L.A.'s Michael Antonovich and can-do government
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich rarely gets angry, at least in public, and when he does, it's often hard to tell. He uses the same calm, avuncular tone as he does when dishing out praise, so it's sometimes hard for people to know they've been criticized until they later read a transcript of the remarks.
So it was noteworthy -- no, it was fun -- last week to see him dress down a representative from Southern California Edison for poor response and poor customer outreach in the wake of windstorms that left thousands of people without power, especially in Antonovich's north Los Angeles County district.
For example, when Edison spokeswoman Veronica Gutierrez said her company tried to get the word out to customers without power by using the media, Antonovich lashed back:
"But the media only works if you have electricity to turn on the television. So that's stupid."
Times staff writers Rong-Gong Il and Abby Sewell did a good job in capturing the scolding. But it was especially interesting to note how this conservative Republican, a critic of big government and a proponent of public/private partnerships, kept returning to this surprising theme: Government got the job done. You people in the private sector failed.
"But you're not responding effectively," Antonovich told the Edison rep. "That's why you need to have exercises -- these drills to be coordinated with public/private partnerships. When we do earthquake preparedness, we involve the hospitals, we involve the law enforcement, we involve the entire community, we involve the town councils, we involve the cities."
The public sector did pretty well in the windstorm. There were plenty of complaints against the municipally owned Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, but the DWP got the lights back on in northeast Los Angeles in most cases well before Edison did in San Marino, San Gabriel and other cities it serves.
There's something about a Republican who serves in a nonpartisan position in local government, as Antonovich has since 1980. He's comfortable with government's role and doesn't seem to mind tooting its horn when it does better than the private sector. You won't find that attitude as much among GOP representatives in Sacramento or Washington.
Photo credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times