TERM LIMITS TACTICS TAKE NEGATIVE TURN IN LA MESA

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Hear our radio interview with term limits advocates Craig Maxwell and La Mesa Vice Mayor Kristine Alessio: http://kiwi6.com/file/257ktyze5y

By Miriam Raftery

April 12, 2014 (La Mesa) – An ad sent in a mailer to La Mesa residents by the La Mesa Term Limits Committee is sparking controversy.  The ad, topped by a no career politicians message, has two photos of convicted former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner – one in 1979, labeled “idealistic, committed, zeal of a new recruit” and the second in 2013 labeled “corrupt, drunk on power, self serving.”  The ad then admonishes voters to “keep all our reps honest with term limits.”

“How could the innuendo in this not be profoundly offensive to the current La Mesa City Council?” asks Anthony McIvor, a La Mesa resident, who calls the mailer a “regrettable smear” piece.

Craig Maxwell,  a backer of the term limits measure, says supporters wanted to chose a “symbol of a government employee or politician gone wrong who would resonate in the La Mesa area.” He concedes that Filner has “nothing to do with La Mesa” but claims there are “similarities” between Filner and long-serving  La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid.

Maxwell previously ran against the Mayor and has been a vocal critic of Mayor Madrid, as has Council member Kristine Alessio, whose family provided most of the financial backing for the term limits measure.  Indeed, the measure would be unlikely to affect Madrid, since even if it passes, current council members and the Mayor would be able to serve for 12 more years—which would put Madrid into his 90s. 

However, numerous La Mesa residents have reported that the term limits campaign’s paid petition gatherers have approached them outside local stores and stated that the mayor has been in office too long.  Asked about the tactic, Alessio said the campaign has asked petition gatherers to stop and insists this is “not about the Mayor.”

If the measure qualifies for the November ballot, voters will determine whether or not it passes.

Supporters argue that term limits were supported by Thomas Jefferson as a means of assuring that elected officials return to being “the governed” instead of being career politicians.

Others point out that while the Founders did vigorously debate the wisdom of limited terms, the consensus they reached was to avoid the imposition of arbitrary limits, leaving it to the voters to select their representatives through open elections. For national office, their decision still stands, save for the presidency which was not modified until 1951 by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Advocates claim term limits would reduce corruption and politicians who simply stop listened to those they are supposed to represent.  However term limits in the state Legislature has done nothing to prevent three state Senators from being indicted for crimes very recently, including charges of corruption, conspiracy, and gun smuggling.

 La Mesa’s measure would not bar officials from office permanently, but after 12 years on council, as mayor or a combination of these, the official would have to step down for four years. After that,  an official could run again.

Would term limits lessen or increase special interest influence on elections? In recent years, money spent on elections has been on the rise in La Mesa.

“Term limits are a method of election reform,” said Alessio, who notes that with money and name recognition, a hurdle is imposed that is hard for challengers to overcome.

On the other hand,  ousting a popular incumbent could open the door for special interests to spend big and place a candidate into office.

Mayor Madrid has stated, “We already have term limits. They’re called `elections.’”

McIvor objects to having citizens rights to return incumbents to office curtailed.  “Term limits is nothing less than a sly way of imposing limits on voters,” he concludes, “on the condescending presumption that the poor souls do not know what is good for them.”

Comments

The signatures have been

The signatures have been tallied. Term limits will be on the ballot. Thank you La Mesa! http://www.lamesatermlimits.com/

Mr. McIvor -- As with every

Mr. McIvor -- As with every ballot initiative, levels of sophistication and teaching ability vary greatly among signature gatherers, but to suggest as you do that ours should have differed in this respect--that we should have insured that everyone in the field was fully conversant with the subject, and willing to engage prospective signers at the drop of a hat in a Socratic cross-examination--well, that is, of course, quite unreasonable, and only serves to emphasize your a priori, anti-term limits prejudice. Those who defend the political status quo and the vast campaign advantages it guarantees incumbents may argue their case, but they do themselves no favor by claiming that voters are too dumb to understand the meaning of term limits. As I wrote below: " For reasons that are obvious to anyone with common sense, career politicians are a bad idea. Far from being "sly," this proposal is very up-front. No "innuendo" involved. Voters are as familiar with term limits as they are the bad habits of long term politicians, and the only "condescending presumption" involved lies with those who wish leave this decision with the politicians and out of the hands of conscientious citizens where it belongs." »

Why Won't Term Limits Advocates Face The Real Issue?

