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Activists Trying to Get Term Limits for the City Council on Ballot

Local activists say three four-year terms in office is the maximum City Councilmembers should serve.

Could term limits be on the horizon for members of the West Hollywood City Council?

Currently city councilmembers can serve just as long as the voters keep casting their ballots for them. But a group of local activists are trying to put term limits on the ballot for the March 2013 election.

That measure would limit councilmembers to three four-year terms in office. Those terms could be served consecutively and scattered, but 12 years would be the maximum a councilmember could serve.

“While all of the councilmembers have done many good things for the city during their tenure, these should not be lifetime positions,” said Elyse Eisenberg, one of the people spearheading this drive. “When the president of the United States serves only eight years and is expected to change the world during that time, 12 years should be sufficient for our own councilmembers to enact their vision for our city.”

Adds Lauren Meister, another longtime activist who worked on the measure, “if West Hollywood residents want an opportunity for new blood on City Council, the only way it's going to happen is with term limits.”

Of the current city Council members, John Heilman has served 28 years, Abbe Land has served 21, Jeff Prang has served 15 and John Duran for 11. The new kid on the Council, John D’Amico, has served for one year.

The measure would not be retroactive; state law forbids that. Therefore, if the measure passes, all the current councilmembers would be allowed another 12 years, provided the voters keep electing them.

Steve Martin, who served on the Council from 1994-2003, believes having term limits would encourage more public participation by giving more people a chance at office.

“The council needs some fresh blood, new ideas,” said Martin. “Incumbents always have an advantage at the ballot box because of the name recognition and the ability to raise money for campaigns. But this would help level things out.”

The easiest way to get the measure on the March ballot would be for the City Council to approve it, but Martin doesn’t expect that to happen.

“It’s not in their best interest to do that,” he said.

Martin reports that a “long list of people” have already volunteered to help collect the 3,000-4,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot. Expect to see them outside Gelson’s, Pavilions and other places in the coming weeks.

Contact the group at: wehotermlimits@gmail.com

Below is the text of the measure:

No person shall serve more than a total of three terms as a West Hollywood City Council member.  For purposes of this section, any portion of a term, whether elected or appointed, shall be counted as a full term.  The terms may be served consecutively or non-consecutively.  This ordinance shall become effective upon the date of adoption.

Should the City Councilmembers be limited to three four-year terms? Tell us in the comments and cast your vote in our Patch poll.

