Loading...

Interview with Sheila Kuehl 

Comments

WEEKLY: As you look back on five years in the legislature, what are your greatest hits, what are your frustrations? What did you learn?

KUEHL: Well, for most of my adult life, and certainly for the five years that I’ve been in the Legislature, I’ve really been a fighter for the underdog or people who don’t speak for themselves, or can’t. People who don’t have the power, really, to get something done. I’ve felt they were one of my main constituencies. And I’ve taken on a number of very powerful interests. I took on the DAs to overhaul the child support enforcement system in the state. For 25 years, no one had been able to really take hold of it and turn it inside out and I did this past year. I took on the hospitals and got a very difficult bill through -- to establish nurse to patient staffing ratios, every floor, every hospital, and every service on every shift. I also took on the insurance companies in doing the HMO reform bills. And beyond even the bill that I was co-authoring with Liz Figueroa, which allows you to sue your HMO for harm if caused by their delay or denial of care. [Assemblyman] Antonio Villaraigosa also chose me and [Assemblyman] Marty Gallegos, as the Chair of Health, to be the two people to negotiate the entire HMO reform package with the Governor. So we got the inclusion of contraception, the inclusion of mental health parity, the inclusion of services and equipment for diabetics mandated on the HMOs. We got a very widespread independent external review procedure in place. We got a whole new department set up, the Department of Managed Care.

This year, I’m taking on the banks and I’ve put in a bill to prohibit the banks from selling your personal information or giving it away, even to their own subsidiaries. Because, as you know, the new federal law allows them to have subsidiary brokerages and insurance companies, and my bill would say, you need an affirmative consent from the consumer before you can give that personal information to anybody, and certainly, before you can sell it. Each time you do it, you have to inform the consumer that you’re doing it to whom, for what purpose, which information. And I have another bill to bar mandatory arbitration clauses in health care contracts, which says you can sue your HMOs.

Related Stories

  • How to Vote 8

    You know the incumbents. So our June 3 voter guide is about the other stuff - like a comedic race for judge featuring candidates so bad the bar association finds both "Not Qualified." One is Charles Calderon, who L.A. Weekly previously reported as one of the worst legislators in California. There's...
  • On the Run: L.A.'s Best Spots for Outdoor Running

    Whether you need two hands to count the number of marathons you've completed, or just purchased your first pair of running shoes, L.A. has some terrific trails that will make you sweat while showing off some of the more beautiful parts of our city. Take a lap along the California...
  • Hollywood's Tax Win

    Jerry Brown, California's skin-flint governor, acceded Wednesday to an increase in the film tax credit to $330 million. Brown is a well-known skeptic of Hollywood subsidies, but the combined forces of organized labor, multinational entertainment conglomerates, and B-list celebrities proved too powerful to resist. The industry didn't get the $400...
  • California's Foie Gras Ban Possibly Headed to Supreme Court 3

    It's been two years since California banned the sale and production of foie gras, and it seemed to be a done deal. But a group of attorneys, as well as 13 other states outside of California, are hoping to raise the issue again. In fact, they're hoping to take it...
  • Whole Foods Fined for Overcharging California Customers 5

    Just last week we went into Whole Foods for quinoa and came out with one $150 grocery bag of God-knows-what (we think Parmesan crisps, an organic T-shirt and beer made by Franciscan friars was in there). We are used to, but puzzled by, this phenomenon. So we were more than a little...

I’ve had 55 bills signed into law. I don’t want to bore you with all of them, but they’re all on my web site. I’m very proud of the bill that it took me three different sessions to get through to protect students in public schools all the way up through the universities from discrimination and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. And the thank you letters that I’ve gotten have been almost entirely from parents of straight students. Kids were getting beat up because the boy wanted to play the violin or the girl wanted to play basketball, and other kids were calling them "faggots" and beating them up, and they’re not. So we’ve got some very important language in there about "actual" or "perceived" so they wouldn’t end with some anomalous result that the court would say, "Well, they’re not really gay so it didn’t break the law."

WEEKLY: Okay. In your six years in the Assembly, what have you learned?

