The Hang Out Do Good local advocacy group is conducting a series of conversations with candidates currently running for local offices, including Los Angeles Mayor, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, LA County Sheriff, Los Angeles City Attorney, and several Los Angeles City Council seats. The conversations take place on Sunday afternoons, via Zoom, and are open to the public (see the remaining schedule below). This Q&A conversation with Supervisorial District 3 candidate Lindsey Horvath, structured as a Q&A with HODG hosts, took place on February 13. Horvath is a current member of the West Hollywood City Council, as well as a former mayor of that city, and is endorsed by outgoing Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Supervisor Janice Hahn, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others. These were among the topics covered in the conversation:
What does the Board of Supervisors do?
“It’s the social safety net for all of LA County, which is all of Los Angeles, plus 87 other cities,” Horvath said. She also noted that the County has more than 100,000 employees, and an annual budget of $34 billion. “It’s the greatest seat on local government, because you an truly transform people’s lives. And that’s why I’m running.”
If elected, what three things would you do one day one?
“The top three issues are homelessness, homelessness, and homelessness.” Horvath said she wants to find better solutions to the complex problem, and that we can’t just jail people simply for being unhoused. Horvath noted, however, that her city, West Hollywood, has often served as a lab for new ideas to help with homelessness, and it was able to get 80% of its homeless population off the streets by working closely with both LA County and the sheriff’s department.
In addition to homelessness, Horvath said public safety is a close second among major issues, and that we need a “care-first model” for helping the mentally ill, who have committed a number of prominent crimes recently.
And third, she said, is our regional transportation network — making sure promises are met and the available money is going to the infrastructure actually needed to get people where they need to go, along with multiple modes of transportation, and housing near transit, to help overcome past disparities for the people who rely most on public transit.
At the end of your first year on the job, how would we hold you accountable, and how would you define success?
Horvath said that on the homelessness issue, success would include a more transparent and understandable system, including scaling back the current Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which was created as the result of a court decision, without a staff actually empowered to do the needed work. “We need to treat homelessness like a crisis,” she said, likening the situation to a house fire where fire trucks should show up immediately to put it out. To do that for homelessness, she said, we will need to put more outreach workers on the street, and improve the connections to resources that they can offer to people who need help.
If you could make one change to the Department of Mental Health, what would it be?
Horvath said she would put mental health urgent care centers in every community around the county to make help more readily available, and to help people feel safe seeking help. Horvath said current LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn introduced this idea originally, but it hasn’t taken off yet.
Measure J provided more funding for social services in 2020, but progress in providing those services has been slow — why?
Horvath said the barriers are resistance to change and that we’re bombarded with messages that we’re unsafe (which makes people want to prioritize other things, like public safety, first). But also, she said, we still haven’t really invested in the services and care we need to get people off the streets. West Hollywood, she noted, invested more than 10% of its city budget in social services, in addition to law enforcement, to help keep people safe. So we don’t have to think that social services and police services are opposing goals, she said, which is “a dangerous way to look at it.” For example, Horvath said, suspect in the Jacqueline Avant murder in Beverly Hills was identified as high risk before that crime, but he wasn’t being monitored. According to Horvath, Measure J would have funded more required check-ins for that person, which could have helped prevent Avant’s murder.
What about shifting resources and calls from the 911 system for police response to a 988 emergency number for mental health issues?
Horvath said this could also be funded through Measure J…but we should only do it if we’re really willing to invest in it. Horvath said that in addition to 911, the County also has 211 (the County equivalent of the City of Los Angeles’ 311 service hotline), but currently one in four calls to 211 are not answered because we just don’t have the capacity to handle all the calls. So she said we also need a culture shift to recognizing that all of us have some shared responsibility for our community problems and being willing to set these kinds of priorities. “We are the ones we’re waiting for,” she said. And, finally, she noted that West Hollywood also has a strong pilot program for a new 988 system, which could be scaled up for the wider County area.
Why isn’t the proposal for a county-wide community mental health system getting traction?
Horvath said she thinks people are just overwhelmed with other issues, and it’s not getting the media coverage it deserves. She said, though, that as “the only person coming from local government running for this seat,” she understands the problem on many levels, and knows that we need better personal and community engagement with the idea, or it won’t succeed.
How can a County Supervisor combat the many bureaucratic impediments to change?
Horvath said she “couldn’t agree more” that bureaucracy is a big issue. One of our most-heard complaints, she said, is that people living on the street have to contact at least three or four different service providers to get the various kinds of help they need. She said the solution goes back to creating a budget that’s truly reflective of our values, and it takes courage to make those kinds of big changes. But “I am prepared to make bold changes to the County system,” she said, acknowledging that the Supervisors won’t get it right 100% of the time, but they do have to try or change will never happen.
Would you commit to working with the various city councils in LA County, and commit to increasing the number of outreach workers for the homeless?
As a local official, Horvath said she’s seen how lack of coordination has created problems. So she would work with neighborhood councils to invest in solutions that make the most difference neighborhood by neighborhood. And, yes, she said, some of it includes increasing the number of outreach workers to help create more individual solutions – such as finding housing for a homeless man who couldn’t accept several housing offers because he couldn’t take his dog with him.
Would you commit to specifically studying LGBTQIA homelessness and poverty issues?