Chloe Ross July 27, 2012 at 09:51 PM
oh yes Lauren - I agree and what a divine little zygot they chose to appoint.
Chloe Ross July 27, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Hold the phone folks - we have had a tradition inthis country of placing deceased solons wives in the office of the decedant. Mary Bono was no genius as I recall when poor Sonny hit the tree - why should Mary have taken his seat in the House and this has happened on every level. No matter what she has learned since that time - she had no divine right to inherit his job.
scott ferguson July 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Lauren - I don't disagree that figuring out how to do an election would have been a reasonable alternative. And it is wrong that there isn't an extant policy for these situations. I appeciate your understanding that you weren't "due" the spot. That would be the same as saying if John D'Amico were to leave the council tomorrow, Lindsay Horvath should replace him because she got the next most votes.
Chloe Ross July 27, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Speaking of term limits - whose brilliant idea was it to appoint SCOTUS to the bench for life? As all these holier than wartime stockings should remember, as they are trying to do politics from the High Court, to all things there is a season. The same may be said for our Gang of Five and those across the nation who don't seem to know when to callit a day. It can't be money in WeHo - it has to be power and control and maybe graft - but that remains to be proven.
scott ferguson July 27, 2012 at 10:22 PM
It was the founding fathers in the Constitution, and with justifiable reason - to did remove immediate partisanship and presumed a degree of impartiality that would come with a lifetime appointment. It will never change (it would take appoval of both houses of Congress and 3/4s of the states to do so). It's frustrating, but the best course is to remind everyone what is at stake in November. Ruth Bader GInsberg's seat might open up in the next four years, and were she replaced by a Scalia clone, this country could be effectively done for.
meister4weho July 27, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Actually, Steve Martin got the next most votes, but who's counting! :-)
scott ferguson July 27, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Lauren - thx for the correction I'm sure this is old news rehashed for you, but there is precedent for a vacancy in a legislative body to be filled by appointment (it is how US Senators are chosen, by the governor of the state involved) or wait until the next election or hold a special election. In the absence of any formal procedure (which should be established), what they did was as valid as any other choice, particularly when with a five member body, the absence of one member greatly increases the chances of a tie. (This got it done right away rather than waiting several months, as would have happened with a special election).
meister4weho July 27, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Yes, and we see how well that worked out for Rod Blagojevich.
joninla July 31, 2012 at 09:10 AM
The more I watch the big picture, the more it appears John Heilman (and his sidekick Abby who goes along with what she is told to say) is the only Council Member who is acting one on one with the City Manager in leading us to what seems to be the biggest loss to our city in the guise of $16 million for robo garage and $40 million to "improve" plummer park by destroying the trees to make it Plummer ParkingLot. We should gather and work towsrds voting out Heilman rather than blanket "term limits" which seems full of problems even if possible. Q: How can the City Manager be changed? He seems to be untouchable yet controls our lives more than anyone else in city hall?
meister4weho August 01, 2012 at 12:38 AM
The Council decides who is City Manager. Once again, it comes down to the elected officials and their LONG-term relationships... Getting the question of Term Limits on the ballot may not be the entire solution but it is at least one piece of the solution... Please go to www.wehotermlimits.com to register for the mailing list and to download the form to get petition signatures. (Please note, signing this petition does not mean you are necessarily "for" Term Limits but rather, that you are for Voters having a choice. Please give West Hollywood Voters the opportunity to decide whether they want Term Limits or not.) Thank you!
90069 August 01, 2012 at 01:13 AM
John D'amico is against these term limits and he is correct. Let those that can build a coalition remain in office. I'm not thrilled Land and Heilman have been in power for so long but no other contender has yet to challenge him in a legitimate way. Why can't we put more effort into building better campaigns and not rigging the election process with term limits. We cannot act like Heilman is awful if he continues to be re-elected over and over again. I do not think that voters are being tricked or bought off by him. He has just done a better job of holding together a coalition, that's about it! D'Amico showed that if a candidate is serious about winning, he or she should be able to do so without the need for term limits.
scott ferguson August 01, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Lauren What you wrote sounds nice, but quickly disappears when you apply it to any other issue. You say - it doesn't matter if you favor term limits, but sign our petition anyway. So let's try this - let's say abortion were determined by voters, not a standing supreme court decision. What would you say if an anti-abortion supporter said, it doesn't matter if you aren't against abortion, please sign a form to get anti-abortion on the ballot? You'd I assume think that would be ridiculous. Same thing here. I've never heard anyone try using that sort of logic before. Why would anyone who approves of the status quo help a measure contrary to his or her views?
meister4weho August 01, 2012 at 10:12 PM
@Scott: thanks for your comment but I think your comparison is a bit ridiculous.
GoodGriefCharlieBrown August 01, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Scott Ferguson, you have to be an irrational thinker to compare term limits to abortion, or to things such as interracial or gay marriage, among other private matters that are not the public's business. People vote to resolve civic matters that apply to the lives of all citizens, or at least have the potential to do so. We do not vote on matters of private personal choices and decisions. As usual, you are inclined to speak psychobabble & render your input negligible nonsense.
scott ferguson August 01, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I can always tell from GGCB's response how strong a bull's eye I hit. So leave out abortion and substitute it with 1000 other issues - the idea that someone would support having a referendum on something that one agrees with and is settled law for a locality is preposterous. In any event, referenda overall are what has made California ungovernable. We are a representative democracy - our elected officials should make decisions after we give them our proxy. That's the American way, as created by the founding fathers. If you want term limits, then elect council members who support them and change the law. That would be the best way to do this.
meister4weho August 01, 2012 at 10:39 PM