Mr. Maxwell - Your comment is a clever sleight of hand that amply demonstrates why term limits advocates deserve to be called sly and less-than-upfront. To start, your take on goals is simply wrong. No one is trying to deny the public the opportunity to vote on whether or not to impose term limits on La Mesa's electorate. Rather, term limits skeptics hope to ensure that voters understand the impact such an ordinance will have on their freedom of choice. The advocates are doing next to nothing to help them with that. For example, do your paid volunteers disclose to the citizens they solicit for signatures that the proposed term limits regulation will require citizens to surrender their right to vote for incumbents after a given period in office, even if they believe that the incumbent is the best choice, and that their freedom to vote will be limited in that way for as long as the regulation is in force? Not in my experience. And I wonder why not. Why not explain to people that the real issue with term limits is the citizen's loss of freedom? If the term limits ordinance qualifies for the ballot and if the public votes to approve it, then the voters will indeed have chosen it. But what they will have chosen, by removing a whole class of candidates from consideration, is to restrict their freedom of choice. To call this "extending" their choice is a demeaning bit of sophistry.

Mr. McIvor, Once again: Our

Mr. McIvor, Once again: Our goal is to give the public a chance to vote either FOR or AGAINST term limits. Your goal--the goal of those who oppose term limits--is to PREVENT them from having this choice. This much SHOULD be clear: If the term limits initiative wins in November--an outcome that we believe is highly likely due to the overwhelming success they've had all over the country--it will be because the PEOPLE themselves--the voters!--have chosen it. Therefore, far from restricting restricting choice, the term limits initiative is actually about extending it.

FAQS re La Mesa Term Limits

Q: What is the "Three Consecutive Terms Limit" ordinance? A: It is a citizen initiative that will limit La Mesa Mayors and Councilmembers to three consecutive terms in office. Anyone who is "termed out" under this rule must wait four years before returning to office. The twelve years can be in any combination of years as Mayor or Councilmember. The law applies prospectively, so the first terms limited by the law will start after the November 2014 election. Q: Legally, what exactly is a term limit? A: It is a minimum qualification to hold office as an elected official, like a minimum age or residency qualification. Q: What are the benefits of term limits? It will lead to a more diverse city council. It will allow young people with fresh ideas an opportunity to govern our city. It prevents any one politician from amassing too much power over our lives. Q: Where else do they have term limits? A: We have term limits for our President and Governor - why not our Mayor? We have term limits for our state legislators and county supervisors - why not for our City Council? The cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, National City, and San Marcos have term limits. Q: Why are term limits needed? What is the problem? A: Term limits are checks and balances against any one person amassing too much political power. Humans with power get greedy - this law will block that selfish instinct. We believe politicians do not improve with age like wine, they are more like milk, they start healthy and refreshing, but after too much time, they turn sour.

Term Limit Controversy????

If this ad is such a controversy, why aren't all the major newspapers, TV stations and other online publications bringing it up? Sounds like the only controversy is the fact Mr. McIvor doesn't like the self inferred reference of Filner to Madrid (not a bad reference). As everyone who has ever been approached by a "paid" petition gatherer on any matter, they often don't get the story right or the talking points correct even though the information has been disseminated to the hiring company correctly. However, anyone who has been approached by the volunteer petition gathers have been treated politely with no pressure to sign and the petition measure accurately explained and yes, it does not affect Mayor Madrid, especially since he said this is his last run. Interesting the politicians won't put term limits on the ballot so the PEOPLE can decide if they want them. Isn't that the democratic way, the people get to vote? Obviously, they are afraid the public will vote for them and term them out of office. Twelve years as a part time council person and/or part time Mayor is plenty of time to serve your community and if you really feel the need, come back for another 12 years after taking 4 years off. Being able to serve a possible 24 out of 28 years should satisfy most critics, even Mr. McIvor.

