Bill Boyarsky
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The supes need an arguer

Whether Bernard Parks or Mark Ridley-Thomas wins the Los Angeles County 2nd supervisorial district election June 3, one point is certain: The sleepy board may actually wake up.

Years ago, I used to cover the supervisors. In recent times, I have been spared that duty. All I know is what I read in the papers and what I am told by various reporters who have been sent to the county building to report on the five enigmatic supervisors.
From those observations, I surmise that the supervisors go through their paces every Tuesday, voting on matters that have been previously approved by their staffs in sessions held somewhere out of the public’s eyes. The meetings are pretty boring unless Gloria Molina yells at an unfortunate department head. The board’s main accomplishment this year is keeping Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital closed, denying hospital care to Los Angeles’ poorest and sickest residents.

Neither Parks, a Los Angeles city councilman, nor Ridley-Thomas, a state senator, are get-along, go-along types who will blend into the present board’s way of doing things.

Ridley-Thomas is a challenge to reporters and colleagues. He likes to argue. He always thinks he is right. And he’s rough on those who disagree with him.

When he was pushing the Staples arena project through the City Council, I was writing columns demanding public disclosure of the lease. He didn’t like those columns. At the height of it, he came up to me and said I was just trying to revive my failing career. Later on, after I was promoted to city editor, I sought him out. “It worked,” I said.

When Parks was police chief, he’d go after any reporter who crossed him. In his mind, trying to dig out a story amounted to crossing him. We had long arguments, once in public , another time in his office. He’d never conceded he was wrong. In his mind, he never was.

I enjoyed arguing with both Ridley-Thomas and Parks. They never backed down and neither did I. That was OK. They had a right to complain. I had an obligation to listen, and the right to reply in kind.

From my experience, neither is cursed with the supervisorial state of mind—a peaceful somnolence more suited to a retirement home than the governance of LA County. I hope the winner never adopts it and retains his testy, argumentative ways. And I truly hope the new supervisor figures out how to re-open Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital..

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