Clerk Job, Term Limits Move To Ballot

LA MESA -- The November ballot is rounding out a bit more each day.
On Tuesday night, the City Council added two more questions to the ballot -- one by choice, the other by law.
The council voted 4-1 to ask voters to consider converting the City Clerk's job from an elected position to an appointed position.
The council majority believed it was time for the city to join all but a few municipalities in California in converting the clerk's job to a professional, appointed position. The job has become far more technical and requires a trained professional familiar with the complexities of municipal law, proponents of this change say. The clerk would be appointed by city manager, as the police chief job is currently handled.

 Mayor Art Madrid opposed the change, saying it was removing another choice from local voters.
The council also took the administrative steps of approving a Term Limit referendum. The council had resisted approving that measure itself, but term limit supporters gathered enough signatures to force the ballot vote. Council on Tuesday simply acknowledged the petitions and moved that issue on to the ballot.

If approved, the clock would start ticking on the current mayor and council members, limiting them to three consecutive four-year terms.

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Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on May 30, 2014 at 11:06am

Anthony, your comment was that you agreed with Batman, who agreed with the Mayor.  The Mayor's "reasoning" is that putting the election of the clerk on the ballot takes away the voters' choice.  That is an argument which rests on faulty premises and is, therefore, fallacious. I agree with Kevin, and with you, that the Council was inconsistent in failing to put term limits on the ballot and agreeing to put the clerk issue on the ballot.  As long as they don't contain immoral or illegal activities, the Council should act to place measures on the ballot and provide the people with the means to decide for themselves.  Forcing an petition process for a ballot measure because the Council doesn't like an idea is wrong and putting one ballot measure on because it is favored is equally wrong. 

Comment by Batman on May 30, 2014 at 7:40am

Ponder this for a moment: We don't elect our police chief, but we do elect our sheriff. As a result a sheriff has considerably more authority than a police chief. If our city clerk becomes appointed will he/she then have less authority than now? Who benefits from a less-powerful city clerk?

Comment by Anthony D. Mc Ivor on May 29, 2014 at 9:28pm


I regret that my comment was not clear.  I supported Batman, who supported the Mayor, who “opposed the change” to the selection of La Mesa’s City Clerk.  Kevin has it right. The Council chose to act on its own, rather than follow the process required for bringing other measures to the voters this year. By doing so, La Mesa’s government took ownership (and a clear perception of sponsorship) of an initiative to make the Clerk a government appointee, accountable to the government, not to the voters. So we’ll have more of government supervising government. Hmmm.


Other cities have done this. How did it work out?  Did they experience a richer civic culture as a result? Were service benchmarks improved? Did the threat of being fired by government colleagues rather than angry citizens in regular elections spur the appointees to greater efficiencies? Instead of pleading “everyone’s doing it,” why don’t the apologists for this shift of power to government tell us what happened?  Don’t want to call it paternalism? Fine. But make no mistake. This is a government-driven attempt to increase the power and patronage of government. So again, if we surrender our right to vote on the office of City Clerk, how do we get it back?  And what will that cost?   

Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on May 29, 2014 at 7:18pm

Actually, the citizens are being included in the loop.  They all get to vote whether they want term limits or not and whether they are the clerk appointed or not.  What are the opponents afraid of?  If the majority votes to have term limit and make the clerk appointed, then that is what the voters want.  If they vote it down, then that is what they want.  The beauty of this is on both accounts is both issues are new and people are not voting on name recognition or by party.  Stop whining.  Let the people vote!

Comment by Russell Buckley on May 29, 2014 at 7:06pm

Anthony, don't know whether you are referring to the city clerk or term limits for the council. I can write for great lengths about either. Only about 25% of the 481 California cities still elect a City Clerk - and there is good reason for that. Few voters even know what the City Clerk is responsible for. We don't elect the Police Chief or the Fire chief. We leave it to the City manager, supervised by our elected City Council, to do that. The fire chief and police chief can be fired fore poor performance - the clerk cannot. There is just no good reason the clerk isn't hired and supervised in the same manner as they are. If you can justify the Clerk job being elected while the Police and Fire chief are not, please make your case. Term limits are simply another restriction (we already have several) on who is allowed to run. They make the democratic process work better. Incumbents have a hugh name recognition advantage, as well as the ability to bask in the glow of every positive thing the city does: crown Miss La Mesa , recognize the school crossing monitors, the girl and boy scout troops, war veterans, etc. etc.  It takes an enormous amount of money for a challenger to pull even. Just consider the Congress - they have a 10% approval rating yet 90% of members are re-elected. A poll taken a couple of months ago had Bonnie Dumanis (SD City attorney) with a 66% name recognition while her two opponents names were recognized by 10% and 12% of voters. Surely 12 years is enough for anyone to have contributed what they have to contribute to our City - and to step aside to let one of the many other good citizens of La Mesa have a shot. p.s. voters recognize this advantage and the potential corruption of long serving politicians. That is why term limits almost always win - and win handily. 

Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on May 29, 2014 at 5:07pm

There is nothing paternalistic about having citizens vote on whether they want term limits or an appointed clerk. THE VOTERS, are deciding how they want to vote in the future, not any government entity.  Even, if I take the opponents argument that term limits and an appointed clerk are abridgement of the right to vote, the argument still falls short.  I am a lawyer, have a degree in Philosophy, and have taken plenty of courses in logic. But, no matter how hard I try, I cannot understand the argument that having people exercise their right to vote on an issue that effects their ability to vote is somehow limiting their rights.  Someone, please,  take me through a step by step, logical analysis of this argument, I am just not getting it. 

Comment by Kevin G George on May 29, 2014 at 4:38pm

Good news Walt and Batman, you will have the opportunity to vote on it in November!

My question is why this issue was automatically put on the ballot by the Council while they deemed that task impossible for the term limits and marijuana propositions? 

Why didn't the Mayor object to the Clerk proposal on those grounds?

If the other proposals brought forth by the Citizens were forced to spend time and money on gathering enough signatures to get them on the ballot why is it so different because it is the Councils idea. The Council members are regular Citizens just like us.

It seems to me that if they have a proposal they want to put on the ballot they should be subject to the same requirements as anyone else. This system that gives the Council the power of what will and will not be on the ballot seems unfair and far too subject to the whim of the Council.

If it's good for the goose.....

Comment by Anthony D. Mc Ivor on May 29, 2014 at 1:29pm

And I agree with Batman here. This smacks of yet another paternalistic attempt to cut La Mesa citizens out of the loop.  The argument seems to be "this is complicated, but you don't need to worry, or even vote, because your government officials will take care of it."  If we give up the vote on this, how do we get it back?  If we don't know that, is a surrender wise?   

Comment by Batman on May 28, 2014 at 2:14pm

I agree with Art on this one.

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