KUEHL: It takes a majority to pass a bill. There’s a difference between Democrats and Republicans -- not always across the board in every single way -- but the Republican leadership that was in charge of my first term had a very, very different agenda. And so I made myself a promise, and other people, that I would work very, very hard in ‘96 to win back the State Assembly to what I called a "human-friendly majority." And we did and I became speaker pro-tem in ‘97. And that was an important lesson to me, because it taught me that you have to participate. You have to take leadership. You have to volunteer to do the work of crafting whatever we’re going to call the Democratic agenda. You have to go to meetings early in the morning and late at night -- very much the way we have in every movement that I’ve participated in— in order to have a strategy. If you do, you can win. But not always just because you’ve got one party or another. The gay student bill was a very difficult bill. The nurse-to-patient-ratio bill was very difficult. I only got 41 votes for each of them.

And what I also learned is that every person has an opinion that must be respected. And that if you want to get people to understand your issue or vote for a bill, you need to meet them where they are. You need to respect their point of view and try to move them off the dime. And, I think, I got actually very good at that. And that is somewhat of a difference, I think, because when the California Journal did a survey in ‘98 of all the legislators, all the legislative staff for the state in Sacramento, and lobbyists and asked them to rank legislators in various categories, they chose me as the most intelligent, but also the member with the most integrity. And I think that’s because I learned that the truth is very useful. Just tell the truth. You know, if you have a good reputation, even when people disagree with you, they will respect that you’re telling them the truth, that you’re not leading them on or bullshitting them, and that’s a very good lesson. The best lesson was, it works. The stuff that your mother tells you to do, it works.

It was the same way when I first ran in ‘94, because I was out, and no lesbian or gay person had ever even made it through a primary before in California for a state elected office. Roberta Achtenberg, as you remember, ran against John Burton and he won. So nobody had ever even gotten through a primary. Nobody gave me a lot of chance for it. And one day I was sitting in Santa Monica and this guy comes barreling up to the table at this restaurant and he says, "You know, I hate all politicians. They lie to you, they distort the truth, they dissemble, you can’t trust ‘em -- I hate ‘em all except for you."

And I said, "Why me?"

And he said, "Well, you’ve already told us the worst thing about yourself. Why would you lie about anything else?"

And I thought, "Wow." The -- the hardest thing I ever did, coming out, turns out to give me a reputation almost instantly for honesty and courage, which any politician would kill for. So I thought, "This is a very good lesson. A very good lesson." And I’ve just continued to do it.

So if you fight with passion, if you respect other people’s point of view, if you tell the truth, you actually can succeed in politics. And I think that was a really good lesson, because all the cynical weight is on the other side. You know, that you only succeed in politics if you do this and that. And, at my level, what I’ve done has really worked, and I’m very proud of my work. I mean, I’ve had 10, maybe 11 bills protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and childhood sexual assault. That was sort of my forte before I ran for office. And I continued with it after I got there. It’s good to fight, it’s fun to fight, and moreover, I think, you have a responsibility when you have such a position of power and you’re one of 80 people at that table, you have a responsibility to do that, because you can do a lot of good.

I’ve got $30 million into the park bond to buy back the Santa Monica Mountains and 10 million more in the budget. I’ve got $25 million into the park bond to clean up the Santa Monica Bay. That’s out of leadership and it’s hard work, but not everybody gets there. So you get at the table as one of the 80 and then you have to volunteer to work in leadership as well. And, I think that’s been a difference.

WEEKLY: You know, I look at this as this sort of tragedy in politics, this race, and that on any list that any of us in this paper drew up of the best legislators -- the five best legislators in Sacramento -- you and Wally would be on it. What do you say to voters about that?

KUEHL: Well, I didn’t support term limits before I was a politician. I think, it dis-serves the people of California. I am now at the absolute height, so far, of my understanding of how to get something done in Sacramento. I think it would be a shame if I didn’t get to continue that. And for me to say, "I think, Wally should lose," is only true because it’s a contest, not because he’s a bad legislator. Although I will point out to you, if you go back and read your endorsements for the 41st and the 42nd in the last two races, you were a lot more tepid about Wally, and there’s a reason for that. He defines himself as a liberal and I define myself as a progressive. There’s a difference. There’s a difference in your agenda on the protection of renters. I mean, my whole crime area: I believe that we have to prosecute crime, but my focus has been on protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Places where because people were women, the crimes against them were taken far less seriously. And I’m not blood-thirsty across the board on it.

