By Miriam Raftery
July 13, 2009 (San Diego) – San Diego County employees today held a press conference at the San Diego County Administration Center to announce a ballot initiative that would impose term limits for the San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors. Margaret Johnson, a long-term County employee, filed an initiative with the San Diego Registrar of Voters that if approved by voters, would limit Supervisors to two four-year terms.
"The same politicians have run San Diego County for years, but they have failed to address the pressing issues facing our County,” Johnson said. “These career politicians have become so entrenched with special projects that they are routinely reelected, even though they’ve lost touch with the needs of all the people of San Diego County. In fact, no incumbent Supervisor in San Diego County has lost a re-election bid in over a decade.”
Service Employees International Union Local 221, the union that represents San Diego County employees, supports the term limits initiative. “We need new leaders with new ideas to improve the quality of life in San Diego County – leaders who are not focused on their own issues and benefits,” SEIU Local 221 president Sharon-Frances Moore said at the press conference.
But Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has represented East County for more than 20 years and currently chairs the Board of Supervisors, has a different perspective which she shared with East County Magazine.
“Term limits reflect the philosophy that voters are too stupid to decide for themselves when to turn an underperforming official out of office,” she said. “The hapless and ineffective California Legislature is a prime example of the terrible consequences of term limits.”
Laura Cyphert, head of the East County Community Action Coalition, agreed. "I believe that we, as Americans, should have the freedom of choice to elect those candidates whom we believe are most qualified" she said. "I do not agree with the concept of "forced choice" for our so-called own good." Jacob shares the coalition's opposition to Sunrise Powerlink and has been a vocal spokesperson against the project.
But Carl Meyer, who led a successful recall effort against Potrero planners over Blackwater's plan to build a private military base in Potrero, supports the initiative. "It's telling that the County's own employees are so fed up with lobbyist deals behind closed doors--land use development that benefits sprawl developer interest versus the communities' interest," he observed.
Steve Rivera, regional director for the state Democratic Party, said of the proposed initiative, "It's a good idea. The non-responsiveness of the board to the public and their own actions have created the conditions that made the filing of this initiative all but inevitable." All five Supervisors are Republicans, though the County now has a majority Democratic registration.
After the Registrar processes the initiative, petition gatherers will have 180 days to obtain 77,537 valid signatures in order to qualify the initiative for the June 2010 ballot.
A similar effort six years ago resulted in approximately 22,000 signatures but failed to qualify for the ballot. That effort was led by medical marijuana advocates and Cedar Fire survivor Rudy Reyes, who later ran for Supervisor against Jacob.
Reyes said he fears Supervisors will hand-pick their own replacements if term limits are not opposed. "Retire, implace a lacky, no change!" said Reyes, who added that he plans to run again for Supervisor in 2012.