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The L.A. County Board Of Supervisors Now Has A Female Supermajority
On Monday, Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger were sworn in as the newest members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors—replacing retiring Supervisors Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, respectively, and tipping the county scales of power in a decidedly female direction.
For the first time ever, the county's governing body will not only be compromised of more women than men, but the board will actually have a female supermajority as Barger and Hahn join current Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl.
In fact, as of today, the five-member board responsible for governing the nation's most populous county includes only one man. What up, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas?
City Council (which currently has only one woman among its fifteen fourteen members) and the mayor tend to get more airplay than county politics, but the Board of Supervisors wields an enormous amount of power. County politics are far from sexy, and the Board of Supervisors might not be something you've ever discussed at a cocktail party, but they are a very big deal. As the L.A. Times explained in a story last month, "that unwarranted anonymity covers over the fact that counties are the chief entity responsible for basic human services: public health, public safety, jails, parks, hospitals, transportation, sanitation, care for the homeless, the jobless, the abused and neglected, and more."
The Five Little Kings, as they are occasionally referred to, control a nearly $30 billion annual budget, and are responsible for representing and overseeing services for roughly 10 million people. The board members are, as one lobbyist told Los Angeles Magazine in 2014, "five of the most powerful politicians in the United States."
Here's one way to wrap your head around the scope of the post: when Hahn, who gave up her seat in the U.S House of Representatives to run for the board, was representing California's 44th District in Congress, she had approximately 770,000 constituents, according to the L.A. Times. Now, she has two million.
“I trust that it won’t be overlooked that this board is going to be very diverse,” Ridley-Thomas, who is African American, said Monday at the swearing-in ceremony. “There are four women, but women who are very different in their background and experiences.”
During its century-and-a-half long existence, the board has historically been overwhelmingly white and male. L.A. County didn't see its first female supervisor until 1992, when Ridley-Thomas's predecessor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was sworn in. Up until last month, a mere four women had served as supervisors, ever (Solis, Kuehl, Burke, and former Supervisor Gloria Molina).
But as of today—in an America that suddenly seems like a far scarier place for women and minorities—the most powerful political body in Los Angeles doesn't include a single white man.