What's in a Name If It's County Mayor?


By action of the county Board of Supervisors last week--still to be ratified today--the number of mayors in Los Angeles County jumped from 88 to 89.

The change came not by creating a new city, but by declaring Mike Antonovich--chairman of the Board of Supervisors--county mayor. He is the first county official in the country to acquire the title, usually reserved for heads of city government.

Although the title creates no real power for the county position, proponents argue that it creates more clout for the person who chairs the Board of Supervisors when lobbying for support elsewhere.

On the issue of a county mayor, what's in a name?

Mike Antonovich, Los Angeles County mayor:

"When we negotiate and work with representatives in Washington, it is important for them to understand that it is Los Angeles County which is in charge of social services, and we are in charge of 1 million people who are without a city, and over half of the cities contract with us for services. . . . It provides a better relationship with those agencies that deal with those issues of local government. During the earthquake, the president was totally ignorant of Los Angeles County, so the president ignored Santa Clarita, which had been isolated in the quake. . . . I had to explain to the president that the map he had was wrong. . . . It's the type of misinformation that impacts on the ability [of] people to get back on their feet after a disaster or to get information about needs."

Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County supervisor:

"This doesn't move us one inch closer to more effective government. It has brought some ridicule onto the county. . . . And, in all likelihood I will not use the title myself. . . . I think the county needs to have a separately elected executive officer. . . . With no independent elected executive, it's a formula for bad government. There's no checks and balance in the system. . . . [But] it's so naive to expect to be able to make a change by changing a name. It'll be a conversation piece for two weeks, then it will be back to the same problems we had before."

Annette Hall, president of the League of Women Voters and a Valley resident:

"It's not the definitive change in county government we'd like to see. We'd like to see an expanded board for one thing; right now there are too few supervisors representing too many people.. . . It would be much more effective to have a larger board, but not have them responsible to all the minutia of the departments. That would allow them to look at the broader picture in deciding policy."

Matthew Cahn, Cal State Northridge political science professor:

"It's a symbolic action, which is equivalent to what we see in a lot of small cities, a strong council, weak mayor system. . . . [As to making a real political impact], if it was Willie Brown, yes, but I don't think so otherwise. . . . In terms of creating more momentum for public policy, I don't think it will have any kind of effect at all."

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