@Scott: Which "founding fathers" are you talking about? Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson? All supported term limits "to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office…." Or John Heilman?
Chloe Ross August 01, 2012 at 10:55 PM
@Lauren- you may have noticed that in the recent decades revisionist history has enjoyed incredible popularity. Not only American and world history but religious history as well. If the quote you mentioned were one that was widely known by every smug Wizard of Oz that sits behind the curtain and pontificates - it might make things a tad easier in understanding why some others realize think "term limits" is neither a new nor controversial idea that threatens the very freedom of democracy. No matter what they think.
GoodGriefCharlieBrown August 01, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Rational reasonable people may say thus: "I don't support term limits, but I'm willing to put the issue on the ballot & let rational reasonable people vote on it & accept the outcome as the will of the people". Irrational unreasonable people might say thus: "I do not support term limits, therefore, I do not want everyone else to have their say. In order to have things my way, I want to keep the issue off the ballot and prevent people from voting on it." Conversely, rational reasonable people might say "I support term limits, I would like to see it on the ballot since I think we should vote on it and let the majority decide" . This is a sign of good character, good citizenship & maturity. There is a reason for the voter suppression movements in some of the southern states & why the repubs are blocking the democratic process in Washington. It's to do their damnest to get the outcome they want. I could be called Scott Ferguson Syndrome.
Chloe Ross August 01, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Whilst I am about it - I believe - as much as I have since 1964, that men using abortion in any context is offensive because there is no way any male - beloved or casual - can possibly understand the complexity of a woman's feelings about prenancy - wanted or unwanted. Sort of l ike I can't really understand what being kicked in the testicles feels like - So it would be great if the comments on this Patch left abortion - as a casual mention - aside. And I will never presume to "get" what a knee in the crotch feels like.
scott ferguson August 01, 2012 at 11:36 PM
All the people cited by Lauren above (if indeed they supported term limits - if they did, they were voted down since they were never enacted) would agree with me 100% that representative democracy - that is, our elected surrogates make the laws - is the way to go, and all were on record opposing a referendum form of government as many of you seem to. Even if they wanted term limits, they would oppose having a referendum on it, because they were smart enough to recognize the inherent dangers involved. If all of a sudden this becomes the in thing in West Hollywood (we've been spared most of it) progressives will lose and those business forces we all worry about will win. Why? Because the overwhelming history of referenda where it exists in the US is that the moneyed, usually business oriented, forces win most of the time, because they have the most money. So another reason I oppose this referendum and its getting on the ballot - apart from my opinion on the merits - is I know as a progressive and a liberal this is another step towards more often than not non-progressive forces prevailing.
joninla August 02, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Thanks for the facts. And it was John Heilman since day one, and Paul as well? Along with John Heilman and his touching tribute to the Close, Close long term relationship between the City, Latham & Watkins and himself, it would appear there was a motivation a little less moral and more personally profitable for the original creation of the City of WeHo (but with a very very public statement about creating the creative/liberal/protective city as the way to sell the plan). I don't disagree with term limits, it should be voted on, but I would hope the truth about the financial dealings of the City were known and if there are problems, they be dealt with asap.
meister4weho August 02, 2012 at 12:56 AM
I didn't know you had a Ouiga Board, or maybe you're just channeling, like John Duran channels the "silent majority" every time he's looking for "supporters."
Chloe Ross August 02, 2012 at 01:45 AM
@Mr. "Scott Ferguson" - you know they would agree with you 100% - explain to me how you know this? Please.
meister4weho August 03, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Worth taking a look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_limits_in_the_United_States
Chloe Ross August 03, 2012 at 06:04 PM
" The historian Mercy Otis Warren, warned that "there is no provision for a rotation, nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done...."[9] Appreciate the wiki link. @Scott - you have not yet explained how you KNOW the person Lauren mentioned"would agree with me 100% that representative democracy - that is, our elected surrogates make the laws - is the way to go, and all were on record opposing a referendum form of government as many of you seem to. Even if they wanted term limits, they would oppose having a referendum on it, because they were smart enough to recognize the inherent dangers involved." Please explain how you KNOW this.
jimmy palmieri August 03, 2012 at 06:11 PM
How can I get out of this thread? I agree with a lot but the replies keep filling my mailbox.
Chloe Ross September 09, 2012 at 08:21 AM
The prop is tolet the voters decide whether to even put it on a ballot - what could be more democratic than that. Questioning our self-respect is so beside the point and clouds the issue. Part of the process is to allow the voters to decide yes or no. I think Scott - you are belaboring the issue and repeating yourself. I think anyone who reads these blogs knows where you stand. Your comments don't seem to be doing anything more than increasing the support being garnered for the prop. Perhaps your approach needs work.
Stephanie September 09, 2012 at 04:15 PM
COUNCILMEMBER JOHN D'AMICO HAS SIGNED THE PETITION TO PUT TERM LIMITS ON THE BALLOT.
Miles September 18, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Hardly anti-democratic or even non-Democratic. Term limits are not a right wing GOP idea, either. Whenever government loses touch with the people, the people will rise up and punch through a wall of developer-funded city council members, most of whom are like bad relatives who have over-stayed their welcome by a decade or more. Count this left leaning voter as a strong proponent of term limits. I just wish we could make the current council members exit stage left the day it passes, which it will. They should retire and move to Palm Springs and let the young voices come forward. This automated garage proves my point with a bold exclamation mark. What a waste and this proves they are so far out of touch (not unlike Mitt)!
Miles September 18, 2012 at 11:15 PM
P.S., if we can't have term limits, at the least we should have full public funding of all city council races. The cost would be far less than the gigantic white elephant, the automated garage. In fact, we could probably fund 200 years of council races with the money spent (wasted) on this big blunder. What the hell were they thinking?

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