Many Los Angeles County employees were given the day off Wednesday to mark the national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush — unlike most of their local government counterparts in Southern California.
A holiday generally costs the county $10 million, said Liz Odendahl, spokeswoman for Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn.
Los Angeles city government offices, L.A. County Superior Courts and the L.A. Unified School District remained open. The governments of neighboring Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties also remained open, as did state offices.
Hahn proposed the day of mourning Tuesday “in solidarity with the federal government” and to “encourage residents of the county to pay tribute” to the former president.
Odendahl said the county has a long tradition of honoring late presidents in this way, dating to the death of Harry Truman.
“Emergency” and “essential” county services, including sheriff’s and fire department operations, storm-related response, hospitals and clinics, remained open. But social services, libraries, parks and other departments deemed by their heads to be “nonemergency or nonessential” were closed.
“‘Nonessential’ is in the eye of the beholder,” said Richard Kraft, a substitute teacher and user of the L.A. County library system.
Libraries, for example, provide space for many after-school programs on which families depend, he said. They also provide internet access for people searching for jobs and connections to other government services, like Metro TAP cards and veterans’ assistance.
“The supervisors would have done better to keep the libraries open and use them as a place to create a day of education and learning around George Bush’s presidency rather than close the libraries and shut off services to people that use and need them,” he said.
The Department of Public Social Services, which administers benefits including food stamps, housing vouchers and cash assistance to more than 3 million people, was also closed.
“Somebody might be spending a night on the street that could have avoided it if DPSS were open today,” said David Kane, associate director of litigation and policy advocacy at Neighborhood Legal Services of L.A. County.
The department recently announced that people affected by the Woolsey fire could apply for disaster CalFresh food stamp benefits, but only this Monday through Friday.
“For the person who planned to go today and can’t go Thursday or Friday, that’s a problem,” Kane said.