WEEKLY: I think, one area where this progressive/liberal distinction between you and Wally is noticeable is in labor-related stuff. Do you want to comment?

KUEHL: Yes. He has more old friends in the movement than I do. I have a 100% voting record in committee and on the floor and, moreover, I’m the one that brought the Norris-LaGuardia Act into California last year. Three unions are now using my bill in order to keep their employers from getting an injunction against their striking. This is a very important bill.

WEEKLY: You know what, you should talk about the Norris-LaGuardia Act.

KUEHL: There’s two main pieces to the federal Norris-LaGuardia Act that my bill mirrors in the Mosconi Act, which is sort of California’s protection of the ability of labor unions to strike. And we did not have these protections in the law in California. One of them was that an employer in California could go into court, and, without the other side being notified -- without the union being notified or having an ability to show up and present evidence -- they could get an injunction like that, just saying, "Oh, it’s going to disrupt my business."

So my bill said, you can’t do that. You gotta give notice to the union, the union has to have the ability to show up, and it would strengthen the showing that the employer had to make before they could get an injunction. So that was one piece of it. Someone told me in an elevator -- they were shaking my hand in an elevator the other day saying, "Thank you so much, did you know there are three unions using it right now?" And then got off the elevator, so I don’t know which unions.

The other part of it was that the employers were also using it as a real club against the unions, suing the unions if there was any disruptive behavior by members on a picket line. And the courts in California were starting to go more towards finding the unions liable as a wonderful way to fight them as a deep pocket. So my bill mirrors the federal Norris-LaGuardia Act, which says that unless they sanction the behavior, the unions cannot be held liable for individual behavior of members on the picket line. I think that was an important bill.

WEEKLY: Where did you get the idea to do that? Isn’t it a 1931 Act?

KUEHL: AFL/CIO federal attorneys brought it to me, partly because they knew that I would love it, since I’ve been a union member since I was seven-years-old. And partly because they couldn’t find anybody else who really understood the arcane, sort of, underpinnings of the difference between the standard of proof that they were using to get injunctions now and the standard of proof that was needed. So since I’m also the chair of the Judiciary Committee, I understand the law. They brought it to me. They were some really great attorneys, I really enjoyed working with them. The kind of guys they’d make a movie about, because they -- they’ve done all the work and nobody understands how if you change the word, "and" to "or" in the law, you’ve, like, saved 27 lives. Those kind of guys. So they brought it to me.

WEEKLY: What are some of your notable endorsements?

KUEHL: Just briefly, Governor Davis, Senator Boxer, Sheriff Baca, the State Democratic Party, California Nurse’s Association, The Sierra Club, dual endorsement of the CTA, the California League of Conservation Voters, dual endorsement. Plus I got almost all of the City Council members in any cities in and touching the district, including Laura Chick, Joel Wachs, Jackie Goldberg, Ruth Galanter. And then the whole Santa Monica City Council, Agoura Hills City Council, Malibu, you know, Calabasas, even the Republicans in Westlake Village, all the mayors, all the mayors pro tem, California Association of Police and Sheriffs, Police Officer’s Research Action Council, the Police Chief’s Association.

WEEKLY: What other endorsements do you really wish you had gotten?

KUEHL: The President of Pierce College. I really put myself on the line for Pierce College when they were in between presidents, and they wanted to develop a golf course out there. I thought that was entirely the wrong way to go. There is no college that serves urban kids that are interested in agriculture except for Pierce. And they were going to blow it. I didn’t mean they had to leave it all fallow out there, but a golf course, please. So I really fought. I went to rallies, I wrote to everybody, I wrote to the chancellor, I wrote to the board. We appeared, we put in statements at all the meetings. And then when Rocky Young was picked, I was delighted, ‘cause he was second in command out at Santa Monica College. Good guy. I was delighted. I went to meet with him, we walked all around the campus. Then I read in Wally’s literature, he’s endorsed Wally. So that disappointed me.

Also the Mayor. I wasn’t surprised, because he actually threatened me after I didn’t endorse him. I endorsed Tom Hayden. I said, "You know, Dick, I don’t endorse Republicans. I mean, forget it. I just don’t."

And so he said, "Well, you’ll pay for this." And now he’s done this automated phone dialing thing where you get a message on your answering machine from Dick Riordan.

