Monday, August 7, 2017

[Los Angeles County] Add supervisors, executive to reform L.A. County government: Guest commentary

Blog note: this commentary references a 2016 grand jury report.
There are solid policy arguments in support of Los Angeles County having an elected executive and two more members for the Board of Supervisors, as called for by a proposal making its way through the state Legislature this summer in the form of Senate Constitutional Amendment 12.
Currently, we have five county supervisors who have both legislative and executive power. They run Los Angeles County. They represent different geographical areas of our huge county, all with different issues. These differences make it difficult for the county to be run effectively.
In 2016, the Los Angeles County grand jury issued a report recommending that the supervisors prepare to place measures before voters on the 2020 ballot that would amend the county charter. It would change the county executive position from an appointed to an elected position and expand the board of supervisors districts from five to 11. The Board of Supervisors refused to put these two vital good-government reform measures to a public vote.
The grand jury said in its executive summary found that, in July 2015, “the county reverted to a decentralized weak CEO model.” It found that “the county lacks an updated strategic plan as well as a meaningful structure for measuring management performance.” It found that “nearly all of the next most populous counties in the country elect a county chief executive.”
It is important to again stress that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors refused to allow the county’s voters to vote on these two critical reform measures. The supervisors are the barrier to strong reform of county government.
If the Legislature puts the proposal on the June 2018 statewide ballot and voters approve it, an elected county executive would appoint all department heads. The Board of Supervisors could reject these appointments with a two-thirds vote. All department heads would report to the county executive instead of the five county supervisors.
The county executive would create the county budget, which the Board of Supervisors could change with a two-thirds vote. The executive would have two six-year terms, which should cut down on campaign fundraising for the first four years and could significantly lessen the influence groups or individuals receive through making political contributions.
The executive would represent all the residents of L.A. County. Currently, board members represent specific areas in the county, which has led to areas like the San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, East Los Angeles, the southeast cities and the Antelope Valley having their issues receive less attention and resources.
In addition, Los Angeles County would have a leader to represent the views of its more than 10 million residents (larger than 40 states). The executive could help to lobby for additional resources for the county. The executive election could attract a strong group of Asian, Latino, African American and white candidates.
There are many policy and demographic reasons to support an expansion of the board from five to seven districts. In 1992 and 2000, when the issue was on the ballot, the proposal was for nine districts, and it did not include an elected executive. Seven districts would result in each district with about 1.4 million constituents, or about the size of two congressional districts.
Each district currently represents over 2 million residents. District 4, for instance, stretches from Diamond Bar to Venice. These areas have different issues. With seven districts, we could create a coastal district that would only extend from Long Beach to Santa Monica. And, to alleviate worry about expenses and the size of government, under this proposal, total expenditures for seven districts would remain at the same amount as the total expenditures for today’s five districts.
Los Angeles County needs better representation. SCA12 is a plan that provides that while holding down costs.
August 6, 2017
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Alan Clayton

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