Bob Hertzberg Makes His Case in the L.A. County Supervisor Race

The Candidates Speak to the Courier | Part Two of Two

On Nov. 8, voters will choose a new Los Angeles County Supervisor for the powerful 3rd District seat currently held by Sheila Kuehl, who is retiring. The district, which includes Beverly Hills, stretches from Santa Monica and Malibu to the San Fernando Valley and out as far as Westlake Village. Its population of 2 million residents exceeds that of 14 states. Contending for the seat are two high-profile runoff candidates, West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath and State Sen. Bob Hertzberg. Both have granted interviews to the Courier about the most pressing issues in this high-stakes race. Part One of this series featured Horvath and ran in our Oct. 21 issue. This week Part Two spotlights State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, the former California State Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader.  

BHC:  You and your opponent have both spent approximately the same amount of time in public service. Why do you think your experience in Sacramento makes you the better candidate for a countywide seat?

Hertzberg:  She is a city official in a city that has a part-time City Council. It’s called a General Law City, which means all the laws are written by us in the state. You meet twice a month. 

I came into the legislature, served for six years and quickly became Speaker of the House. I left for 12 years and worked around the world. Now I’ve been in the State Senate for eight years. 

Here’s what I will tell you. L.A. County is not the normal local government. By population, L.A. County is larger than the state of Michigan. The county is a deep partner with the state of California. There’s not a single issue the county deals with that we don’t deal with in the state. 

So having a deep understanding and deep relationships at the state is critical to getting things done. 

What I’m trying to express is that this position isn’t about local government. It’s about state government operating on the local level. I’ve worked on dozens of issues across the board. The Governor endorsed me because he knows I know how to get stuff done.

I wasn’t intending to run. I thought about it a lot. The job needs someone with deep experience. I decided to run because I have those relationships and I can deliver. 

Crime is one of the most troublesome issues facing the electorate right now. What actions are within the purview of a Supervisor to address the rise in crime? 

First, let me say that every law enforcement agency, whether it’s the county or the city, has endorsed me. My opponent has a very different view about public safety than I do. 

One of the reasons why I decided to run was after talking to so many of my friends. The wife of one friend orders everything online; she won’t go out. They’re scared to death. Homelessness and crime are moral issues; you shouldn’t be in a society where you have that fear. You’re supposed to protect people. But it is different on the county level versus the city level.

With respect to the crime issue, one of the problems is that we have 684 vacancies at the Sheriff’s Department,  and the County Supervisors are in a fight with the Sheriff. Now, I’m not going to give an opinion one way or the other about the nature of that fight. But we’ve got to protect the public. 

So, number one, you need more officers, absolutely number one. 

And I haven’t always agreed with law enforcement. But they know I’m the adult in the room. They know I can get things done. I’m not a flip flopper. I’m consistent. I’m old school; I like to have the senior lead officers work in the community, get to know the community, go to the neighborhood councils and so forth.

I know we have issues with some bad cops. We have to have transparency and correct that. A lot of the crime-related issues are either mental health or drug-related issues. Not every incident needs to be met with a gun and handcuffs. The mental health piece is gigantic, and we need to focus attention on that as well.  

How do you propose to focus more attention on mental health services, especially for the vulnerable unhoused population?

On the homelessness issue, my response is informed by my experience in government. When I was Speaker of the House, I formed a commission on regionalism. Why is that? I did it because there is no such thing as the Sherman Oaks pollution control authority because it doesn’t stay within the boundaries of Sherman Oaks. It’s the same thing with homelessness. 

When you look at the number of homeless, my opponent’s numbers are down. The numbers in Beverly Hills are up. You’re next door to her. Are they just being moved around? Is this really solving a regional problem?

I get that if you’re a local politician, you want to say you reduced homelessness. That’s fair for a local politician. But it’s not fair for a county official who represents 88 cities, 86 school districts, 526 subdivisions of government and has to take a look at the whole big picture. That is not a record of success in the county. 

The county has $2 billion sitting in the bank now from the millionaire’s tax, most of it was paid by people in your area. They paid the tax, and it is sitting in the bank, and the county has done nothing. It was supposed to fund training for mental health workers. As a partner, the county has been a horrible partner to the state. We’ve gone out and given them a revenue stream. They have the ability to get stuff done,  and they’re not getting it done. So, we have to. 

You seem to imply that the Board of Supervisors as presently constituted is a bit dysfunctional. Why do you want to be a part of that group?

I want to change it. I got endorsed by [5th District Supervisor] Kathryn Barger, so that puts two of us in alignment. There are five members in total, so all I need is a third one to vote with us. I was Speaker of the House, I had to deal with people from Fresno, from Imperial County. I had to deal with Republicans and Democrats. West Hollywood is a wonderful place but it’s relatively harmonious. As Supervisor, I’ve got to represent from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills to Granada Hills to Porter Ranch, Sylmar and all those communities. I’ve worked in those places and been able to bring people together. I was the first person in over 50 years to be elected Speaker of the House unanimously by both parties, so that has to tell you something. 

 By the way, the other Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl, who I’m seeking to replace, served in the Assembly and the Senate. Holly Mitchell served in those places and so did Hilda Solis. You can’t hit the ground running if you don’t know how everything works. 

What else about your background, both in public service and the private sector, makes you better qualified to be Supervisor than your opponent? 

It’s all about experience. What I mean by experience is this. It’s very different to talk about something and be at a press conference than it is to actually take a tough vote when you’re in the meat grinder and people on all sides are really after you. It’s about character. I’m not somebody who’s flip flopped all over the place in terms of something as essential as a woman’s right to choose. My life is consistent. I’ve made mistakes. I’ll admit them, no problem. But my opponent was a Republican writing stuff for George Bush. Now she’s a super progressive Democrat supported by the Democratic Socialists of America. My opponent on the choice issue was way over on one end, now she’s way over on the other end after she moved to California from Notre Dame. My level of experience and my consistency is there, and my values are there. 

Another thing, she is supported by and is supporting D.A. George Gascón. I would venture to guess there’s not many people in the City of Beverly Hills that support Gascón. I did not get involved in the recall, but I do not support him. 

I’m not thinking only about what’s in front of us today in terms of crime, public safety and homelessness. I’m also thinking about economic development. We’re going to face a recession. I’m the only one who has been through a downturn. Try to lead when there are big budget cuts, see what that looks like. It’s easy when there’s a bunch of money. We better think about jobs down the corner. All the Chambers of Commerce have endorsed me, including the one in my opponent’s city. They know I’m the one who can bring in the revenue to pay those taxes in the first place. I’ve started two businesses of my own. 

One last thing is this idea that she is the change agent is exactly wrong. She is endorsed by four members of the Board of Supervisors. Do you think she is going to go against what they’re doing? The Board of Supervisors is at 17 % popularity with the public. No one likes what they’re doing. No one sees what they’re doing as effective. She’s in a situation where she can’t challenge them because she’s been endorsed by all of them. She’s not change. She may be younger, but she is status quo. I’m the one who’s change.