WEEKLY: Saying, "Vote for Wally Knox"?

KUEHL: Yes. I even got the call. It’s automated, you know, they don’t know who they’re calling. It’s just random. And in Santa Monica where he’s not even our mayor.

WEEKLY: How deep is this left rift on the Westside? Is this race going to create some permanent divides Between people who are supporting you and people who are supporting Wally?

KUEHL: No, I don’t think so. I mean, hardly anyone remembers the fights I had with the six guys who were running against me before. One of them is still on the Board of the Conservancy. If you hold grudges, you’re really unprofessional.

WEEKLY: Well, we had this omnibus question, and I’m not sure you entirely got through it, your greatest hits, your frustrations, and what you’ve learned.

KUEHL: Well, what I learned was what worked. We got through that. My frustrations are with people who give me their word and don’t keep it. That’s the greatest frustration. You know, just tell me you’re not going to vote for my bill so I know whether I’ve got 41 votes or not. Don’t tell me you are and then back off.

But the rest of the frustrations, honestly speaking, are more like challenges. I have to tell you, since I was the first openly gay person ever elected to the Legislature, I didn’t expect there would be a lot of support for gay issues. I’m not naive about it. I knew it would be a struggle, because 15, 20 years ago, when we were working on domestic violence bills, we brought a bill to make it a misdemeanor -- it wasn’t even a crime yet -- and we practically got booted out of the hearing room. So things move along at a much slower pace than we would like. But overall, civil rights has made nothing but progress, slowly, but nothing but progress.

So if I’m frustrated the first year because I can’t get it out of Education Committee, I just bring it back the next time. And if I’m frustrated that time because I can’t get it off the floor, I’ll just bring it back the next time. And if I’m frustrated a third time because I missed it by just one vote, I steal a bill in the Senate and get the one vote. It’s like a chess game. They get some moves. It’s not just all you on one side of the board.

But, I think, we’ve made enormous strides, really, in schools, for the environment, but there’s a lot still to do. The schools are still -- it’s the school funding question that no one has really gotten their arms around, that if I’m elected, I’m going to ask John Burton if I can serve on the Education Committee and really study with [Assemblymember] Dede Alpert the entire funding question. Santa Monica and Malibu are in trouble this year, suddenly. Why? Because they didn’t project correctly how many students they were going to have, and, therefore, they’re down budget for the number of students enrolled. They shouldn’t be that vulnerable.

WEEKLY: Gray Davis has already said he’s opposed to the CTA’s proposed initiative to raise per-pupil spending to the national average, by hook or by crook.

KUEHL: Well, there is a problem with that proposal, considering that’s 80% of the State budget. I can see why he’s not going to support it. It’s a lovely sounding proposition, but if you look at the dollars, it’s too deep a cut for absolutely everything else. We can’t do welfare-to-work, we can’t do the environmental protection, we can’t do any of the stuff that’s beyond Prop 98. But, I think, there are some other ways to do it. I really like lowering the voting threshold for the bonds. That’s not going to make a difference much out here, because we get our bonds through anyway, mostly.

WEEKLY: I know he endorsed you, but how have you found working with Gray Davis?

KUEHL: I love working with Gray Davis, and I’ll tell you why. I already know who he is. And so should you. The thing that amuses me about people is that when they hear someone say something, they still imagine they’re going to be better. You know, John Steinbeck’s last book was called America and the Americans. And in it, he said we’re really funny people. When someone’s running for office, we want them to be just like us. We want to know that they’re going to be just like us to represent us so that we can vote for them. And as soon as they’re elected, we want them to be better than us. And, I think, he’s right.

Gray must have used the term "moderate" 150,000 times in everything he said: middle, moderate. And he is, he’s exactly what he said he was going to be. Anyone who knew him before, knew he was very hands-on, and so complaining about how we’re not making appointments, because he wants to look at all of them, that’s who he is. What I do, because I’m way down the totem pole, is I adjust the way in which I advocate to make certain that he gets the information that he needs to approve my bills. If he says, "I think so and so and so and so and so and so is going to be very upset if we do this bill," then I go to -- not people, but groups or interests -- I go to so and so and so and so and so and so and have them opine whether they will or not be upset. And if they are, then I’ll judge whether it’s better for them to be upset than the consumers, which is what we did with the HMO reform. He said, "I don’t want to see any bills."

