County mayor goes national

Today's Christian Science Monitor takes up the question of whether Los Angeles County should have its own elected executive. Reporter Daniel Wood takes off from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's remarks at a Nov. 16 lunch of the Current Affairs Forum — reported at the time exclusively here at News & Chatter — about the need for an elected pol to be accountable to voters since the Supes really aren't.

"It's a good idea," says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. "The [current] five-member board acts as a de facto executive, and as Alexander Hamilton reminded us ... a plural executive is seldom a good idea.... It tends to conceal faults and destroy responsibility...."

Others concur with Dr. Pitney's assessment. Los Angeles County governance "is currently really suffering from five equal people. No one person can speak for the county, and all five have diverse voices and represent their own districts. No one is accountable to the entire county," says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies....

"It sounds good, but when you look at it, it's just another fiefdom," says Lola Ungar, president of the L.A. County League of Women Voters. Each of the current supervisors has a staff of about 25 people, and the "mayor" position is likely to include that many or more. "Where would the money come for this?" she asks. "We are already dealing with economic problems in healthcare, foster care, welfare, and other areas - adding more people wouldn't help the mix."

Accountability doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with a single executive, adds Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

The story also puts the idea in the context of the Board of Supervisors' mishandling of King-Drew Medical Center.

Also: Departing county CAO David Janssen talked about the chief executive idea in September's Metro Investment Report.

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