Columnists Earl Ofari Hutchinson Opinion

THE HUTCHINSON REPORT The next supervisor should make — and keep — pledges

Los Angeles County has a population larger than that of 42 states. Its 2019 budget was $36 billion. That is bigger than the gross domestic product 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 Los Angeles 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 politicians. It’s almost like we’ve seen them out there so long there’s a coziness and familiarity with them.

That 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.

That 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. That 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. 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 Facebook 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. That 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 the 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 District Attorney’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 supervisor’s 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 Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. will feature a townhall 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 is streamed at kpfk.org and Facebook live streamed at hutchinsonreport.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming “Why the Electoral College Not You Elects Presidents” (Amazon Kindle. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.