Hi Bob, Welcome to the Gay Starbucks in West Hollywood!
Yeah I love it!
You mentioned previously living in West Hollywood.
Yes, – I grew up in LA and then moved to Palm Springs. Five boys in my family. I went to Law School in San Francisco and then moved to West Hollywood. I lived on Olive in 1979-80 and then from 1981 to 84 on Flores, – between Santa Monica and Sunset. That’s when it was County. West Hollywood wasn’t a city yet.
You said your son is part of the LGBTQ family?
Yep and he’s running for the Senate to replace me.
How many kids do you have?
I have two boys. My oldest son is getting married next weekend. He is a classical music composer, went to Julliard One his operas won the Music Critics Award from the Critics Association in North America. The first time I went to Carnegie Hall was to see him. The first time I went to Kennedy Center was to see him. He’s a composer and lives in New York. When he was a young kid at Juilliard he learned Swedish and wrote a Swedish opera that was performed in Uppsala, Sweden. He’s unbelievable! You can look at his website davidhertzbergmusic.com. My older son is 32. Daniel’s 30. and Daniel is gay and he’s running for my seat. If he gets elected he’ll be the only LGBTQ Senate Assembly Member in LA County.
You’re running for County Supervisor. Tell me more.
I’m a road warrior. I fear no issues. My experience in the legislature isn’t just introducing a bill. I was Speaker of the House, Majority Leader of the Senate. What that means is I had to build coalitions with everybody. I had to find people from all parts of the State to get votes on issues. And work with the Governor and the other House. When Sheila Kuehl introduced her bullying bill that was vetoed four times, I got it passed– because I worked with conservatives from the Central Valley where she couldn’t get the votes.
The way I always work is in coalition and partnerships. I could have said I’m the hero, she couldn’t get it done but no- I got her votes. I let her carry the bill. It passed. You work in partnership. She’s been working hard on that bill for a long time. I’m not somebody who goes to get my name in the paper. I’m someone who works in partnership with folks, works on gigantically big ideas that are impossible like this one right here. (points to his tee shirt) My initiative to protect consumer privacies. Everybody said is it impossible to get done. The word impossible hits me in the face. Bring it on!
That ‘Yes on 24’ on your shirt. I’m sorry I don’t know- is that current or is that something that already passed?
It basically allows you to opt out. It’s the single biggest privacy item to protect consumer privacy. It allows you that protect yourself, your kids from people following you and tracing you on the location devices. It passed.
No one thought it was possible. When you’re in government, you have the doctors versus the lawyers or labor versus management. Those are not easy lines in the privacy world. Everybody has different ways to exploit and monetize the internet. Apple has one view. ATT has another. Microsoft has another. Oracle has another view, so there’s no real sense of it and yet they’re so powerful. So how do you build a coalition? A complicated situation again. I spent 900 hours work in the negotiation and gave the bill to a member in the Assembly so that they could get the credit. So we could have a partnership between the Senate and the Assemblies.
We are going to have to stick to West Hollywood.
Well privacy in West Hollywood is a pretty big issue.
What do you think about cameras on the street?
I don’t like them. You see it in Europe, You see it in China, it’s too potentially invasive.
Isn’t it valuable in terms of Public Safety?
Yes of course but there’s a hundred ways to to deal with this stuff. I’m scared of how this stuff could be used.
You’re a big idea guy, so what about crime, what about homelessness in West Hollywood and in this district right now?
Homelessness by any standard is not a good thing, It’s painful to watch. A society shouldn’t have people living on the streets. It’s not who we are. You got to take care of folks. You just can’t let that happen. I know crime is up 137% in West Hollywood, which is not a good thing. But people shouldn’t be living on the streets. So the question is what do you do? Well the answer to that question is the reason I’m running for Supervisor.
We write the big checks and we pass them to local government. I go to neighborhood councils and ask what are you doing for homelessness?– We just gave billions of dollars to this City, to the County, and nothing’s happening. It’s all about implementation.
There’s a great architect from Chicago named Miles Vandero and what he used to say informs my thinking. God is in the details, not the devil. The devil is when you screw it up. The devil is when you don’t pay attention. God is when you have a religious experience because it works, because it absolutely works and you’ve thought through the homework and you’ve done the homework at every deepest level possible to make it work.
