County mayor drumbeat builds

There was yesterday's piece in the Christian Science Monitor (which prompted some email), now outgoing chief administrative officer David Janssen says Los Angeles County needs a powerful executive to make things work. In an exit interview he tells the Times' Susannah Rosenblatt that things are bad and won't get better without someone in charge:

As the Board of Supervisors prepares to select Janssen's successor in the coming weeks, the veteran administrator said the next executive would be wise to demand better ways to measure the performance of county programs....A stronger administrator whether appointed or elected with control of hiring and firing would create "clear lines of authority and accountability."


Though he is proud of what he accomplished over a decade in the top post, Janssen said many good things happened despite a "very awkward" government structure in which the five elected supervisors wield both legislative and executive authority. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the current chairman, recently floated the idea that the county shape a ballot initiative asking voters to create a strong executive, even though they have rejected it in the past.

Managing such a vast county government would be difficult even under the best circumstances: It employs more than 90,000 workers who serve a population of 10 million, with many programs disbursing state or federal funds to poor, elderly, homeless and needy residents. The county runs the nation's largest jail system, houses about 3,500 youths in detention camps and juvenile halls each day, provides child support services to 500,000 families, and treats more than 3 million outpatients a year.

The Supes are scheduled to interview finalists Monday. The Times says they are county Human Resources head Michael Henry; county Treasurer and Tax Collector Mark Saladino; Sandra Vargas, a county administrator from Hennepin County, Minn., which includes Minneapolis; "and two other candidates, one from Southern California and the other from Florida."

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