The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors wields tremendous power, so the races to fill its two open seats are worth watching this November.
In the 5th District – which includes Burbank, Glendale, and much of the Santa Clarita and San Gabriel Valleys – two candidates remain: Kathryn Barger and Darrell Park. Barger, who is Antonovich’s chief of staff, finished first in the June primary with 30 percent of primary votes. Park, who served in the White House Office of Management and Budget and runs a start-up called Better Than We Found It, finished second with 15 percent of primary votes. Barger, supported by a robust fundraising operation and significant labor backing, raised more than $1 million before the June primary. Park operated on a tighter budget, with about $200,000 before June 7.
Managing a $28 billion budget, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors carries political influence that cannot be overstated. It runs the nation’s largest jail and foster care systems as well as its second-largest public health system. It plays a major role in building – and funding – the county’s government workforce. While the five-member Board is officially nonpartisan, the outcome of November’s election has the potential to shift the powerful panel’s politics to the left. Since Antonovich and Knabe, the only Republican supervisors, are terming out, the 2017 Board could hold the first liberal “supermajority” in modern history.
While Antonovich, a Republican, held his seat for 36 years, registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the district by almost 10 percent. And with the higher turnout and volatility that presidential elections bring to their down-ballot cohorts, this race is sure to stay heated.
Larry Mantle hosts a lively debate between Park and Barger. In good AirTalk fashion, Mantle will engage the candidates in casual yet substantive conversation about the issues and livelihoods at stake. Hear each candidate’s visions before making your November choice.
Here are some highlights from the debate:
Last month, a local judge ordered Park to strike the following statement from his sample ballot statement:
Los Angeles County cannot afford to elect a supervisor who will support Donald Trump's extreme Republican agenda.
What comments or action has Ms. Barger made or taken that lead you to believe she supports the most controversial part of Trump's agenda?
Darrell Park: She's run the office for 15 years. . . her boss [Antonovich] is more conservative than Donald Trump. . .All you have to do is go look at what the Justice Department has done against our Sheriff's Department, against our jails. We've paid out millions of dollars in sheriff's abuse claims. We've had kids die in foster care. Things are not going well. . . I'm not saying [Barger and Antonovich are the same person]. I'm saying she ran his office.
Kathryn Barger: That's Mike. I'm Kathryn. If you look at my endorsements or even read the L.A. Times endorsement of me, I think it really does spell out the difference between Mike and I, and the vision I have moving forward with the county. If you look at the bipartisan support I have from the people that, by the way, have not endorsed Supervisor Antonovich for Senate, but have endorsed me. I think that's and important thing to note as well. They recognize the differences and support me based on the belief that I am capable and would be a good supervisor.
For the event, several AirTalk listeners were asked to pre-record their questions for the candidates to be played at the debate. Judy from South Pasadena wanted to know if Park and Barger are for or against the proposed 710 freeway tunnel.
Barger: My leadership on this as it relates to trucks; I would not allow trucks to go through it. . . I'm not comfortable with tunneling under homes. So I'm not comfortable with the alignment at this point. But I'm not taking a firm position because until the [Environmental Impact Report] is certified, I believe that you have to be open, especially if you are one of the board members on the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority]. But understand that even if that decision is not made, my commitment is to work immediately with some of the cities that are not doing [signal] synchronization and are creating gridlock in Alhambra, going into South Pasadena, heading into Los Angeles. I believe there are things that can be done now that are not being done for political reasons.
Park: I am opposed to the 710 extension in any form. . . The tunnel's a death trap, as a long time resident of South Pasadena, I am 100 percent opposed. We will not let it happen. We will improve things by taking some of the truck traffic from the ports, putting it on rail and moving it to other places. But we will never let the 710 extension happen in any form.
How do you deal with parts of Northeast Los Angeles that have to deal with traffic being dumped onto their streets?
Park: We've had the traffic situation for 50 years. There are many things that can be done to improve the traffic flow. Technology's gonna help out quite a bit. We're gonna put truck traffic on the rails. They don't want to do that now because they can use the roads for free. We will do other things that enable these communities to stay preserved.
One of the big environmental and public safety issues in this district is a proposal by the L.A. County flood control district to remove huge amounts of sediment from behind Devil's Gate Dam.
Environmentalists have filed a suit against the county asking them to come up with mitigating and alternative measures instead of all the truckloads and removal that would effect the habitat in Hahamongna Watershed Park. What do you advocate for cleaning the sediment out, which poses a flood risk?
Park: So there is a flood risk to 477 homes. That is a very substantial concern because no maintenance has been done over time. This is between 400 and 500 dump truck trips per day for five years. They take that sediment and they put it in a hole in Irwindale. It does not make sense. They're talking about nearly $100 million. There are lots of other places in the world where they've gotten really good at moving slurry down [to the beach and other places that need it].
Barger: Originally the county wanted to come in without an EIR and take all the vegetation out of the dam. We asked for an EIR and worked with the city of Pasadena to look at their plan in terms of how much vegetation needed to be saved. So we incorporated that, substantially cutting down the amount of sediment being removed. We met with the homeowners, and the issue is: how many loads a day? Homeowners wanted it to be impacted over a shorter period of time where they were willing to have more truckloads going out to get the job done sooner. . . I'm open to discussing this issue in terms of what we can do. We're in this position because flood control failed over the years to clean it out. I believe there may be room to come to an agreement.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity
Kathryn Barger, candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors 5th District seat
Darrell Park, candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors 5th District seat