What’s Going On In La Mesa Politics?

 This will be an eventful year. A small band of political activists is drafting a surprising coda to the city’s centennial. Their mischief pushes the notion of voter sovereignty into the balance for the first time in the city’s history. 

 After nearly 25 years of failed experiments elsewhere, the flawed and still unproven notion of term limits is making an appearance on the November ballot in La Mesa. The initiative to add a term limits ordinance to city law follows a pattern well-established elsewhere: a few determined activists, clever language, an imaginary peril and deep pockets. 

 To see how that pattern plays in La Mesa, we can follow the money.   

 According to the initial Form 460 disclosure documents required by law, almost 97% percent ($9,748) of the financial contributions to the local term limits committee came from a single, sitting council member and her family.

 The signature gathering work was performed under contract by a professional political firm in La Jolla. The firm paid $1.25 to $1.50 for each signature, for a total of $8308 of the Committee’s initial budget. The activists’ claim that this was a “grassroots” effort is pure fiction. 

 Can you recall even a mention of term limits for La Mesa until this paid-in-full campaign started flogging the notion? The “people” did not clamor to have this regulation imposed on them and for good reason – they still cherish the right to freely vote their choices.

 The reality is that term limits are political junk food – they look OK, but are toxic to the body politic in the long run. Why? Because they do swift and enduring damage to our citizens’ most sacred right: the ability to exercise an unrestricted vote.

 The case for term limits relies on bunk history, acceptance of fantasy claims and a large dose of wishful thinking. Little wonder that term limits experiments have already been repealed or repudiated in six states. In La Mesa, there is no credible case for term limits at all. 

 What is going on then? 

 Well, some folks from the same small circle behind term limits are also advocating that the City Clerk position be removed from the ballot and filled by appointment. From ballot to government billet as it were. And these busy souls are now on record with the next goal: to make the office of mayor an unelected position that would rotate among members of the Council.

 Together with term limits, these proposed actions would result in three consecutive smackdowns of La Mesa voters. It appears we are about to experience an unprecedented, coordinated, and well-financed assault on the fundamental freedom of city voters to elect public officials of their own choosing. This is a cheerless prospect, with negative consequences for all of us.  

 Voting for civic officials is about more than strict accountability. It is about an engaged citizenry, a sense of ownership and community ties. These direct, familiar connections between citizens and city leadership help make La Mesa the special place that it is. To diminish them is to erode our civic culture. Given the rifts that divide our country today, does anyone seriously think that’s a good idea? And to what end? 

 La Mesans will likely see through this ill-considered, short-sighted demarche and preserve the integrity of the electoral process. We respect majority votes; we are wary of gimmickry. And perhaps most importantly, we prefer to vote our consciences freely – unrestricted by city ordinance, no matter how well-financed. We can start by defending our freedom to choose, with a firm No! to term limits.

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Tags: Government, La Mesa Today, Term Limits

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Comment by Kevin G George on July 24, 2014 at 5:09pm

Susan, you might have had a point if the initiative would have included time served, which it doesn't.

How can this be "aimed squarely at the Mayor" if he is still permitted to run for three more terms?

Comment by Kevin G George on July 24, 2014 at 4:12pm

Comparing State and Federal term limits for full time positions to local municipality positions only skews the argument. This measure will only effect the La Mesa City Council.

The City Council is a part time job and was never meant to be a full time,  multi-decade career.

There is an abundance of talent in La Mesa of which we should take advantage. Or better stated, move over and  give someone who may do a better job a chance,at least for a while.

What's the worst that could happen? If we elect Satan to Council we can vote him out, right? Or are you afraid that Satan, with the name recognition and all, would be a shoe in for as long as he liked?

Also, if you have objection to this measure even being brought to a vote, your problem is with the initiative process itself, not us.

Comment by La Mesa Today on July 24, 2014 at 4:12pm

Mr. Smyle, 

As I mentioned in a personal note to you, we endeavor to eliminate anonymity on this site to the greatest degree possible. When we determined "Mark Cavanaugh" was a false name we contacted the true author, reiterated our policy and eliminated the account. On occasion, residents in sensitive public safety or similar jobs ask to use a screen name. We insist they identify themselves fully to us and pledge not to violate site rule on civility and personal attack or their identities will be published. Batman is a local resident. We know his name and profession and watch his posts closely for adherence to our standards. Not a perfect system, but, as they say of democracy, we believe it is way better than second-best -- the wild west of vitriolic name-calling et al you find on other local "news" sites. We do this as a public service and try to do our best. Thanks, as always, for your engagement.

Chris Lavin, Editor

Comment by Susan Taylor on July 24, 2014 at 3:52pm

Nobody makes anyone vote for something.  If politicians are returned to office year after year, they are doing something right.  Term limits do not improve turnout, quality of electeds, or political decisions.  Term limits in the state legislature have only produced a more "career" oriented class of people who run for one office till termed out, and then seek election in the other chamber.  This initiative is aimed squarely at Mayor Madrid.  If you don't want him as mayor, just vote as a majority for someone else.  Simple.  Real simple.  Just do it.

