Thank God for term limits. I give profuse thanks for that because the stakeholders, constituents and stakeholders in Los Angeles County’s 2nd Supervisorial District have a rare chance to pick a new supervisor.
Here’s some context on the importance of the race to fill the seat and the importance of the 2nd District.
The 2nd District encompasses a big swath of central Los Angeles. It has a population that exceeds that of many smaller states.
It is one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the nation. And, it has the largest black population in one area in the county. In a sense, it’s the one supervisory district that is the symbol and reality of African American political and economic empowerment in L.A. County
That makes it crucial that black voters get it right about the next 2nd District supervisor. Unfortunately, in times past the actions of the 2nd District supervisor, as with the other four L.A. County supervisors, flew under the media and public radar scope.
Most of the media and press attention is focused on the L.A. City Council.
So far, the race for the seat has been low key and waged with little fanfare. There is a crop of fresh, new faces in the race.
That is much needed. However, the three favorites 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.
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 must change. Voters in the 2nd District must demand that they give hard answers to hard questions. What will they do about run-away overdevelopment, the monumental lack of affordable housing, rampant gentrification, surging homelessness, jail reform, a sensible traffic and transit management plan to end the county’s monstrous traffic gridlock, and radical expansion of public and mental health services.
They should further pledge to craft innovative solutions to attain meaningful oversight of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and L.A. County District Attorney’s office. That means no platitudes, no canned lines, no stock phrases or pithy sound bites, but specifics, specifics, specifics, to these questions and problems.
I want to see the next 2nd District supervisor commit to the fight 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’s also a little word called accountability that has been sorely missing from the interaction between 2nd District stakeholders, constituents and homeowner groups.
The 2nd District supervisor must produce, and voters must grade them on their production and then vote for them on how well they have produced.
There have been complaints and court challenges in the past against the board for not adhering to the provisions of the Brown Act that require extensive public disclosure of board actions.
Candidates 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 constituent newsletter update of board actions.
It’s been repeatedly said that voters get the kind of government and elected officials that they deserve. The meaning of that is that if there is no demand put on elected officials for transparent, open, honest and regular reports on what they are doing to fight for the needs of their constituents then the voters need blame themselves for getting little to nothing in return from these elected officials.
The 2nd District supervisor race offers voters a golden 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. That is what I want to see in the next 2nd District Supervisor.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of “What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College” (Middle Passage Press). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.