Two Los Angeles County Supervisors – Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas – took the easy way out by abstaining on a vote to extend term limits for themselves and their brethren. Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky cast a strong “no” vote after one of his two amendments to the motion failed to get support. Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich voted for his own motion and was backed by Supervisor Don Knabe.
The motion failed.
Facing term limits for the first time since being elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1980, Antonovich proposed a last-minute motion to last Tuesday’s board meeting calling for a special election on November 6 that would void the present limit of three terms and extend it to five terms. Instead of terming out in 2016, this would allow Antonovich to serve two more terms. This would also prevent Molina and Yaroslavsky from terming out in 2014
Although both Yaroslavsky and Antonovich share a dislike for term limits, and would both gain by its possible passage by the voters in November, they squared off on the motion.
Antonovich cited the financial difficulties in Duarte and the impending imprisonment of the Cudahy city manager as a reason to stay the course with the current Board of Supervisors.
“There are some tough decisions ahead and having bodies with experience working with the public is a better alternative than create(ing) a chaotic situation so we’re going to be a mini-state of California – a wrecking ball for the entire Southern California region,” said Antonovich.
Yaroslavsky didn’t succumb to the argument.
“I think that the notion that we are the only five people in Los Angeles County who are qualified to be stewards of this county going forward is selling the people of Los Angeles County short. And anyway I think other people should have the opportunity,” said Yaroslavsky.
Antonovich seemed to arguing both sides of the issue to stave off term limits. While proposing the current leadership should remain in place for the public good, he also implied that county residents shouldn’t be too concerned that this means the current board will remain because they could just volunteer to go away.
“No one is saying they’re running for reelection. No one knows what the future is going to hold, but it gives the voters that opportunity to make that choice,” said Antonovich.
Voters, it could be argued, already had made that choice when they voted 63 percent to restrict the Board of Supervisors to a mere three terms.
Last week, Yaroslavsky argued that the language on the ballot measure would be confusing, suggesting residents were voting to place term limits on the supervisors when in fact it was actually extending them.
“I just think this makes a mockery of us. I think it does not do the Board of Supervisors as an institution a lot of good the way this was put on the agenda at five o’clock Friday night. It does not tell the voters what they’re actually voting on,” said Yaroslavsky.
The motion was continued until this week, where the debate continued. Antonovich agreed to support Yaroslavsky’s rewording of the ballot if he’d support the motion as a whole.
Yaroslavsky had a different idea in mind. He proposed changing the dates on the ballot measure from December 2002 to December 1994 so the extension to five terms would not benefit the current board.
Neither Molina, Ridley-Thomas, Antonovich, nor Knabe would second that amendment.
Molina’s office declined our request for comment.
Yaroslavsky, predicted the measure would not pass the voters, but in that unlikely event he said Antonovich will have been allowed to serve 11 terms for 44 years. Molina, Knabe and himself he said will have served for 28 years.
“If the issue is to extend our own terms, as much as I oppose term limits I think that 11 terms is enough, more than enough I should say. Six terms is more than enough, five terms, which is what I’ll have is enough,” said Yarovslavsky.
A county spokesperson said there was no limit on the number of times Antonovich could make a revised proposal with the same intent to extend the term limits. He didn’t win the votes of Yaroslavsky or Molina, but they term out in 2014 and Antonovich will still be around two more years after that.