Interview with Sheila Kuehl | Politics | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Interview with Sheila Kuehl 

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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?

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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.

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