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LA County Supervisors advance proposal to expand board from five to nine members

LA County Board of Supervisors advance proposal to expand size of board by four members
LA County Board of Supervisors advance proposal to expand size of board by four members 00:28

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have advanced a proposal that would revamp county government by expanding the current amount of board members from five to nine, as well as establish the CEO as an elected position. 

The package of proposed changes will ultimately need approval from voters, but it advanced on Tuesday with a 3-0 vote. Both Supervisor Holly Mitchell and Supervisor Kathryn Barger abstained from the vote. 

Now, county attorneys will draft ordinances that will return to the board so it can be formally placed on November's ballot. 

Tuesday's meeting, which sometimes involved heated discussion, Supervisor Mitchell questioned if the package of changes had been fully vetted, and asked how the motion had settled on nine members for the expanded board. 

She also questioned if the changes could be enacted with zero cost to taxpayers, as the proposal contends it will. 

"I just think there's too much risk for us to take a bite of the apple that's not absolutely ideal," she said. 

Barger also expressed concerns that the motion was brought forth by Supervisor Lindsay Horvath and Supervisor Janice Hahn, with Mitchell's involvement in early 2023, but after a series of studies on how to overhaul the current government, it appeared that Mitchell had been "cut out of the process" which she contends was "not transparent."

On top of the expanded board, the proposal calls for the establishment of a Director of Budget and a Legislative Analyst, as well as the creation of an independent ethics commission. 

Barger said she does not believe the county should have to wait for voter approval to create the commission, planning on doing so at next week's meeting. 

"I wholeheartedly support creating an Ethics Commission now, so we can immediately tackle improving both transparency and Board accountability," she said. 

In the proposal, Supervisor Hahn says that the transition from an appointed CEO to an elected CEO would be the motion's "most fundamental difference."

"For too long, this board has served both the legislative and executive power for the county," she said. "That may be the form of government we're all most comfortable with, but it's not what most experts agree is the best."

The motion claims that an elected CEO would also be directly accountable to voters and would significantly decrease the potential for parochialism, prioritizing the diverse regional population. 

Supervisor Horvath says that the proposed changes would not involve any sort of tax hike and that it would all be done at no additional cost to taxpayers. 

"We will take our existing budget and reallocate the funds to implement the measure," she said. 

Mitchell questioned the likelihood of that, noting that four new board members would involve significant infrastructure, to which Horvath insisted there could be reallocations from other areas of the current budget. 

"There are a lot of places within the current county governance structure that we could get some of the resources to fund it," Horvath said. 

Both Horvath and Hahn stressed that the proposal focuses on representation, efficiency and transparency in the governance structure for nearly 10 million residents of LA County. 

When the county charter was adopted by voters in 1912, the population barely surpassed 500,000, but now, with millions of residents in the nearly 90 incorporated cities within the county border, they say it's time for a change. 

"As a result, Los Angeles County residents suffer deficits of representation and accountability," the motion states. "Each of the five-person Board of Supervisors, elected directly by voters, represents approximately 2 million constituents."

The proposal would also call for a commission to review the county charter every 10 years, annual open departmental budget hearings and the creation of a task force to oversee the implementation of the changes. 

"We can no longer let a dated bureaucracy prevent us from more effectively addressing our homelessness crisis, making real progress on justice reform, or actualizing a government where Angelenos can meaningfully be at the decision-making table," saida. statement that briefly outlined the proposal last week from Horvath and Hahn. 

An earlier motion was approved in February last year, calling for a sweeping study on LA county governance, including a call for recommendations that could improve public participation and representation of residents. 

The concept of expanding the board is not unfamiliar, with instances dating back to 1926, but none have ever gained enough traction to date, with voters rejecting the idea eight different times. 

Despite this Hahn believes that November will produce a more favorable reception from voters. 

"We've talked to voters and they overwhelmingly support expanding the board in this moment," she said. 

The timeline proposed by the motion would make the CEO an elected position and establish both the County Legislative Analyst and Director of Budget by 2028, with board expansion planned for 2032. 

On Tuesday, another approved action requested a report within a week's time on the board's authority to create committees that could review motions and letters before they are placed on the agenda. 

Mitchell noted that motions proposing legislation can currently be placed directly on the agenda without a system of vetting or analysis prior to the meeting, which typically occurs with bills in Sacramento and other city or county governments. 

The motion asked that the report include information on the identification of any legal limitations as to how many members of the board could sit on each committee and if there are legal limitations on the subject matter that could be considered by them. 

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