Elected officials disagree on constitutional amendment to redistrict L.A. County

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A California constitutional amendment making its way through the legislature, which would increase the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors from five to seven, has received polarized responses from elected officials.

The L.A. County Board has taken an official stance in opposition of Constitutional Amendment 12, which states any county with over 5 million residents must have more than five elected supervisors. Los Angeles County is the only one in California where this applies.

This is state overreach, according to Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, a Republican, and Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, a Democrat, in a joint statement.

The bill passed through the Senate on Sept. 14 and will head to the Assembly for a vote in January. If it passes there, it will go to the public for a vote.

“It’s hard to imagine that voters in Northern or Central California have the knowledge or even the appetite to vote on a constitutional amendment to change the governance of a county hundreds of miles away,” Barger and Kuehl said in the statement.

If voters wanted to increase the number of supervisors, which would decrease districts from 2 million people to 1.4 million, they could do so through a county charter amendment in a local ballot measure, the two pointed out.

The L.A. County redistricting issue has gone to voters before and has been shot down six times.

Current supervisors would have to cut their staffs and their budgets, which Barger and Kuehl said would weaken constituent services.

Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), the amendment’s principal author, argues redistricting will provide more diversity in the county, but Barger and Kuehl disagree.

“Isn’t it strange that at the very moment L.A. County has four women supervisors, a historic first, a handful of all-male state elected officials think this is the right time to dilute the power of L.A. County’s Board of Supervisors?” the supervisors said.

On the Senate Floor and in the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, which Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) is chair of, Stern voted against the bill because it allowed the whole state to vote on a county issue.

“I have a fundamental problem with which voters decide,” Stern told The Signal. “You should be voting on issues that affect you. I’m a big local control guy.”

From a Los Angeles County resident’s perspective, Stern said he understands the draw to get “more attention” from supervisors, which the amendment suggests would happen with smaller constituencies.

Though, the freshman senator said this amendment will spark conversation among the board and encourage them to evaluate how they are serving residents.

“If anything, it will keep lighting a fire under the county to prove they’re representing the people well,” Stern said.

Both times the bill went on the Senate floor, Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), who serves as a co-author, voted in its favor.

“These five people determine our fate on everything from transportation funding to social services,” Wilk said in a statement. “In Northern L.A. County, we get shortchanged time and time again and other outlying areas suffer the same fate. This bill is a huge step towards righting those wrongs.”

Redistricting consultant of 30 years Alan Clayton has lobbied in favor of the amendment and drawn various versions of potential new districts if the bill passes.

He said more districts would be beneficial to Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Palmdale who share similar concerns in North County and can get left out in the largeness of the fifth district.

“Your area is not treated fairly in terms of the allocation of resources,” Clayton said. “We can make the seats a lot more manageable in terms of communities of interest.”

Also, Clayton argues the redistricting would allow for a better chance for new supervisors to be Latino and Asian by the way he has drawn the maps.

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