Anthony McIvor's response to Dave Smyle

Note: Anthony is having trouble logging in to his account, so asked us to post his response:

 

Mr. Smyle – You are well wide of the mark if you believe no one else found your mailer to be a repugnant slur on all (your word and your underscore) elected representatives in La Mesa. It is a mistake to “infer” a reference to Mayor Madrid, as only you did. The text is quite clear. It calls the honesty of “all our representatives” into question.

This is innuendo of the lowest sort and it should be roundly repudiated. Why do you dodge the larger issue which is whether such disreputable tactics have any place in La Mesa’s civic dialogue? Folks are fed up with political trash talk. It is controversial. ECM is to be commended for raising that point.

The democratic way? Many La Mesans were appalled at the spectacle of the Council being exhorted to take the lead on term limits. When did it become a good idea for government officials to promote efforts to curtail the citizens’ right to vote their consciences? The Council wisely demurred, leaving matters of the franchise to the public they serve.

It is most certainly not “the job” of elected officials to sponsor restrictions on our fundamental freedom to select our representatives. If that is the view of your Group, you hold a very feeble interpretation of democracy.

Dave - re the other media and the term limits ad,

I don't know if other media was aware of the ad or not. We had multiple sources send it to us and ask us to run something on this, so we did. I really can't speak to why other media did or didn't cover this or many other issues that tend to get ignored by the major media in our region. Anyhow we're not taking sides, we've run several prior stories on term limits plus interviews with both advocates of the measure and the Mayor who opposes.

A Cure, Not A Cure-All

Great article Miriam, but I must take issue with the charge that term limits were unsuccessful in preventing the personal venality exhibited by the three state officials you mention. As you yourself note, proponents never claimed that term limits would be a panacea, but rather would lead to a reduction of corrupt officeholders. Given that the 2 most egregious offenders in your example, Senators Calderón and Yee, will be termed out of office this year, surely you would agree that argument is incontrovertible on its face.

Anthony's response to bill Jaynes

Note: Anthony is having trouble logging into his account so asked us to post his reply.

 

Mr. Jaynes – What is incontrovertible is just the reverse – Ms Raftery had it right. Term limits had nothing whatsoever to do with the arrest of the senators now under indictment.  That job fell – as it should – to law enforcement. Venal public officials will misbehave according to their consciences and circumstances. Term limits clearly has no bearing on that – save perhaps to accelerate the corruption of those about to be termed out.  Instead, it perversely imposes a heavy penalty on the voters.  

The answer to political corruption is better candidates and stronger accountability. 

 Let’s just punish the bad guys, not the voters.

 

 

Bill-

Who knows if Yee and Calderon would have been so corrupt if they weren't being termed out. Maybe they would have and this just got rid of bad apples. Or maybe they decided to take what they could before they were termed out. I don't read minds, so have no clue. My point was that term limits didn't stop corruption, it can only limit how long both good and bad officials remain in office.

La Mesa Term Limits

Thank you Miriam for republishing the advertisement. We who propose this measure know very well there are good arguments to be made both ways. It is interesting, I think, that citizens who have become career politicians so vocally oppose term limits. There must be something in the waters of government offices that emboldens them to believe they alone have the super powers to solve what they claim as the worlds ills through their ever-wiser legislative prowess. In truth, statistics show convincingly that incumbents of both major political party's enjoy such an overwhelming name recognition advantage that no challenger, regardless of qualifications, stands a realistic chance to win. The low approval ratings of politicians of every stripe, and the very high re-elections rate of incumbents demonstrate this very well. Our proposal will just require a cooling off period of 4 years for 28 years in local office. We simply invite La Mesa voters to read the proposed measure and decide for themselves. THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE Section 2. Chapter 2.14 – Three Consecutive Terms Limit Ordinance 2.14.010 No person shall serve more than three consecutive terms of office as a member of the city council, or as mayor, or any combination of terms thereof. 2.14.011 Any person who has served three consecutive terms as a member of the city council, or as mayor, or any combination of terms thereof, shall not be eligible to serve again until the expiration of at least four years. 2.14.012 Any person who is elected or appointed to an unexpired term as a member of the city council, or as mayor, who serves more than one-half of a full term of office shall be deemed to have served a full term. 2.14.013 Any member of the city council, or mayor, who resigns or is removed from office during a term shall be deemed to have served a full term. 2.14.014 The three consecutive terms limit established by this chapter shall apply prospectively only to those terms of office which commence on or after November 4, 2014. 2.14.015 If any part of this chapter is held by a court of law of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the remaining parts of this chapter shall remain in full force and effect. 2.14.016 This chapter shall not be amended or repealed except by a majority vote of the voters of the City of La Mesa at a regularly scheduled election.

