In the June 7 primary election only one open seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is on the ballot. Residents of the 3rd District--which runs along the coast from the Ventura County line to Santa Monica and inland to West Hollywood and then sprawls northward to cover most of the San Fernando Valley--will vote to replace the retiring Edmund D. Edelman on the five-member body that governs the nation's most populous county.
Vying to replace Edelman are four candidates: retired Los Angeles Fire Captain Don Wallace of Calabasas, environmental consultant Michael S. Hirsch of Van Nuys, attorney Elgin M. Trammell Sr. of Lake View Terrace and Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
The conventional political wisdom concedes the race to Yaroslavsky, a veteran Westside councilman who has raised nearly $1 million for his campaign. Obviously he can heavily outspend a candidate like Hirsch, who has interesting ideas but a campaign budget of only about $1,000.
But it would be a mistake to assume Yaroslavsky is a shoo-in. For while he is well-known on the Westside, he is still a relative newcomer to the Valley--and a somewhat suspect newcomer at that, coming as he does from the "other side" of the Hollywood Hills. Wallace, a community activist in the West Valley who has run for county supervisor before, is counting on those facts to work in his favor, along with his three years' experience as an Edelman deputy.
Wallace's experience in the County Hall of Administration gives him an air of authority in criticizing the size of the county bureaucracy and buttresses his argument that more money for the strapped county budget can be found through downsizing. Yaroslavsky makes the same argument, however, and can back it up with nearly 20 years of experience in City Hall as one of the most consistent voices for economy and openness in city government. To ease any suspicion they may harbor against an outsider, Valley voters should recall Yaroslavsky's efforts to get aid to Sherman Oaks, which he represents, after the Jan. 17 earthquake.
But Yaroslavsky's theme of openness in government is what sways us to his side. Openness was conspicuously absent at the Hall of Administration until Gloria Molina was elected in 1991. She and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke have provided a welcome breath of fresh air in county government. More is needed and, based on his City Hall record, Yaroslavsky should do the job.