Voters need to demand accountability

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THE HUTCHINSON REPORT

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Contributing Columnist

The race for the Los Angeles City Council’s 10th District and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ 2nd District are the two hottest contests locally.

The four candidates represent a mix of the old and new to politics, sharp differences on the issues and how to get things done for the voters they are appealing to for support. The candidates also represent a telling picture of where L.A. is, or at least should be headed for, in the future.

The four candidates all promise change and claim that they offer the best hope to their constituents to accomplish much for them on the council and board. But voters have heard these ritual promises before and watched in frustration, even anger, as the candidates once cozily ensconced in office wheel and deal, fall into bed with developers and corporate fat cats and become invisible men and women when it comes to transparency and accountability.

It’s easy for them to do that since for the most part their actions fly way under the media and public radar scope.

That is not a good thing. County supervisors and City Council members 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. 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. voters scratch their heads in puzzlement whenever they are asked just what exactly do the supervisors and council members do?

The two races 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 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 contenders will do on the big-ticket issues that face their districts, the city and the county.

They include: run-away overdevelopment, the monumental lack of affordable housing, rampant gentrification, surging homelessness, LAPD and sheriff’s department reforms, jail reform measures, a sensible traffic and transit management plan to end the area’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. 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 the past against the Board of Supervisors and City Council for not adhering to the provisions of the Brown Act that require extensive public disclosure of their actions. The candidates should pledge to an open public window on all executive meetings, deliberations and decision making, especially the awarding of all contracts, as well as instant Facebook and social media streaming for city council and board meetings.

They should pledge to conduct independent public audits and immediate public disclosure of every cent of the multi-billions the supervisors and city council authorize and spend on projects in L.A. city and county. That includes taxpayer dollars spent on all services, projects and materials

The candidates should pledge to form a District Citizens Accountability Committee to propose and review all decisions on spending, budgeting and planning by the 10th District council person and 2nd District supervisor.

They should pledge citizen and public interest groups review and craft of innovative solutions to attain 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 two contenders for the Board of Supervisors seat have a special challenge with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. It operates as a law unto itself, with near zero accountability, and has a long history of unchecked misconduct, abuse, rogue gangs in the department and wanton use of deadly force.

The call for County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s resignation, which the candidates should make, is just the first step toward transforming the department. They must fight hard for meaningful oversight of the Sheriff’s Department.

The City Council and county supervisors races offer 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 their constituents desperately need.

The Pacifica Radio Hutchinson Report will feature a town hall two-hour special on the local races and the presidential race at 9 a.m. Oct. 31, on KPFK Radio 90.7 FM. streamed at kpfk.org and Facebook Livestreamed at hutchinsonreport. Listeners, stakeholders and constituents can discuss the issues.