Exploring Term Limit Myths

Third in a series of articles on the La Mesa Term Limits By La Mesa Today member Anthony Mc Ivor.

By Anthony D. Mc Ivor

LA MESA -- With Proposition K poised to inflict Municipal Code restrictions on La Mesa voters, the air is rich in term limits mythology. Despite regular debunking, many of these myths enjoy wide circulation. With a view to the decision we must make in November, here in question format are my Top 10.

#10. Term limits are needed because elections do not work? Not so. Florida State scholar Jeff Mondak conducted a widely-noted, non-partisan study of Congress reaching back to the mid-1970s. Mondak’s work shows clearly how the least competent and untrustworthy were washed out of office by regular elections within three cycles.

#9. Term limits will promote electoral competition? Not so. Political scientists analyzing election data from diverse states find the opposite to be true: competition has often decreased.

#8. Term limits will bring in fresh faces with new ideas? Not so. Nationwide research now confirms that people who have won seats after term limits look very much the same as their predecessors in gender, age, professional background, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

#7. Term limits will take power out of the hands of well-financed lobbies and special interests? Not so. Rather, they do the opposite by increasing our officials’ dependence on professional staff and those very lobbyists.

#6. Term limits will make officials more responsive to the community? Not so. A respected 50-state survey of legislatures found that legislators in term-limited chambers actually spent less time keeping in touch with their constituents and worse, spent less time securing projects and funding for their districts.

#5. Term Limits will end the greatest menace to American public life: “career politicians”? Not so. Term limits do nothing – absolutely nothing – to put an end to career politicians. This is a fantasy. Professional politicians simply shift to the next gig in their careers – just like teachers to the next class, doctors to the next hospital, and mechanics to the next engine shop.

As for La Mesa, if wicked “career politicians” have stalked our streets for the past 20 years, as advocates suggest, why not a single recall campaign? Why no editorial crusades calling out the incompetents or the scoundrels? Why no investigations or charges brought for the alleged corruption? And what’s more, if the perils posed by incumbents are so grim, why do activists boast that Prop K will allow those same incumbents to serve for 24 out of 28 years? The closer you look, the less sense this makes.

#4. Term limits are a low-risk gamble because everyone knows public service is not “rocket science”? Not so. If it were easy, the current Council would have long since solved all of La Mesa’s high-profile issues. An artificially limited time in office makes matters much worse by forcing officials to focus on short-term issues, the quick “wins,” rather than time-consuming and complicated problems such as pensions, budgets, re-development and water.

#3. Term limits restrictions fall on the incumbents, not the voters? Not so. An incumbent will be required to step aside after winning three terms, but the voters will have an abridged ballot in every election where any incumbent is banned. Voters will lose, not just once but ever after, the priceless right to freely choose their own future. Voters will also bear the brunt as “short” or soon-to-be termed out officials turn their attention elsewhere.

#2. Term limits are a necessary remedy for the civic malaise La Mesa suffers? Not so. Exactly what malady does La Mesa suffer? Big money? Outside interests? Vast media buys? An elite class of inaccessible politicians? Again, if the threat to La Mesa is clear and present, why does Prop K require us to wait 12-14 more years for relief? This much-hyped myth is just election-year malarkey.

And, #1. Term limits must work because they seem so popular? Not so (emphatically not so). After 25 years of experimentation, activists cannot point to a single American jurisdiction where the end benefits promised have been realized. Not one. By the activists’ own criteria, term limits are an unqualified failure. And that’s the nub of it: this stuff does not work.

Term limits are a fine example of what happens when ideology bumps common sense off the rails. Proposition K is an extreme measure that does not remotely fit our circumstances. La Mesa voters can continue to elect civic officials without the cold hand of the Municipal Code on their shoulders – by just saying No! to Proposition K.

Series Part I: CLICK HERE.

Series Part II CLICK HERE.

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Tags: Anthony D. Mc Ivor, Government, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, Term Limits


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Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on October 9, 2014 at 3:29pm

Art Madrid isn't the reason I became convinced we need term limits, but now that you mention it Fred, he is a good example of someone overstaying their tenure in office to the detriment of the citizens he is supposed to represent.  

Comment by Batman on October 9, 2014 at 2:35pm

If you don't like Madrid then vote for Dr. Mark.

Comment by Kevin G George on October 9, 2014 at 10:10am

How so Fred?

Prop K couldn't term him out for three more terms when he will be 92.

Comment by Fred Neubecker on October 9, 2014 at 6:06am
The one and only reason for term limits for la mesa is Art Madrid.
Comment by Kevin G George on October 8, 2014 at 10:56am

Mr. " I don't read those publications" Weiboldt:  For years we as individuals unsuccessfully attempted to affect the politics in La Mesa. We were each told many times by the Council, staff, and people like you to get involved, to do something.

Well we did. Our group was formed by a couple of guys talking over beers and slowly snowballed over the last two and half years to a substantial group of like-minded La Mesa Citizens that have definitely affected La Mesa politics.  Now you seem annoyed at the fact that Citizens have joined together to voice their opinions and your angst demonstrates our well placed actions.

Sorry about that, but we're not going away anytime soon. If you knew our group you would know we bark at no one's request.

Mr. McIvor:  My apologies for mistakenly attributing the " Level the Playing Field" article to you. But Russell Buckley was correct about the four articles, not three.

 I have absolutely no objection to you having an anti term limits stance.  I applaud your involvement and effort. I read all the posts on LMT. It's just that when I read the same points rehashed and reworded over and over and over it gets a little tiresome, that's all. 

The fact that you wanted to reach as many people as possible was your decision, but I think using LMT for basically an anti term limits site is questionable.

Comment by Anthony D. Mc Ivor on October 7, 2014 at 3:48pm

Mr. George - A clarification: The essay titled "A Level Playing Field" (Sept 23) was not mine.  I contributed nothing to it.  I am neither a member nor in any way affiliated with the grass-roots group writing that series.  I write alone and I write solely out of concern for the damage the proposed term limits ordinance will bring to La Mesa in its wake.    

Comment by Jim Wieboldt on October 7, 2014 at 2:38pm
Mr. McIvor:

Thanks for writing another excellent article on the fallacies of term limits.

As to Mr. George's comment on "inane banter", please take note that La Mesa Readers have been exposed to, and bored by, the "Angry Old White Men and One Council Woman Club" (AOWM+OCWC) who continuously subject us to the aforementioned starlight barking.

After all..."One ACWM's bidding is another OCWC's barking"!
Comment by Kevin G George on October 7, 2014 at 1:44pm

Lisa, speaking of long and repetitive, I believe Russell Buckley was referring to the two articles that preceded his three part series.



Comment by Anthony D. Mc Ivor on October 7, 2014 at 12:25pm

Mr. George - I will honor your request and not burden you with any further information.  Other readers may wish to know that (as Mr. Buckley and Ms Moore point out) several ideas or themes in the above essay are re-statements of points made in the earlier pieces of the series. The references you call out below are absolutely reputable and source information remains embedded in those texts - where it can be easily verified.  

Why the re-statements?  Simply to reach the thousands of La Mesa Today readers who may have missed one or another of the earlier essays, or those who may find a slightly different illustration of interest. There is no intent to make your life tedious.  

Comment by Kevin G George on October 7, 2014 at 9:40am
"1. You know I have multiple, reputable and non-partisan citations".
Other than Jeff Mondack here is the total of those reputable citations:
"Political scientists analyzing election data.....
"Nationwide research now confirms....
 "A respected 50-state survey of legislatures ......
But please, even if you do have the citations, spare me, I am bored stiff with his inane banter.
No one is changing anyones mind at this point.

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