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Few Focus on Charter Measure

Poll: O.C. voters are unaware of proposed change in filling supervisor vacancies.

November 26, 2001|JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Voters will be asked in March to approve a government charter for Orange County with the sole purpose of filling vacancies on the Board of Supervisors by special election rather than by gubernatorial appointment.

But residents, so far at least, have been slow to focus on the issue.

More than nine in 10 residents responding to a recent poll by Cal State Fullerton were unaware that they would be voting on a county charter in March. When told about it by pollsters, eight in 10 were inclined to support it, based on the ability to elect supervisorial replacements, according to the survey.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who proposed the measure earlier this year, drafted the charter so that the only thing it would change is the way supervisors are appointed.

Spitzer's agenda is clear: He wants to be elected as the county's next Republican Assembly member next year. If successful, he would leave two years shy of his four-year county term. Under state law, Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, would appoint his replacement.

The charter measure was embraced by the county Republican Party, whose leaders asked Spitzer to reconsider his Assembly campaign if Davis could choose a successor. Orange County hasn't had a Democratic supervisor in 15 years.

Spitzer said the issue goes beyond partisanship. Local voters should choose those who represent them, he said, not a governor more familiar with Sacramento than San Clemente.

Orange County is California's largest "general law" county, meaning that it takes its basic laws from state legislation and codes. By establishing a charter, the county gains more flexibility in deciding how its government is run, such as filling supervisor vacancies and deciding how many supervisors there should be.

Democratic Party officials said they will argue that creating a charter is an unnecessary layer of government for one politician's ambition. Once established, the charter could be amended any time that enough voter signatures were collected to place something on the ballot.

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