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 Little wonder that term limits experiments have already been repealed or repudiated in six states.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 Don Wood on July 25, 2014 at 11:01am

If local voters understand that this particular term limits initiative only applies to La Mesa City Council members, and not unpopular politicians in Washington or Sacramento, I believe they will reject it. From everything I've seen, local residents like the job their city council is doing. If some initiative promoters try to play on voter distrust of national or state politicians to get people to vote for this initiative, they would be misleading La Mesa voters. I suspect that is exactly what some of them are planning.

Comment by Lisa Moore on July 25, 2014 at 10:26am

Interesting David,  one doesn't have to be a registered voter even if they are a LM resident in order to run for a LM elected position?  One would think that if you are a member of our city council or mayor, and making decisions(voting) for La Mesa you would at least be a registered voter.  Good question to ask candidates at upcoming election forums...are you a registered voter and if not why?

Comment by David Smyle on July 25, 2014 at 10:06am

Incorrect.  You just have to be a La Mesa Resident, not a registered voter.     

By the way Chris Lavin, I thought Andrew Jackson was dead over 100 years ago.  How come he still get to use his fake name?  Can I change my name to George Washington or Abe Lincoln for purposes of blogging on your site?

Comment by Lisa Moore on July 25, 2014 at 9:54am

Chandra, maybe I'm wrong, but I understand that in order to be a La Mesa Council member you would also have to be a La Mesa voter.  It's pretty obvious who is being referred to as the city council member and the local right wing bookstore owner.....why not just use their names.

Comment by Chandra George on July 25, 2014 at 9:45am

On one hand, Don Wood wants us to believe that "the concept of term limits assumes that La Mesa voters are sheep, or worse."  Then (in the very next sentence) he suggests --without even a thin veil - -that one city council member is such a sheep "being overly-influenced by a local right wing bookstore owner."  I wonder if this city council member is also a La Mesa voter?  When Mr. Wood points out that city council members can so easily succumb to a "fold mentality", perhaps we can conclude that voters do, as well.  By trying to thwart further debate with misogynist innuendo, he has not only revealed which member of the city council "over-influences" him, but made his argument for  term limits!  Thank Ewe, Don!

Comment by Kevin G George on July 25, 2014 at 8:46am

Don Wood/Chris Lavin: Let it be noted where the personal attacks began. 

Comment by Andrew Jackson on July 24, 2014 at 9:49pm

A lively discussion today! It's nice to have a free flow of opinions from the local boys club and some other hearty souls.

For me, I'm against term limits plain and simple. I believe in doing things the old fashioned way and that is by voting for the candidate I like. If the candidate I voted for ends up on the short end of the count then so be it. Maybe next time I'll be a little more active and contribute money or volunteer time to my preferred candidate. As to the comments on this particular blog I think most are well-intended, some to be ridiculous, and a few to be downright snarky. Nevertheless, always entertaining.

And to "Susan Taylor," I say keep your comments coming! New blood (and opinions) are sorely needed here.

Comment by David Smyle on July 24, 2014 at 7:24pm

And if Term Limits passes meaning the Voters want them, what will you say then Susan and Don?  The people are wrong?  They don't know what they are doing?  Can't wait till November.

Comment by David Smyle on July 24, 2014 at 7:22pm

Hey Susan.  

If politicians get elected year after year, they are doing something right?  I guess that explains the 15% or less approval rating for Congress.  Doing such a crappy job, we keep electing them.  Can you name five congress people doing a good job and what do you consider the good they have done?

Getting elected is all about name recognition and money the vast majority of the time.  I challenge you to go around and ask random La Mesans if they know how much the unfunded pension liability is?  Ask they if La Mesa has a surplus or deficit budget.  Ask them if they can name the five council members.  Ask them what the major accomplishment has been from each council member.  Ask them how the council voted on Vaping, Fair Trade, Pet stores, PBID, travel to various conferences.  Ask them what the council has done to reduce City expenditures.  Answer, 95% of them problem probably have on idea as most people don't pay attention to anything but how things are in their neighborhood and are the streets in decent shape.  Don't be so naive to think it is because the politicians at all levels are doing a great job.

Understand this Susan.  The initiative was not aimed at Madrid because he could still serve for another 12 years (God help us) if the initiative passes. Get your facts straight.  It is to prevent another Madrid!

Comment by Don Wood on July 24, 2014 at 5:17pm

The concept of term limits assumes that La Mesa voters are sheep, or worse. It assumes that regardless of what the voters think, every few years the make up of the city council has to be changed. From what I've heard, this effort is being promoted by one city council member who has been overly influenced by a local right wing bookstore owner. Hopefully La Mesa voters will decide to retain control of who gets elected to office and reject this initiative. It's very obvious that if an elected official's performance pleases most of the voters, they will be reelected. If they piss off voters, they won't be. It's that simple. That is no reason to change the existing system of electing city council members in La Mesa.

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