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Voters will be asked to expand LA County Board of Supervisors to nine in November election

The expansion is among a list of proposed changes to the county's charter that would create an ethics commission, make chief executive an elected position.

Voters will be asked to expand LA County Board of Supervisors to nine in November election
Los Angeles County Supervisors (left to right) Janice Hahn, Hilda Solis, Lindsey Horvath, Kathryn Barger and Holly Mitchell. The five-member board could be expanded to nine if voters approve doing so in November. Photo courtesy of LA County Board of Supervisors.

Los Angeles County voters will be asked to approve an overhaul of county governance in November that could include the creation of an elected county executive position and the expansion of the powerful county board of supervisors from five seats to nine. 

Supervisors voted 3-0 Tuesday morning to ask county counsel to draft the proposed charter amendment that will go before millions of county voters when they head to the polls for the Nov. 5 election that will also decide the next President of the United States. 

Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Kathryn Barger abstained from the vote. 

If voters approve the charter change, the board would expand to nine seats after the next national Census in 2030 with the first election of its new members coming in 2032. A total of seven supervisor seats would be up for election that year. 

Expanding the board has been seen as an equity issue by some members who have pointed to the current five-member board whose members represent about two million people each. LA County is the largest jurisdiction in the world and has a large disparity between other large cities and counties and their elected official-to-resident ratio. 

For example, New York City (8.3 million people) has 51 council members across its five bureaus with each representing about 163,000 people. Supervisors and members of the public said Tuesday that creating more seats would help diversify the board, keep members more responsive to their communities and ensure better policy outcomes. 

Jason Ruiz has been on strike from the Long Beach Post since March 21, yet he’s still covering city hall without pay. Thank him for his reporting.

“We always get criticized for working too slowly and not being able to work fast and furious to fix those problems,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said of county issues, adding that this proposal could make the board more reflective of the communities they represent and bring more voices to the table. 

The 3-0 vote will start the process of placing the issue on the November ballot despite the disagreements on display Tuesday between supervisors. Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, who authored the motion along with Supervisor Janice Hahn, said the board shouldn’t let “perfect be the enemy of good.” 

Some supervisors questioned whether the charter amendment was needed to implement some of the changes meant to increase transparency like the creation of an ethics commission or requiring issues the board will vote on to be posted for at least five days to allow the public more time to weigh in on them.

Pointing to critical media coverage leading up to the vote, Barger said that the onus was on the board to make big decisions and work through the bureaucracy that has slowed important votes. 

“The lack of getting anything done is on us because on any given Tuesday, we can make things happen,” Barger said. “That to me is not going to be solved by a ballot measure.”

Barger questioned whether some of the transparency elements were being added to the ballot measure to help sell voters on the proposal that will also increase the size of county government, something voters have rejected multiple times in the past. 

Mitchell raised concerns about how much nearly doubling supervisor and supervisor staff payrolls would affect the county’s budget. County officials said if the measure passes the funding for those positions could come from cost savings from eliminating other positions across the county. 

“I just don’t see how it’s cost-neutral and I’m uncomfortable if that’s how it’s going to be presented to the voting public,” Mitchell said.

It’s not the first time the board has asked the public to approve an expansion to nine seats. The last time the question appeared on a ballot was in 2000 and voters shot down that proposed expansion with over 64% of county voters opposing the change.

This time, the charter change would also create several new positions like a county legislative analyst, who would be tasked with providing nonpartisan policy analysis for the board, a county ethics commission that could investigate misconduct by county officials. 

It would also make the county executive position an elected office with four-year terms with the new position acting like a mayor for the county and while carrying out many of the duties that the chief executive currently does. 

For a full list of the proposed changes that LA County voters will be asked to vote on in November click here

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