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Commentary by Sen. Sharon Runner
| Friday, Jan 29, 2016
Sen. Sharon Runner

Sen. Sharon Runner

I have lived in the 21st Senate District my entire life, and I love representing my home in the California State Senate. I know what makes the District’s communities unique, which gives me the ability to fight for our needs and interests in Sacramento. I strongly believe we deserve that same locally focused representation at the County level, which is why I am co-authoring Senate Constitutional Amendment 8 with Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.

A bi-partisan measure, SCA 8 seeks to expand the membership of the Board of Supervisors for counties with a population over 2 million after the 2020 census. Currently only a handful of counties would be affected – Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino. In Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties the Board of Supervisors would grow from five members to seven.

I am a strong believer in local government and think the residents of California’s largest counties deserve better representation at the local level. Los Angeles County provides the perfect example of this.

Since its incorporation in 1850, the population of Los Angeles County has grown from 3,500 to a staggering 10 million, but the makeup of the Board of Supervisors has stayed the same. Today, each member of the LA County Board of Supervisors represents approximately two million constituents – that is twice the amount of people I represent in the State Senate.

This extreme ratio between constituents and supervisors can lead to alienation and a lack of political responsiveness. County governments provide critically important functions to their constituents; we need to bring our Supervisors a little closer to home.

SCA 8 ensures fiscal responsibility by creating a spending cap – the counties affected cannot increase their budget beyond their 2020-2021 fiscal year budget. The goal of this measure is not to grow government spending and bureaucracy; but to ensure greater representation at the county level.

If passed by the Legislature, SCA 8 will be placed on the ballot to be decided by California’s voters. Increasing Board of Supervisor membership for our state’s most populous counties will allow for greater local representation. I am hopeful my colleagues in the Legislature will understand the importance of this issue; I will certainly do my best to ensure that happens.

 

Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, represents California’s 21st Senate District, which includes more than half of the Santa Clarita Valley.

 

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3 Comments

  1. jimvs says:

    Senator Runner,

    I appreciate your argument for increasing the number of County Supervisors in each county of our state based on population of over 2 million. Unfortunately, your argument fails to consider a few things.

    First and foremost is the ratio of supervisor to constituent. Your press release fails to explain if those 2 million+ residents are solely under the county’s government, or if they are also represented by a city government. Each of the counties to be affected by your legislation have large cities that provide most or many of the services to their residents that each county would provide to it’s “unincorporated” residents.

    The City of Los Angeles has a population of nearly 4 million, and provides most services to its citizens that the county would provide if they were in an unincorporated area. That means the true total population to be divvied up by County Supervisors is closer to 6 million. That’s a ratio of 1 Supervisor to 1.2 million residents, much lower than you note.

    And that does not take into account all of the other incorporated cities in LA County.

    Granted, LACO provides services, funding, and some control even in incorporated areas within the county, but that is not the same as being the sole or primary local government for all 10 million residents.

    The other counties you mention also have large cities in them, although probably not at the same ratio of city to county services as LACO.

    Second, I agree that 5 supervisors is a ridiculously small number given the power and responsibility that the State Constitution places on county governments. But I don’t think that adding two more supervisors to a large county will make a noticeable difference. To use your own numbers, that means each Supervisor will represent 1.4 million county residents. Does that strike you as effective representation, especially in unincorporated areas where there are no other local government representatives? And by the way, you and your fellow State Senators and Representatives only truly provide representation for your constituents on matters at the State level. Officially anyway.

    No, I think that the counties should be parsed for representation at a level much closer to home. I think 500,000 citizens is more than a single human being (even with a large staff) can represent effectively. I also think that folks who don’t have to drive 60 miles to sit in on a weekday meeting with their County Supervisor will feel much more connected to their local government.

    So, let’s up the ante here. Why not make the number of supervisors of any county in California start at 5, and then go up by a sufficient number to keep representation to 500,000 (+ or – 50, 000) residents per Supervisor.

    Alpine County would only need to add one.

  2. Mike says:

    Sounds like the Runners are being termed out and need another office to run for.

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