Term limits to the rescue?
December 13, 2013 by Cheryl Getuiza
(photo credit: timlewisnm)
I don’t think many people would disagree that change is good. But, often times for some, change is hard to adjust to.
Council members, in the city of La Mesa, near San Diego, may soon have to readjust to some new rules if a citizens group is successful in putting a term limits initiative on the ballot.
“Term limits are checks and balances against any one person amassing too much political power,” said Bill Baber, an attorney working on behalf of proponents, the La Mesa Term Limits Committee. Baber is also an elected member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District School Board. “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.”
The proposal is to put in place a term limit of three consecutive four-year terms as either mayor or city councilmember. After three consecutive terms in either position, the incumbent would have to wait four years before becoming eligible for to run for office again.
La Mesa councilmember Kristine Alessio is heading the effort.
“In La Mesa, specifically, we have an exceptionally low turnover in elected officials due to the incumbency advantage,” said La Mesa councilwoman Kristine Alessio. “This is not healthy for our City. Fresh ideas are needed, fresh faces.”
Right now the group is collecting signatures for a voter referendum on whether to adopt the term limits.
“We need 3,306 valid signatures by May 14th. We are getting a very good response from the voters. We are confident we will have enough valid signatures to turn in before May 14th,” said Baber.
Voters already sounded off on this same issue with the county Board of Supervisors. In June 2010, voters approved Proposition B which imposed term limits on the Supervisors.
“My job as an elected official is to listen to my constituents and I did just that with the term limit proposal. This was not my idea, but an idea promoted by La Mesans. I believe that the people of La Mesa should have the choice to vote on whether or not they have term limits for their elected officials,” said Alessio. “I would have preferred that the City Council place this on the ballot so as to save money for the City (the City must pay to verify the signatures). However, as the majority of the Council on a 3-2 vote, chose not to, I am supporting the petition drive in order to get this very important issue to the people for their decision.”
Why are term limits beneficial?
“Term limits will lead to a more diverse city council and they are an insurance policy against the dangers of career politicians. Incumbents enjoy unfair electoral advantages over challengers. Term limits opens the playing field so other talented resident of La Mesa may participate in running our city,” said Baber.
“Those who are in elected office forget about the everyday citizen and their needs, they become divorced from the reality and the challenges ordinary people face. They fall prey to the power and influence of office which in turn leads to the potential for corruption,” said the councilwoman.
If approved, La Mesa would be following in the footsteps of nearby cities like San Diego, Chula Vista, National City and San Marcos. The first terms to be limited will start after the November 2014 election. This means no incumbent will be “termed out” until at least 2026.
If term limits are good enough for the President of the United States and the California Governor, it has to be good for La Mesa right?