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Delgado for Assessor, No on B

Los Angeles County residents will cast two votes next week that involve the county tax assessor’s office. They must first decide whether to keep the assessor’s job an elective office. If the post remains elective--and we think it should--they must elect someone to the job, and the best candidate is Sid Delgado, chief technical assistant to outgoing Assessor Alexander H. Pope.

Proponents of county ballot Proposition B, which would change the assessor’s job from an elective to an appointive office, argue that modern technology and new state laws and regulations, including Proposition 13, have reduced the policy-making duties of county assessors in California. They argue that the job now requires so much expertise in data processing and computer technology that it belongs to an appointed technical expert and not just any politician who comes along.

But if Proposition B is approved, Los Angeles will be the only one of California’s 58 counties with an appointed assessor. The county already has fewer elected officials (eight) than any other county in the state, despite having the largest population (8 million). An appointed assessor would make sense only if the board of supervisors were larger, as we have often suggested it should be, or if the county had a powerful chief executive to counter balance the supervisors’ clout. A vote for Proposition B would surrender to the Board of Supervisors even more power than it already has. We urge a No vote on Proposition B.

Voters will also cast ballots Tuesday for a replacement for Pope, should Proposition B go down to defeat. There are 12 candidates in the race, including two politicians who are well-known here--former Los Angeles City Council-man Gordon Hahn and former California Assemblyman Jim Keysor. Both men have admirable records of public service, but neither is qualified for the assessor’s job.

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The best-qualified candidates in the field are comparatively unknown. Some, like Henry E. Vagt, have run for the assessor’s job before and have backgrounds in real-estate management and investment. But the best candidates have worked in local county assessors’ offices: Webster J. Guillory, the managing deputy assessor in Orange County; James H. Withycombe and John J. Lynch, deputy Los Angeles County assessors, and our choice, Delgado.

Delgado has worked in the assessor’s office for 23 years, moving up in the ranks from deputy county assessor, his first job out of UCLA. A specialist in data processing, Delgado has helped oversee the computerization of the assessor’s office that has taken place during Pope’s tenure. He is a professional assessor who insists that he has no interest in any other public office. Delgado offers voters the combination of technical expertise, management experience and knowledge of county government that is needed to get the assessor’s office again operating at peak efficiency.


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