Los Angeles County supervisors narrowly rejected a measure Tuesday that would have asked voters to consider extending term limits so members could serve an additional eight years.
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who has been in office since 1980, introduced a motion last week that would have enabled voters to decide in November if supervisors could serve five consecutive terms. A decade ago, 64% of voters approved a measure that limited supervisors to three terms from then on.
Antonovich said he believes that voters have the right to decide who they want to represent them and that the current board, which has four longtime supervisors who will not be allowed to seek reelection, is in the best position to lead the county through tough economic times.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is expected to announce soon whether he will run for mayor of L.A., criticized Antonovich's action as self-serving and confusing. Yaroslavsky made a motion to exclude the four supervisors who will soon be forced from the ballot measure.
"I think 11 terms is enough, more than enough," he said, without identifying Antonovich as the only supervisor who could possibly achieve that mark if voters were to approve the measure.
"I think the notion that we are the only five people in Los Angeles County who are qualified to be stewards on this county going forward is selling the people of Los Angeles County short," Yaroslavsky said.
Antonovich accused Yaroslavsky, who has said he is not generally in favor of term limits, of caving to media criticism, including editorials in The Times that called for excluding sitting supervisors from the proposed term extensions.
"I'd rather work with my colleagues with the experience we have here and go before the voters ... instead of following editorials that don't always lead to progress," Antonovich said.
Antonovich also said he was unsure if he would seek another term even if the measure had passed.
"No one is saying they are running for reelection," he said.
The only current supervisor who has not already served at least three terms isMark Ridley-Thomas. Yaroslavsky offered an amendment that would have allowed only Ridley-Thomas to seek extra time, but the amendment failed for lack of a second.
After supervisors approved a wording change to underscore that Antonovich's proposal was to lengthen existing term limits rather than set limits for the first time, the group finally voted on the measure.
Antonovich and Supervisor Don Knabe voted yes, and Yaroslavsky voted no. It failed, however, because at least three yes votes were needed and Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Gloria Molina abstained.
Molina declined to say why she did not take part.
Ridley-Thomas said: "The topic of term limits doesn't particularly excite me.... I chose not to engage on the subject." He said he was more concerned with providing services to county residents.
After the meeting, a spokesman for Yaroslavsky said the supervisor's vote should not be interpreted as any signal that he has indeed decided to run for mayor.