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LA County Board to Consider Proposed Changes to Charter, Board Expansion

Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 | 5:04 am

Los Angeles County Supervisors Tuesday will consider proposed amendments to the County Charter aimed at revamping county government, in part by expanding the Board of Supervisors from its current five members to nine and making the CEO an elected position.

The proposal by Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Janice Hahn would also establish the positions of a Director of Budget and a Legislative Analyst, and create an independent ethics commission.

If the board backs the proposals Tuesday, an ordinance would be drafted with the proposed Charter amendments, which would then return to the board for placement on the November ballot. Charter changes require approval from voters.

Unveiling the proposal last Wednesday, Horvath said, “The last time the county meaningfully changed its form of governance was in 1912, before women had the right to vote, far before the end of segregation and well before comprehensive labor rights took hold.”

She called the proposals “the most comprehensive reform package for Los Angeles County government in over 100 years.”

Horvath and Hahn stressed that the proposal focuses on representation, efficiency and transparency in the governance structure for about 10 million residents of the county.

According to the motion by Horvath and Hahn, when the County Charter was adopted by the voters in 1912, the population was a little over 500,000, but the county now has 10 million residents and encompasses 88 incorporated cities within its border.

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

Addressing the proposal to transition the CEO from an appointed to elected position, the motion states, “A governance structure that lacks an elected executive does not benefit from clearly delineated roles of accountability and district-specific interests might be prioritized over the county as a whole.”

An elected CEO would also be directly accountable to the voters and would significantly reduce the potential for parochialism, prioritizing the diverse regional population, according to the motion.

The proposals unveiled by Horvath and Hahn also call for a commission that would review the county Charter every 10 years, creation of a Department of Budget and Management and a County Legislative Analyst, annual open departmental budget hearings and creation of a task force to oversee the implementations of the changes.

Horvath and Hahn both stressed that the proposed changes would not involve any sort of tax hike.

“This proposal requires that it does not come at additional cost to the taxpayers, that we work within our budget,” Horvath said. “And with a $46 billion budget, I know we can do it.”

Hahn added, “We are not raising the taxes for this government reform.”

In a statement outlining the proposals, they 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.”

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.

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 this time.

“We’ve talked to voters and they overwhelmingly support expanding the board in this moment,” she said.

If approved on the November Ballot’s voting, “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.

Under the timeline proposed by the motion, the county CEO would become an elected position and a County Legislative Analyst and Director of Budget would be established by 2028, with board expansion planned for 2032.

In a related action Tuesday, Mitchell will ask her colleagues to back a request for report within a week on the board’s authority to create committees that could review motions and letters before they are placed on the agenda of the full Board of Supervisors. Mitchell notes that motions proposing legislation can currently be placed directly on the supervisors’ agenda without a system of prior vetting or analysis that typically occurs with bills in Sacramento or in various other city or county governments.

Mitchell’s motion asks that the report include identification of any legal limitations on how many members of the board could sit on each committee and any legal limitations on the subject matter that could be considered by them.

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