The Los Angeles County Democratic Party voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose term limits for West Hollywood City Council members.
At the party's monthly meeting in mid-Wilshire more than 200 county Democrats gave a thumbs down to Measure C, which seeks to put a 12-year cap on Weho council service.
"West Hollywood is a city with a strong economy, sound budgetary practices and responsive city services because of the strong and stable leadership at City Hall," party Chairman Eric Bauman said in a statement. "Measure C is a divisive measure funded and led by Republicans and failed candidates for city council in an attempt to limit voters’ ability to vote for candidates of their choice and to bar experienced leaders from serving the city."
Lauren Meister, chairwoman of the Yes on Measure C Committee, said the county Dems and local organizations such as the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club and rent control advocacy group Coalition for Economic Survival are "desperately afraid" that term limits have a good chance of passing in March.
"If we follow their logic, they would never have any new faces on council because the city might fall apart—in fact, maybe they'd like to do away with elections, period," Meister said. "City employees make sure the city runs. City services are not dependent upon any one individual council member."
Larry Levine of West Hollywood Voters for Choice, a group organized to oppose Measure C, echoed Bauman's claim that elections should center on voter sentiment rather than term restrictions.
"If voters want to remove a council member they have that option every time that official runs for re-election," Levine said. "If they think a particular individual is doing a good and responsible job, they should have the ability to re-elect that person no matter how long he or she has been in office."
Bauman told Patch the Measure C campaign is the work of Republicans such as John Fleischman, a former state Republican Party official, and political consultant Scott Schmidt, a former council candidate who led the petition drive to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
"One might call this not 'term limits,' but 'sour grapes limits," Bauman quipped in reference to Measure C supporters who are current and former council candidates. "The fact that a group of people couldn't get elected is not a reason to try to impose term limits."
Meister, a former West Hollywood Planning Commission member who has run unsuccessfully for city council, defended her group's membership and consultants. She claimed the term limits initiative is nonpartisan and that most of the 3,500 Weho voters who signed the petition to get Measure C on the ballot were Democrats.
"Ah, yes, our campaign consultant Scott Schmidt is a Republican—he is also a West Hollywood resident, he supports marriage equality and he won an award for his work against Prop. 8," Meister said. "The reality is, campaign contributions from special interest groups make for less competitive elections and dissuade well-qualified people from seeking office. Our current five council members are not the only experienced leaders in the community. And if they really think that they are the only people who are qualified to be on city council, then we better buy some crowns."
The March 5 election features two incumbents—Mayor Jeffrey Prang and Councilman John Duran, who have each served for more than a decade—against seven other candidates. If voters enact Measure C, the first of maximum three four-year terms would begin for members elected in 2013 and beyond.