“Absolutely,” Horvath said, along with funding the necessary resources for gender confirming and culturally competent care.
There have been some great ideas for change, but lots of poor implementation – how would you focus on change instead of continuing the status quo?
“We need to make sure that such motions come with teeth,” Horvath said, starting with how those motions are written. For example, she said, they should include specific action steps, status report requirements, and specifics on how progress will be tracked and evaluated. We should also talk to the people who are actually delivering the services, and provide incentives for their feedback, she said, to find out why existing programs are not currently working.
What is the process for making it happen?
Horvath said it depends on the specific department or agency. For example, she said, LAHSA often takes the lead on homeless issues, but because it was created by a court decree, it often doesn’t have the power to provide leadership, and feedback on its work doesn’t come back to the Board of Supervisors for evaluation.
What about a department, like Mental Health, that is accountable to the Supervisors?
Even some of those, Horvath said, citing the Department of Child and Family Services, are a “bureaucratic nightmare,” because you can’t access their resources and services until you’ve been cited. In other words, she said, you can’t reach out to them if you’re in trouble, because that’s not how the system is designed. “That needs to change,” she said. Also, she said, there are other examples of inefficiency, such as the lack of a central database of resources in DCFS – each caseworker has their own separate spreadsheet of options.
We want people to take public transit, but we’re slashing routes and schedules because there’s a shortage of drivers. How can we fix that?
Horvath said we need to make sure that Measure M funds are actively being spent on this problem. And we also need to coordinate with the communities along those routes, to see what other transit options might be helpful and available to them when routes are cut.
What are some small, non-controversial changes that could have transformative results?
Horvath said one of the most important changes would be simply how we react to each other. In other words, she said, we need to tone down the rhetoric and get “the adults in the room” to have simple conversations about the important topics.
How will you get off to a better relationship with Sheriff Alex Villanueva than that of the current supervisors?
Horvath noted that there may be a new sheriff after the election, but while the public sentiment seems to exist to replace the current sheriff, “politics may deliver a different result.” So we also need opportunities, she said, for better training in that department…and to develop other services, besides law enforcement, to better care for people.
How would you scale up homeless services developed in West Hollywood to work at the County level?
To start with, Horvath said, we need to invest more money in our contracted organizations, increase the number of street teams, and also create a centralized database of resources and available housing, as well as build more housing, to get people off the streets. And we need to bring community members together to support these efforts.
Non-profits run by women of color get only a fraction of the funding that others do – how can we ensure this changes?
Horvath said we need to audit the funding system for these organizations and prioritize the need to invest in those run by people of color.
What is your approach to the mental health problems we’re seeing on our streets, and for getting people the help they need?
Again, Horvath said we need to invest directly in the specific needs of each community, and also provide funding to help keep people housed if they miss payments, so they don’t become homeless in the first place. Finally, she reiterated, we need to create mental health urgent care facilities in communities throughout the county.
What kinds of successes has LA County had that could be applied elsewhere?
Horvath said a good example is the County’s award-winning sustainability plan, which sets out both short and long-term solutions, along with specific steps like closing down oil wells in the short term, more challenging goals such as more sustainable development. Horvath said this plan was developed at the community level, so those who will be held accountable for its implementation were actually at the table as it was created. And that kind of buy-in from local leaders will help them take responsibility for it as the plan is implemented.
People have spent years working on youth justice reforms, but Sheila Kuehl recently replaced the long-planned Youth Development Department with another entity with a different focus. Are you concerned about this, and will you publicly oppose Kuehl’s proposal?
“Yes, I’m concerned,” Horvath said, saying she believes that the person appointed to implement the new plan is not committed to real change…and she will publicly oppose it.
Wrapping up the talk, Horvath said she doesn’t want to be the kind of candidate who gives glib answers without serious consideration, and asked people to hold her accountable if they aren’t happy with her statements. She also said that she’s not going to promise to be an expert on everything, but that she will bring experts to the table, and “I want you in that board room with me.”
The remaining talks in the HODG Looking Local Series are:
3/6 (4-5 pm) Mike Feuer, Mayor (confirmed)
3/13 (4-5 pm) Louis Abramson, State Assembly, 51 (confirmed)
3/20 (4-5pm) Katy Young Yaroslavsky, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
(5-6pm) Scott Epstein, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
3/27 (4-5pm) Jimmy Biblarz, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
4/3 (4-5 pm) Sam Yebri, City Council District 5 (confirmed)
4/10 (4-5pm) Mitch O’Farrell, City Council District 13 (confirmed)
4/17 (4-5pm) Kate Pynoos, City Council District 13 (confirmed)
(5-6pm) Dulce Vasquez, City Council District 9 (confirmed)
4/24 (4-5 pm) Hugo Soto Martinez, City Council District 13 (confirmed)
5/1 (4-5 pm) Teddy Kapur, City Attorney (confirmed)
(5-5:30pm) Eli Vera, Sheriff (confirmed)
5/8 (4-5 pm) Hydee Feldstein Soto, City Attorney (confirmed)
5/15 (4-5 pm) Faisal Gill, City Attorney (confirmed)
5/22 (4-5 pm) Bob Hertzberg, Board of Supervisors (confirmed)
5/29 (4-5 pm) OPEN
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