Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Los Angeles County has a population larger than that of 42 states in the US. Its 2019 budget was 36 billion dollars. This is bigger than the GDP of half the countries on Earth. The five L.A. County Supervisors pack a lot of clout. But for the most part their actions fly way under the media and public radar scope. Most of the media and press attention is focused on the L.A. city council. So, it’s no surprise that when there’s a hot race for one of the infrequent seats on the Board, it draws little public and media attention.
That’s been pretty much the case with the race for the 2nd District Supervisor seat. The race for the most part has been polite, low keyed, and waged with little fanfare. The main contenders are well -known seasoned local pols. It’s almost like we’ve seen them out there so long, there’s a coziness and familiarity with them.
This is not a good thing. The supervisors rank among the most powerful local officials in the nation. They have a pronounced penchant for closed door secrecy. In the past they’ve been raked over the coals for their behind closed doors deals on contracts, services, and vital spending measures, with little disclosure, or seemingly need to make any public disclosure. The supervisors meet once a week and much of their open public and televised sessions are filled with perfunctory ceremonial, often self-congratulatory, banter and commendations. The hard stuff is done behind closed doors.
This is a big reason why legions of L.A. County voters scratch their heads in puzzlement whenever they are asked just what exactly do the supervisors do? The 2nd district race should change that. The top contenders are battling hard for every vote. The price for those votes should be the demand that they give hard answers to the hard questions that 2nd district residents, stakeholders and public interest groups must and should ask them. No platitudes, no canned lines, no stock phrases, or pithy sound bites, but specifics, specifics, specifics on what the 2nd district contenders will do on the big-ticket issues that face the district and the county. They include: run-away overdevelopment, the monumental lack of affordable housing, rampant gentrification, surging homelessness, sheriff’s and L.A. County jails reform measures, a sensible traffic and transit management plan to end the county’s monstrous traffic gridlock, and radical expansion of public and mental health services.
The need is for a big, bold, sweeping overhaul of the way L.A. County politicians do taxpayer business. They should pledge to fight for that. This means transparency, accountability, and an end to backroom, sweetheart deals with developers and special interest groups that have terribly marred county government.
There have been complaints and court challenges in past against the Board for not adhering to the provisions of the Brown Act that require extensive public disclosure of Board actions. 2nd district candidates then should pledge to an open public window on all supervisor executive meetings, deliberations and decision making, especially the awarding of all contracts–instant Facebook and social media streaming for L.A. residents and stakeholders viewing, discussion and input of board meetings. Then a prompt posting of this information on the 2nd district website and FB page and a weekly econstituent newsletter update of board actions.
They should pledge to back the call for a County Executive to oversee all Board decisions and full transparency of those decisions
They should pledge to conduct independent public audits and immediate public disclosure of every cent of the multi-billions the supervisors authorize and spend on projects in L.A. County. This includes taxpayer dollars spent by the board on all services, projects, and materials
They should pledge to form a 2nd District Citizens Accountability Committee to propose and review all decisions on spending, budgeting and planning by the 2nd district supervisor.
They should pledge to expand the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to fully reflect the ethnic, and racial demographics of L.A. County and ensure full representation of county residents in decision making process
They should pledge citizen and public interest groups review and craft of innovative solutions to attain meaningful oversight of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, L.A. County DA’s office, effective transit and traffic movement overhaul, major expansion of moderate to low income housing, new strategies for combatting homelessness, the fight for a living wage, Medicare For All, a full green energy agenda, and other major crisis issues
The 2nd district supervisors race offers voters the rare opportunity to ask tough questions of the candidates. They deserve straight answers. A pledge from the contenders to fully back open, clean, county government will ensure voters that whoever wins will be the true change agent the 2nd District and L.A. County desperately needs.
The Pacifica Radio Hutchinson Report on Saturday January 25, 9:00AM will feature a Townhall of the Air on “The Race for the 2nd District Supervisor.” Listeners, stakeholders and constituents can discuss the issues facing L.A. County with the invited supervisor candidates. KPFK Radio 90.7 FM streamed at kpfk.org and Facebook Livestreamed at hutchinsonreport