Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is shown at a board meeting… (Los Angeles Times )
On Tuesday the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a ballot measure that would allow voters to extend the supervisors' term limits. It's a proposal that has many of the earmarks of the board's worst work: It's sneaky, misleading and stunningly self-serving.
Start with sneaky: The motion to allow the supervisors to place a measure on the November ballot will be considered by the board Tuesday, but it has received virtually no public comment or discussion. That's because Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who brought the motion, did not include it on the board's regular meeting agenda. Instead, it was added to the supplemental agenda late Friday. Word trickled out over the weekend, but opponents have barely managed to muster a response.
Then misleading: The ballot language that Antonovich is proposing would tell voters that the measure before them would "limit" supervisors to five consecutive terms of office, starting with December 2002. What it does not mention is that the supervisors already are limited to three terms in office, so this measure, far from imposing a new limit, in fact extends an existing one. The supervisors know that term limits are popular; rather than trying to convince voters that term limits are too restrictive, the supervisors would instead merely try to fool them.
And, finally, self-serving: If the supervisors genuinely believe the current limits are too constraining and that the county would be better served by elected officials staying in office longer, they could exempt themselves from these new rules, making them effective after the current limits drive this group from office. It would then be clear that their interests were institutional, not personal. Don't hold your breath. These new rules would specifically apply to the existing board, so its members would be the chief beneficiaries of their own proposal.
In the case of Antonovich, the results would be fairly dramatic. He would be eligible to serve five more terms dating from 2002. His first term after that date began in 2004, so he could, in theory, serve until 2024, wrapping up a career that began with his supervisorial election in 1980, meaning that he would have held office for 44 years. That's longer than Francisco Franco ruled Spain (39 years).
Antonovich on Monday defended his proposal by arguing that county voters, in these difficult times, deserve to be allowed to choose whomever they want to lead their government. He's got a point, but it's hard to escape the notion that he mainly has himself in mind.