Voters could decide on major change for LA County government: expanding board from 5 members to 9

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Thursday, July 4, 2024
Voters could decide on major change for LA County government
"Five elected leaders serving 10 million people as both the executive and the legislative branches of government simply makes no sense," said Los Angeles County Supervisors Lindsey Horvath

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Janice Hahn announced a proposal Wednesday that would revamp county government by expanding the Board of Supervisors from its current five members to nine.

"Five elected leaders serving 10 million people as both the executive and the legislative branches of government simply makes no sense," said Horvath during a press conference.

Their proposal would also establish an independent ethics commission to promote transparency and make the county CEO an elected position.

Since the measure requires a change to the County Charter, the proposals would have to be approved by voters.

"We've talked to voters and they overwhelmingly support expanding the board at this moment," said Hahn. "They see a bigger board not as a bigger government but as a closer government, more accessible government, a more representative government."

L.A. County is bigger than many states with a budget of $46 billion.

"Separating out the executive authority from the legislative body is typical in most governments throughout the country, and this allows for accountability in a check in balance on the process," said Horvath.

The proposal would appear to add a lot to the county government, but supervisors said doubling the size of the board would not double the size of the budget. Horvath and Hahn both stressed that the proposed changes would not involve any sort of tax hike.

"We are not raising the taxes to pay for this government reform. That's the message," said Hahn.

Horvath and Hahn will present the proposal to the full board next week, with the goal of placing the matter on the November ballot.

Supervisor Hilda Solis issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying she supports the proposal, so it already has the support of a board majority.

She said the move is "about determining how we can most effectively represent the needs of voters in every ZIP code, in every demographic, and at every income level.''

"The composition of the Board of Supervisors must reflect the increased diversity of Los Angeles County's population,'' Solis said. "Moreover, having an elected CEO, including a director of Budget and County Legislative Analyst, will help us identify and address the specific needs of communities more adequately and ensure that we always direct county resources fairly while ensuring greater independence. And, the establishment of an independent Ethics Commission will guarantee the county continues to make decisions with the highest level of integrity and accountability.''

What's in the proposal?

In their statement outlining the proposals, Horvath and Hahn noted, "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,'' according to the supervisors' statement.

"Reform has been studied for decades -- the time to act is now. This is the change our communities have called for and now voters have an opportunity to bring Los Angeles County into the 21st Century this November.''

In February of 2023, the board approved a motion by Horvath and Supervisor Holly Mitchell calling for a sweeping study of county governance, including a call for recommendations to improve public participation and representation of residents, possibly by expanding the size of the Board of Supervisors.

Other possibilities suggested in the motion included:

  • An extended process allowing more time for public review of proposed motions that go before the board for a vote, sometimes within days of being published

  • A procedure for routinely evaluating the county charter, county codes and board "parliamentary processes''

  • A review of the county's budgeting process with an eye toward increasing "efficiency, transparency and equitable outcomes''

  • A review of possible structural changes to the Board of Supervisors itself, including a potential expansion of its membership "to achieve more equitable representation.''

Horvath said at the time, the motion was "about being the best county government possible,'' saying the board has "an enormous responsibility'' to govern 10 million residents and manage a $44 billion budget. She said the idea is to ensure the board is enacting "practices that give the public more of a seat at the table.''

The concept of expanding the board has surfaced repeatedly over the years -- as far back as 1926 -- but it has never gained traction. Voters have rejected the idea on eight different occasions.

But Hahn said she expects a more favorable reception from voters.

If the board moves forward with the proposals on Tuesday, an ordinance will be drafted with the proposed Charter amendments which would then go to voters in November.

"From there, three representative bodies will be created,'' Horvath said. Those bodies are a Charter Reform Task Force to oversee the implementation, a Charter Review Commission to convene every 10 years and an independent Ethics Commission by 2026.

The proposal also establishes that the county CEO be an elected position beginning in 2028, with board expansion planned for 2032.

City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.