Councilmember Lindsey Horvath traded barbs with state Sen. Bob Hertzberg over their records on public safety on Tuesday night during a Meet the Candidates forum hosted by CBS Los Angeles.
Horvath, Hertzberg and state Sen. Herny Stern, all running for County Supervisor District 3, fielded in-depth questions on a variety of topics from the moderators, with a special focus on crime and homelessness.
Horvath leaned heavily on her work as councilmember and recent mayor of West Hollywood, touting the city’s social programs as models for that could work on a countywide scale.
“As mayor during COVID, as president of California Contract Cities Association, I was the liaison between our local communities to make sure that we got the services and support that we needed,” she said when asked why she was the candidate to tackle declining quality of life in the county.
Stern and Hertzberg both underscored the dark times the L.A. area is facing.
“I talk to people who won’t go to the shopping mall because they’re concerned about a smash and grab,” Hertzberg said. “That’s a terrorist act. Not just on the people stealing a $500 purse — that’s the easy part — (but) on people who won’t go to shop because their public safety is so important.”
“You can throw statistics all you want at the people of L.A.” and tell them everything’s fine and crimes are at a certain level, or homelessness, ‘we’re doing everything we can’ — but the fact is the reality on the ground, L.A. voters know that things are not OK,” Stern said.
Sparks flew when Horvath accused Hertzberg of being untrustworthy .
“I don’t think we can trust someone who’s endorsed by all of the law enforcement agencies to hold them accountable,” she said.
“The reason why they’re supporting me is because I’m somebody who actually makes stuff happen,” Hertzberg countered. “Councilmember Horvath claims that as a councilperson because she wrote a letter that pulled all the rape kits. I spent 11 years building one of the largest crime labs in the country at Cal State LA.”
Horvath took offense at his response.
“As a woman in elected office I’m not you I’m not unfamiliar with people trying to diminish the work that I’ve done, but actually I built a very strong diverse coalition of hundreds of people who came together in a movement to deliver results on the backlog of untested rape kit evidence. As a survivor I’m kind of offended that you would go there.”
The candidates were asked if they would take a fundamentally different approach to the homelessness crisis.
“Right now we’ve been stuck at the county level where we’ve been having to choose between a housing first policy and abundant services,” Stern said. “Essentially the county has been sitting on $980 million for mental health services dollars that should have been put to work on the street providing street-level medicine providing care and instead that that funding bottlenecked because folks said ‘unless you’ve got that permanent supportive housing built for that individual then we’re not going to deploy any services’ and I disagree with that approach.”
“We do need a fundamentally different approach and that’s what we’ve done in my community,” Horvath said. “We work with the sheriff’s department and on the law enforcement and safety side but we lead with care. We lead with clinically trained social workers who are able to diagnose people on the spot and get them into the care that they need rather than jailing them simply for being unhoused.”
Hertzberg offered a novel idea to help persuade homeless people to seek shelter and treatment.
“One of the big issues is that about 20 percent of the people on the street have pets. If you just provide some place for the pets, which we’ve now done at the state, you dramatically provide an incentive for people to get off the street,” he said.
The candidates then discussed their thoughts on the rise in crime and what could be done about it.
“There does need to be tougher prosecution in certain circumstances like extreme speeding and street street racing and some of these property theft rings that we’re facing,” Stern said. “We don’t need to cut public safety resources right now. We don’t need to defund the police right now. We can have restorative care and adequate public safety services.”
“We need to make sure law enforcement has the resources necessary to fight violent crime and we need to stop spending tens of millions of dollars on liability cases,” Horvath said. “I chaired the Liability Trust Fund Claims Board and Oversight Committee and I see all of those cases. We need to stop wasting this money on incidents that are reported to involve deputy gangs or asking law enforcement to respond to issues for which they are not uniquely trained.”
At the last City Council meeting, Horvath brought in insurance broker Karen Bartak to speak on the liability issue. Bartak veered into a discussion on gangs in the Sheriff’s Department before the city clerk recommended Bartak conclude until the topic could be added as an official agenda at future meeting.