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A group of nine state lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill that would seek to improve representation of people of color on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors by expanding it from five to seven members and creating a position of an elected county executive.
State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) is the lead author on the legislation that would put the matter of changing the state Constitution to a vote on the California ballot in June 2018.
“Counties with millions of residents deserve a government that is responsive, transparent and accountable,” Mendoza said Thursday. “By expanding representation and creating a professional management position, we address multiple issues and will actively improve local government for all Californians.”
A civil county grand jury recommended last year that the board be expanded and an elected executive position be created, but the Board of Supervisors turned down the proposal.
In 2015, a similar proposal by Mendoza to expand the boards of supervisors in Los Angeles and other large counties failed to win a necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate. That proposal did not include an elected county executive.
Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) had opposed the 2015 plan as unwieldy because it lacked an elected chief executive.
He is a co-author of the new bill, along with Republican Sen. Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita and Democratic senators such as Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys and Steven Bradford of Gardena.
“If Los Angeles County were a state, it would be the eighth largest," Wilk said. “I believe L.A. County is too large and should split up. However, this proposal will make county government more accountable and is an important first step to transforming regional government.”
Currently, two people of color sit on the five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Alan Clayton, a demographics expert who consulted on the bill, said a seven-member board would result in one seat competitive for Asian American candidates and two seats competitive for Latinos, who make up half of the county’s population. The current board does not have Asian American representation among its members.
“It will have a huge impact on the minority communities of Los Angeles County,” Clayton said. “It will create a more diverse board.”
Clayton also said the creation of the position of an elected county executive would provide a new opportunity for the large crowd of top Democrats in the state vying to move up to a limited number of powerful positions.
County voters have rejected previous proposals to expand the board, in part because of concerns it would create a more expensive and larger bureaucracy.
The new measure, SCA 12, which would take effect in 2022, would seek to hold costs down by prohibiting the expanded board’s budget from exceeding funding in 2021, and limit the new elected county executive’s pay to the salary received by the presiding judge for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The supervisors would remain limited to three terms of four years each.