The union representing county employees announced today that it plans to push a ballot initiative forward next year that would limit county supervisors to two elected four-year terms.

The five-member Board of Supervisors — Ron Roberts, Greg Cox, Bill Horn, Pam Slater-Price and Dianne Jacob — has been intact since 1995.

From our 2006 story about the supervisors’ longevity:

Only one of the five supervisors has been forced past the primary since they took control more than a decade ago.

They don’t just beat their opponents; typically they obliterate them. More often than not, the “supes” — as they’re known around the county’s bayfront headquarters — face token challengers in the primary or run completely unopposed.

In a press release, the Service Employees International Union Local 221 said they’re pushing the initiative because:

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors have lost touch with the needs of average San Diego residents and have become entrenched in their positions. Despite the worsening economy and uncertainty due to the state budget, County Supervisors refuse to limit their own perks and benefits. Supervisors refuse to limit these benefits even as they consider more layoffs and privatization of County work. It is time for a change.

The supervisors’ perks have long given fuel to critics. The supervisors have continued handing out taxpayer grants to community groups despite making budget cuts and layoffs. As they have cut county services, the supervisors have maintained a grant program to give money to local nonprofits. The program has been criticized as a multi-million-dollar tool to reward campaign donors and curry political favor.

From a January story about the program:

Since November, Cox and his fellow supervisors have handed out $1.5 million in grants. They sent $300,000 to fund a Verdi opera, $16,000 to build batting cages and $3,497 to pay for a holiday dog festival.

The county government, like all local municipalities, is tightening its belt because of the economic downturn. While some supervisors have signaled they may consider the program’s fate next year, they continue awarding the grants, which they describe as coming from surplus revenue. The county currently has a $50 million shortfall in its current budget and expects to have another $50 million shortfall in the next one.

The Union-Tribune’s Jeff McDonald has also contrasted the county’s cuts with its grant-giving in a recent story. He wrote:

Last month, in the same chamber where the nonprofits gathered last week to seek grant money, county employees pleaded with the supervisors not to lay them off.

“Please find ways to cut costs at the top of the organization,” Claudia Espitia, a single mother who processes documents in the assessor’s office, told the board. “We need our jobs just as much as the public needs our services.”

The union is holding a noon press conference to formally announce its push.


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