Amending Constitution to Ensure Better Representation Makes Sense for L.A. County and California

June 16, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

Senate Constitutional Amendment 12 is about the Future of California. The laws governing the way counties are structured were written in the 1850s and were left alone after passage. To put that into context, Los Angeles County was home to five thousand people at that time. Today, the same county is home to over 10 million people and has a larger population than 42 individual states!

Imagine a state like North Carolina with a five person governing committee without a governor or legislature.

Beyond Los Angeles County, however, the concern for how counties are structured is a statewide issue. In 1850, the California Constitutional Committee created 18 counties in the new state of California. In the years since then, the general shape, guidelines and format of a Board of Supervisors has been unchanged. Our state is very different today and will continue to change in the coming years. The demographics, economy, and scale of everyday life in California have changed dramatically since 1850. A form of government that worked for cattle ranchers pre-Civil War cannot adequately address counties larger than most states.

It has become clear that effective, accessible, and accountable government is nearly impossible when a single County Supervisor serves over two million constituents. Los Angeles County is the first to rise above five million, but others will as well in the coming years. It is simply foolish to ignore the future in order to preserve a system of government that is over 150 years old.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 12 is a simple plan to ensure better, fairer representation with clear lines of executive authority. This Amendment brings Los Angeles County closer to our common system of government. It would add two seats to a Board of Supervisors, an elected County Executive, and better utilize employees and county resources. County government should be local, accessible, accountable, and personal.

This Amendment will ensure Supervisors serve no more than two congressional districts worth of constituents. Supervisors will be accessible and closer to the people they serve while having a stronger connection to voters. If the law has determined that representatives who vote on a broad range of national issues should serve a fraction of the number California Supervisors do, a change must be made.

Accountability has been a problem for Los Angeles County. We have seen scandals in the Jails, in the foster care system, and with the County Assessor’s office. Currently, the Board of Supervisors is in control of the budget, administrative duties, and ensuring County organizations remain accountable. In 2016, the LA County Grand Jury made it clear that, at minimum, the Board of Supervisors needs two more seats and an empowered executive position to manage the county.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 12 is a bipartisan effort to ensure that large counties can accommodate and adequately address the needs of their constituents. An administrator who has the dual responsibilities of drawing up an effective budget and professionalizing management would facilitate healthy, organized growth in counties. Additional seats on a Board of Supervisors means we would see vibrant tapestry of our community reflected in local government.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has done little to encourage diversity and representation of minority communities in County government. Of the 33 department heads in the county, none are Latino. There are no Latino Chiefs of Staff for the Board of Supervisors. In a county that is over forty percent Latino, that’s unacceptable and a reflection of the limited number of opportunities in county government. While 20% of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is Latino, there are no Asian-Americans on the Board.

This bill is about the future of California and finding a way to avoid the growing pains Los Angeles has encountered from happening again. We are a state that is growing and our policies should develop alongside. To preserve the power, prestige, and finances of a few at the expense of California’s future, the choice is simple. Our children, our people, and our state are too valuable to let political preservation derail the long-term potential of the Golden State. Our shared future is too important to set aside for the benefit of a single Board in a single county.

 

Senator Tony Mendoza, a Los Angeles native and former elementary school teacher in East Los Angeles, represents the 32nd Senate District encompassing portions of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. For more information about Senator Mendoza visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

County Follows L.A.’s Lead: Raises Minimum Wage

July 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to incrementally raise the minimum wage in unincorporated areas over the next five years, reaching $15 an hour by 2020.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, initially hesitant about the possible impact on small businesses, joined Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas in backing the ordinance. Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe dissented, raising concerns about the impact on businesses.

Knabe voted in favor of the hike for county employees only. The minimum wage statewide is currently $9 an hour, but it is scheduled to increase to $10 an hour in January.

Kuehl recommended the county wage hike, which – like the increase recently approved by the city of Los Angeles – will include a series of increases over five years, beginning July 1, 2016, and reaching $15 an hour by 2020. The wage will go to $10.50 in July 2016, $12 in July 2017, $13.25 in July 2018, $14.25 in July 2019 then to $15 the following year. The hike will also mirror the city increase by delaying the increase by one year for businesses with fewer than 26 employees.

After 2020, the wage will be adjusted annually based on the cost of living, something Knabe said he was convinced was “absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

Kuehl said she’d “never been prouder than I am today” about giving “tens of thousands of low-wage workers whose labor has been undervalued and, too often, stole” the opportunity to enter the working class rather than living in “the poverty class.”

Antonovich countered that “a $15 minimum wage is really $21.17” once taxes and health insurance are considered. He also warned that theme parks like Magic Mountain and retailers like Ross and Walmart might be annexed to other cities to avoid paying the higher wage, hurting the county tax roll.

“Are you going to have businesses stay here, thrive and create jobs or are you going to have another exodus?” Antonovich said.

The board discussed the proposal last month, but postponed a vote due to concerns over a Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation report on the issue. Solis also withheld her support while awaiting a survey of small business owners and considering ways to mitigate the impact of the wage bump for them.

Tuesday, dozens of workers packed the county boardroom in support of the wage hike, telling the board that despite working full-time, they’re unable to pay for basic necessities. They faced off against business owners, large and small, who mostly opposed the increase, warning suprvisors that they would be forced to lay off workers, cut hours and raise prices.

