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

Marick Mea Culpa.

Marick in jail.Even with it’s twisted pretzel logic, MPT Marick’s mea culpa following “Matters” last Tuesday confirmed a pattern of Murdock supporters intimidating Brea businesspeople to remove opposition’s signs and their practice of late night sign vandalizing across the city.

Citing content as the issue, that it was slanderous and in poor taste, Marick completely overlooked the accuracy of much of their content, which eliminates the slander charge, and the sign maker’s right to express their opinion unencumbered by subjective judgment.

Murdock in jail.Combine what we now know about Marick with Murdock’s 2010 campaign founded on empty rhetoric leading to four years of no promises kept and nothing of note accomplished…

and his 2012 clandestine opposition to Measures T and U which resulted in a $2,000 fine from the FPPC for election law violation… and you get quintessential dirty politics.

Murdock and Marick must harbor pretty low opinions of the people they serve.

We see you!Do they think we don’t see through the asinine answers they give to serious questions, the preposterous claims of major accomplishments they pile on their political resumes?

Do they think their whimpering and whining will mask the fact that they, at minimum, have as much mud on their hands as they claim fouls the hands of their opposition?

Mr. Murdock, Mrs. Marick… that sound you hear isn’t fracking in our hillsides, the shrinking of our pension liabilities or cactus growing in the Civic Center Garden. It’s the chip, chip, chip of the epitaphs being chiseled into your political headstones.

Operation Clean Sweep

Brea City Council Is Dysfunctional.

I’ve known for some time that the Brea City Council was dysfunctional, I’ve written about it in Brea Matters for some time. Last Thursday evening, upon checking my email, I found I have a true compatriot in my friend and long time Council member Roy Moore.

I began reading Roy’s six hundred and ninetieth communication to his constituents, that’s more than 40 newsletters a year during the 16 years Roy has served us. He had my full attention by the end of the first paragraph.

With permission, here is Roy’s newsletter.

Brea Net No. 690 – July 24, 2014.

Hi Neighbor:

moore_300As you know this is an election year for Brea. Three Council seats open up.  Nomination papers are available at the City Clerk’s office and must be returned by August 8 at 5:00 p.m. This is often called the “Silly Season.” As the campaigning begins I must confess that I have been struggling for some time with some issues and I would like to open up and share my honest concerns.

Brea is an excellent city.  We are blessed with excellent services: Police, fire, parks, street maintenance, solid finances and so much more.  City staff, though reduced in size, does their very best.  So what is my dilemma?  Our City Council is dysfunctional.

murdock dysfunctionalSome of our members literally do not speak to each other except during meetings.  Although council members should not be expected to vote in lock step but to vote their consciences, when they do they are sometimes criticized and punished by bypassing them in the Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem rotation or removing them from Council committee assignments. Garcia on MadronaThe word “cooperation” is limited and respect for the other’s opinions often elusive.  Personal power and individual prestige seem more important than the needs of our residents.

This dysfunction creates unnecessary animosity between council members, inhibits working in a collaborative way, to reach compromise on issues and creates stress for the City Manager and his staff as they struggle to run our city.  Because of this situation some staff are rumored to have considered leaving the city.

Needless to say I am disheartened by this situation and reluctantly come to the conclusion that the solution is to NOT vote for any incumbents but to bring in three new faces and charge them with changing the atmosphere at City Hall.  I would call this Operation Clean Sweep.  If you feel this is an issue I would appreciate it if you would forward this email to your Brea friends.

I have been honored to serve as a council member for 16 years.  The last four being difficult.  I believe when you stop having fun and your frustrations seem to increase it is time to retire.  I have made the decision not to run for reelection.  I do plan to monitor the campaign and plan to point out misstatements, exaggerations or out right lies being promoted by the candidates.

Moore next time,    Roy

The inmates are running the asylum.

Violates election lawSilly Season, an apt description for the frenzied campaigning we witness from August through November every couple of years.

I like Roy’s definition better than “the rough and tumble of elections” phrase that emerged during the Koos v. Clough conflict and subsequent legal battles of 2010.

Pointing out that our Council is dysfunctional, Roy gives voice to what many Breans have grown to understand… particularly in recent years. One only needs to scroll back through Brea Matters to find proof.

Council has danced perilously close to the legal limits of the Brown Act and repeatedly exhibited a complete disregard for long standing policies and traditions. Koreagate. FPPC violations and fines.

Operation Clean Sweep.

cleansweepExcellent idea Mr. Moore, and one I will run with from now until the last vote is cast. It is an apt rallying cry for Brea voters. Residents, employing a little ingenuity, will hopefully find ways to express this campaign slogan with their friends and neighbors.

Like you, and I hope many other Brea voters, I will be keeping a close eye on candidate’s statements, claims and promises.

Those that fail to steer a path well inside ethical boundaries will have no problem with me. Those that don’t will find themselves exposed here.