ELECTION WATCH : Reelect Molina

It was widely predicted that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors would never be the same after Gloria Molina was voted onto it in a special 1991 election. Rarely has the conventional wisdom been more accurate--and rarely has the public interest been better served.

Each of the five supervisors represents roughly 1.8 million constituents. They jointly administer a $14.7-billion budget, and there's no powerful elected executive to check them. Individually, they have more power than many small-state governors and most members of Congress. Yet the board gets less attention than the average city council. That's why for too many years the county government was a closed, cozy little club.

That changed when Molina, who represents the east county's 1st District, started living up to her reputation for ornery independence. Last year, for example, she helped save county taxpayers millions of dollars by shaming her colleagues into rolling back an outrageous pension-spiking scheme for top county officials. That gutsy act by itself would merit her reelection, to a full term, in the June 7 primary election, but she has achieved a lot more.

Although Molina's reelection is assured because she has no opponents on the ballot, she gets an enthusiastic Times endorsement nonetheless--for, among other things, starting a trend of openness in county government that accelerated with the 1992 election of Yvonne Brathwaite Burke to the board. That trend can gain further in the next four years if Molina works at mellowing her still occasionally abrasive style.

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