LA County County's 2nd District Needs Imaginative and Transformative Leadership

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezJanuary 24, 2020

The 2nd District in Los Angeles County is the poorest in the entire county, approximately one in four of the residents live under the poverty line. This district stretches from  Culver City to Carson, and “it is the home to half of the county’s black population.”  It has always been viewed as “the crowning glory of black political power in Southern California,” said political consultant Dermot Givens.  The supervisor in this district is usually considered the most powerful black man/woman in the state. The three leading candidates vying to replace Mark-Ridley Thomas are all African Americans.

The following facts are intriguing and troubling about the County of Los Angeles: The overall value of the more than 2 million properties located in Los Angeles County is about $1.1 trillion.  The taxes collected on these properties is the largest source of revenue for this county.  This is the revenue used for funding essential services and agencies. There are luxurious homes, modest bungalows, and 60,000 people living in tents on sidewalks in this county. The record number of people living on sidewalks has reached a colossal urban crisis — the grand canyon gap between the rich and the poor within a few miles in this county is very telling.  Yes, there is not only obscene wealth, stunning low wage disparity, and grinding poverty, but there is also a tremendous lack of imagination and action from civic leaders.  The daunting challenges facing people living in this district are in direct proportion to the lack of energetic, visionary community-focused leadership.

Furthermore, it is about time for all stakeholders in this county to seriously consider to reconfigure the current structure of this county government.  Yes, let’s expand the board of supervisors to ten and have an elected mayor who can adequately perform executive functions. One does not have to be Alexander Hamilton or a democratic theorist to see Los Angeles County’s government with a population larger than some states needing significant structural changes.  The five supervisors who are in charge of the legislative function are the same ones who execute hence there are no checks and balances.  The present structure of this county government is inadequate considering its size.  Therefore, the oversight of public spending and services is deeply flawed. Voters in Los Angeles County need to demand an elected mayor with real powers.  Supervisors need to laser-focused on the creation of policy and oversight.

Herb Wesson is a former speaker of the State Assembly who joined the city council in 2005 and led the council as president since 2011.  He is termed out and now is looking for the next job.  When it comes to endorsements and money raised, he is the candidate to beat. He has not only raised the most money but also according to his website, he has gotten major endorsements from many influential political leaders and labor unions.  From Mayor Garcetti to Supervisor Jahn Hann to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party to major organized labor unions here in Los Angeles, they all have endorsed his candidacy. He is the leading candidate when it comes to fundraising, he has raised a little over a million dollars.  CityWatch recently reported that the former Council President had collected money from oil and gas companies in the first six months of 2019.  These companies “actually operate oil drilling sites” in the 2nd District. Among these oil companies is Thermo Company,  one of the companies responsible for the Porter Ranch leak. This should be a source of concern for residents in this district who will be voting in March.

Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times reported that Herb Wesson had his struggles with paying his bills on time.  In this article, it was reported that the former city council president almost got his properties into a foreclosure auction. How can this man confront the challenges facing the 2nd district?  This is a difficult job that requires a candidate who can bring reason, comprehension and yes good judgment.

The second leading candidate is Jan Perry, a former city councilwoman for District 9. She is a Black Jewish woman well-known in the political firmament of Los Angeles.  The urban renaissance in the early 2000s in Los Angeles took place during her 12-year-tenure as a councilwoman.  After she left the city council, she ran for mayor, and she did not do well. Mayor Garcetti appointed her to run the Economic and Workforce Development. An interesting point here is that Mayor Garcetti has endorsed her opponent Herb Wesson. She has raised a little over half a million dollars. Moreover, according to her website, Jan Perry is currently running the Infrastructure Funding Alliance, a national initiative to meet future infrastructure, economic development, and environmental challenges.  The most well-known people who have endorsed her are Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County Assessor, Jeffrey Prang, and former LA City Councilmember (Ret.) LAPD Chief (Ret.), Bernard Parks.

The third leading candidate in this race is Holly Mitchell.  She has been serving in the legislature for almost a decade.  She served first in the state assembly and then moved up to the upper house, the state senate.  Many legislators and members of the executive branch have given her their endorsements, from current Governor Newson to former Governor Brown to a plethora of assembly and senate members as well as constitutional officers. According to her website, she has also picked up some endorsements from some SEIU and AFSCME locals and well-known community people such as Dolores Huerta and Rev. James Lawson Jr. This candidate has also raised a little over half of a million dollars.

There are no ideological differences amongst these three candidates analyzed above.  It is all about personalities.  Any candidate who wins this race will be a  nod to continuity at a time of crisis when continuity should not be warranted. If no candidate in this race receives a majority vote in the primary, which will be held on March 3,  the top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff in November.

Civic, business, and community leaders in this county must make an effort to come up with a well-thought-out frame for developing leadership.  Bold and transformative leadership is desperately needed; we need to refill the reservoir of ideas that has dried up. Los Angeles County’s government is too bloated and unresponsive.  Paralysis rules.  Mediocrity has become the order of the day in many departments in this County of Los Angeles. We absolutely need more voices, no echos.  It is inconceivable to believe that people in this district cannot find high caliber candidates with adequate credentials, independence, and clear thinking with the ability to make life better in this district and the county than these three leading politicians.

The challenges are countless and daunting.  Indeed,  It is difficult to see these three leading candidates providing radical ideas that will end homelessness, improve economic mobility, and increase civic participation.  These candidates are just looking for another gig.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Pictures of candidates covered on this piece were screened shot from candidates’ websites.

Sources consulted:
Fisher, Mary.  “Can Jan Perry Defeat Herb Wesson, Big Oil’s Candidate for LA Supervisor?” CityWatch 20 Jan. 2020.
Jennings, Angel. “Gentrification is the new litmus test in the county supervisor race in South L.A.”  Los Angeles Times 30 Sept. 2019.
Markle, Lawren. “Demographic Snapshots for LA County’s Five Districts.” Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation 24 April 2017.
Stiles, Matt. “These candidates want to represent 2 million Angelenos. Who’s funding their campaigns?” Los Angeles Times 29 Sept. 2019.
—. “State senator enters race for a seat on L.A. County Board of Supervisors.”  Los Angeles Times 14 Feb. 2019.
Zahnisner, David. “He’s one of L.A. City Hall’s most powerful politicians. He’s also having problems paying his bills on time.”  Los Angeles Times 17 Aug. 2016.

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