Monday, December 1, 2014, marked the start of a new era in Los Angeles County government.
A reconstituted Board of Supervisors was seated and a new County Sheriff came to town, marking the first major changes in country government in decades.
A new County Assessor was also sworn in and a new County Manager will soon be in place.
These changes are monumental given the complexity of managing a municipality as large and diverse as Los Angeles County. With over 10 million residents, each of the five supervisors represents roughly 2 million people, a number bigger than some states.
That is a big responsibility.
We look to new Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl for fresh insight into how the county can better deal with its score of problems and build on the successes of the former board which kept the county fiscally stable when other municipal governments were in free fall.
We hope they will quickly tackle the intractable problems that have for far too long plagued the Department of Children Services. Too many children have died, been battered or sexually abused by parents they were returned to after being placed in foster care because they were being neglected or abused. Other children have suffered the same fate at the hands of foster care parents who were supposed to protect them.
More social workers need to be hired to provide at least adequate oversight of the large number of children in the system. Social workers need to better supervise children returned to parents more closely and there needs to be greater communication between law enforcement and case workers so that no child’s welfare falls between the cracks.
Los Angeles County residents were fortunate that past board members were fiscally restrained in the use of county revenue, it’s one of the positive by-products of being in office for a long time, being able to take a long view of the opportunities and obstacles that come along.
We hope the new members of the board will demonstrate the same restraint and wisdom.
As for new Sheriff Jim McDonnell, he has a big mess on his hands, including staff that has lost their sense of mission and respect for authority and the public. We look for the new sheriff to take a stronger hand in how the department is run.
The Sheriff’s Department needs a leader who is disciplined, fair to staff and who has his eyes wide open so not to have the wool pulled over his eyes.
Perhaps one of the things that needs to be emphasized by the department leadership with line officers is respect. Respect for the public, each other and for those in their charge.