Done right, the job of Los Angeles County Supervisor requires not just an understanding of how a large bureaucracy works, but a sensitivity to the diverse needs of the nation's most populous county. Voters will make choices in two supervisorial districts June 5. In the 3rd District, Edmund D. Edelman deserves to be reelected. In the 1st District, 10 candidates are vying to succeed the retiring Supervisor Pete Schabarum. Sarah Flores is the best choice.
Edelman faces only token opposition, but he has earned a vote of confidence from his constituents in a district that runs from the Westside to East Los Angeles. He has pushed more funding for public-health care, particularly in dealing with the AIDS epidemic. He has voted for anti-gang programs that go beyond a police response to the problem and try to offer young people alternatives. Most important, he had the foresight to argue for modernizing county government by expanding the board to include minority representation and electing a county mayor to offset the stifling power of the five supervisors.
Schabarum, the erstwhile leader of the board's conservative bloc, never shared Edelman's broad vision. Some of his ideas for cutting government costs and privatizing public services had merit. Unfortunately, Schabarum usually made his case in a contrary and overbearing manner that angered more people than it ever won over. Virtually every candidate running to replace him stresses skills as a conciliator. They're trying to say they won't be as ornery as Schabarum. Whoever wins must also takes a more open-minded attitude towards problems like AIDS and runaway development than Schabarum ever did.
Several of the candidates have very good credentials, among them Monrovia Mayor Robert Bartlett, Pomona City Councilmember Nell Soto and Jim Lloyd, who once represented the San Gabriel Valley area in Congress. The man Schabarum endorsed as his successor, Superior Court Judge Gregory O'Brien, is also impressive. He gets high marks from his colleagues on the bench, but he can best serve the residents of the county by remaining there.
Flores has worked in county government 30 years. She was Schabarum's chief field deputy for 18 years, but was summarily passed over by the supervisor when he looked at potential successors. Although she served Schabarum loyally, the rude shock of that snub seems to have given her a new perspective on her former boss and his gruff methods. We hope the experience will serve her well as she learns to advance her own cause and work cooperatively with the other supervisors.
Flores may define herself as conservative--and coming from a heavily suburban district made up of many small, fiercely independent cities, one could hardly expect anything else. But she also shows considerable sensitivity to the changing nature of Los Angeles County and its problems. As a Latina, she understands the need for better ethnic representation in county government and is willing to support expansion of the Board of Supervisors for that purpose. As a native of the district, she has seen it change, and not always for the better, because of virtually unrestrained growth. She says she's willing to ask tough questions about how much more Los Angeles really needs to grow.
In virtually every category, Flores is a good choice for supervisor and we commend her candidacy to the voters of the 1st District.