Forum Presents Q&A With LA County Candidates

Activists and leaders representing a swath of Council 36 Locals had the opportunity to ask questions of a number of LA County Supervisor candidates about issues and concerns affecting services and the employees who deliver them at a forum on July 15. The forum was moderated by Political and Legislative Action Committee (PLAC) Chair Ana Meni.

The LA County Board of Supervisors election is slated for March of 2020, with a potential runoff in November.  But for the Locals in Council 36, it is not too soon to start holding the candidates accountable on an array of concerns such as the outsourcing of public jobs to private contractors, low employee morale in departments such as Probation and Mental Health, untenable workloads and chronic understaffing, and a host of other work-related issues impacting our members. 

The candidates included liberal incumbent Janice Hahn, who was hailed as a labor hero by a few members of the LA County Sanitation Districts union following her remarks. They praised her for the extraordinary political support that she provided in their fight for a fair contract over the past two years. 

Hahn, running in District 4, was followed by the District 5 incubment, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who spoke about her goal of "building capacity" in social services and Mental Health programming to address a variety of social ills including homelessness, public safety and overcrowded jails (referred to as "jail warehousing," by Nikhil Ramaney, President of the LA County Public Defender union, in a question to her). 

Barger was also asked about her thoughts on current statewide efforts to dismantle Prop. 13, which was touted back in 1978  as the solution to reduce homeowners' property taxes but instead is reported to have become a major tax loophole for big business that took advantage of it -- eventually starving local and state government of tens of billions in revenue. Barger, a registered Republican, responded that she would not support the elimintion of Prop. 13 -- even the "Split Roll" concept that would keep residents' property  taxes among the lowest in the nation -- because of the "negative impacts on businesses and on our entire County."   

Finally, a trio of additional seasoned local and state politicians -- all Democrats who are now running to replace terming-out Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in District 2 -- Herb Wesson, Holly Mitchell and Jan Perry, took the opportunity during a panel discussion to differentiate themselves on various policy concerns.  The packed room of County Locals and others pressed them to define their individual goals and plans for the improvement of County services and working conditions of AFSCME members.

While the forum focused on LA County issues and our corresponding County Locals, many AFSCME municipal Locals are also affected by County policies,- as was pointed out by Bob Adams, a staff representative in several South Bay cities. He asked the candidates for their solutions to the problem of ever-rising costs to these lesser resourced, smaller cities, which pay to contract with the County for vital services.   

Based on the feedback of the packed room of members who were asked to evaluate and rate the respective candidates at the end,  official Council 36 endorsements will eventually be made by the Executive Board of AFSCME District Council 36. There may be additional such forums slated over the coming months, as well, as the field of candidates expands or narrows.