READER’S EDITORIAL: TERM LIMITS A BAD DEAL FOR LA MESA

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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, contacteditor@eastcountymagazine.org.

 

Comments

Institutional Knowledge In La Mesa?

Maybe at a Congressional or even State level (which I am sure your studies reference) a loss of "institutional knowledge" may be slightly detrimental (or not, depending on you outlook of Congress). But, we are talking about La Mesa, there isn't a steep learning curve. As the newest member of the Council, it took me all of two weeks to get a handle on the responsibilities, I had already thoroughly educated myself on the issues. Given the responses in public forums of the current candidates, I think they have too. Let's be realistic, with a strong City Manager form of government, "institutional knowledge" is neither necessary nor a pre-requisite to effective service. Regarding the remainder of your arguments. Take a look at www.lamesatermlimits.com and you can read the refutation of the same. YES ON K - RESTORE GOVERNMENT TO THE PEOPLE. Kristine C. Alessio, Member, La Mesa City Council

Your Institutional Knowledge

OK You may be correct! Ok we will see how good you & the Council react regarding Institutional Knowledge when you get around to addressing the Helix Band Metronome noise level AGAIN. You should have handled it right on the spot! Time will tell on this what you appear to find as a very minor issue and the Institutional Knowledge surrounding this issue.

Institutional Knowledge

If you follow the Council meetings closely, you know that we are legally barred from taking actions on items presented in public comment at the time of the presentation. That is because we need to afford all sides the right to a fair hearing on the matter at hand. As much as you and others would like us to take action "on the spot" on many issues, we cannot. The item was handled properly. Adherence to the law can slow down the process of resolving problems that face our constituents, and yes it can be frustrating to not get immediate action, but I think the benefit of fairness to all parties outweighs the cost of not taking immediate action on public comment issues. Kristine C. Alessio, Member La Mesa City Council

And what is "Institutional

And what is "Institutional knowledge?" Thomas Sowell's characterization is dead-on: "As for the loss of experience and expertise if there were no career politicians, much — if not most — of that is experience and expertise in the arts of evasion, effrontery, deceit and chicanery. None of that serves the interest of the people." Yes.