Tuesday, June 3, is the 2014 Primary Election. Of special interest to us is the Third Los Angeles County Supervisor’s race as the two leading candidates, Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver, reside in Santa Monica. Since they will likely meet in the November runoff our new supervisor will be a Santa Monican. For a variety of reasons, I hope it’s Shriver.
Given the election season, I recently read Chris Matthews’ best-seller, “Tip and the Gipper — When Politics Worked.” Matthews, host of “Hardball” on MSNBC, was a top aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neil when Ronald Reagan was president. Back then, in spite of major ideological differences, Congress and the president often sought compromise.
Today compromise is a dirty word. In fact, statistically, this Congress is the least productive in history. I mention all of this because, even though the Supervisor’s race is non-partisan, I was disappointed that, when Shriver announced his candidacy in January, it seemed that immediately Kuehl went on the attack. While I’ve often admired her, inexplicably to me, she took the low road.
Sheila criticized Shriver’s wealth and lack of experience. Frankly, the former isn’t relevant and the latter isn’t true. Rather than Kuehl touting her political accomplishments, which are considerable, her campaign signaled it was going to be negative.
Kuehl asked rhetorically, “Do we really need a Supervisor who’s going to run off to Hyannis Port?” apparently unaware that twice the trips were for family funerals. . One was his mother’s, Eunice’s (JFK’s sister) and then for his Uncle Ted’s. (JFK’s brother and U.S. Senator.)
If fact I was so irritated that I sent what I thought was a clever counter the Shriver campaign could use as a bumper sticker, “Don’t Drink the Kuehl Aid.” Thankfully they had the good sense to pass.
As opposed to Kuehl who spent 16 years in Sacramento, Shriver is hardly a career politician. Even though he comes from a legendary political family (his father Sargent was Director of the Peace Corps and Eunice, started the Special Olympics) Shriver didn’t enter politics until he was 50.
After graduating Yale Law School, Shriver became an attorney, then a journalist, and ultimately an entrepreneur. Among other philanthropic accomplishments, he co-founded DATA, ONE and (RED) to help fight the Africa Aids epidemic and has raised $250 million to date.
Shriver and his partner, Bono of U-2 fame, also helped persuade President Bush to allocate $15 billion in humanitarian funds to Africa. The critical AIDS treatment and prevention funds have literally saved millions of lives.
Almost reluctantly, Shriver ran for Santa Monica city council in 2004 primarily to shake up the city’s bureaucratic culture which wasn’t listening to residents. Fiercely independent in a city divided (landlords and tenants, among other battles) he won the highest percentage of votes in Santa Monica’s 120-year history and in 2010 he became our Mayor.
Rising above partisan bickering, Bobby’s focused on getting things done through finding common ground. He worked to balance every budget and retain Santa Monica’s AAA rating while protecting city services. And he fought tirelessly for housing and services for the homeless, particularly veterans as sadly so many live on our streets.
Shriver spearheaded the effort to clean up the Santa Monica Bay and also championed the living wage for hotel workers. And he helped secure $27.5 million from the Annenberg Foundation to renovate and preserve the Annenberg Community Beach House. (Formerly the Marion Davies estate.)
Meanwhile, Bobby was also Chairman of the California State Park and Recreation Commission where he fought successfully against a six-lane toll road that would have decimated San Onofre State Beach. Shortly thereafter and apparently not pleased, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bobby’s then brother-in-law, didn’t reappoint him. (I’d love to have been a fly on the wall at that year’s Thanksgiving dinner.)
Now Shriver is taking on a new challenge as he runs for the Board of Supervisors. In addition to traffic gridlock, the drought emergency, and a myriad of pressing issues facing the county, employment has dropped by over 200,000 jobs in the past 20 years. We also have the nation’s largest population of homeless vets, including women combat veterans. “Phoenix and Salt Lake City have literally ended homelessness among vets,” Shriver notes, “so can we.”
Bringing “fresh eyes on old problems,” Bobby is committed to getting projects done on time and on budget. He advocates citizen oversight to the Sheriff’s Department and reforms outlined by the Blue ribbon Commission to make the foster care system effective and accountable.
So all of the above and more is why on Tuesday I’ll be voting for Shriver and hopefully again in November. All I can say is, watch out L.A. County I have a feeling you’re about to get shook up.
To join the Shriver campaign, go to: bobbyshriver.com. Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or firstname.lastname@example.org.