Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Wednesday that he is undecided on whether he supports the effort to recall California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom but suggested he could be swayed if the governor would deploy state resources to help clear homeless encampments around L.A. freeways.
A recent poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times found that Californians are almost evenly divided on whether to remove Newsom from office in a special election on September 14. The survey found 47% of likely voters support ousting Newsom, while 50% oppose. The Times described the difference as “just shy” of the margin of error.
During a weekly briefing on his social media platforms, Villanueva, a Democrat, was asked by a reporter for his stance on Newsom. He said he has previously written the governor to express concerns about homelessness and asked him to declare a state of emergency in L.A. County over the ongoing problem. However, Villanueva said he has not yet received a response.
“Governor Newsom, this is for you,” said Villanueva, speaking to the camera. “You tell me, do you want to do your job? Tell me, are you going to regulate public space?”
"You tell me, do you want to do your job? Tell me, are you going to regulate public space?"
— Kate Cagle (@KateCagle) July 28, 2021
“That will show me your interest in really working on the homeless,” he said. “So I’m waiting on you. The ball is in your court, Governor Newsom.”
Villanueva has criticized some recent moves by Newsom, including his decision to keep using the California Highway Patrol to investigate organized retail crime while homeless encampments line several L.A.-area freeways and on-and-off-ramps. He called on the governor to send CHP and the California Department of Transportation to L.A. County to “clean up our freeways.”
Last week, Villanueva lashed out at Newsom and his plan to solve homelessness after the governor said Californians “have a responsibility to accommodate” transients from other states who “want to come here for new beginnings.” Villanueva cited data recently compiled by the Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) that found most homeless people living at Venice Beach had relocated there from outside of California, including 23 other states, Mexico, Germany, and Iraq.
“Based on our governor’s proclamation the other day that ‘the California dream is alive and well,’ and he’s inviting everyone to California to share in the California dream, I don’t know if he’s pining for the other 26 states to come join us here,” Villanueva said last week. “But since L.A. County has half of the state’s homeless population, we’re not in the position to have all of these people show up.”
Villanueva said Newsom’s $12 billion plan to address homelessness “looks suspiciously identical” to strategies implemented in L.A. County in recent years as the transient population continued to surge. The sheriff said so-called homeless experts in L.A. are “experts at spending money.” He accused Newsom of compounding the problem by directing funds to similar service providers while creating a perception that free housing would be available for homeless people who relocate to California from other places.
Villanueva added that Newsom could be on track to join the ranks of a group he has labeled “the architects of failure.” It includes L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and other local progressive elected officials who Villanueva says aren’t doing their jobs by refusing to adjust their approaches to homelessness, which he says aren’t working.
“He definitely put a down payment to join that group when he announced that he was going to throw $12 billion out there,” Villanueva said on Wednesday.
While Villanueva said he has not made up his mind about the Newsom recall, he reiterated his strong support for a separate campaign working to remove L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón.