The many ethnic currents of Los Angeles County politics continue to reach from the suburbs through the heart of Los Angeles, piercing the forbidding walls of the downtown county building.
The latest twist in this fascinating story involves continued maneuvering for county supervisorial seats as term limits force out four of the five supervisors. Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina must give their farewell speeches next year. Don Knabe and Mike Antonovich will have more time to refine their parting words. Their terms are up in 2016.
One angle to the story is why no Jewish candidate has yet emerged to succeed Yaroslavsky, a respected leader in the Jewish community, who replaced Ed Edelman, another important Jewish leader. Some political activists have wondered whether Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, who is Jewish, might be a possibility, but so far he hasn’t shown any interest.
It’s an important matter because the Board of Supervisors are responsible for every program and project involving social justice issues in the county, ranging from abused children, the mentally ill, the homeless and other peoples badly in need of help. These matters have long occupied Jewish community welfare organizations.
Edelman embraced these issues as a mission, most notably creating a children’s court for troubled youths. Yaroslavsky has been concerned, too, telling Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times, "I have had many a sleepless night, literally and figuratively, on some of the decisions we've had to make over the years." With the Los Angeles Jewish community’s historic interest in social justice problems, it will be interesting to see whether its leaders feel it’s important to come up with another Edelman or Yaroslavsky.
The second angle to the story centers on the effort of Latino activists to persuade the U.S. Justice Department to sue the county to force a reapportionment that will create another Latino seat. The supervisors oppose this. One way for them to prevent it is to persuade their political donors to get behind Latinos to run for the soon-to-be vacant seats. Latino victories would take the steam out of demands for a reapportionment. The supervisors and their lawyers would say there is plenty of Latino representation.
Opponents of Justice Department intervention may be putting on a big campaign for West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, who is interested in succeeding Yaroslavsky. Another would be to support Downey City Councilman Mario Guerra, who just finished a term as mayor, to run for the Knabe seat in 2016, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote that “there is some buzz” about Guerra doing it, although he has announced he is running for the State Senate next year.
Such maneuvering recalls the case of John Noguez, an official in the county assessor’s office. Suddenly, with huge county establishment backing, he ran for assesor and won. That gave the county supervisors the chance to counter demands for more Latino representation by noting that two Latinos, Noguez and Sheriff Lee Baca, held countywide offices, evidence that Latinos were well represented.
Unfortunately this hasn’t ended well. Noguez is now facing many corruption charges. Still, the chance of putting Guerra and/or Duran on the board may prove irresistible to county leaders opposed to Justice Department intervention. They can call it Noguez II.