Today’s Headlines

  • NPR Is Airing a Week-Long Series on Road Safety, With a Big Emphasis on Highways and Rural Roads
  • Ridley-Thomas Remains Mum on Ties to Expo Construction Firm (Times)
  • Gov. Announces Lt. Gov. Appointment at Tonight Show (LA Now)
  • Transit Psychology: How We Behave on the Subway (Slate)
  • Reporter Takes Transit from Westwood to Boyle Heights to Have Dinner with Nate Baird (Times)
  • U.S. To Present Emissions Targets in Copenhagen (DC Now)
  • Gas Prices Holding Steady for the Holidays (Daily News)
  • The Ethicist: It’s Never Okay to Phone-and-Drive (NYT Mag)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Erik G.

    In regards to Ridley-Thomas, can someone explain to me why a county of over 14 million people is controlled by a board of only FIVE supervisors???

  • Erik G.,

    You try passing a “Give us more politicians” ballot measure and see how successful it is!

    The five kings have been ruling incompetently for generations now, and that’s the way we like it.

    One legislator/emperor per two million constituents sounds fair to me.

  • ubray nailed it. Whenever expansion was proposed the Supervisors who opposed an expansion for obvious reasons of self-interest undertook (with help from their allies) campaigns built on the claim that all an expansion would do is result in more officeholders not more accountability or any other useful outcome. If you think about it, they are complaining that an action that could result in more responsive government would likely involve more cost to maintain the Board and its administration. And while more Supervisors might provide something better than an unwieldy arrangement of “One legislator/emperor per two million constituents”, given the lackluster performance of the incumbents confidence in that concept among voters isn’t high. The mindset seems to be the Supervisors are a necessary evil and so let’s try to have as few as possible to limit the damage.

    One would think with term limits now forcing politicians to jump from office to office every few years that some ambitious types would realize the creation of more Supervisor districts would provide more of them opportunities to get hold of a well paying position with virtually guaranteed 12 year tenure (the last incumbent Supervisor to lose a bid for re-election was Baxter Ward in 1990). Each Supervisor is allocated a million dollars in discretionary funds each year which they spend in their districts as they please, generating ribbon cuttings and photo ops for donating to charities and projects. Plus they have field offices and deputies to be their eyes and ears plus staff to provide services to residents that generate good will come election time. But for whatever reason this self-interest hasn’t yet coalesced in some group of folks eyeing the goodies the fab five enjoy and decide to cut themselves in on the action…

    This 2006 article from the Daily News lays out the numbers behind the machine the Supervisors have built up to stay in office for long long tenures.

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/COSTLY+L.A.+COUNTY+QUINTET+BOARD+OF+SUPERVISORS+THE+%60FAB+FIVE'+IN…-a0151678356

  • I also think an 80 member State Assembly for near 36 million people is outrageous too.

    For a County of 14 million people, I’d scrap the board of Supervisors have an elected County Executive and County Legislature.

    A fused Executive/Legislative Board seems to go against the separation-of-power, checks and balances we have in our constitutions for Federal and State Government.

    Having a five member Board of Supervisors for 14 million is a travesty.

    I’d expand the State Assembly to 160 members so that more work gets done in Committees and less on the floor.

    More populous districts means less representative government and more influence for big money campaign donors.

    However, I realize I am in the minority and don’t expect any changes anytime soon.

  • Matt

    FYI, not that it affects the discussion, but LA County has a little more than 10M people not 14M

  • 14M is a good number for the greater LA metro area, not just LA County. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Los_Angeles_Area

  • Erik G.

    Thanks Joe for the correction!

    And for the other extreme, check out the New Hampshire House of Representatives (NH’s State Assembly):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_House_of_Representatives

    What I’d propose is something like Berlin’s government:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abgeordnetenhaus_von_Berlin

    But that’d probably also require some elimination of the independent cities like Culver City, BH and Santa Monica. and I know that will not be happening.

  • Yes Joe, but the LA County Board of Supervisors only governs LA County. So it’s 10 million people governed by five supervisors. And of the 10 million, 8.5 million of them live in incorporated cities.

    And actually, they are doing a lot better job than the City of Los Angeles, or other cities for that matter. LA County is not furloughing employees, or cutting their pay. LA County is still hiring sheriff’s deputies while LA City is considering cutting their police force. LA County is not staring at deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars. LA County had its budget crisis in the 90’s with the failing public health system – a problem exacerbated by the fact that neighboring Orange County and Ventura County have no public hospitals – and largely dealt with the issue. Sure, the Supervisors haven’t been “imaginative”, but LA County does more with fewer staff than any of the big cities in the County. As much as we may like to diss Gloria Molina, at every meeting of every board she is on she asks the tough questions on why funding is being spent, why there are cost overruns, why didn’t people consider certain things that even a “non-engineer” like she would no – and she does this even for obscure boards where there is nary a single reporter in the room, much less a TV camera.

    If LA County were to break off, it would be everything north of the Angeles Mountains into Canyon County or Antelope County. To his credit, Supervisor Antonovich pays very close attention to everyone north of the Newhall Pass to make sure that they are not forgotten by everyone down below. When Antonovich is termed out in 2016, expect a secession movement to start forming to create its own county there. The Antelope Valley already has its own transit district, and broke off from the South Coast AQMD a decade ago in a move to bring more local control. The one issue that will likely be problematic is who will get the county seat – Lancaster or Palmdale. The two cities have had a not-so-friendly rivalry for some time.