What are their roles in county government?
Community Development Commission: In 1982, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors consolidated three county entities—the Housing Authority, the Community Development Department, and the Redevelopment Agency—to form the Community Development Commission (CDC). The five members of the Board of Supervisors currently serve as the commissioners of the CDC. They set policy for the agency, whose mission is to serve as the county's affordable housing and community and economic development agency. By virtue of serving on the CDC, the supervisors are ex oficio commissioners of the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA). HACoLA policy is set by a separate Housing Commission, which is composed of five appointees by the Board of Supervisors and four "tenant" commissioners. Two “tenant” commissioners must live in a CDC-operated public housing sites while the two other “tenant” commissioners must live in Section 8 rental housing. The county’s CDC—as opposed to the City of Los Angeles’ CDC—operates wide-ranging programs benefiting residents and business owners in unincorporated county areas and in various incorporated cities that participate in different CDC programs. Approximately one million of the county's ten million residents live in unincorporated areas. In Fiscal Year 2007-2008, the CDC operated with a $430 million budget and employed a total staff of 669 individuals. Over 95 percent of the CDC's funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Regional Planning Commission: The Regional Planning Commission consists of five members who set major land use policy in the county. They are appointed to four-year terms by the Board of Supervisors. In addition, there are four advisory, non-voting members. They are the Forester and Fire Warden, the Director of Public Works, the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, and the Agricultural Commissioner. The Regional Planning Commission acts as an advisory body to the Board of Supervisors on all planning matters and administers all state planning provisions, including CEQA (California Environmental Quality Agency) laws, as well as county planning ordinances.
First 5 LA Commission: The First 5 LA Commission (formerly known as the “Proposition 10 Commission”) sets policy and spending priorities for First 5 LA, a unique child-advocacy organization that invests state tobacco tax revenues in health and education programs for children ages prenatal through five. Created in 1998, First 5 LA has invested an estimated $800 million in grants and programs to benefit the health, education, and safety of local children and families. First 5 LA’s vision is to create a future throughout our communities where all young children are born healthy and raised in a loving and nurturing environment so that they grow up healthy, are eager to learn, and reach their full potential.
How are the commissioners appointed?
Each of the five county supervisors is allowed to appoint one commissioner each.
How are county commissions different from city commissions?
They represent different jurisdictions. County commissions represent unincorporated regions only whereas city commissions represent their respective cities.
Questions about the supervisor’s family:
Did your family play a large role in your journey to becoming a county supervisor?
Actually no, my journey to becoming a CountySupervisor was for the most part an accident. My parents had much more traditional ideas of what I would do in my future.
Do you believe that being the eldest of ten children is what gave you an automatic leadership position and prompted you to be so motivated?
In retrospect, I believe that it did have a big impact in my role as a decision maker because my parents expected me to take good care of my younger siblings, which instilled a sense of responsibility in me at a young age.
How did seeing your father come home exhausted from work affect you? How did the fact that your parents having to support such a large family directly affect you and your siblings?
It had a very big impact on me. Everyone, from my father to all of my neighbors, worked very hard to support their families. As a young child, I understood the value of a hard-earned dollar and respected people who worked hard to put food on the table. As a county supervisor, I feel strongly that these families are my constituency.
Does your involvement with the improvement of neighborhoods have anything to do with your background growing up and your experiences going through school?
No. My involvement in the improvement of my community came from the time I spent as a student activist while attending community college during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s.
Have you noticed that you are especially aware of the needs of the community because it is where you are originally from?
Yes. Because I am familiar with the communities I represent first-hand, the decisions I make strike incredibly close to home.
What are some of your goals for your children?
I only have one daughter Valentina and I try to support all of her dreams.
Where does your daughter go to college? Is she enjoying herself there?
She attends PitzerCollege and she loves it!
What issues are you immersed in at the moment, as far as your daily work goes?
Department of Health Services Budget, Graffiti, and Jail Expansion.
Do you think the next step for you as well as the Democratic Party is to lower the rates of tuition to public universities?
Ideally yes. I think that first we need a governor who can fix the state budget and, after getting the state’s finances in order, truly commit to implementing the California Master Plan for Education in the same spirit as the late Gov. Pat Brown.
What do you plan to do next (in life, with your job)? Do you plan to gain any higher government positions? Do you ever plan on running for governor or vice president?
That’s the million dollar question! Honestly: I am thinking of opening a quilting store.
Questions about the supervisor’s choice of career:
Why did you choose a career in politics? What is the best part of your job?
It was completely an accident. I was successfully encouraged by many of my activist peers to run for office. The best part of my job is seeing concrete results on the every day level.
In your opinion, what was the most rewarding thing that you have done since you were elected, and why?
My most rewarding accomplishment is the construction of the East Los AngelesCivicCenter. This is a project that I have worked on for ten years and in its completion will provide myriad local municipal services to the entire East Los Angeles Community.
Questions about the supervisor’s childhood and career success:
When you were young, did you picture yourself being elected to such a high rank as that which you have now?
Not at all.
Have you always wanted to do what you do?
No. I originally wanted to be a fashion designer.
Have you ever experienced any intimidation? If so, how did you get over it?
Yes. I got over it by confronting intimidators.
How did you begin and flourish your community involvement?
I started by counseling gang members living in the Maravilla Housing Projects in East Los Angeles.
Who are your personal heroes and why?
