President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t yet sworn his oath of office, but his announced policies have already thrown a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting into pandemonium. BY LEIGHTON WOODHOUSE
They used to be called the Five Little Kings, each representing more constituents than any member of Congress. With the recent swearing in of Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors now can be seen as four queens and a king.
The nation’s largest county government is poised to move forward Tuesday with a plan that critics say could roll back innovative public health programs and compromise everything from infectious disease containment to the prevention of smoking, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases.
On August 11, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will vote on a proposed consolidation of three health agencies — the Department of Health Services (DHS), the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Mental Health (DMH). The plan has the backing of liberal supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, as well as their conservative colleague Mike Antonovich — all of whom argue that it will improve care but are opposed by an array of public health and mental health advocates.
“This consolidation has the potential to cripple public health,” said a high-ranking official with DPH, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The line of people standing outside the event in downtown Los Angeles snaked out the door and down to a sidewalk—but there were no velvet ropes and it wasn’t at Nokia Center or L.A. LIVE. The venue was the Kenneth Hahn County Hall of Administration.
The hundreds who waited Tuesday morning in muggy heat had come to weigh in on a measure before the Board of Supervisors to increase the minimum wage in L.A. County’s unincorporated areas.
Perla Lagunas and her kids traveled from North Hills in the San Fernando Valley to show support. “I represent a low-income community,” she said. Her mother was a garment worker who struggled with bills and groceries. “My mom worked with people who wouldn’t pay her a good wage. We grew up so poor– sometimes we didn’t have food. We want to let the community know—wake up!”
Representatives from the National Council of Jewish Women stood in line to enter the hearing.
In 1999 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a Living Wage Ordinance applicable to private businesses that contract with the county to provide certain services, including landscaping, janitorial and security. The reason for the ordinance was simple: The state’s minimum wage at the time — $5.75 per hour—was insufficient and the failure of some county contractors to pay their workers living wages was placing financial burdens on L.A. County by causing these employees to use social and health services provided by the county.
The board set the living wage initially at $9.46 per hour without health benefits, or at $8.32 per hour if an employer offered health benefits worth at least $1.14 per hour. Since then, the living wage has been raised only once, in 2006, when the board approved an increase to the current level of $11.84 per hour without health benefits, or $9.64 with health benefits valued at $2.20 per hour.