Power Shifts for L.A. “Supes”

Posted on April 26, 2014 by

I would learn that L.A. was one of more than 80 cities in the County of  Los Angeles, a county covering 4,000 square miles with more people than 43 states.  Two thirds of the land, I would discover, are in what’s called “unincorporated” areas out of which seven new cities – Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Clarita, Diamond Bar, Malibu and Calabasas – would be “formed” since I arrived here in 1981.

An even bigger surprise was how this vast region was governed.  Five Supervisors presided or, should I say, ruled their districts of about 2 million residents.

While directly running unincorporated areas the “Supes” also administer, among other county programs: health care and public hospitals; welfare; housing; environmental protection; foster care; juvenile justice; parks; beaches and harbors; emergency response; animal shelters and senior centers.  Add to that their enormous influence over law enforcement, transportation and land use.

Thirty three years ago, the Board of Supervisors consisted of five white guys, three of whom were conservative.  By 1991, an African American and Latino women held seats and shifted board policies to the center (the Latino District was carved out when courts ruled that Board boundaries violated voting rights laws).

Political insiders understand how powerful these positions are.  Six years ago, in a tough and pivotal election battle, Los Angeles unions helped elect Mark Ridley-Thomas over Bernie Parks.

Over the next couple of years, four of five Supervisors (except MRT) will be termed-out.

Progressives are well-positioned for this year’s races with the primary election on June 3 and the runoff (if the leading candidate fails to win 50 percent + 1) on November 4.

Favored in the First District – Azusa, Eagle Rock, El Monte, Pico Rivera, Pomona, South Gate, Whittier, West Covina– is former state legislator, congress member and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, with a solid pro-union and immigrant rights record.

The more competitive Third District – Malibu, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Topanga Canyon, Sherman Oaks, Mid-Wilshire, West Hollywood – has former actor, state legislator and LGBT activist Sheila Kuehl squaring off against former Santa Monica City Council Member, environmentalist and John, Robert and Ted Kennedy-nephew Bobby Shriver.

The two departing Supes – Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky – generally identified as liberal, have been basically untouchable for decades.  Their successors, however, are not likely to enjoy the same degree of political immunity. Which means, for the first time ever, that we’re likely to see a truly progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors.

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