Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger spoke to Santa Clarita Valley business leaders last week, reflecting on the pandemic’s effect on the local economy and how she expects to move forward.
The Valley Industry Association’s Cocktails & Conversation event works to allow the business community and the area’s elected officials an opportunity to get to know one another following the pandemic shutdown, kicking off with the 5th District supervisor, whose district includes the SCV.
Barger, who isn’t afraid to oppose her board colleagues, said it’s vital to her position to hear the voices of these business leaders and others in her district, as they help to address the issues directly impacting the local community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only hastened the issue of government transparency, causing what Barger described as a “vacuum” by allowing government officials to make decisions the public is unaware of.
“I think we’re navigating really crazy times,” Barger said. “COVID, to me, has created this vacuum of government, where under the authority of executive powers, things were getting done that people have no clue what’s happening.”
As the chair of the Board of Supervisors when the pandemic hit, Barger said she worked to find the balance when it came to restrictions, understanding that when you shut down, eventually you’ll have to reopen.
Barger highlighted the efforts of the Economic Resiliency Task Force, which brought county business leaders from all sectors together to plan for economic recovery.
The task force was one of the ways Barger said she worked to limit the Public Health Department’s authority, as she said it would allow each sector a say in how restrictions were implemented to still allow them to operate.
Moreover, Barger addressed the authority Public Health has, which she said has impacted the economy.
“No question COVID … was devastating — our hospitals were on the brink of really a disaster — and so I know it was serious, but there was no give and take,” Barger said of Public Health’s restrictions amid the height of the pandemic.
It was the shutdown of restaurants days before the Thanksgiving holiday last year that Barger called a “tipping point,” as she was the first to oppose the “unnecessary restrictions,” and was one of the two opposing votes in the matter.
“We got phone calls from people that were so angry and felt that the government had totally overreached. There was no scientific evidence,” Barger said. “That was the best 3-2 lose I’ve ever had because I knew what I was doing was right, sticking up for the industry that was going to be hit the hardest.”
Now, Barger said she is not in favor of shutting down again, but rather hopes to continue encouraging vaccinations, which she said is a proven tool to effectively reduce transmission.
“I will not support it, I will be loud and I will be angry if the board moves in that direction,” Barger said of a future shutdown.
It’s events such as this one with the supervisor that VIA CEO/President Kathy Norris said the association feels are best done in person.
“Although most of our events are still being presented virtually, VIA felt this particular event would be best done in person to help communicate how hard the supervisor is working on behalf of L.A. County, and for our business leaders to get to know her a little better, understand the challenges she is facing, and hear directly her positions on a variety of issues,” Norris said. “Her willingness to join us in person also clearly communicated her continuing dedication to her position and how she continues to go above and beyond every day.”