My personal heroes are my mother and father, Pres. John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and César Chávez.
I admire my mother and father tremendously. They struggled all their lives without complaint to provide for myself and my nine brothers and sisters. They are good, honest people who prepared me for a lifetime of hard work and who raised me to treat others as I expected myself to be treated. For that, I will always be grateful.
I hold JFK in such high regard because he inspired and motivated me when I was a young woman. No other president made me feel so optimistic about our country’s future, and no other president encouraged the citizenry to serve one another like he did. These are especially significant attributes given the turbulent, divisive times in which we lived.
I admire Robert F. Kennedy because he had the courage to stand up for what was right and decent even when facing criticism from members of his own wealthy, privileged class. Robert Kennedy stood firmly against the Vietnam War at a time when doing so was considered tantamount to treason in the eyes of many members of the political establishment. He publicly supported César Chávez’ efforts to establish the United Farm Workers (UFW) union even after powerful agribusiness interests had made their opposition to Chávez clear. And like his brother, he believed that serving one another was as important as serving yourself.
I respect César Chávez—whom I knew personally—because he faced seemingly insurmountable odds and won, and he remained so noble throughout his struggle. Like the Kennedys, César understood the significance of serving your community. César also recognized the need for everyone, no matter what their employment, to work in dignified surroundings. When César first began organizing the farm workers, they didn’t even have proper toilet facilities, let alone any rights as workers. César’s leadership made tangible, significant changes for thousands of individuals.
Who was your biggest inspiration in becoming the person you are today?
Rep. Edward Roybal was my biggest inspiration. Next to my father, no other man has earned so much of my respect and honor. Without question, Rep. Roybal was a true barrier breaker and a political legend -- particularly for the Mexican-American community. His struggle against racism was our struggle, too, and his political victories gave our community a deep sense of pride. Many younger Angelenos are unaware that his first campaign for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council ended in defeat. But rather than let that stop him, he put all his energy into organizing our community. His perseverance was a testament to his personal philosophy that change rests in our own hands. Afterward, he once again ran for the Los Angeles City Council -- and this time, he won. It was a watershed moment in the history of the City of Los Angeles. In 1958, he ran for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors but lost in a bitterly contested election. This experience made my 1991 election to the Board of Supervisors all the more memorable to him. In 1962, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. It was another milestone for the Latino community nationwide as Rep. Roybal was the first Mexican from California to serve in Congress since the 1800s. Throughout his three decades of service, he remained committed to Latinos, the elderly, the poor, and the physically-challenged. Rep. Roybal worked tirelessly to protect the rights of minorities -- even after his retirement. In 1976, Los AngelesCounty opened the Edward R. Roybal Clinic in East Los Angeles, and, as we know, the RoybalFederalBuilding is a symbol of this renowned man’s commitment to public service. I consider Rep. Roybal my political father. He understood the responsibility and duty that elected officials have to empower the community. I and so many from my generation were touched deeply by the leadership of this man. One of the greatest honors of my lifetime was to be officially sworn in by him when I joined the Los AngelesCountyBoard of Supervisors.
Do you have any particular advice in getting involved in this type of involvement for an undergraduate college student?
Do internships, as many as possible. Be civic-minded and get involved in your community!
Questions about heritage and gender:
What challenges did you encounter as the first Chicana to participate on the Board of Supervisors?
Frankly, my colleagues did not take me seriously. I had to earn my seat at the table, and I did.
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while trying to gain respect in the political world? Was it your nationality or your gender that was the biggest obstacle?
Without question, my gender was the biggest obstacle.
As a Latina, did you find it especially difficult to obtain the status that you now have? Or did you think it helped you in some ways because it gave the voters and public something that they could relate very closely to?
Yes and yes.
Being Mexican American, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how far we have come in this county since passage of the Voters Rights Act of 1965.
Do you feel that enough is being done to ensure equality among men and women? If so, do you feel that we just need time in order to feel the full effect of this change in cultural identities?
As women, we still have a long way to go. While I am very impressed by the women who have chosen to enter politics nowadays, I am concerned that not enough mentorship of younger generations—particularly young women—is taking place. And I truly hope that younger generations of women do not take for granted all of the accomplishments of women in past generations, and take steps backwards.
Questions about other community issues:
Do you think that there should be more soup kitchens available for the homeless?
Yes. I think there should be more regional homeless treatment centers, not just soup kitchens.
What are some of your proposed solutions for the rising property values in Los Angeles County? Does your help with affordable housing projects work well as a method of mitigating homelessness? Do you believe that creating more employment opportunities with also help with this?
I think that overall the living wages of working class citizens need to be raised, and I think that affordable housing is a way—but not the only way—to mitigate homelessness. We also need a serious investment in health, mental health, and vocational training programs.
Is the rail for public transportation environmentally sound in addition to being helpful to the public?
On the whole, yes, because it reduces the number of busses and cars on the road.
What is your opinion on how much fast food is consumed by children because the parents, being of working class, do not have time to cook healthy food?
I don’t think time is the issue. I grew up with ten siblings in a working-class environment and we rarely ate out, let alone ate fast food. I think it is a combination of two things: Personal choice and access to healthy options. That is why one of projects that I am most proud of is the launch of the East Los Angeles Farmers’ Market, the main goal of which is to provide convenient, healthy, fresh natural food to a low-income community living in a densely-populated area full of fast food options.