Comment by Ron Irvin on July 24, 2014 at 3:10pm

My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years, rather than for life, was that they might have an idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget. - Thomas Jefferson

Comment by David Smyle on July 24, 2014 at 2:49pm

Gene:

Per Mark, Chris Lavin has censored him from accessing the comment section because per CL "Mark did not want to reveal his true identity to CL or to anyone else to get approval to write under a anonymous person."  However, if you are "Batman" and want to give CL the power to know everything about you and your motivations, you get to continue.

Comment by Lisa Moore on July 24, 2014 at 2:36pm

Interesting comments.  Having  been a follower of La Mesa Today for a few years, I have read from some of those here on various subjects.  When I saw David Smyle's long comments, I thought here he goes again.  But after reading his comments, I agree fully with him!  He had some good thoughts and obviously took some time to think about them before writing anything.  Thank you David!

Having been an ordinary citizen of La Mesa for 40 yrs., home owner and former La Mesa business owner, I proudly signed the petition when I had the opportunity. 

Comment by barry tarvin on July 24, 2014 at 12:41pm

Mr. Buckley holds up our state legislature as a successful example of democracy?? (1) Term limits are far from a failed experiment. Our State Assembly and Senate have term limits, as do the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego - the latter having been passed in 2010 with 68.27% of the vote. >>

Looking at its history, you will notice the imbalance between the numbers in each political party Vs. the political breakdown of the state senate and assembly began with the imposition of term limits. No longer could politicians earn votes by doing good for their constituents, they get elected because they get tons of dough from lobbyists and labor unions. The senate is 70% democrats, and the assembly is about 68% democrat, while the registration isn't close to those numbers. In 2012 Cali had 43.7% democrats, 29.4% republican and about 20% either independent or "no preference". If all those Indy's voted for D's the legislature still would not reflect registration. I'll bet we would see a better reflection if we could examine the $'s given to each party by lobbies and unions. Furthermore, in San Diego county, the battle over term limits has been one between the unions on the side of limits, and business on the side of no limits.

Comment by Gene Carpenter on July 24, 2014 at 12:27pm
I'm anxious to hear from Mark Cavanaugh on this!
Comment by David Smyle on July 23, 2014 at 11:46pm

Hey Anthony,

 

It is amazing you are arguing against yourself.  Here you are stating one small group of political activists and thank god for groups like ours (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson to name some bretheran) funded by a councilperson (a non-career politician) are taking away your right to have a career politician.  A few points:

 

1) 25% of the signatures gathered were from ordinary volunteer citizens (unpaid).  That is not insignificant.  Add in the time and money others put into the effort and in-kind donations and it was a lot more than one person and their family.  I gathered 300 signatures myself.  How much of my time and others like me do you think we spent gathering signatures for the cause we believe strongly in?  As they say, time is money and my time is very valuable so I will take all the volunteer time from everyone and put a value of $20/hr on it like you would pay a low level employment agency person and now you can add at least $5,000 to the financial total from outside the "family".

2) You have no problem with an incumbent spending twice as much to get re-elected but have an issue with our group spending $10K to get a petition on the ballot to be voted on by you and anyone else who gets off the couch to go to ballot booth.

3) It costs a lot more than $1.25-$1.50 per signature.  Try doubling that.  

4) Most importantly, I didn't realize allowing the voters the democratic process of being able to vote on the term limits proposition yes or no or whether they want an elected Clerk or not is a smackdown.  It's called democracy unlike the City of San Diego Council not allowing the voters to vote on Minimum wage increases or the La Mesa Council not allowing the voters of La Mesa to vote on the vaping ordinance.  How come you aren't complaining about your rights on that?

5) I know you are smarter than you write so let me edumicate you.  Per Miriam Webster, one of the definitions of grassroots "being, originating, or operating in or at the grass roots <agrassroots organization> /span>grassroots political support>."  It was not the brainchild of a councilmember and their family.  This idea of term limits for La Mesa was proposed and put into action by the La Mesa Citizens Oversight Group, a group of men and women (mormans, jews, christians and for all I know athiests, retired, working, current and former union workers, former public employees, non-union workers, libertarians, republicans, tea partiers and for all I know maybe even a democrat) who have a like minded and common philosophy that government is too big and inefficient but mostly a government at all levels that has lost its way and forgot that they represent us, the people and not their own pockets or political aspirations and it is our money they are spending like it falls off trees.

 

If you really believed in democracy, you would embrace the opportunity for the Citizens to vote on it and if they vote for it in the majority, then the people have spoken.  If they vote no like you would prefer, then I guess they like the way things are and so be it.  I am not afraid of losing at the ballot box but I am so proud of everyone in our group who gave of their time, money, talents to stand for something they believed in rather than sit on the sidelines and complain that things aren’t going our way.  The feeling of accomplishing something whether it is starting a business or bucking the odds to get a proposition on the ballot as difficult as it was is invigorating and what this country was founded on which unfortunately we have drifted far apart from.

 

This is not an eventful year.  This is a great year in La Mesa politics having the opportunity to take power away from incumbents and give the people the power to choose.  The council could have put this on the ballot themselves and given us the ability to choose but they took that opportunity away from us.  One more reason to have term limits when our elected leaders won't give us the right to vote on something as important as electing them.  So, we take matters in our own hands from a GRASSROOTS level.  Long live democracy.

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