Term Limits – Yes Or No?

NOPARKING-1Term limits restricting the number of successive terms of office that may be served by elected officials has always been a controversial issue.

Brea has never had term limits and I, along with a growing number of others apparently, believe it’s time to put it to a vote.

The almost perpetual reelection of career politicians prevents the rise of new voices in government. By instituting term limits, the problems of the status quo can be solved, and more responsible, accountable candidates and Council members may arise.

Here are arguments in favor of term limits that, IMHO, make a lot of sense to me.

Term limits restore rotation in office and government by the people.

It is unfortunate that politics has become an accepted career path. It is better that participation in government be brief. Term limits will put an end to municipal politics becoming a cushy “lifetime” job, making elected service more a limited leave of absence from a productive career in the private sector.

Without term limits, the temptation to remain in office for decades keeps people seeking reelection long after they have accomplished all the legislative good of which they are capable. It does not take long for legislators to become more occupied with their relationships with each other and with lobbyists, than with their constituents. They pass their “use by” date.

Local government works best when it functions as a citizen council, in which people who pursue careers other than politics enter office for a brief time to do their community service, and then leave to reenter society as private citizens. The typical agenda of today’s career politicians is only to build their own power and influence base ahead of representing the people they were elected to serve.

Term limits make for better elections and empower new leaders and ideas.

Incumbency provides a huge electoral advantage. Sitting politicians, unlike poor Mr. Murdock, almost always win reelection. Over the past 30 years it had become virtually impossible to unseat an incumbent until the grassroots effort of Operation Clean Sweep lit up Brea ballot boxes.

People have a tendency to vote for people they recognize. Donors and special interest groups (in the past I’ve referred to them as the old guard) tend to support past winners who will likely continue to benefit their interests. Term limits actually increase voter choice by making elections more competitive and encouraging more candidates to run.

In communities where term limits have been instituted there is far higher turnover amongst elected officials, giving voters more choice in who should represent them. Ultimately, long term council members using political machines to retain power do their community and constituents a disservice. Power is best used when it changes hands over time in order to allow for dynamic new solutions.

Term limits prevent corruption and exploitation of office.

FINGERS-LWith a few exceptions like Koreagate and the Energy Coalition, Brea has been blessed with a history of well intentioned and ethical leaders. One only need to think of the City of Industry and Bell to realize the magnitude of the risk.

Sure, we’ve seen behavior that danced perilously close to the edge of the Brown Act. Local politics have always been a bit rough and tumble… and personality clashes are unfortunately more commonplace than one would prefer.

That said, when a career politician is firmly entrenched, they may seek to enrich themself at the expense of the public, to shower unearned perks upon family and allies in order to maintain and strengthen their powerful position.

Term limits serve to limit the ability of individuals to put forward self-serving legislation and to retain power indefinitely. Instead, with term limits, elected officials have only a limited time in power, which tends to shift their focus toward genuinely benefiting the public.

Term limits trigger action over apathy.

A major focus of any elected official hoping to serve another term is on the next election and on vote-getting. It is often the case that hard decisions need to be made but it is difficult for them to do so when they are fixated on being reelected. Elected officials have an incentive to put tough decisions off if they can retain power by doing so.

An example of such seemingly perpetual procrastination (climbing on my soapbox for a moment) is the interminable delays in allowing public comment on the creation of an Environmental Advisory Board.

For almost a year Council has been asked to hold a town meeting to determine how broad an interest, or lack of same, Brea residents have in local environmental issues. A simple word to the City Manager and it could have happened months ago.

When constrained by term limits, elected officials must make the most of their limited time in office, resulting in greater prioritization of difficult decisions and reform. While there will always be some of this behavior, it is curtailed by term limits, as elected officials will, in their final term at the very least, not be beholden to as many special interests as they cannot run again.

Where do you stand?

Is it time at last to finish what Operation Clean Sweep started and let term limits put an end to career politicians in Brea?

VOTECOUNTS

From Koreagate To Surrogate.

At the encouragement of many, and the insistence of some, I’m compelled to dig deeper into this surrogate issue I’ve raised.

My position is that some candidates for council have been hand selected by a small number of former and current local elected officials and are being groomed to carry on the interests and opinions of these political factions.

These successors, substitutes, I prefer to call them surrogates, are part of campaign strategies designed to either preserve or overturn the current balance of power. I’m not going to stop now and name names. Most Brea Matters readers are already quite aware of who the players are.

Operation Clean Sweep

cleansweepCouncil member Moore’s suggestion is that the dysfunction infecting City Council can only be eliminated by voting a clean sweep, disallowing all incumbents from being reelected. I agree completely, but carry the suggestion one step further. If all that occurs is to change the faces without changing the dynamics, what will have been accomplished?

Nothing. The dysfunction remains.

The shift in power from one faction to another is not an acceptable objective. Operation Clean Sweep must shift the power back into the hands of the people. Elected officials need to learn that they are in the position they are to do the people’s bidding, not to carry out some myopic self-centered egotistical personal agenda.