Elected officials also turned out to make their case to the board.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti led off with an economic argument.

“Poverty is very, very expensive,” Garcetti said. “When we lose billions in lost wages, when we see folks who can’t support themselves, who winds up paying for it? We do.”

The owner of a Valencia-based warehousing and fulfillment business who said he ships about “20 football fields of consumer products” and supports a $16 million annual payroll warned that he might be forced to move or to automate jobs currently performed by at-risk youth or developmentally disabled workers.

“What you’re doing is going to be really damaging to businesses like mine,” business owner Ken Wiseman told the board.

Wiseman predicted that businesses would move across the Golden State (5) Freeway to Santa Clarita, which he expects will not raise its minimum wage.

A representative of Raging Waters theme park told the board the wage hike will cost the park $1.5 million and would prohibit the company from investing in new attractions.

The board’s action – which will also apply to county employees – leaves dozens of municipalities to decide whether they will respond in kind.

West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath told the board she is looking at how her city might join the wave of those seeking to raise the standard of living for families struggling to pay housing costs and students buried under school loans.

“Raising the minimum wage is not just the right thing to do, it’s the thing to do right now,” Horvath said. “Our communities can’t wait.”

Business representatives warned that setting a higher wage in unincorporated areas would create a bureaucratic nightmare for businesses that operate within and outside of those “islands.”

However, many of those representing local businesses seemed resigned to the outcome of Tuesday’s vote and focused instead on working out the details of the wage ordinance.

Tracy Rafter, founder of BizFed, which she said represents more than 140 chambers and business organizations, cited “deep concern” about how fast the county was moving to implement such a dramatic increase. But Rafter said she wanted to focus on protecting exemptions for nonprofits and teenage employees and on crafting a definition of employees that would minimize the impact on businesses working across municipalities.

Others expressed support for a small business initiative, championed by Solis and Supervisor Don Knabe, designed to help businesses by potentially providing tax relief, fee waivers or reductions and workforce training.

In a related motion, Solis and Ridley-Thomas proposed that the county move to regulate wage theft.

Nearly 80 percent of low-wage workers who work overtime aren’t paid appropriately and wage theft – which includes being denied meal and rest breaks and working off the clock – disproportionately affects immigrants, women and people of color, according to the supervisors’ proposal.

On a unanimous vote, the board directed staffers to report back on potential enforcement tools including criminal penalties, denying permits and licenses and imposing liens.

A draft minimum wage ordinance is expected to come back for board approval in 45 days.

Los Angeles County’s Next 4th District Supervisor Should be Latino

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In June 2016, there will be a primary election in Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe’s 4th Supervisorial District. Unless one candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote in June, the top two candidates will advance to a run off in the November 2016 general election, the candidate who wins the election will most likely hold this seat for 12 years, until Nov. 30, 2028.

Currently this seat includes three dominant areas: the coast from San Pedro to Venice; the city of Long Beach; and the San Gabriel Valley/south county area from Lakewood to Diamond Bar with a population of nearly 2 million.

In 2011, Democrats had 15 percent higher voter registration than the Republicans. This Democratic registration strength in comparison with the Republican registration should increase by June 2016 and even more by November 2016, with the presidential election attracting more voters.

Latinos were 28.7 percent of all registered voters in the district in 2011 and should increase to over 32 percent by November 2016. The eligible pool of Latino voters was 32.8 percent in 2011 and should be close to 35 percent by November 2016. White eligible voters should be approximately 39 percent in November 2016.

The only viable Democratic San Gabriel Valley candidate is Sen. Tony Mendoza, who represents more than 750,000 of the residents of the district. He would not have to give up his district to run and has demonstrated an ability to raise money. He was successful in overcoming a well-financed campaign against him for state Senate in the 2014 election.

There will be other Democrats running for this district most likely from other parts of the district.

There should be several Republican candidates running from various parts of the district. It will be tough for them to win in a district where there are significantly more Democrats than Republicans and where the election will occur in a high-Democrat turn out presidential election year.

Mendoza’s potential front-runner status in the race has been ignored in the media. Latino Democrats and other Democrats from the San Gabriel Valley have been quiet. If they do not speak up soon then we will most likely not have a candidate who will focus on issues affecting the San Gabriel Valley.

Why is it important to elect a San Gabriel Valley Latino to District 4? There are three key issues:

1. Transportation, particularly the fair allocation of Measure R dollars and construction of light rails;

2. The need for a new public hospital in east San Gabriel Valley, to meet unmet needs and to fulfill promises made in 2000 when a much smaller county/USC hospital was built with the promise of a new hospital in east San Gabriel Valley;

3. The safe redevelopment of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers so as to protect south county cities from future flooding, flood insurance and rate increases and fair access to funds for developing riverfront recreational opportunities.

In a county with approximately 50 percent of the residents Latino and with Latinos projected by 2020 to have the same number of potential voters as whites in Los Angeles County, it is important that two of the five supervisors be Latino, instead of the current one Latino supervisor.

The time is now for San Gabriel residents to speak out. They should encourage Sen. Mendoza to run for this district.

 

Alan Clayton is a redistricting consultant who lives in San Gabriel Valley. The column was first published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

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