We said, "Here come 75 bills."

He said, "Okay, well, maybe I’ll look at five."

We said, "Here come 35."

And that’s part of what Marty and I did, was to hone him down and hone him down and hone him down until we could get him to say, "Okay," to this package, which turned out to be, I think, 17.

I like working with a man who can be moved. He was going to veto the nurse-to-patient-staffing-ratio bill right up to the eleventh hour. And I kept sending in more arguments, but not, "You should," kind of arguments. Really, here’s, "Do you know the situation in this hospital or these hospitals?" "Do you know, you know, what this patient went through or that patient?" "Do you know how many people really love this?" "Do you know that the London Times has already opined that this is the most important bill that California can pass?" Something, I don’t know, you know, like that.

But just patiently sending in more and more information, because that’s what he wants. He wants to understand that this is a moderate bill. And if he has the opinion that it’s not, then he needs to understand why. Because all my bills are not that radical. They might make change. But they are not so radical in notion, you know, they’re in the public consciousness and people really want them.

WEEKLY: So if you’re in the Senate, you’ve already said you want to deal with education funding and you said you will continue your interest in domestic abuse issues and victim’s right issues.

KUEHL: Right, equality, anti-discrimination, social justice.

WEEKLY: Any other interests you’d like to get into?

KUEHL: Special education, which is posited these days in conflict to other kinds of education, but it’s an aspect of the school funding piece. And one of the reasons why I want to get my arms around it -- I honestly do -- because if you’re going to pit one set of parents against another set of parents, it’s not useful. It’s not useful for them, or for the kids, or for the schools. I have a big interest in serving on Education [committee] to take a more global view of how the schools are funded and how we can take some of that pressure off.

WEEKLY: How do you solve that special ed. issue?

KUEHL: Well, it depends. First of all, we need much better information, because frankly what we know is what we read in the papers -- like Will Rogers -- and it’s not bad, but it’s in conflict. One report says, half of the kids that are in special ed., they’re only there because they were never taught to read. Another study says, these are very seriously needy students and they’re being mainstreamed unnecessarily. All the studies are probably right. But how you put them together to adequately fund a special education system just for those who need special education, that’s a tough one.

I mean, in term limits, you have to learn as much as you can as fast as you can. That’s the same thing I’ve done with health and the same thing I’ve done with water. I mean, the question of how we allocate water in California, it’s like oil is in Texas. So I asked to be on the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and – its’ relationship to smart growth, which is going to be one of the things that I want to focus on if I get into the Senate. It’s affordable housing, transportation, water and how we grow, because we’re not going to be turning people away at the border. You can’t just say, "Don’t build it here. Oh, don’t build it there either." I like these complicated and interdisciplinary issues. I have a sense that in the Senate, it’s possible, you’re such a small group, to work in a more interdisciplinary way, so that it’s not just an issue for the Housing Committee or just an issue for the Water Committee.

WEEKLY: And you have a little more time.

KUEHL: You have a lot more time. If I win this primary, it’s conceivable that I can serve for nine years, this year and eight in the Senate. And that really does allow you to do some good thinking. The health stuff is really interesting to me too. No one has done anything in tackling the question of the health of women in prison, which is just abysmal. I had a hearing on it as the Chair of the Select Committee on California’s Women -- Women and Health, and I had a whole panel on women -- health care for women in prison. Well, you might as well have had 30 seconds. There is no health care for women in prison. And no one’s concentrating on it. So I was talking to [Assemblywoman] Jackie Spier yesterday about doing something together down the line. You know, there’s just a lot of things that one can do. And if you’re there, you can accomplish a lot. Fifty-five bills in five years -- that’s a lot of legislation -- and that’s just what I’ve done.

WEEKLY: How much of that was signed this year by Gray and how much of that was before by Wilson?

KUEHL: I had 17 bills in ‘99. So 38 by -- by Pete Wilson. Nineteen in each session. Some of them little things. Some of them big. I did a bill so that the oil companies have to pay for replacement water when they’ve fouled your water supply. That was for Santa Monica, but it’s a statewide bill. I introduced a bill so that you had to pay a fine if you put stuff into the storm drain, you know, polluting industries without a permit. Or if you didn’t go for a permit, to keep it out of the storm drains. There’s a whole scheme that had no enforcement in it. And there’s a lot more to do with that bill.

