Members of the
That argument is so twisted as to need little serious discussion. Supervisors are consistently reelected in this county of more than 10 million people because it's nearly impossible to unseat them regardless of their performance. Once elected, their power over contracts and services makes them magnets for political donations, and they amass war chests no challenger could hope to match.
In a typical California county — Colusa, let's say, with its population of 21,000 and each district a fifth that size — someone hoping to unseat a supervisor just might do it by going door to door and reaching every voting household with his or her message. But no such grass-roots campaign can bump off an incumbent supervisor in Los Angeles County, where each district has a population greater than Nebraska, Hawaii or, in fact, about a third of the other states.
So honest campaigns for supervisor here — campaigns in which candidates debate issues and voters are given choices — simply haven't occurred except when the incumbent retired.
This year, for the first time, a term-limits law kicks in and ends the tenure of Supervisors
But it's a different story in Molina's 1st District, which runs from downtown Los Angeles eastward through the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. More than a year ago, those in the political know began explaining to one another that the choice to replace Molina had already been made, although not by voters and not at the polls. The next supervisor was to be U.S. Secretary of Labor
With no disrespect to El Monte city councilman and retired county employee Juventino "J" Gomez or to school police officer April Saucedo Hood, both of whom are running campaigns for the seat, neither of them has the fundraising prowess, the political backing or the vision and know-how to offer much of a challenge. It is virtually certain that Solis will be a member of the Board of Supervisors for the next four years and, given the power of incumbency, the next 12. Even a November runoff is unlikely. The once-in-a-generation opportunity for a district of 2 million people to select their county representative has been extinguished. Voters have been ripped off. Democracy has been mocked.
Voters should be angry. But at whom?
Shall we blame the Democratic Party and labor power brokers who paved the way for Solis' coronation and found other paths to advancement for other would-be contenders? Should we blame the Republicans for offering little or nothing in the way of a viable challenger? In part.
But much of the problem is that districts are too big and government is too closed. With no credible challengers and therefore no need to debate, Solis is not forced to discuss what she would do to solve that very fundamental issue. But she should. And without credible challengers, she need not establish any habit of discussing county issues — poverty, homelessness, criminal recidivism, jail abuse, foster care, transit spending, storm water cleanup, open space, oversight of the Sheriff's Department — in public. But she should.
A candidate with her long association with organized labor should also be able to discuss the unpopular decisions Molina and her colleagues made two decades ago that have kept the county from the pension abyss. She should be expected to explain the degree to which continuing personnel problems at the Probation Department stem from a board decision in the 1990s to put a union leader in charge, and should make clear how she would handle labor pressure to change the leadership in that and other departments.
Like any other candidate, she should be compelled to face not just members of the public and their questions but serious challengers and theirs. She should have to talk about issues. That's how real democracy is supposed to work. As of this writing, however, four short weeks before early voting begins, the only thing Solis has on her website under the word "Issues" is the promise, "Coming soon!"