What’s happening at the County, as I start drilling in to find out why it’s not working, I just read a report from the Blue Ribbon Commission on homelessness, It says the issue is critical but no one’s to blame. I’m sorry take responsibility—- that’s the nature of this work, Figure it out, —-Fix it or get the hell out of the way, That’s our job. My message in this in this whole campaign is I’m going to take responsibility or throw me out of office.
What happens is we give a bucket of money, the city applies for the money, the county applies for the money, and the joint powers apply for it. Why can’t they get their act together? There’s a couple of takeaways that are critical from the study the County did. First, the city didn’t participate. How does that happen? The Supervisor in this district represents the City of Los Angeles– why didn’t they participate? Cities are complaining their not getting the money from the various bond issues. and the tax money. There’s no cooperation and then their answer is we need another 39 months for another study. I’m sorry, as they say in yiddish “you’ve got to have a hole in your head.” It is a very significant reason why the public’s so frustrated.
So when somebody’s sitting- laying on the ground over there at the corner of Westmount and Santa Monica, and they are having an episode —who do you call? Who shows up? Then when they show up where do you take them? Well we are now going to have the 988 system starting in July. We got to drill into the details to make that work. We can’t have police officers with badges and guns and handcuffs if they’re having a mental health or drug issue. Wont work. This past March 22nd, a few days ago the County finally approved an 18 million pilot project for mobile mental health units.
I heard you speak the other day and you talked about green projects and green energy and how you have been a big part of that. That would be interesting for West Hollywood to know.
Well I started my first solar company in 1984. it wasn’t a success but I gave it a shot when I left the speakership. I was speaker during the energy crisis and that had a huge impression on me. I literally formed the first solar company in South Los Angeles that actually made solar products. Took that public and then traveled the world working on green energy ideas. I was in Reykjavik Iceland a few days ago looking at carbon capture out of the air.
I won the World Bank award for a project in Rwanda and was listed as one of 50 people to save the planet by the Guardian magazine. There were only four Americans who were selected and the four were Al Gore, Leonardo Dicaprio, myself another gentleman who used to work for Arnold Schwarzenegger as his EPA secretary, Terry Tammany. That gave me this extraordinary experience. How many pounds of carbon will reduce in the atmosphere every day? So I’m deeply steeped in this in this issue and care about it deeply.
Now for the County we’re saying we’re going to meet these standards for electric cars and all this new stuff well it’s blah blah because how are you going to get it? We need all these transformers to go from 4 000 volts to 20 000 volts, the wires have to change, all the infrastructure has to change, how’s that going to happen? We have a big supply chain problem. There’s also issues that relate to national security. Quite frankly. let’s invest and make LA County the biggest greenest manufacturing hub. We could take high-wage jobs off of oil, put people to work and create some dynamism.
Silicon Valley’s about this dynamism and this creativity. Let’s take that creative energy and every aspect of these electrolyzers that you need to make green hydrogen. Let’s build it here so that we can convert and actually make this conversion, this transition from fossil fuel real. And make the economy work too. You cannot pay people good wages and benefit, all the things that we want to do unless there’s the money.
We have to work on the goods movement- which is a real advantage for purposes of the Pacific Rim. Think strategically, so all I’m suggesting is in politics everybody reads whatever the thing is on the front page that day. Well I’m sorry, tomorrow there’s going to be another problem and the other problem is water we need 10 years on a runway to deal with that issue. And the problem is the economy and creating jobs. So my strength is I have a picture on the horizon and an eye on the details. so I work on very detailed level. I work on the biggest issues.
When you look at government redistricting people want to complain about it but no one’s talking about gerrymandering. 50 plus one on the budget we’re not having these big budget delays. Rainy day fund 33 billion dollars things that don’t ever get me on the front page of the paper. I’m into the things that are really important that deal with the power and structure of government to make it work for folks
I’m not a headline chaser. I should have brought you my book, maybe I have one in the the car. This one is not published for the public, it’s more to give to the next generation of elected’s. Thinking about ideas in the long term. I write op-ed pieces and have over a hundred. The first half of the book are ideas that worked and the second half of the book or ideas that didn’t work. You got to have the guts to try stuff. And figure it out if it doesn’t work your course correct as opposed to being timid and worrying about being criticized.
You strike me as an interesting character because you are a cross between a politician and a businessman. I see the businessman coming out much more than the politician. I’m just curious how do you see yourself in that regard?
