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LA County Board of Supervisors votes to consider Board expansion

By Leyton Breese and Francesca Vaneri

April 5, 2023 8:35 p.m.

On Feb. 28, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of considering an expansion of the body’s membership.

The motion came as a recommendation made by District 2 Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and was co-authored by District 3 Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, who represents UCLA and Westwood. The vote comes in response to a report from the LA County Redistricting Commission, which included multiple calls from citizens and city officials over the past few years to increase the number of supervisors on the board.

The county has explored expansion in the past and ultimately rejected the idea, most recently in 2000, when a vote failed 2-1. Horvath said in the board meeting that with the motion being reconsidered, expansion could give constituents better access to their representatives, particularly considering the population size of LA County, in which the five-member board currently represents a jurisdiction of almost 10 million residents.

Increasing the number of supervisors will create greater accountability to smaller constituencies, said Scott Cummings, a professor of law at UCLA.

Mitchell said in a press release that expanding the board will bring more power to the people of LA by granting more communities the opportunity to be represented by a responsive supervisor.

“We hear from countless residents about being left out of their local government, making it clear that we can’t have an equitable county without meaningful and full public participation,” Mitchell said in the press release. “The independent recommendations that we receive will inform how the Board can create a more inclusive process for solving the problems of today and tomorrow.”

Advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Americans Expanding Justice, and The Wall Las Memorias Project – the latter of which primarily serves Latino and LGBTQ+ populations in Los Angeles – welcomed potential expansion of the board as a needed reform to the county which could increase representation for marginalized groups in particular.

“The process outlined in this motion can uncover barriers for Angelenos to participate in policy and budget decisions, which is the first step in exploring remedies to increase transparency, equity and inclusivity in your decisions,” said Jessica Farris, the senior policy council at ACLU of Southern California, at the meeting.

The motion called for an independent consultant to report back to the board within the next 90 days and present options for the potential expansion. This independent body is directed to study the county governance of similarly sized jurisdictions and apply them to the reform process of LA County’s Board. The motion did not specify what potential options might currently look like.

Constance Farrell, a spokesperson for Horvath, said in an emailed statement that it is important that the independent third-party consultant take a thorough look at the county’s governance structure to ensure the council’s future is equitable.

“With this responsibility comes the opportunity to meaningfully lift up all voices through the possibility of a more transparent legislative process, electing a board that is larger to more equitably represent our communities,” Horvath said at the meeting.

Cummings said that although similar proposals to expand the Board have failed in the past, he believes this time the motion has a high potential of passing, particularly in light of the recent scandals in LA City Hall. In 2022, a leaked recording showed LA City Council members making racist comments and discussing ways to hold onto personal political clout, sparking public outrage and calls for their resignation.

[Related: UCLA community denounces LA City Council members following racist comments]

“Maybe now the idea is that looking forward, (board members) really do have to be proactive in doing something to ensure that people within the county are able to have a voice,” Cummings said. “It does seem that there is more political momentum around these issues, and that is always a positive thing.”

The Board of Supervisors’ executive officer is expected to turn in a report around the beginning of June, at which time the Board will move forward in discussing possible suggestions.

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