The race for the next county supervisor is heating up and it promises to be very exciting and competitive between the two main candidates: Councilman Bernard Parks of the 8th District and State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas of the 26th District.
Parks is a second-term councilman of the district previously held by Ridley-Thomas. He is the former Chief of Police for the Los Angeles Police Department and has name recognition citywide and beyond. Ridley-Thomas is the former executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and California State Assemblyman, and maintains a quiet, low-key demeanor that has proven effective in his past races. They have different styles and political positions, and would each pose a formidable challenge for the other.
In a conversation with the Los Angeles Sentinel, Parks outlined some of the similarities and differences between his current councilmanic district and the second supervisorial district. “The main difference if you look at it, is the amount of people you are responsible for. In the second supervisorial district, there are 2.5 million people as opposed to the council district [which has] 250,000,” he said. “The second biggest issue is that the supervisor’s district is responsible for some of the most fundamental responsibilities such as medical, mental health, child care, foster care in addition to public safety and streets, the things that L. A. City also does. It has some core responsibilities that impact poverty and the basic needs. So those are the primary differences of the job. Also, a third difference is that you’re working through the independent cities that have their own mayors and (city) councils, and though they are in the county, you’re working through those elected offices whereas in the unincorporated areas, you are basically the mayor and the city council where there are no elected offices. So those are the three basic differences between the (L. A.) City Council and the Board of Supervisors.”
When the Sentinel asked Ridley-Thomas about his plans for the second district he said, “To continue my tradition of community empowerment and deepen the legacy of economic empowerment; that means what specifically needs to happen throughout the second district, from Culver City to Carson is economic development and job creation. We are obviously going to keep close watch at affirmative action with respect to the Martin Luther King Hospital and it means that with respect to projects like Marlton Square, we’d be on the case. We will not turn back, we will not take no for an answer; we are going to advocate for working men and women in this district like you’ve never seen before.”
When asked if he had spoken to Supervisor Yvonne Burke and would he continue on the path that she has laid down during her tenure, Parks continued, “There are a number of things that Supervisor Burke has put in place that are of absolute necessity. Here’s a person who, after 16 years in office, gets 87 percent of the vote—so you get a sense that the public is pleased with the direction she has taken the second district. I think you have to put the emphasis on some of those independent cities for your support. The regional transportation is a major area that has to continue; public safety is always an issue of concern; and efforts to decentralize county services where recently we had the ribbon-cutting for the county building on 83rd and Vermont, she has moved county services out into the community. So I would continue (to do) a number of those things.”
Ridley-Thomas believed that his work in the senate complements the work of a (county) supervisor as he said, “I’m already doing that. I was the co-author of legislation that prevented a $100 million from leaving the Martin Luther King target area and resources coming to L. A. County. So my work in the senate has already begun to do that and we will continue to do more and more around the issue of health care, economic development the rights of workers and businesses.”
Parks also sees public safety as one of his strong focal points based on his previous experience in law enforcement and working closely with Sheriff Lee Baca. “Sheriff Baca was one of the first persons that, not only encouraged me, but also endorsed me for this campaign,” said Parks. “And certainly since we grew up in law enforcement and sometimes our functions mirrored each other, we had a close relationship working on a number of projects. So I think we would continue that relationship looking at public safety.”
Ridley-Thomas who was recently named legislator of the year by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice has been endorsed by one of L. A.’s labor unions.
Morris “Big Money” Griffin, who has earned a reputation as a social activist, has also filed to run for the supervisor’s position and he spoke to the Sentinel about himself and what his plans are. He said, “I am a maintenance technician for the Los Angeles County. As supervisor, I would revitalize Martin Luther King Hospital—first would be the trauma center. First and foremost, it would be predicated on universal healthcare from the county, the State of California or U. S. government when we get our new president. We must have universal health care to be able to pay the doctors, as well as the nurses, top dollar.” Griffin was very specific in identifying most of the local—and indeed the nation’s—economic woes when asked if it’s affected by the continued occupation of Iraq. He responded, “Absolutely, and I would have to go one step further and say it is also because of the illegal immigration impact, and that’s why we are suffering throughout the United States.”
Professor Darnell Hunt, director of UCLA’s Ralph Bunche Center had this to say, “I’ve worked with both of them (Parks and Ridley-Thomas).” When Hunt was asked to comment on the fact that in 56 years, the second district has had only two supervisors: Kenneth Hahn and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, he said, “That’s what people in the Black community have talked about for some time now—the whole issue of grooming successors for the next generation of leadership. They have to worry about the way things are organized now with term limits and if you are an elected official, you have to be constantly campaigning for the next position.” However, members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors do not have any term limits.
Dr. Perrault, a psychiatrist, who works and resides in the second district, did not have any opinion about the candidates but was very interested in the supervisorial race said, “I think it’s important that African Americans consider their decision seriously because it’s very important, regarding the viability of the community, for them to come out and vote.”
The second district includes Carson, Compton, Culver City, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lynwood and South Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considered to be one of the most powerful political offices in the country and, to many observers, it is a lifetime position. Whereas, the Mayor has to win over a majority of the city council (16 members); the governor has to do the same relative to the State Senate and the Assembly; and the President has to lobby a majority (and sometimes two-thirds) of the Senate and the House of Representatives (535 members); a County Supervisor only has to get two votes along with his/hers to get whatever he or she wants enacted. That is power!