Over 20 Rotary Club of San Bernardino members gathered via Zoom videoconference on Tuesday, Oct. 13, to discuss county Measure J that would revise the San Bernardino County charter regarding supervisor terms, salaries and appointments.
Second District County Supervisor Janice Rutherford spoke to members on what Measure J would do if passed by the voters.
Rutherford said that the charter was written in 1913 and has been amended several times since.
The Board of Supervisors decided to look at rewriting the charter after the vacancy of the District 3 seat back in 2018 after-then Supervisor James Ramos was elected to the state assembly. They appointed Supervisor Dawn Rowe, which was then challenged by I.E. United who accused the board of violating the Brown Act.
The challenge, as of Oct. 15, is still being fought in the California Supreme Court.
Rutherford said Measure J would allow the Board of Supervisors to call either for a special election or an appointment within 60 days of a vacancy. It would also remove the governor’s role in the process of appointing a replacement.
There also would be a change in salaries that would require a supervisor’s salary to be set at 80 percent of a comparable superior court judge with benefits equal to county department heads. Currently, the supervisor salaries are automatically set every four years at the average rate of supervisors, while neighboring Riverside and Orange counties are 80 percent and San Diego County is 90 percent of the pay of superior court judge.
Term limits would also be set at three four-year terms.
Another change would be to update the language regarding the “existence of women.” Rutherford reminded members that back in 1913 women could not vote, let alone serve in a leadership position.
The measure would also change the outdated practice that the chairman of the board is present in his office during business hours to sign any and all documents, Rutherford said.
“This doesn’t fit the modern way of doing life.”
She said that the county has a professional staff that is there to take care of any filings and would like to update the charter to reflect that.
Rutherford said the measure would also remove any outdated state requirements “on how counties are to do budgeting and organize their finances,” along with how to run the court system, which is now run by the state.
The current charter also has the swearing-in of new board members in December of the year that they were elected. This part of the charter differs from the state's requirement that election is certified 30 days after an election. Measure J would move the swearing-in date to January of the next year, the same time other officials get sworn in.
The public health officer will also be required to appear before the board of supervisors in 30 days or less when issuing a general health order to update the board on the order and answer questions from board members.
Other items on Measure J include a citizens redistricting commission that assist in the redistricting process, an emergency stockpile that would be used in a natural disaster or pandemic to name a few.
A citizens initiative group in Palm Desert put an opposing Measure K on the ballot that would reduce a board member's salary to $5,000 a month and the members would only be allowed to serve one four-year term.
If both measures pass with majority support, the aforementioned items in Measure K will override the Measure J items.