Jamie Paige 

Special to the Daily Press

One of the most critical races facing voters in 2022 is in LA County District Three. Current District Three representative Sheila Kuehl is stepping down, creating the only empty seat on the powerful five-person Board of Supervisors, which manages a County budget of $38.5 billion.  

The vast, 431-square-mile Third District stretches from parts of Venice and Santa Monica to the eastern and northeastern San Fernando Valley. The two candidates vying for the seat are State Senator Bob Hertzberg, who currently represents the City of Los Angeles in his role as an assembly leader and West Hollywood Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath. 

Why They’re Running

Hertzberg has said he was not looking to run for another government position because he had done his public service. But he changed his mind and decided in 2020 to vie for the District Three seat because there are so many challenges facing the County, and he questions how it is spending its multi-billion-dollar budget.  

“For example, we wrote a check for $16 million to the County for a program on mental health over three years ago; they haven’t spent a dime of that money. There is currently $2 million in the bank for mental health, and they haven’t spent a dime of that. In Malibu, they have a water system that needs to be fixed. I know how to get things done. That’s what I do. I don’t do it with fanfare, but I believe in getting it done.”

Hertzberg says his experience, character and gut will help the county through the largest homeless crisis it has ever faced. 

“I’ve got more scars on my body from fighting for what I care about. Other candidates have their consultants tell them what to say. It’s easy to promise the moon, but the public is tired of being promised the moon and not having it delivered. So, I will tell you the truth: what I can do, what I will do. I will course-correct when I make a mistake. I will tell you when I make a mistake. But it’s time to do the hard work, and that’s what I intend to do.” 

Horvath says she has consistently heard from people about what help they need and where meaningful work needs to be done. “I want to bridge the gap between the County and independent cities,” she says. “That is very important. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of responsibility on the board.”

Horvath, who has represented the City of West Hollywood on and off since she was 26, says that she has seen on a local level what happens when people don’t work together. 

“We need someone who can work in a group—meet people where they are in their neighborhoods. I did this for 15 years. This is a local seat. If elected, I’m prepared to meet people where they are in their communities. I’ve built a diverse coalition of support. I’ve served in leadership statewide in the [National] League of Cities and chaired Women in Municipal Government for our country. So, I’m used to working to bring people together to solve problems.”

Horvath adds that she would not be coming in as an expert. “I’m here to work with people and use solutions unique to each neighborhood. That’s why someone in local government is necessary for this seat. We can’t just throw money at the problem. We need to work together and implement solutions.”

Diverse Representation

Both candidates say they are ready to represent the two million people who live in the vast district. “As a state senator,” Hertzberg highlighted, “I’ve got the upper hand and am currently representing one million people in a diverse district. My opponent represents one square mile of people. I have to look at statewide issues that impact you. I have been a speaker of the Assembly, which requires me to work with everyone—and I have.” 

Hertzberg adds that on a micro level, he went to every one of the neighborhood council meetings in the cities he has represented. “I know we must expand our community offices because you have to show up for the job and know what you are doing. My opponent only represents a city with one party. I represent communities across the board. I can bring people together. I can and will show up and be available, and I will listen and show respect.”

Horvath says she believes that despite the vast territory of the district, the position is very much a local one. “It’s important to involve communities on a local level. This is what I have done and am good at. I know how to bring people together and work collectively.” 

Serving the Middle Class

Both candidates say they have plans for addressing the needs of the dwindling middle class with differing approaches. 

Says Horvath: “I’ve heard this concern throughout the district—that we are in a crisis, a homeless crisis that has impacted the middle class. People say they aren’t safe walking to the park or taking kids to school. We need to ensure there are jobs that pay well with the rising cost of just about everything these days. We need to ensure people are valued for their work and getting training and support. We need to make sure the County is invested in workforce development and looking at homeownership funding sources. We need to make sure people have services that are at the local level. Some places are in unincorporated areas, but what we really need is to make sure we are meeting people in their neighborhoods.”

Hertzberg points to the stagnation of building new homes, especially affordable homes, something that he says he has focused on and will continue to focus on. 

“I want to build the middle class. I have written a $25 billion bond for home ownership. We will be working with banks and will give a loan of $150,000 for new construction only. The loan will be interest-bearing and not due for 15 years. This will be at no taxpayer cost. This is a middle-class solution to ensure we have more housing and give folks opportunities to get into a home and invest in their futures.” Hertzberg adds that he has been working on this plan as a state senator and has raised enough money to put the matter on the ballot in the future if needed.  

Building Businesses 

Supporting small businesses will also be a focus of both candidates, but again, they have differing ideas of how to do that.  

“It’s why we need to address the homeless issues,” says Horvath. “We need to meet people with the services they need. I understand the impact on the streets is what businesses have to deal with. That’s where we need to work together. Right now, we need to ensure we are funding enough people on the streets to connect them to services. It’s not enough to just provide a pamphlet. We need to connect them with things like transportation. 

“We haven’t seen the help we need,” Horvath adds. “I see this on our streets. I see the disconnect. Sometimes people won’t leave the streets because they have become a de facto ‘family.’ Sometimes when you are moving four or five at a time instead of just one, it’s a community and helps them feel safer. My opponent has no experience doing that.”