Both absolutely, you have to have both. You have to understand how this stuff works. One of the great frustrations that I have in government is everybody says I want to do this— but how the hell you get it done? How does money move? How does capital move? How does how do you integrate align incentives to make things happen for folks? At the end of the day that is essential. My dad was a great constitutional lawyer, he was a tough guy, he stuck up for women who couldn’t be bartenders in 1954 because it was against public policy- Chinese people couldn’t couldn’t perform acupuncture even though it was 5 000 years old- Indian gaming people were on tribes and had 82% employment he took that to the Supreme Court for the Moreno Band Indians to legalize gaming on Indian Land. And I learned about challenging that status quo every day. We talked at home and with all my brothers about the courts and the Warren Court and the judges and what was going on and civil rights and stuff which informed my thinking in a much broader and more structural way.
So much of what’s happened in politics is driven by interest groups. We’ve parked our brains at the door. we just parked our brains the door. The reason I did this trip to Reykjavik for climate change was to be able to get give broader experiences to legislators to understand: it’s not just what the interest groups say – there’s a bigger world out there .
That was a very good segue into my last question. How do you see yourself in this race. Why are you better for West Hollywood than our own elected city council member Lindsay Horvath?
My two principal opponents or six of us on the ballot are younger people and there’s a time in history for that. I think we’re at a point where people are so frustrated with government you need someone who knows what they’re doing. And not just “here’s an idea, introduce a motion,” but actually we’ll sit down with every department head who can ask the tough questions. There is not one of those people in government that are going to be able to talk to me and pull the wool over my eyes. I have that level of practical experience number one.
Number two both of these elected officials have only been in government when we’ve had more money than god- I’ve been there through the downturn, I was there through the energy crisis, as speaker I had to lead it. She (Lindsey Horvath) says she’s mayor. This is a general law city. Mayors transfer every year. It’s the general City Manager that runs everything. They’re the one who’s the executive. So lots of just noise. I’ve watched and I’ve been through a lot when I was in Sacramento.
I built what was called the Capital Institute to train new members. I’m now building a Senate Academy to do the same thing I care deeply about the long term. I just think we’re at a point in history where you can’t learn on the job you need to be able to hand somebody the work. I’ve been in the details. I’ve been in a situation where I was part of the team to hire the County Council. I’ve been a lawyer for a Supervisor for many years. I’ve sat on Commissions at the County that were deeply involved in creative approaches. I’ve been involved working on local agency formation commission of which most people don’t know what it is but it interfaces the spheres of influence among different jurisdictions and cities and that no one pays attention to. You’ve got to know how to make stuff happen.
I would suggest that my relationships all around the County and also my relationships the in the city are deep and personal and based upon hard work and performance. I just think the public is frustrated there’s a real sense of urgency to get stuff done. And the last thing I’ll share with you is what I’ve learned that is the most important thing as a Democrat that I care about in government is Confidence in government. When people have Confidence in government they’ll write the check, they’ll add the taxes, they’ll trust you. But when they don’t have confidence they ask irrational and they get the kinds of decisions like we had with the last president. They’re just so pissed off and you get wildly crazy outcomes and so this is delivery time.
I guess one other thing I want to add I’m not running for anything else. This is my job. I’m not a young person who thinks when this term is up I’m going to run for something else. So I have don’t have to balance out, oh do I care about the hotel business owners or do I care about the hotel union? Who’s going to get me more support? I don’t have that that conflict of interest. When you’re a young person and you’re ambitious it’s the nature of politics , it’s one of the downsides of politics, it takes time to learn who you are it takes time to understand your soul. It takes time to figure out what your real values are. It takes experiences to do that and that’s where I’m at so that’s why I’m running for County Supervisor.
Anything you want to say as we close just to West Hollywood voters?
I love West Hollywood. I love what you’ve done. I love the art. I love the energy. I love the the dynamism of the city. I think it’s been phenomenal. Alan Viterby, is one of my supporters, he was on the first early City Council here. I’ve known and watched John Heilman and John Duran and watched their vision. What they did is really exciting.
Well I don’t know if you know the former and longest serving Planning Commissioner in West Hollywood John Alschul, he’s sort of famous in his own right. He sent me here with his endorsement for you.
Oh my god.
John’s home and not that well but he’s a legend, often used referred to as the Pope of West Hollywood. So if there was a Pope, it’s John and he just gave you his endorsement.
Oh my god, please tell him Thank you. Give him my card and tell him to call me anytime.