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 Little wonder that term limits experiments have already been repealed or repudiated in six states.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 25, 2014 at 3:50pm

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 Kevin G George on July 25, 2014 at 3:38pm

Don, time to dust off your Constitution.

The founding Fathers in their infinite wisdom wrote in Article II Section I:The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:

Comment by David Smyle on July 25, 2014 at 3:14pm

The constitution doesn't prevent us from imposing term limits either.  I stand by the Constitution to vote on such matters.

As for Lisa,  the blog was about term limits.  The discussion for why term limits whether La Mesa or not is the same.  There is no difference between the need for term limits in La Mesa or the State or the Congress.  It is all about removing the power and corruption that comes with being in office too long and for improving government through fresh ideas and new leadership.

Comment by Don Wood on July 25, 2014 at 3:02pm

I think that the founding fathers did a fine job writing the constitution. To my knowledge the U.S. constitution doesn't require term limits. It sets elected officials terms. If the voters want to vote any incumbent out of office, thereby limiting their term, they are free to do so. I don't want to take that freedom away from the voters. I stand by the constitution.

Comment by Lisa Moore on July 25, 2014 at 2:59pm

  Since this whole blog started out dealing with La Mesa and it's politics, I assume you are commenting on the state of California with your comment " In addition to name recognition, re-districting has also skewed the electoral process making it harder for opposite party and new candidates to win.."  What does that line of thought, even though I agree with it, have to do with La Mesa and it's politics?

Comment by David Smyle on July 25, 2014 at 2:50pm

If Barry Jantz or Jay La Seur, Dave Allan or Ernie Ewin in his first run had not voluntarily stepped down, Dr. A and any other new councilmenber including Kristine Allesio would not be in office.  Did Ernie Ewin beat an incumbent in his second run at Council?  No.  Did you ever vote for someone running against an incumbent who won?

In addition to name recognition, re-districting has also skewed the electoral process making it harder for opposite party and new candidates to win..

Comment by Kevin G George on July 25, 2014 at 2:44pm

"La Mesa was founded in 1869 and The City of La Mesa was incorporated on February 16, 1912, under the general laws of the State of California. As such, it does not have a city charter but operates under the laws of the State of California in all respects not specifically covered by any city ordinance."

Comment by Don Wood on July 25, 2014 at 2:26pm

I supported and voted for Ernie Ewin when he ran for reelection because I think he did a good job. When voters voted for Dr. A in his first run, I suspect it was because their thought he would do a good job. When voters reelected Art Madrid, I suspect it was because they thought he was doing a good job. Any competing candidate is free to make the case that they can do a better job, and if they do, they will replace the incumbent. As I noted two council seats are coming vacant, so anyone who wants to sit on the city council has plenty of opportunity to run. Don't see any reason to change the city charter to prevent any candidate, including incumbents, to run for office. Why force someone from office if the voters think they are doing a good job? Makes no sense to me.

Comment by David Smyle on July 25, 2014 at 2:25pm

I stand corrected.

Comment by Lisa Moore on July 25, 2014 at 2:20pm

David, on an earlier post you indicated that the only requirement to run for an elected office in La Mesa is that you have to be a LM resident.....you don't have to be a registered voter.  I did some research and found out that you need to be at least 18 yrs. old, a LM resident and a registered voter. I would think anyone running for whatever office in the USA would have to be a registered voter. 

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