By Joe Taglieri
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is ostensibly a nonpartisan group of municipal lawmakers, and candidate Billy Malone is set on staying true to that objective ethos. While most of his competition in the race for the 5th District seat identifies as Republicans, Malone is vehemently opposed to choosing one side of the aisle over another and questioned the popular line of rhetoric featuring candidates admitting party affiliation but in the next breath laying claim to exceptional abilities for compromise and open-mindedness.
“I am the aisle,” Malone said. “If you want to be in the aisle, be in the aisle. Don’t want to be in the aisle and say you’re something else. I thought the board is supposed to be nonpartisan.”
Malone claimed to have support from both Democrats as well as Republicans in the 5th District, which covers the northern reaches of the county and stretches between the San Bernardino and Ventura county lines. Although he described himself as an independent, Malone was quick to point out the importance of not excluding anyone from the political process based on party affiliation.
“You can’t exclude people for what they believe in,” he said. “You can’t say, ‘I’m going to exclude the right, I’m going to exclude the left.’ You’re representing people and can’t exclude people you represent; you have to listen to them.”
Malone also took issue with politicians who claim to vote in lock-step with a particular ideology.
“It’s not about you, it’s about the people you represent,” Malone said. “When I hear politicians making statements like ‘I can’t vote against my conscience, that’s not what I believe’ – well, that’s not your job. You’re not voting for you, you’re voting for the people you represent.”
If Malone wins the election next year to the 5th District board seat, which termed-out incumbent Michael Antonovich has steadfastly held since 1980, the supervisorial hopeful discussed several key points of policy interest. One such issue, on which several candidates have expressed positions, is the county’s foster care system.
“We’re always trying to fix things rather than finding the problem, then going to the source of the problem and see what’s happening,” Malone said. “If you look at this system, it comes down to one basic thing: we have too many kids and not enough foster parents.”
The candidate suggested mobilizing a public relations campaign to highlight the good aspects of being a foster parent in order to provide a positive counterpoint to negative news coverage of instances when the system has failed, such as cases of abusive foster parents who weren’t adequately vetted by county personnel.
Malone said he favors teaming with nonprofit groups such as Together We Rise to create an public outreach program.
“If we can change the dialog and make it more positive with some of these outside groups … there’s lots of kids whose lives were saved by getting into the foster care system and who got adopted by wonderful parents,” Malone said. “If you see some of these wonderful things and hear these positive stories, then it’s going to make people want to actually participate. … When you only hear horror stories it kind of sets you back, and then people don’t want to participate.”
Malone also noted his concern over the need for “responsible” real estate development that does not threaten vintage architecture and a community’s aesthetic character.
“You’ve got to progress, but you can’t forget where your roots are,” he said.
Another important aspect of preserving Los Angeles’ roots, according to Malone, is reforming business regulations to better prevent the exodus of film and television production jobs.
“One of the things I’d like to do is bring the pride back,” Malone said. “If you bring the pride back people will want to do things.”
On a symbolic level, Malone suggested adopting a policy that would affix the county seal on presumably the end credits of locally produced TV shows or movies.
“I think that would go a long way to start bringing pride back,” he said. “It’s a good way to start feeling good again about what we do.”
Additionally Malone proposed organizing a county-sponsored summit of film industry entities such as production companies, studios, unions and others with interests in the business. The intention would be to collectively come up with ways to stop job flight.
Malone, a member of the Screen Actors Guild and Unite Here Local 11, expressed his commitment to maintaining a proper balance between labor unions and the businesses that employ unionized workforces.
“I’m pretty sure I’m the only candidate who is a union member, who doesn’t just support the unions but who is actually a member and believes in it,” Malone said. “But a union is only as strong as the company it works for. So you have to listen to both sides, you have to unify.”
Other areas of focus for Malone include ramping up efforts to promote the use of public transportations such as the Metro rail lines and increasing the political voice of people who live in the county’s unincorporated areas.
In a statement on his campaign website, Malone explained his motivation for entering the arena of local politics stems largely from his wife’s struggle with a debilitating spinal disease.
“After dealing with the bureaucratic difficulty of our public officials and the offices that support them, I realized that I had to either accept the status quo or work … toward implementing changes that would make a difference,” Malone explained.
Malone, 54, is originally from a town in England called Petersfield, which is about 50 miles south of London. He lives with his wife Nina and 10-year-old daughter Amina in unincorporated Altadena, where he is a member of the town council.
Malone works as a real estate broker and sits on the Altadena Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. He is also a member of local and national realtor associations.
According to his campaign website, Malone graduated high school at age 16 and went on to earn degrees in engineering and the dramatic arts.
The primary election for 5th District supervisor is in June 2016.