WEEKLY: Speaking of interdisciplinary issues, and growth management being one of them, what’s been your stance towards the LAX expansion?

KUEHL: I don’t favor the LAX expansion. I don’t favor the Burbank expansion. What I have favored, and it’s, you know, I honestly don’t know if it can be put in place quickly enough to alleviate the congestion at those airports, but, I think, we have to develop the outlying airports more and make sure there’s Metrolink or something that’s quick enough between them. A number of my members, for instance, go to Ontario, rather than mess with LAX, and then drive back west a little bit along the 10 to get to their homes. But people aren’t using Palmdale as much as they should. They’re not using Ontario as much as they should. I think that’s a better answer than just continually expanding and expanding and expanding LAX. It’s just way too much noise, it’s dangerous, it’s polluting. (Pause) Now, I don’t mind if they used what they have more efficiently. But when I look out my window in Santa Monica and I see planes stacked up over the ocean, and then, driving home from the airport, I counted 19 planes last night stacked up, just headlights, hanging off there and coming in.

WEEKLY: Were you stuck in traffic?

KUEHL: No. Just driving up Sepulveda. When I was in high school, we used to park there for hours waiting for a plane to go over, because it was thrilling to have a plane go over your car. Now it happens every 30 seconds. It’s crazy.

WEEKLY: The Healthy Families program in California cannot be judged a success. The percentage of kids enrolled in it is way low. How do you pick your way through that one? What do we need to do in this state? What’s the distinction of having seven million medically uninsured people?

KUEHL: Do you find it not a success because it’s available, but children are not being signed up? Or because it’s not available to enough children?

WEEKLY: Well, the first, to a large degree.

KUEHL: Right, well, then, it’s a different problem then, it’s not a problem with the program.

WEEKLY: Well, it’s a problem with something that’s ancillary to the program.

KUEHL: Two things: is the outreach sufficient? Do you have enough places to sign up your kids where you can understand what it is? And is the co-pay a problem, even as low as it was made?

WEEKLY: What is the co-pay?

KUEHL: I think, in Healthy Families, wasn’t it $5.00 or something? The theory was that people don’t want charity for the most part. They don’t want to be characterized as having been on charity, they don’t want to be thought of by anyone as being on charity, so they put in a co-pay or something, but I’m not sure whether the program honestly has been brought in enough ways to enough people so that they see it’s not charity, but it’s a really affordable health care for their kids. But I don’t know. And how to you get it to them? We thought the schools would be a great place to do it. But then the schools haven’t done it, because they don’t want us to mandate one more thing that they have to do. We’ve got to understand what keeps people away, before we can do the outreach that gets them in. It’s very much like the domestic partnership thing. We create a domestic partnership rule and we wait and 700 people sign up. Maybe it’s 1,200 now. I thought it would be 120,000.

WEEKLY: If you look at California right now, one of the stunning statistics is the growth of economic inequality here, that even as race differences and gender differences matter less than they did 40 or 50 years ago, the economic gap in this state is huge. What about living wage policies at the state level. What’s your thinking on that?

KUEHL: I support living wage, I’ve always supported a living wage. I had a few questions about the proposed Living Wage Ordinance in Santa Monica, simply because of the structure, not because I don’t think that the issue is correct.

WEEKLY: What about its structure in Santa Monica?

KUEHL: That it would cover the first four blocks from the beach, but not the rest of the city. It makes it too easy to escape. Go get your vegetables by my house and you don’t have to pay a living wage.

WEEKLY: Well, I think, it was mainly in the hotels and the theory was the hotels couldn’t escape.

KUEHL: That’s true, except there’s a lot of services provided to the hotels and they were already planning to move. I just wanted them to do the study. I supported the study that the City Council said they would do about who would really be impacted, who would get the living wage.

WEEKLY: Is it a logical inference, and it may not be, that you would support it for the whole city then?

KUEHL: I’d support it for the city. I think, it’s absolutely the right way to go. But, I think, there are other, a little more complicated considerations beyond minimum wage issues. One of them has to do with where jobs are. And the second piece is what jobs are. And I’m telling you things you already know. But are jobs moving away from California that are high paying jobs? No. We’ve got probably more and more and more every year. But in L.A. County alone, where we’re developing a lot of high tech stuff, along the 101. We have the greatest disparity in the nation in L.A. County, between the haves and have nots, and that’s just in the State.

