Endorsement: L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn deserves another term

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, right
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, right, speaks during a press conference in 2016.
(Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn isn’t running for reelection unopposed, but she may as well be.

Her sole challenger has no experience and no coherent platform. This means that while there will another name on the ballot, there’s no real choice for voters. Luckily, Hahn has been a good supervisor for the 4th district since she was first elected to the board in 2016 and we expect she will continue to be one if she wins a second term. We recommend a vote for her on March 3.

Hahn’s challenger is Desiree T. Washington, an attorney in private practice who once worked as a prosecutor for the State Bar of California. That’s about all we know about her, since Washington declined to be interviewed by the Times either in person or on the phone. The few snippets of a platform we could glean from her website, such as repealing Senate Bill 54, California’s sanctuary state law, and making the 2nd Amendment less restrictive, whatever that means, indicate she doesn’t understand the responsibilities of a county supervisor. (Supervisors don’t write state law nor do they have any say over the U.S. Constitution.)

In fact, the core responsibility of the five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is to operate the largest county government in the nation. The supervisors set policy for and oversee the county’s many agencies as they deliver human services to the most vulnerable people — the young and old, the poor and sick, the victimized and traumatized. But there’s so much more to the job, not the least of which is serving on various regional commissions such as the Metro board and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission.

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The supervisors also have an enormous role in funding and operating world-class arts and recreation facilities such as the Hollywood Bowl, the Natural History Museum, the L.A. County Museum of Art, Marina del Rey and miles of wilderness areas and beaches.

Even though she is the daughter of Kenneth Hahn, who served on the Board of Supervisors for 40 years, and even though she came with a decade of her own experience on the Los Angeles City Council and five years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Hahn acknowledges that she spent a good deal of her first term as a supervisor learning the job. Despite that, Hahn can claim some notable accomplishments. She established L.A. Found, which provides trackable bracelets to people with dementia, Alzheimer’s or other conditions that put them at risk for wandering. She pushed through a controversial but necessary housing project for homeless veterans in Downey that was heavily protested by neighbors. She turned a county building in San Pedro into an emergency homeless shelter.

Homelessness is the single largest problem facing Los Angeles County at the moment and, as many local elected officials have learned, building affordable housing and homeless shelters over the objection of community opponents requires a level of commitment and fortitude that not every elected official has. Hahn has shown that she can fight and win the battles necessary to get such projects done. That alone is justification for a second term.

Hahn also helped lead the county’s landmark effort to stop new jail construction and reinvest billions of dollars into mental health care. If seen through properly, the shift could result in huge long-term savings, reduced criminal recidivism and better care for tens of thousands of L.A. residents.

That program is currently a work in progress, and Hahn acknowledges the looming challenge of building community psychiatric care facilities when it’s so difficult to construct even affordable housing. But to her credit, she tends to move forward with projects she believes in. Her actions raise plenty of ire in the neighborhoods she represents, yet residents haven’t turned against her, in part because she gives them so much attention in the form of constituent services and face time at community meetings.

Her odd-shaped district begins at county-owned Marina del Rey and hugs the coast through the South Bay cities, around Palos Verdes to San Pedro and Long Beach, and then turns inland to take in cities such as Downey, Norwalk and Whittier. It reaches as far east as Diamond Bar.

When The Times’ endorsed Hahn in 2016, we did so hoping that she would blossom into the job. She has done so, and deserves another term.