Anthony McIvor's response to Scott Kidwell

Note: Anthony is having trouble logging in so asked us to post his reply.

 

Mr. Kidwell – Your regulatory proposal is projected to take effect 12 years from now. So it could hardly be urgent.  Further, as your colleagues frequently point out, the terms of the proposal allow for career politicians to serve 24 out of 28 years. Is such a toothless ordinance even necessary?  Why does your ad hoc Committee seek to add to the regulatory burden already weighing heavily on our citizens and businesses? Why should La Mesa spend scarce public resources considering and implementing yet more paternalistic restrictions on our basic freedoms? This can’t be fiscally responsible – surely there is a better way.    

Well meaning people may disagree

Thanks for your engagement Anthony. We have not claimed thoughtful and well meaning people may not agree with our proposal. We expect your views will find favor with some, if not many, voters. Still, we believe our approach is reasonable and we hope a majority of the voters will agree. The La Mesa City Council had the opportunity to engage the local citizenry through extensive discussions and instead a majority decided it was best to have proponents seek this measure gain enough grassroots support to go to the voters through the more expensive to the city initiative process. Of course, you need not sign the petition and you may discourage others from doing so by your reasoning and characterization of the measure. Thanks for engaging and sharing your views that others may consider them. Public discussion is a good thing.

Given the numerous,

Given the numerous, disgraceful antics of many local politicians (very much including, but by no means limited to, men like Madrid and Filner) even the driest, most dispassionate account of their actions is bound to seem "negative." Politicians judge themselves through their words and actions. They don't need any help from us. Art Madrid claims that cities without term limits are the same as cities that do have them. But, for two reasons, this is hardly surprising: 1)Logic has never been the mayor's long suit; and, 2) The overwhelming majority of politicians oppose term limits, a fact that should speak volumes. Giving the public the right to choose: that's the only thing the term limits initiative is about. Until now, it's the politicians who've had that choice--they've been the only one's to say how much time they spend in office!--whether it be one term or an entire lifetime. We think that's wrong, and so do the vast majority of citizens who have voted "yes" for term limits all over the nation. For reasons that are obvious to anyone with common sense, career politicians are a bad idea. Far from being "sly," this proposal is very up-front. No "innuendo" involved. Voters are as familiar with term limits as they are the bad habits of long term politicians, and the only "condescending presumption" involved lies with those who wish leave this decision with the politicians and out of the hands of conscientious citizens where it belongs.

Anthony McIver's response to Craig Maxwell

Note: Anthony is having trouble logging in, so asked us to post his reply.

 

Mr. Maxwell – Actually you’ve got it backwards. The only thing that the term limits initiative is about is restricting the public’s right to choose. The sooner your Committee is up-front about that, the sooner the city can have an honest dialogue on your proposal.

As for the notion that the politicians “have been the only ones to say how much time they spend in office,” that will come as a surprise to La Mesa voters – who, had they only known, could have saved much time and money. The revelation will be of equal interest and utility to our politicians – who can now save themselves the trouble to win voters over. It’s quite an insight: no more community outreach, no more constituent services, no more honorary appearances, no more patiently listening to voter grievances, no more advocacy on their behalf, no more etc, etc. A real game changer – were it true.