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

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

While heading to coffee this morning, an alert Brean gave me a heads-up on a new political sign that cropped up overnight.  I had to laugh, thinking how the “rough and tumble” politics of 2010 had come full circle.  Aren’t paybacks a b*tch.

No Connection To Brea Election.

Monika Koos is running for a trusteeship on the North Orange County Community College District.  Her campaign, other than to garner a few votes, has no nexus to either our race for Brea City Council or the ballot measures for accountability (Measure T) and open governance (Measure U). This handful of last minute signs smells sharply of revenge… nothing more, nothing less.

Gone In Sixty Seconds.

I’m glad I have one photo documenting this micro-event in the 2012 election season.  In less time than it took the Koos clan to (allegedly) pull down Ric Clough’s signs two years ago… voila… all but this one is gone.  It seems like these late night dirty tactics are becoming a standard part of Brea politics.

I’d be remiss not to include my personal opinion on the matter…

“No Koos Is Good News.”

Thank you Mr. Mayor!

When I pointed out the shortcomings of Mr. Schweitzer’s “Make A Difference” green website, I expected he might respond. My hope was that he would do something about that waste of cyber real estate and make a difference himself. But no, that would be hoping for too much it seems.

Still whining after all these years.

mayor_mug_01Never one to take criticism well, dropping off a nasty note and a tongue-in-cheek “gift” at the downtown Starbucks last night was apparently more Don Schweitzer’s style.

I think his inability to accept any opinion other than his own is at the heart of why his time on Council has been such a lackluster affair. That and his long running bromance with the City Manager, Tim O’Donnell.

mayor_mug_02Here’s what our illustrious Mayor had to say, “Rick – I heard you really wanted one of my mugs. I didn’t make any for this theme, but thought I would just for you. Enjoy it. I hope the coffee helps wash down some of your bitterness!! ~ Mayor Don Schweitzer”

Bitterness? Bitter disappointment would be much more like it, Mr. Schweitzer.

I predicted a couple of months ago that Mr. Schweitzer would duck seeking a third term, not wanting to end the family legacy with a resounding loss. Good bye and good luck.

What does the future hold?

I’ll go out on a limb here and make an educated guess. I’ll wager Mr. Schweitzer attempts to reinfect the Brea Historical Society, squeezing himself back into some sort of prominence and control, so he can micromanage Brea’s Centennial celebrations.

I’m hoping the Society’s board keeps a wary eye out for the intrusion and stops it cold in it’s tracks. We don’t need another big start little finish project under Mr. Schweitzer’s not-so-green thumb. Where Don goes, nothing grows.

Move on Don. Don’t be lured into dancing around the edges of the local political scene, like several of your cronies. And have the decency to stay out of the nasty, rough and tumble mud slinging we’re expecting over the next few months.

Pick a candidate. Extend an endorsement. Make a contribution. Forget about taking cheap shots with your buddies by mailing out those “hit pieces” for which you’re all so well known. Sit back for a change and let nature take it’s course.

I trust the collective intelligence of the Brea voters far more than the personal opinions of you and your little clique of ex-somethings.

Editorial Update – 01/14/13:

DonS_150As I guessed, Hizonner Schweitzer opted not to run again and his canonization extolled the “green-ness” of his tenure in office. Again, baloney! I should do a CPRA request on his silly One Ton Challenge and expose the sham that it was as well.