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Ballot Arguments Underscore Key Differences Over Term Limits For Santa Monica Council


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By Jorge Casuso

August 8, 2018 -- Term limits would either bring new perspectives to a City Council whose members often serve "virtually lifelong" terms or pave the way for "novice" elected officials beholden to the City bureaucracy.

Those are the key arguments that will try to persuade Santa Monica voters to support or oppose a term limits initiatives that will appear on the November 6 ballot.

The measure -- which would limit Council members to three terms -- would take effect on, or after, the election ("Santa Monica Council Grudgingly Places Term Limits Measure on Ballot," July 30, 2018).

"Term limits for Santa Monica City Councilmembers will give voters a real chance for fresh perspectives, new ideas and change," said the supporting argument signed by Council member Sue Himmelrich and four prominent community activists.

Supporters said in the ballot arguments that were due Tuesday that voters throughout California have backed term limits and that that they already apply to Santa Monica Board members and Commissioners appointed by the Council.

"If our Council thinks term limits are good for Santa Monica board and commission members, why aren't they good for those same Councilmembers who enacted them?"

Supporters claim that without term limits, "over time, incumbents become too cozy with powerful moneyed interests.

"Beholden to those special interests, entrenched politicians often forget about the people they were elected to serve," supporters wrote, noting that only two Council members have lost their bids for reelection in the past quarter century.

"Talented, qualified Santa Monicans are at such a disadvantage that they are often discouraged from running," they said. "The result is that power remains in the hands of the same politicians and their benefactors for decades."

Opponents of term limits acknowledge that "some (Council members) hang on too long when it would be better if they retire."

But term limits that would remove those council members also would get rid of the Council's "most talented, hardworking and effective leaders," they said.

"It is those seasoned leaders who truly make a difference in our community, who spend their time developing creative solutions to persistent problems, who work with constituents seeking common ground.

"Such effective leaders are too important to lose," wrote Councilmembers Tony Vazquez and Gleam Davis, an education activist and the two co-chairs for Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, which has helped elect the majority of the Council over the past 40 years.

Instead, term limits would empower "novice council members" who would rely on and defer to the City Manager and staff.

"The result is that term limits empower city executives over elected councilmembers," opponents wrote.

On the other hand, "seasoned leadership on the council -- accountable directly to voters -- is essential to ensure the accountability of the city bureaucracy."

Santa Monica already has "a means to make needed changes on the council," opponents said.

"We hold elections."


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