By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
45 — YES
At best, term limits are a mixed curse. As enacted by California voters in 1990, Californians may serve no more than three two-year terms in the Assembly, two four-year terms in the state Senate, and two four-year terms in statewide office. This has transformed the Assembly into a rolling amateur hour — a body with no collective memory and few legislative skills, where brand-new members become committee chairs, and speakers are unable to serve much longer than one year — with predictable consequences. It was the newcomer Legislature of the mid-’90s that voted to deregulate the state’s electricity market, and the newcomer Legislature of the past year that has been largely unable to fix things. Nor have term limits reduced the sway of money in politics; indeed, by compelling many newly arrived pols to plan their campaigns for their next seat almost as soon as they take office, term limits have actually provoked more fund-raising than existed in the ancien rĂ©gime. On the plus side, we should note, the frequent turnover has led to a much more diverse Legislature.
Proposition 45 proposes to tinker a bit with this dysfunctional system. It permits Assembly members to seek two more two-year terms and senators one more four-year term if a specified number of their registered-voter constituents sign a petition requesting it. The required number of signatures is 20 percent of the total number of voters who voted for that office in the preceding general election. In short, it gives voters a right to keep voting (for four more years) for state legislators they like. Sounds good to us.
A — YES
Measure A places a limit of three four-year terms on L.A. County’s elected officials — the supervisors, sheriff, district attorney and assessor. We’re for it.
Wait a minute, you protest. You guys just made the case — not 50 words north of here, in your Prop. 45 endorsement — against term limits. Now you’re for them. What gives?
The electoral politics of L.A. County, that’s what gives. In L.A., to be elected to county office usually means to be elected for life, to never even have a serious opponent. Consider the supervisors: On Tuesday’s ballot, Zev Yaroslavsky is running unopposed, and Gloria Molina has one token, utterly unserious opponent. Essentially, the most powerful elected officials in Los Angeles no longer stand for re-election. And this isn’t because they are perfect in every way.
Rather, it’s because the county has grown so huge that their districts cannot be contested unless a challenger has a gazillion dollars to drop on the race. A supervisorial district today encompasses nearly 2 million people.
There are far better solutions than term limits, but either voters have rejected them or they stand no chance of enactment. Smaller and more numerous districts would surely help create more competitive elections, but county voters have kiboshed such proposals. Which leaves term limits — in this case, of the 12-year, non-draconian variety — as the only remaining way to make supervisor an elected office again.
As with the supervisors, so with sheriffs, who tend to die on the job here. Only district attorneys seem to draw real opponents for office — we suspect because D.A.s, like football coaches and baseball managers, are held responsible by an aroused public if they lose a big one.
The fact is, an entire level of government in Los Angeles — the county, which is responsible for health, welfare, law enforcement and much else in our community — is no longer democratically accountable. Term limits are a rather blunderbuss approach to restoring accountability. But they’re all we’ve got.
B — YES
Measure B enacts the same three four-year term limits on county supervisors as Measure A, but stops there — exempting the sheriff, D.A. and assessor. We supported A in the belief that the sheriff, no less than the supes, shouldn’t be allowed to govern for life, but if we can’t get A, we’ll settle for B.
Measures A and B were reluctantly placed on the ballot by supervisors, to settle a lawsuit after the county mistakenly disqualified an earlier term-limits petition. If both measures pass, Measure A would prevail because it is more sweeping.
C — YES
This measure enables the Sheriff’s Department to increase the number of assistant sheriffs from two to three and the number of division chiefs from eight to 12, and permits hiring civilians for some technical positions. For arcane reasons, these modest proposals require a county charter amendment and thus a popular vote.
LOS ANGELES CITY SPECIAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION
Q — YES
This $600 million bond measure would provide money to improve fire stations and build new police stations, costing the average city homeowner $3 monthly.
R — YES
This measure moves city elections up a bit: primaries, from the second Tuesday in April to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March; runoffs, from the first Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday of May — in both cases, of odd-numbered years.
By moving the runoff to mid-May, it lengthens the time between the election and the beginning of the term for the newly elected mayor and other city officials. Currently, the new mayor et al. have about three weeks between winning the election and entering office. Jim Hahn ran on a promise that he was ready to take power, after all those years at City Hall; in fact, it’s taken him many months to get his administration even half-staffed. It takes time to get ready to govern L.A. Prop. R buys our leaders, and us, a little more time.
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