By Edwin Folven, 7/26/2012
Citing a need for more public review, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors postponed a decision Tuesday to a place a measure on the November ballot that would extend the length of time they are allowed to stay in office.
The proposal, which was authored by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, 5th District, would have extended the number of terms supervisors can serve from three to five. Voters approved a ballot initiative in 2002 that limits the supervisors to three terms. The limits apply to terms started after 2002, and four of the five current supervisors would be termed out in 2014.
Antonovich placed the motion on the supplemental agenda last Friday, allowing for only a short period of review before the meeting Tuesday. Joel Bellman, a deputy to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, said the regular agenda is posted on Wednesday, and added that having the motion placed on the supplemental agenda Friday essentially gave the public only one business day for review.
“Basically, the first time it was made publicly available was five in the afternoon on Friday, and most people aren’t paying attention then. Most people probably woke up on Monday morning and said, ‘whoa, I didn’t know this was going on.’ Basically, it was blindsiding people at that point,” Bellman said.
Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich, said placing the motion on the supplemental agenda was within standard protocols. Bell said Antonovich is proposing a ballot measure to extend term limits because the current supervisors have the experience necessary to deal with tough financial issues.
“The supervisor believes the voters should have the opportunity to choose the most experienced and qualified candidates to navigate the county through tough fiscal times,” Bell said.
County supervisors serve four-year terms. Yaroslavsky, who was initially elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1994, will be termed out in 2014 under the current term limits, as will Antonovich, who was first elected in 1980, and Supervisors Gloria Molina, 1st District, and Don Knabe, 4th District. If the proposed ballot initiative is approved, Antonovich could potentially serve a total of 44 years. Yaroslavsky said he is opposed to term limits, but added that he believes the way Antonovich’s motion was placed on the supplemental agenda was inappropriate, and the way it was worded was “totally misleading.” The motion originally read that the number of terms a supervisor could serve would be five after 2002, and Yaroslavsky amended the motion to state that the number of terms served would “change” from three to five after 2002. The supervisor said it originally gave the impression that the current supervisors had only served three terms.
“Four of the five supervisors, including myself, have been here for a while. I had two terms before 2002, and this would have given me two more terms, for a total of seven,” Yaroslavsky said. “Supervisor Don Knabe has had seven terms, Supervisor Molina has had more than seven terms. With Supervisor Antonovich, it would have given him eleven terms. Only Mark Ridley-Thomas would be limited to five terms, because he was elected after term limits were enacted.”
Molina was first elected in 1991, while Knabe was first elected to the board in 1996. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, 2nd District, was elected in 2008.
Antonovich was unavailable for comment, but stated in transcripts from the meeting Tuesday that his decision was based on the financial problems experienced in cities such as San Bernardino, which is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. Antonovich said the current board has a proven track record of overcoming financial problems, and the voters should be allowed to decide if they want the current members to continue to serve.
Yaroslavsky said placing the measure on the ballot would “make a mockery” of the board.
“I don’t think the public would appreciate this, and I don’t think we should put a measure on the ballot after they just approved one in 2002,” he said.