The Puppet Masters.

PinocchioOne thing I will say about these puppet masters and their surrogates is that they do have considered opinions. They have invested their time and energy to study the community, to visualize ways to make Brea better.

Well so have I, a great deal more time and energy than some who think they belong in public office, and we disagree.

My dog in this fight.

HoundListen, my opinion on any given issue is but one voice amongst thousands. I am comfortable living with the majority rule. If most people want to paint a major intersection turquoise… fine.

I’ve been labeled a policy wonk, and rightfully so. I am far more concerned about the decision making process than I am about the final decision.

Well, Koreagate, Free Speech and Fracking aside.

There is no wiggle room there for me. Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell need to pay back the misappropriated funds, Council and staff need to stop impeding the people’s ability to make their opinions known and they all need to wake up to the reality of what’s really happening right in our fracking back yard.

“Hearing the oil and gas interests say they don’t know about the serious health implications of fracking next to homes, schools, and hospitals is like hearing the piano player at the cathouse saying he doesn’t know what’s going on upstairs.” – Nick Passanante, Coloradoans for Safe and Clean Energy.

If it looks like a duck…

Rubber duckWalks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, dammit. Quit pretending it’s a bald eagle. The surrogates can whine and moan and call me unfair all they want.

We need to start seeing them on the campaign trail without their handlers lurking in the shadows. We need to hear something besides another chorus of Brea the Beautiful.

Until these surrogates have that break-away moment, pulling free of the petty little political factions that recruited them, launched and financed their campaigns… their status remains pretty clear.

Make up your own mind.

checksStart looking into this for yourself now, before your voter’s pamphlet and absentee ballot have been sitting on the kitchen table for weeks. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Find a candidate or two you can put your trust into, put their yard signs out in plain view. Give them ten bucks and wish them well.

When their opposition floods your mailbox with the inevitable mudslinging, backstabbing lies and innuendos… they call them hit pieces, recognize them for what they are and toss them in the trash where they belong.

But whatever you do, don’t start marking your ballot having no idea who the candidates really are, what they really stand for and where their allegiances lie.

Do your part and Operation Clean Sweep will begin building a better Brea.

 

No Loophole Left Behind.

Leave it to lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians to take full advantage of every loophole they discover… or create. With a Mayor that appears to embody all three vocations, it comes as little surprise that loopholes abound down at city hall.

Madrona falls off the radar.

Madrona-yes-1If you were looking for the next (final?) act in the Madrona comedy of errors on tomorrow’s Council agenda I’ll save you some time. It isn’t there.

At the last meeting Murdock and Marrick blindsided everyone with a wish list of new considerations. Turns out the two largest financial windfalls they were trying to orchestrate are illegal. Yup, against the law.

The attempt to extract an additional $3.2 to $5.4 million to acquire additional Cal Domestic Water Co. preferred shares is, you guessed it, illegal. Their request for $742,875 in supplemental park-in-lieu fees in addition to the statutory $1.6 million park-in-lieu fees the city was already getting turns out to also be, yep, illegal.

Solution? Buy a little more time.

christine_talksLooks like our budding barrister blew it. Now Murdock and Marrick need another two weeks (minimum) to do damage control, to find a new gambit for getting blood from a stone.

Not satisfied getting 9 out of 11 conditions approved Mrs. Marrick? You got your un-snooty un-gated community and your snooty custom estates approved. Seems to me you two are being more than a little greedy.

City Attorney Markman, when I asked about the missing agenda item, responded, “… there was and is no legal requirement for the matter to be on tomorrow’s Council meeting agenda.” I’m pretty confident he would deny the presence of any loophole.

More agenda skulduggery.

brett_praysTucked in amongst trivial housekeeping items on the Study Session agenda is a request from Murdock to take a trip to sister city Lagos de Moreno to help celebrate their 451 year anniversary.

This sounds eerily similar to the junket he took with Schweitzer and O’Donnel to Anseong and Hanno a couple of years ago. Can you say Koreagate?

What part of no don’t you understand?

The precedent for 45 years has been for Council members to pay their own way. On only two occasions was this not been the case.

Once, when Roy Moore was hit with two foreign travel obligations within one year, the City Manager suggested the city would be able to cover at least the airfare for the second trip. Moore paid the balance.

The second deviation was the vacation Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell took at taxpayer’s expense. A contentious issue yet today, the matter has been swept under the rug and remains unresolved. Certainly no new precedent has been set.

Sneaking this in under the radar by slipping the matter onto the Study Session agenda demonstrates just how unwilling some are to transparently conduct the city’s business.

If you feel so “justified” Mr. Murdock, at least have the juevos to review the pros and cons of the Lagos de Moreno request when the public is able to attend and the discussion will be part of the video record.

all-of-the-people

Let’s put an end to weaving one loophole after another and get down to conducting the people’s business without all of the hidden agendas.