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12-Year Spending Spree by Board of Supervisors

August 22, 1993

Los Angeles County has lost $292 million in state funds. Some may wonder why has our county been singled out during the state's deliberations. The Board of Supervisors has approached the problem by making severe cuts to many essential services.

Over most of the past 12 years, the Board of Supervisors has spent taxpayers' dollars like a bunch of drunken sailors--not on public services, but mainly on themselves. While they closed down the trauma centers that served the rest of us, they bought armor-plated bulletproof limousines for themselves. While closing down jails and sheriff's stations that contributed to the personal safety of the rest of us, they commandeered highly paid deputy sheriffs to serve as their own chauffeurs. While cutting funds for senior citizens centers, they spiked their own pensions and those of top bureaucrats by 20%, adding more than $270 million in liabilities for county taxpayers. While county public facilities such as parks and beaches further deteriorated, they watched supinely while their top bureaucrat remodeled his own office to the tune of $6 million. And all of this by a board dominated by self-styled fiscal conservatives.

Only this week did the board, for the first time in history, decide to put individual supervisors' offices on fixed budgets that they must live within--just like every other government office or agency. Up to now, as you must know, the sky was seemingly the limit for staff salaries, furnishings, travel, picture-framing, flowers, plaques, etc. Whatever a supervisor wanted, a supervisor got--courtesy of us taxpayers. Why was there never a budget before? "There was no good reason for it," explained one supervisor. "It's just the way it always was."

What kind of moral authority does an official body of this type have in arguing against budget cuts at a higher level of government? What kind of credibility does it have in crying wolf when its own record of profligacy and fiscal self-aggrandizement is so well known? We all saw the stark answer played out during the state budget process: none whatsoever.

So in fairness to the truth and in recognition of this sorry historical record (which has been chronicled in the pages of your own newspaper over the past decade), let's not blame Gov. Wilson, or Speaker Willie Brown or the absence from the Legislature of certain formerly powerful state legislators from L.A. County for the bath the county took.

No, our biggest problem in this fight was truly home-grown--our discredited Board of Supervisors. And now, all 9.9 million residents of the county must suffer because of the arrogance and hypocrisy of a handful who served on the board the past 12 years.

GORDANA SWANSON

Councilwoman,

City of Rolling Hills

The South Bay section of The Times welcomes all viewpoints from readers about South Bay issues. Letters should be as brief as possible and are subject to condensation. They must include signature, valid mailing address and telephone number, if any. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used. Send letters to: South Bay Section Editor, Los Angeles Times, 23133 Hawthorne Blvd., Suite 200, Torrance, Calif. 90505.

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