L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has served on the five-member… (Los Angeles Times )
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who's served on the five-member county board since 1980, is trying to persuade his colleagues to put a measure on November's ballot that would extend the number of four-year terms a supervisor can serve from three to five. L.A. County voters established supervisorial term limits by initiative in 2002. They weren't retroactive, so Antonovich's clock began to tick when he was reelected in 2004. Now, with time's winged chariot threatening to run him down in 2016, he wants voters to let him serve longer.
His colleague, Zev Yaroslavsky, has suggested that Antonovich modify his proposal so that it doesn't apply to currently serving supervisors (a rather selfless suggestion because Yaroslavsky will be termed out two years before Antonovich, in 2014). Antonovich has replied with an emphatic no. What he's proposing is a "keep Antonovich on the board" ballot measure.
As a rule, county supervisors don't get much press, and they get a free pass when they're up for reelection (Antonovich got nearly 80% of the vote in June). The five supervisorial districts are so huge (each has roughly 2 million residents), the costs of unseating an incumbent so high and the incumbents' ability to raise scads of money from people and firms wanting to do business with the county so decisive that they usually face token opposition. That makes the next couple of elections the first in recent history — if not recorded history — in which there could be genuine turnover on the board. But Antonovich, whose contributions to L.A.'s civic culture are probably too numerous and certainly too obscure to enumerate here, wants to hang around.
Problem is, voters have shown no inclination to extend term limits in this manner. So here's a solution that should make everybody happy: When Antonovich's final term is up in 2016, the county can place a plush couch in the lobby of the Hall of Administration to be reserved for Antonovich in perpetuity. There he could repose and, after he passes, with suitable treatment, rest in public view, much like Lenin. Term limits or no, he need never leave, and voters would have one less ballot measure to vote down this November.
Harold Meyerson is editor at large of the American Prospect and an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post.