One-on-One with Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich
Since 1980, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has served as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors representing the 5th District which includes all or portions of the San Fernando, San Gabriel, Crescenta, Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys along with 22 cities.
To improve the quality of life for the residents of Los Angeles County, his 33 years as a County Supervisor have been characterized by his commitment to public safety, effective and responsive representation and support for small business, our County’s foster children, seniors and veterans.
He has received countless awards and honors throughout the years including those recognizing his dedication to trail maintenance and expansion — and the equestrian lifestyle. The latest is the 2013 National Trails Award he received in October from the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO). He hosts biannual trail rides at one of the many recreational areas throughout the county.
In additional to increasing the number of parks, trails, recreational areas, pools and open spaces, the L.A. County native has accomplished many goals since taking office more than three decades ago: he established town councils enabling unincorporated communities to have a strong voice, rebuilt Olive View Hospital, established new libraries, expanded recreation and authored one of the most progressive spay/neuter ordinances in the entire Country.
The Supervisor also serves as immediate past chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a member of the board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District and Metrolink. He is credited with the retrofitting of the County’s huge fleet from dirty diesel to clean natural gas and signal synchronization for 66 cities. He is also helping to oversee the construction of 55 intersections that need to be mitigated from congestion affecting 2 million people in the San Gabriel Valley. The Supervisor is also the father of the County’s successful restaurant grading system and the nursing home grading system.
What made you go into politics?
As an 8th grader I observed the Republican and Democratic national conventions on television and that sparked an interest. Then I began reading my parent’s sample ballots regarding initiatives. There would be issues political legislatures would go another way on; I thought I could do this job in representing and vote the right way instead of bending the wrong way.
Have your previous occupations in the Army Reserves, as a teacher and in the Police Reserves helped you as Supervisor?
I joined the military right out of high school and went into basic training which helped me get focused; I highly recommend it. And an educator is a very effective legislator because you are involved in dealing with students and parents giving you greater exposure to the general population. In the police reserves [for over three decades] enforcing the law gave me another exposure to life.
In which of President Reagan’s Appointments did you excel the most?
The U.S.-Japan Advisor Commission, which helped reduce tariffs and enhance free trade on the Pacific Rim with Australia, New Zealand and all of Asia. And the Committee on Privatization; it brought forth recommendations to privatize through public-private partnerships with governmental programs that could be done more cost effectively and efficiently. That helped me as Supervisor in dealing with our County which is larger than 42 states!
And of your President George H.W. Bush Appointments?
As a delegate at the United Nations in Geneva for Southeast Asian refugees.
What does your job as Supervisor usually entail?
I have a number of meetings to attend; Tuesday is when Board of Supervisors holds its weekly meeting. I am a member of the Air Quality District Board, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Metrolink Board, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Executive Committee and Board, Alameda Corridor East Board and [Santa Clarita Valley] Sanitation District. Those bodies have full board and committee meetings throughout the month.
You played a key role in the Dodger Stadium Express.
Yes and we’ve had great ridership as a result of it. You had a situation with complete congestion and chaos when we had Dodger games; everything was a standstill in downtown L.A. and it impacted that entire region. We encouraged people to take the Metrolink or Union Station and use the buses to go to Dodger Stadium. We used funding from the Air Quality Management District to assist; getting it all together was a chore, but it finally got accomplished!
Human Welfare is something you concentrate on; foster children, Boy Scouts of America, seniors, vets.
I was a Cub and Boy Scout. Boy and Girl Scout organizations do a superb job training our youth and teach young people responsibility. I am a member of the San Gabriel Boy Scout Board and we have an incredible number of young people who have achieved their dreams from their Scouting experiences. We also recognize the Eagle Scouts regularly; these individuals are a cut above. One reason why I have not been a supporter of United Way is because they ceased funding of Boy Scouts so we encourage people to give directly to the Scouts.
And of course recreational parks…
We have too many couch potatoes so we have expanded the number of trails in Los Angeles and the number of open space parks to encourage exercise. We have built a number of gymnasiums in our parks and those have turned into community centers. One in an unincorporated community between Arcadia and Duarte was gang-infested. Now it is graffiti-free and everybody looks upon it as a facility for kids to take part in afterschool activities as well as things to do for the entire community. It has restored order to a community that had been experiencing a lot of violence and crime.
Do you still serve on the Tournament of Roses Committee?
Yes. It is a volunteer organization that does an incredible job involving youth groups from all over the world to participate with their schools, bands and floats. The resources that they earn from the Tournament of Roses are used to support community organizations in their area. It’s an organization that ought to be copied in other parts of this state and the nation; it shows how people will donate for the benefit of the community if they have an opportunity.
What are you working on right now?
AB 109, which has shifted incarceration of thousands of state felons – currently over 6,200 – to our jails – some of whom are sentenced up to 42 years. This influx is forcing the Sheriff to release traditional county-sentenced inmates early which is a threat to public safety in our county and state. Many of the parolees (PSP’s) shifted from state parole to county probation have been rearrested for new and serious crimes. We are working to get that law changed so that the state assumes responsibility of these (former) state offenders instead of the counties. The Governor has had the ability to enter into contracts for prison beds both in and out of state which he has failed to do to at the level necessary. His philosophy is, “put them all in the 58 counties” which will subject us to the same kind of lawsuits that the state has confronted for inadequate medical and mental health care resulting in the ultimate court order to reduce overcrowding. Local jails were not built to house long-term inmates and provide these levels of medical and mental health care which is also impacting our community hospitals. What the state expects is for us to use local dollars to build new jails to house state felons instead of the state.
You are a champion for animals and pet adoption.
Every animal that we have had at the Board for adoption has been! My family has three dachshunds and just got a kitten from Happy Strays, which I highly recommend as well as going straight to the County to adopt. This calico cat has a lot of human features; she comes when you call her! And our office dog, Michi, was rescued from a puppy mill.
What do you do with any spare time you have?
My wife and I participate in all of our children’s’ activities in and out of school. Our children also participate in my activities; we travel together to China and Mongolia, but it all revolves around their activities.