Who’d want to be baby sitter for Los Angeles County’s five secretive supervisors?
I don’t blame Thomas Mauk, Orange County’s chief executive, for changing his mind and refusing the job of chief administrative officer of Los Angeles County While the parking is good, the building is ugly and the bosses are terrible.
There’s a big myth that the L.A. County supervisors are powerful, three kings and two queens. Actually, all they do is mishandle a runaway health care system, preside powerlessly over social welfare programs and approve zoning for subdivisions in the little remaining vacant land.
I almost forgot. They also decry riots in the jail and refuse do anything about the homeless mentally ill even though the voters a few years ago voted for a state tax increase that could really improve the situation.
While they do nothing, the chief administrative officer’s job is to coddle them, massage their egos and give the impression that they are all on a team, ready for action. They like to think of themselves as “the county family.”
As is the case with all families, giving a favorable impression involves keeping secrets. What happens in the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration stays in the County Hall of Administration.
So whenever a reporter begins asking a county bureaucrat questions, the official fires off a memo to the supervisors and the chief administrative officer, putting them on alert, bringing down the county iron curtain.
When I was in the news business, I thought that covering L.A. County resembled covering the Kremlin during the Brezhnev era, bureaucratic, ponderous, secretive, massive. Not homicidal, like Stalin, just oppressive.
Cracking our county Kremlin is quite a challenge. I hope the current Times editors appreciate their L.A. County beat reporters, Susannah Rosenblatt and Jack Leonard,and give them the encouragement and good play their work deserves.