Redondo Beach voters will have the opportunity to change the city charter when they go to the polls November 4th. The changes that concern me might seem minor, really just two words. But the impact will be anything but minor.
I’m voting NO on Proposed Charter Amendments CM and BE. I hope enough of my fellow citizens will consider the real impact of these changes to our city charter and together we can defeat them.
The ballot measures will extend term limits for the Mayor, City Council and School Board from two terms to three terms. What was once a mandatory maximum of eight years in those positions would now be extended to twelve years.
I want to start on a positive note. I’ll get to the negative part soon enough. Members of the City Council who want to continue to serve the city beyond their mandated eight years should be commended. When it’s done correctly, sitting on the council takes a lot of time and effort and provides very little reward.
Power, even the relatively insignificant amount that comes with service on the city council of a small city, is a powerfully addicting intoxicant. Once people taste it, they almost always want as much as they can get.
I don’t believe that’s the only reason members of our City Council want to serve longer but I believe that’s the ugly, underbelly of these two proposed amendments. Candidly, proponents of the amendments might tell you they want to continue the momentum the council has established with harbor re-development plans. I like the sentiment behind that. I’m all for redeveloping the harbor and against getting bogged down in endless quarrels that divert us from those goals.
Past initiatives that changed city policy such as Measures G, DD and A wound up on our ballots because thousands of citizens signed petitions. Proposed Charter Amendments CM and BE didn’t follow that path. There was no popular uprising among voters who couldn’t bear the thought of losing council members who were about to term out. The only reason our current City Councilors might get a chance to continue sitting on the council after two terms is because three of five council members voted to put the matter on the ballot.
If the Amendments pass, two term councilmen, mayors and school board members will most likely return for a third term. Incumbents get re-elected. Ninety percent of incumbents in congress who ran for re-election in 2012, won their races. Earlier that year, polls showed only 23% of the public regarded congress favorably. You don’t have to do a good job to get re-elected. All you have to do is run.
Locally, the numbers are probably a little better. If you kept your head down, didn’t rock the boat, returned constituents’ phone calls and you’re not running against someone who’s better known and better liked, you are going to get re-elected.
Our entire government, from the president down to local elected officials, is a representative democracy. Every voter who wants to serve (with a few exceptions) has the opportunity to run for office. A candidate who convinces enough voters his or her vision and qualifications are better than the other candidates’, earns the privilege of serving.
An additional four-year term for our current elected officials will not subvert the democratic process. We will still live in a democracy. Waves will get bigger after a storm and parking will still be impossible near the beach on summer weekends.
But the chance to serve will be denied to many people who might have been able to offer new and valuable talents and experiences to the community. Nothing would keep these people from running but with a ten percent statistical probability of winning an election against an incumbent, few if any will get elected.
There are risks to voting NO on Proposed Charter Amendments CM and BE. New Council and School Board members will need to learn a lot and they may stumble a bit in the beginning. The risk of stagnant, predictable ideas and outcomes is far more frightening to me.
I’ve had serious disagreements with policies and positions some of our elected officials hold and have held in the past. I have always known the questions these people force the community to ask and answer are essential to making proper, informed and beneficial decisions. I believe in the end, the city of Redondo Beach will get most of it right and we won’t have to sacrifice any part of our democratic principles in the process.