By State Senator Tony Mendoza.
I would like to respond to the recent opinion piece posted by the California State Association of Counties regarding my Senate Constitutional Amendment 8 (SCA 8).
As a former local elected official, I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by city and county governments to deliver critical services to the communities they serve.
My SCA 8 gives voters the opportunity to authorize the expansion of the current five-member Board of Supervisors system to seven or more in counties with a population of two million or more after the 2020 Census.
In the state’s five largest counties, which include Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Orange, a Board of Supervisor member represents from 400,000 to more than 2,000,000 residents. This is simply too many people for a Board of Supervisor member to adequately represent and serve.
Expanding the number of supervisorial seats for the state’s largest counties will provide an opportunity for these bodies to be more responsive and reflective of the needs of the people they represent and serve.
In California’s largest counties, the challenges have increased exponentially as a result of the growth and changes in the state’s population and demographics since the formation of counties more than one-hundred and sixty-five years ago.
The current county Board of Supervisor system for the state’s largest counties, however, has not changed along with it.
County Boards of Supervisor’s members have both a legislative function and executive branch responsibilities for their constituents. They direct and oversee a majority of state services for residents including healthcare, public safety, traffic, social services, public works, recreation, and libraries among others.
While the article lauds my intent to “increase representation and make local government more accessible,” it criticizes me for seeking change statewide rather than county-by-county, thus “over-riding local control.”
When a valid issue is not addressed at the local level, the state can and should address it, especially when the issue affects over 55% of the state’s population and the bulk of its economy – which the five affected counties represent.
SCA 8 does not infringe upon local control. If approved, counties will still retain full control over their respective districting process for their board seats, along with whether or not they want to have more than seven members or a strong executive. Our State Constitution and our Government Code already legislate concerning the number of seats in county government. To increase representation in county government, SCA 8 merely provides statewide guidance in an area where the state already provides that guidance. This is an issue of statewide concern.
Adequate representation in counties has been ignored for over a century. In only two counties have efforts been made to expand the boards– Los Angeles and Orange.
In Los Angeles, the ballot propositions have always been compromised by extraneous items, such as a County “Mayor”, but more importantly, by the refusal of the incumbent Supervisors to impose any cost controls on the expanded Board. The incumbent Supervisors have then campaigned against the expanded ballot measures on the theme of increased costs. In Orange County, the sole attempt was made six months after the County declared bankruptcy and the ballot measure, just like Los Angeles County’s measures, had no costs controls.
Residents of California’s largest counties deserve a more representative and responsive government at the county level so vital services can be efficiently and adequately delivered.
I believe the time has come for California to modernize the Board of Supervisor system for its largest counties so that there is greater representation for its residents. Please join me in supporting SCA 8.