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DECISION 2000 | LOS ANGELES COUNTY RACES

Bid to Add Supervisors Loses; Assessor Auerbach Leads

Santa Monica effort to stymie living wage falls to resounding defeat while tough campaign limits are headed for approval.

November 08, 2000|NICHOLAS RICCARDI and GINA PICCALO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A proposal to expand the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors from five members to nine was defeated in Tuesday's election.

And in a 15-candidate race, L.A. County Assessor Rick Auerbach held a strong lead.

A nationally watched effort to stymie the living wage movement lost resoundingly in Santa Monica. In another key Santa Monica race, tough campaign finance limits on local politicians were headed for approval.

With several other hard-fought local races on the ballot in Los Angeles County, the most attention was on Measure A, the initiative to expand the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who opposed expansion, said the early returns were so lopsided that he felt comfortable declaring victory. "The voters rejected the power grab of special interests," he said.

"Obviously it will fail," conceded Alan Clayton of the County Chicano Employees Assn. The opposition, he added, "did an excellent job of getting their message out."

Proposals similar to Measure A have lost numerous times before, but this campaign effort was more organized than in the past. Legislators losing their jobs because of term limits and public employee unions that clashed with supervisors in recent labor negotiations joined with Latino leaders and other longtime advocates of enlarging the board.

The five county supervisors control a $15-billion budget and a bureaucracy larger than most state governments that provides health, welfare and child support to the region's nearly 10 million residents.

Because of the size of their districts and the expense of mounting a challenge in those areas, supervisors are virtually invulnerable at the polls. No elected incumbent has been defeated for 20 years and the three supervisors up for reelection last spring ran unopposed.

Democratic State Sen. Richard Polanco, who will be forced out of office by term limits in 2002 and is a possible candidate for any new supervisorial seat, spearheaded the campaign.

Supervisors Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Gloria Molina backed Measure A, but the rest of the board--Antonovich, Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky--opposed it, arguing that it would create chaos.

The campaign was quiet until the final weeks, when state legislators and unions poured more than $260,000 into a campaign to pass Measure A. The three opponents hit back with $150,000 in ads and numerous slate mailings, including one incorrectly implying that Gov. Gray Davis opposed the initiative.

In the southeastern city of South Gate, voters decided whether to reduce the city treasurer's salary by 90% and whether to recall City Councilman Bill De Witt amid allegations of overspending and corruption and against a backdrop of two lawsuits and an investigation by the district attorney.

Los Angeles city voters appeared to be approving a proposal to tax themselves an extra $33.60 a year to overhaul the city's outdated fire stations and animal shelters.

Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Feuer, co-chairman of the tax measure campaign, said, "This is an election that in so many ways is hard to call. I guess you can say we're keeping our paws crossed."

Proposition F called for issuing $532.6 million in bonds--to be paid back over the next 25 years--to replace 18 fire stations in areas throughout the city, build a new fire station in San Pedro and add a helicopter maintenance facility at the Van Nuys Airport. It also provided for replacing three animal shelters, building two new facilities and renovating three others.

Officials argued that without the new facilities, the city would be unable to adequately house and care for the thousands of animals that now end up in six overcrowded shelters each year. Officials also argued that the city's fire stations are not designed to house the number of firefighters and paramedics or equipment needed to respond to emergencies.

Opponents, however, said the city has not properly used money from past bond measures and that the tax increase would make it more difficult for the San Fernando Valley, the Harbor area and Hollywood to secede.

In the county's second-largest city, Long Beach voters were giving an early lead to controversial Measure J, which would cut the city's utility tax in half over five years.

Long Beach also saw an unusual second round of City Council voting as Dee Andrews ran again against Laura Richardson-Batts, who originally won the election in June by a mere six votes after a recount.

Pasadena had four initiatives on restructuring its school board:

Measure AA to increase the size of the school board from five members to seven, Measure BB to have board members elected from districts rather than at large, Measure CC to require the school board president to give an annual state-of-the-schools address, and Measure DD, an advisory referendum asking voters to support 48 recommendations to improve schools.

Early returns showed Burbank residents handing themselves veto power over the expansion of the Burbank Airport.

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