In his annual “state of the county” speech, longtime Los Angeles County Supervisor
Knabe and the nonpartisan board’s only other conservative,
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post said the proposed Men's Central Jail was reduced to 1,000 beds. It was reduced by 1,000 beds.
In recent months, Knabe has had a series of testy exchanges with his colleagues over the size of a new Men’s Central Jail and a proposal to spend $100 million a year on creating more affordable housing. He also butted heads with the more liberal board members this week over a plan to create a wage theft enforcement program within the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. It would police violations of the county’s minimum wage, which will gradually rise to $15 an hour by 2020.
Knabe had argued for a formula that would allocate housing money based on a percentage of revenue instead of a fixed sum of $100 million, and pushed back against downsizing the jail plan by 1,000 beds, in case a planned diversion program for mentally ill arrestees is not successful. In that event, the new jail could end up with the same overcrowding problems as the old one, requiring the board to build another facility or pay for beds elsewhere.
During a speech at the Long Beach convention center, Knabe described his colleagues' approach to budgeting on those initiatives as “‘Field of Dreams’ spending — picking a dollar figure and hoping the money will come.”
“I don’t want to be one of those entities that make promises that sound good at a press conference, but are promises that we can’t keep,” Knabe said. “Throwing money at these issues without a sustainable plan isn’t fair to those we are trying to help, or to those who have put us in office to fix these problems.”
Knabe said afterward that he was not concerned about the county's immediate fiscal health but had concerns about the budget in the long term.
“The state of the county is good,” he said. “I'm not talking about today. I'm talking about into the future.”
U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro); former Manhattan Beach Mayor Steve Napolitano, a senior deputy to Knabe; and former Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin, a former Knabe staffer, are running for Knabe’s seat. Knabe has endorsed Napolitano, but Hahn is widely considered the favorite to win, which would create a supermajority of Democrats on the board.