Hertzberg notes that the homeless issue is a public safety issue that is “out of control.” He elaborates: “You don’t have a right to live and die on the street. We have an obligation in government to provide you with services and shelter. But, you don’t have a right to say no to them. This is an area where there is a clear distinction between the two candidates. The City passed a law that says no encampments can be within 500 feet of schools. I talked to someone about an RV on fire outside their school. You can’t do that to kids. Yes, we need consideration for people in society, but when considering whether to have a 500-foot setback in front of schools where kids and grandkids go to school, this is horrible. We’re going to build tiny homes on government land. We’ll provide mental health.”

Hertzberg says that the City and County continue to spend money on programs that don’t work and is calling for political accountability. “I want to do a pilot project just for LA County that holds us—the politicians—responsible. By the way, solving this crisis has to be more than the City and County. Surrounding areas like Long Beach need to be involved. This is a regional issue, and you need regional solutions.”

If elected, Hertzberg says a commission on regionalism is needed. “You can’t have a homeless authority that only deals with LA. I’m going to be tough, but we need solutions. I think democracy demands [that we] stand up. I’m here to be in the trenches. I’m going to set timelines and deliverables to get things done. Politicians are responsible for this. We need to be held accountable.”

Mental Illness

Both candidates agree that mental illness has continued to be on the rise and that the current number of children being diagnosed is troubling. Hertzberg points to the billion-dollar initiative the state is putting into training more healthcare workers. 

“Four hundred million of that will come to Los Angeles. LA County has $3 billion of the state’s money and $2 million in the bank. I will make sure that’s spent. Some people say you don’t have the authority to do that. I know how to work in Sacramento to get it done. The County is not like a city. It’s different, and that knowledge in Sacramento is essential to get things done.”

Hertzberg also notes that he wants to create a process to ensure there is appropriate care for people struggling with mental illness for longer than 72 hours and train more judges for ‘care court.’ “I’ve been deeply involved in mental health bills. I’ve been on the [State Senate] Mental Health Caucus. It is an area of public policy that concerns me. The last thing I would say is that fentanyl impacts our mental health challenges. We need to take a close look at this as well.”

Horvath notes that she has already spoken to administrators at area hospitals such as Saint John’s in Santa Monica and is looking to expand mental health beds. “We want to expand in all areas. There are a lot of funds not being spent. There is money to expand the service. It’s [a matter of[ connecting those resources to services.” 

Metro Matters

Before the pandemic, public transit was under threat as it was decimated by COVID measures. When elected, the Supervisor Three candidate will sit on the Metro board. Horvath points out that she is not new to such a role. 

“As a former transportation commissioner, I like talking about solutions. I’ve worked with Metro. I helped oversee the Crenshaw expansion. I’ve even had Valley leaders asking for extensions in their areas after we built the expansion. We’ve made good progress because I’ve attended over 300 community meetings. I was seeing fears firsthand and working to find solutions. We need transparency and engagement. We need local people to know what’s going on. There’s frustration that there is no clear communication. Once those lines and bus routes are built, I’ll ensure that infrastructure is safe for people to ride. The Metro management and leaders trust me and have endorsed me. We need to make sure people feel safe and support ridership and [have a] quality experience.”

More than his opponent, Hertzberg believes that Metro is a real problem. “We have a management problem at Metro. There is no clear direction or management structure. There’s also a problem with cleanliness and safety. Moving forward, we need very clear accountability and transparency. Right now, its consultants are making money, and the options on the table are limited. So, before you get to [addressing these] issues, I would step back and engage everyone in a more significant, more profound think about what needs to be done and how to move forward.”

Wildfire Dangers

As a representative in high wildfire-danger areas like the parts of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties affected by the 2018 Woolsey Fire—which burned 96,949 acres and 1,643 structures, killed three people and prompted the evacuation of more than 295,000 people—both candidates say they are up for the challenge, but again, with differing ideas on how to meet it. 

Hertzberg says we should be looking at prevention, such as lifting the water ban in areas where the Woolsey Fire happened. “That’s key to preventing fires. The [California] Department of Water Resources has a rule that they can increase the water allocation from the State in high fire areas. That can be requested by the County. The current county supervisor has said no. I would change that and allow for watering in those areas to prevent fires. We also need to have setbacks and more money to make sure we have enough firefighters.” 

Hertzberg also says he would ban overnight camping in places like Malibu. “I’m not against the campaign, but I’m sorry, not if there is a risk of fires. You have to balance this out.”

Ensuring that lots of new construction doesn’t happen in high fire-danger areas is also something Hertzberg says he will do—and so does his opponent. 

“I want to protect those who are there and not overdevelop where it’s not fit,” says Horvath, who notes that her community of West Hollywood provided backup during the Woolsey Fire. “We got regular reports. Our policy director made sure we were prepared in our area. When the city manager in Malibu needed help, she called me. That’s the experience I have when I haven’t even governed in those areas yet.”

Although they differ on many political policies, both candidates agreed that every vote will matter on Election Day.

Visit www.smdp.com/pod to hear interviews with both candidates.