 minute mark, Kuehl talks about first-mile/last-mile connections to light rail: “I want to make sure that the Big Blue Bus [Santa Monica’s municipal public transit system] or something like the DASH system exists everywhere so that I have a seamless trip.”
- Whoever is elected to the County Board of Supervisors will have a hand in drafting Measure R-2, the successor to the half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2008 to pay for major transit improvements, like the Expo light rail.
At the 2:15 mark, Kuehl discusses how much of Measure R-2 should be designated for bike and ped improvements: “I think if it was more than four or five percent, it’d be difficult to get it passed because most people aren’t used to thinking about walking and bicycling as part of what they are paying for in terms of transit… They want to know the money’s going for trains.”
- At the 3:40 mark, Kuehl talks about her record on affordable housing issues: “The main thing that I did and took the lead on really had to do with rent control. From my point of view [rent control] is a very important aspect of affordable housing because it is not only affordable when you move in, it stays affordable.”
- At the 5:10 mark, Kuehl talks about her role passing legislation to create funding for permanent supportive housing for the County’s chronically homeless population.
- At the 5:50 mark, Kuehl addresses the County’s housing crisis and what she could do, if elected, as a County Supervisor to help alleviate it: “On the MTA Board, I think we have to pay attention, in terms of all the transportation funds, to what we do to encourage people to live near transit. I don’t know if you can do much more than just sweeten the pot.”
- At the 6:35 mark, Kuehl talks about her priorities for bringing better public transit to the Valley: “One very long-term goal would be [a train from the] Valley to LAX… there has got to be a way to get from the Valley to LAX and lots of great stops in between.”
- Kuehl talks about the Orange line at the 7:45 mark: “There needs to be an evaluation about whether the Orange line would do better as a train… It’s not clear that we need a train, but I think, frankly, the capacity of a train could be more attractive.”
- If she could change one thing instantly about L.A. County public transit, what would Kuehl change? She talks about that at the 8:20 mark: “We would have never done away with streetcars and the [Pacific Electric] Red Car. We wouldn’t be the same kind of transit, obviously, but the mindset would not have gone away in terms of public transit… It is the car fetishism in L.A. that really led to our demise in our traffic.”
You can see the full 30 minute interview with Kuehl below.