Elected officials in L.A. play a huge role in determining how resources across the county are used to help our homeless neighbors. L.A. has more people than any other county in the nation and has the third-largest metropolitan economy in the world, so naturally we have a lot of elected officials and a lot of resources to go around — and also to keep track of. Here is a quick overview of some of the different elected officials and groups directly responsible for shaping and implementing policies around homelessness:
- Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors – Five elected officials who oversee all county departments (e.g., the L.A. Sheriff’s Department) and have direct oversight over unincorporated parts of the county. Each supervisor has nearly two million constituents — more than twice as many as the average congressional representative — and manages a $30 billion budget.
- City Councils and Mayors – Each one of L.A.’s 88 municipalities is governed by a city council and mayor, which together oversee all city agencies (e.g., police departments, school boards) and city budgets. The number of council members varies across cities, as does the division of responsibilities between the council and the mayor. In some cases, the mayor is a specific role within city council and in other cases, the mayor is elected and works separately from city council. You can learn more about your city’s government here.
When individual politicians and groups of elected officials put their weight behind real solutions and the long-term plan to end chronic homelessness in L.A., they can get a lot done very quickly. This is particularly true when they’re working together and have the support of their constituents. So where do you fit in on a day-to-day basis and what can you do to ensure that your voice is being heard?
- You elect these officials and are technically their boss. If you look at the org chart for the county government, the top spot belongs to the electorate — that’s you!
- In between election cycles, you can contact them at their offices to tell them how you want them to vote or stances you think they should take on key issues, like homelessness. You can call, email, or even set up an appointment with their office.
- Elected officials hold votes and meetings publicly, many of which include time for people to speak and advocate for a specific course of action.
- At a local level, most cities have neighborhood or community groups that can push for specific items either formally or informally. For example, the City of L.A. has Neighborhood Councils, which receive a certain amount of funding from the city to spend as they wish and which can also submit Letters of Community Impact for the City Council’s consideration when they are voting.
Elected officials have always played a huge role in determining how L.A. deals with homelessness, but at the end of the day, they represent you. We need everyone in, at every level of planning and decision-making, to make sure that we’re all heading in the right direction.