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.”