Letters to the Editor: L.A. needs more politicians? How a bigger City Council makes government smaller
To the editor: I agree with your editorial on increasing the number of L.A. City Council members. However, with cynicism about government running rampant in recent decades, many voters might think that adding politicians will contribute to more of the same.
The reality is different.
With more council members, the number of residents that each one represents will be reduced. This will make them more accessible and reduce the cost of getting elected, making it easier for candidates without “establishment” backing to organize a grass-roots effort. The smaller the district, the less a candidate’s political connections and financial backing will matter.
Smaller districts will also dilute the individual power of council members. More coalition building and compromise will be required to get things done. Currently, council members have an incredible amount of power and insufficient checks and balances.
A larger council will also provide the opportunity for greater diversity. Smaller districts will provide better opportunities for more groups to successfully elect candidates from their communities, bringing their priorities and aspirations to the halls of city government.
Jeffrey Prang, Baldwin Hills
The writer is the elected assessor of Los Angeles County.
To the editor: If you believe in participatory and inclusive democracy, you have to agree that L.A. needs a larger and much more representative City Council.
When I led community outreach and engagement for the L.A. City Council Redistricting Commission last year, what I heard loud and clear from Angelenos across El Pueblo was reflected in one of the commission’s recommendations:
“The Los Angeles City Council’s structure, in tandem with unique geographic, demographic, and sociopolitical landscapes, impedes the descriptive and substantive representation of all Angelenos. Expanding the number of Council Districts is necessary..... Ultimately, Los Angeles lags behind other large cities in the County, State, and U.S. with respect to the ratio between council members and residents. As we approach the third decade of the new century, this Commission recommends that the City expand the number of Council Districts to meet the needs of a complex and changing society.”
Rafael Gonzalez, El Monte
The writer is a board member for the advocacy group Community Coalition.
To the editor: Of the 10 “civic leaders” you consulted for ideas on how to fix L.A., half are current or former politicians and city administrators — akin to asking the fox how to guard the henhouse — and progressive community activists. This is a very narrow opinion pool.
Where are the neighborhood council presidents, the philanthropists, the business leaders? Surely they have some ideas worth publishing too.
Let’s have Part Two, please!
Kathleen Barreto, Culver City
To the editor: What’s really needed is a larger Board of Supervisors.
There are only five supervisors for a county of almost 10 million residents and more than 4,000 square miles. That’s ridiculous.
This county is also home to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the fourth-largest local policing agency in the U.S. Add in the jails and court system, and it’s almost too much to comprehend.
That only five people are in control of this needs to change, and the sooner the better.
Charles L. Freeman Jr., Baldwin Hills
To the editor: The folks who suggested Los Angeles needs an inspector general or public advocate are uninformed. The city government already includes such a post: city controller.
The controller is not just a financial auditor, but also has the ability to look in every dark corner to review the quantitative and qualitative performance of city government. Notably, the controller also has subpoena power to force people, when necessary, to provide information. The controller is directly elected by the people.
Why don’t more people understand the capacity of the role to shine the light? Because most city controllers choose not to exercise their full power, largely because they are creatures of the same system they are supposed to be inspecting.
Cary Brazeman, Los Angeles
The writer ran for L.A. city controller in 2013.
To the editor: One idea for “fixing Los Angeles” was to replace the City Council with a citizens assembly picked by lottery. The assembly would be “representative of the city by race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, national origin, class, neighborhood and just about any other factor we like.”
How do we develop the groups from which we will draw the citizens council? By asking for volunteers? Who has the time to attend all meetings involved?
Suppose a developer working on a needed housing project has a disagreement with the Planning Commission, which adheres to the city’s General Plan. Will the appeal be heard by people who have never even heard of the General Plan? Will it require on-the-job-training?
Meetings will be conducted by people who don’t even know Robert’s Rules of Order and could turn into shouting matches. That will not fix anything in Los Angeles. It will just create unnecessary chaos.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Yes, our system is the worst system, except for all the others.
Jerry Concha, Sylmar
To the editor: We could fix the corruption and casual racism in L.A. city government fairly quickly if Angelenos paid as much attention to the City Council as they do to the Dodgers.
Patrick Frank, Venice