By Kristin Kjaero
October 20, 2014 (La Mesa) -- Don’t be fooled by Prop K. La Mesa voters have a term limits proposal for City Council on their ballots, but it’s unnecessary, undemocratic, and won’t work as advertised.
This election we'll have a majority with two years or less experience on our City Council. Yes, you read that correctly: no matter who wins, there will be two new people, plus a third half way through a first term - all without term limits in place.
And although it’s called the “three consecutive terms limit,” Prop K would actually allow candidates to run again after sitting out one 4-year cycle. The only thing it would limit is voters’ choices.
Proponents claim incumbent advantage makes it impossible for challengers to prevail, but history contradicts this:
- Since 2000 two challengers received the most votes the very first time they ran, and if it hadn’t been “vote for two” the incumbents would have been out.
- The largest single donation in City history –multiples larger- was from an out of town special interest to a challenger, and that candidate came in dead last in the race behind every other challenger as well.
- Incumbency can’t be blamed for the losses of several candidates with histories of bankruptcy, police called by multiple neighbors, and other legal difficulties that would be difficult to overcome no matter who they ran against.
Term limits do not ensure integrity. Prop K’s writers say they modeled it after state term limits, but since February four state senators have been indicted, leading to an arrest rate “more than double the statewide arrest rate and higher than the rate in any of California’s 25 largest cities.” (Sacramento Bee)
Term limits are not the answer to “career politicians,” in fact they have an opposite effect than intended. Studies have shown the turnover created by term limits causes a loss of institutional knowledge resulting in:
- inefficient government with a tendency to revisit the same issues;
- increased reliance on career staff;
- increased influence by special interests. (Center for Governmental Studies)
There is a hostility between City Council factions that runs in both directions, one side openly and the other in stealth posts on line, sometimes behind false identities. Term limits would not solve this and would only make the situation worse, as last term office holders would have no need to be responsive to the public or tone down rhetoric.
David King, director of Harvard’s program for Newly Elected Members of the U.S. Congress, stated, “The evidence after 20 years of this in state legislatures is crystal clear: term limits empower special interests, lobbyists and long-time staffers and they work against the interests of the American people.” (CNN)
There’s no crisis so drastic as to compel us to infringe on people’s voting rights. There’s nothing praiseworthy about taking away a voting majority’s opportunity to retain someone in office if they wish, in order to give one group of candidates a competitive advantage by banning others. It’s simply undemocratic.
To learn more, please visit No Term LImits in La Mesa.
The views in this editorial reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, email@example.com.