El Dorado County supervisor term increase heads to ballot
EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. — Between cannabis, the transient occupancy tax and more, El Dorado County voters will consider several local ballot measures this November.
The county Board of Supervisors added another on July 24: whether supervisors should be able to serve three consecutive terms versus two.
The decision passed with a 3-2 vote, with District 2 Supervisor Shiva Frentzen and District 4 Supervisor Michael Ranalli opposing the ballot language.
Currently, supervisors are allowed to run for two consecutive four-year terms. To run again, he or she must sit out four years from the end of the second term. The question of whether term limits should be adjusted arose after a June 2016 recommendation from the county’s grand jury, which suggested supervisors’ term limits should be eliminated.
Should the ballot measure pass in November, it would add the possibility of a third consecutive term before a given supervisor would have to sit out an election.
Citing concerns over “career politicians” Frentzen proposed a 12-year cap overall on supervisors’ terms in a motion that ultimately failed.
While the ballot measure does not seek to add a hard cap, District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl pointed out the board’s action did somewhat help to prevent career politicians because it still provided a limit, compared to the grand jury’s original suggestion.
In August 2016, after the grand jury released its findings, the board appointed a Charter Review Committee to come up with a term-of-office amendment.
Ranalli took issue with the ballot language as written because it did not exclude sitting board members from the option for a third term. In order for voters to seriously consider passing the measure, Ranalli felt it needed to be clear the board’s vote was not a “power grab.”
County counsel Michael Ciccozzi warned this could present some legal challenges down the road, since changes to board of supervisors’ term limits cannot be applied retroactively in California, he said.
“Can it be done? Yes. Is there a (potential legal issue) with it? Yes,” Ciccozzi said Tuesday.
In theory, the legal challenge would have to come from one of the sitting board members, Ranalli pointed out at the meeting, asking for a “pinky swear” from other members to avoid such action. But like Frentzen’s suggestion, this was eventually left off the table, as the county has until Aug. 10 to submit ballot language to the county Elections Office and has no additional board meetings before that point.
District 3 Supervisor Brian Veerkamp preferred leaving the ballot language as it was, saying it was up to voters to decide whether they wanted to pass it or not, regardless of whether it applied to the five sitting members.
Noting the item’s small audience and lack of public comment, Veerkamp said, “I don’t see a room full of people here telling us what to do.”
On Wednesday, Ranalli clarified his no vote on the item, saying he felt a more fair and less biased question could have been asked of voters.
Ranalli did point out having longer term limits in the future may provide more continuity among county staff, other elected officials and statewide agencies. In El Dorado County, elected officials such as the auditor-controller and the recorder-clerk have no term limits.
“These other elected officials have been in for decades, while you consistently have new supervisors just getting to know the job,” Ranalli said.
The potential for 12 straight years at the dias could also encourage younger county residents to run for supervisor. Ranalli, 60, said someone in their 40s could feel inspired to run, envisioning actual change to be made in the county.
“Honestly, making a difference in four years at the pace of government, given the changes of people on our board … it’s hard,” he said.