WEEKLY: Except for Manhattan.

KUEHL: But it’s growing. And where are the middle-paying jobs? In a funny way, the entertainment industry has provided thousands and thousands and thousands of those not so very rich, but pretty good paying, and you can build a house with it, kind of jobs. A lot of that had to do with organized labor. Those jobs are going. That’s the importance, to some extent, of runaway production. I’m not saying it would solve the problem for the lowest paid.

Education is a good piece of it. My generation was more educated than my parent’s generation, and we did better financially. And the next generation -- education costs so much if you’re going to pay for higher education, even at the public universities. I do think we have to raise the minimum wage, though, and continue to raise it.

WEEKLY: At the Federal level, a number of folks in Congress support indexing the minimum wage. Is that one way to keep raising it?

KUEHL: It would be an interesting way to go about it, because that way, you really do get all the ships rising, which was the theory.

WEEKLY: The other argument you can say for that is it’s not at the whim of Congress. It just happens once you pass that.

KUEHL: You know, the problem, too, with the minimum wage being the only thing that you raise is that in California, it seems like a very high percentage of the workers are working for small businesses. And I’m not certain whether saying the small business has to pay higher wages, and it has to pay health care, and the health care is getting more expensive, and we’re not regulating that, so maybe they’ll drop the health care in order to pay the minimum wage. I don’t think it’s an empty threat on their part. We’ve got to do something to help small business where other businesses may not need it. But we really also have to do everything we can to keep the jobs here.

WEEKLY: Looking at this race for voters, it’s hard to see the distinctions between you and Wally --what’s different and why this is a real race.

KUEHL: Well, I think I made it in my very first statement. My whole history has been fighting effectively for underrepresented, unrepresented, voiceless folks. And I have an almost unparalleled record in the Assembly of not just one or two or three pieces of legislation, but 55. Any way you cut it, they are important and big bills which have taken on really powerful interests. The hospitals, the HMOs, the DAs and doing the child support stuff. The work that I’ve done on the environment. There’s just a much stronger, longer, bigger record of accomplishments.

The second thing is, I’ve volunteered for leadership. And it’s interesting to me that Wally characterized that as being an insider. And I thought, you know, if a lesbian woman, working class, could be an insider, then America must be a wonderful place indeed. But it’s work that makes a leader. You are aggressive on behalf of your constituents. You get stuff for your district, but you also make sure that if you want pollution of the ocean to stop, you do something about it, you know, in the Storm Water Runoff Bill. If you don’t want MTBE in the water, you do something about it, make the oil companies liable. There’s just a bigger record, a longer record, and, I think, a stronger record.

And the third thing is, if my colleagues choose me as the most intelligent person, or the one with the most integrity, or both, that really means something in terms of effectiveness. So, I have a stronger record, I’ve been more effective, and, I think that I have more respect on both sides of the aisle.

WEEKLY: Great, what was the last book you read?

KUEHL: The third Harry Potter book. I love Harry Potter. I was so surprised. I thought, "Yeah, I’ll get Harry Potter for my niece and my nephew, but I’ll just read it first," and Oh, man, I couldn’t put it down. I really, really liked them. But I’ve always been a science fiction fan.

Related Content

Now Trending

  • L.A. Porn Production Shuts Down Over HIV Report

    The adult video industry's trade group today called for a moratorium on production after a performer might have tested positive for HIV. The Los Angeles-based Free Speech Coalition said in a statement that one of the facilities used by porn stars under the industry's voluntary, twice-a-month STD testing protocol "reported...
  • Venice Boardwalk Beat-Down Caught on Video

    A brutal beating next to the Venice boardwalk this week was captured on video (on the next page). Los Angeles Police Department detectives are asking for your help in tracking down not only the suspect, but the victim, who "we haven't been able to locate," Officer Nuria Venegas told us...
  • Woman Fatally Struck by Vehicle at Burning Man

    A woman was fatally struck by a vehicle at Burning Man today, organizers said. The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada identified the deceased as 29-year-old Alicia Louise Cipicchio of Jackson, Wyoming. Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said she fell under a bus or "large vehicle" that was carrying participants early today. See...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets