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GOVERNMENT WATCH : Flying High

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was at Downtown’s Hall of Administration on Tuesday and needed to get to an important meeting in Irvine. He was really pressed for time. So while the common folk--less important, but no less pressed for time--crawled along clogged freeways, Antonovich took to the skies by commandeering a county Fire Department helicopter.

He was in a hurry to get to a state Transportation Commission meeting to lobby for state highway funds to realign and widen California 138. So we schnooks can crawl just a bit faster. The munificence of the powerful is truly boundless.

Tuesday’s chopper jaunt was Antonovich’s 12th this fiscal year. The “incremental cost” of these flights now totals $6,586.94; that reflects just the extra fuel and oil and overtime for the pilots and mechanics. And, incredibly, while the county that Antonovich helps oversee is so mired in debt that supervisors contemplate closing the County Hospital, he rejects suggestions that he reimburse the public for these costs. So apparently do the other supervisors, even though none have used the choppers this year. A motion introduced last fall by Supervisor Gloria Molina to compel Antonovich to pay up died for lack of a second.

Antonovich’s staff says the helicopter makes “better use of his time” than driving, even in his chauffeured car equipped with a phone. Perhaps, but it’s certainly not a better use of taxpayer money. Antonovich’s audacity on this issue is matched only by his colleagues’ timidity.

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