By Lookout Staff
Editor’s Note: The Lookout News sent several questions to the 14 candidates running for City Council. Each answer was limited to 125 words. The Lookout is publishing the candidates’ answers over several days. In each posting, the candidates' answers will be shown in the same order as their names appear on the ballot or in reverse order.
October 15, 2014 -- Question: Bob Holbrook will step down as a council member this year after 24 years on the dais. In many cities it would not be possible for a person to be on a council for so long because they have term limits. Should Santa Monica have term limits? Defend why or why not?
Name: Jennifer Kennedy
Answer: I think term-limits are not needed because Councilmembers’ effectiveness can be determined over time and residents can vote them out of office if they don’t think the job is getting done. Some elected officials improve their effectiveness over time and others stagnate or become disengaged. The election process is a good tool that residents have to address this in the community.
Name: Michael Feinstein
Answer: Term limits limit voter choice. Bob Holbrook has served on the Council this long because he represents part of Santa Monica large enough to merit representation and elect him. The answer is not to restrict this voter choice, but to increase it. Under our current voting system, the potential is for the majority to be over-represented and the minority under-represented. In a four seat election, if 75% of voters vote for the same four candidates, they’d win 4/4 seats, instead of 3/4. Under ranked choice voting, results are more proportional, giving voice to more residents, and leading to more representative local government. Ranked choice voting is in place in Alameda and San Francisco counties, and elsewhere in the U.S. I support examining its use here.
Name: Jon Mann
Answer: Not only term limits, but district representation, ranked voting, and clean money. If elected, I will work to level the playing field and expose the conflict of interest and cronyism that currently prevents any effort to implement campaign reform in Santa Monica.
Name: Richard McKinnon
Occupation: Business Owner
Answer: No. Voters should always make the decision how long politicians serve. But Santa Monica Council Members have been serving too long, there is a clear need for change and fresh ideas on the Council, and any longer than 12 years of service highlights the law of diminishing returns from Council members.
Name: Kevin McKeown
Occupation: Apple Technology Consultant for Local Public Schools in Santa Monica and Malibu
We do have term limits, called elections. On November 4th, voters can dismiss any Councilmember they feel has been unresponsive to residents, or has voted against residents’ interests. I suspect that will happen this year. In contrast, a Councilmember who has remained true to representing residents, and gotten better at the job with time and experience, deserves to be retained. Elections are sometimes distorted by misinformation, lavishly distributed by well-funded special interests (usually, in our city, developers). Voters in Santa Monica have become increasingly aware of these efforts to persuade them to vote against their own interests, and have grown wonderfully resistant to such manipulation. In the end, I trust in engaged, participatory democracy as the best “term limit” mechanism for Santa Monica.
Name: Zoë Muntaner
Occupation: Founder/Chief Compassion Officer, Writer, Creative Activist, Chief Strategy Officer
Answer: I favor term limits as there is a tendency for established politicians to accumulate too much power and influence. Term limits keeps the power with the people, where it belongs.
Name: Whitney Scott Bain
Answer: Term limits should be in place as well as an elected mayor by the people and not a rotation of the position by the City Council. The City needs to have reliable, trustworthy members that have the ear of the citizens. The City Charter needs to be changed.
Name: Nick Boles
Occupation: Non-Profit Consultant/Entrepreneur
Answer: Yes, I believe in term limits. It is important to perpetually gain new perspectives on our city’s future. I believe that term limits would encourage sitting council members in developing our next generation to take the reigns and carry out their legacy.
Name: Phil Brock
Occupation: President/CEO of Studio Talent Group
Answer: Bob and I disagree about development issues but he cares deeply about our community. However, I believe that three terms is enough for any one person to serve on the City Council. As a Recreation & Parks Commissioner I am limited to three four year terms and our Council should be as well. In addition, we may need to vote for Council Members by district in the future to give our neighborhoods better representation.
Name: Frank Gruber
Occupation: Urban Affairs Writer and Lawyer
Answer: First, let me say that I am proud to have Bob Holbrook’s endorsement, underscoring my broad coalition from across the political spectrum in Santa Monica. As far as term limits, it depends on the length. I believe elected officials with an institutional memory and experience are a tremendous value to their constituents. Having a revolving door of elected officials every few years does not work and it often takes a few years to learn the ropes. On the State level, term limits have proven ineffective for that reason. If the voters believe that someone has been there too long, voters have the right to vote that person out.
Name: Terence Later
Occupation: Entertainment Consultant
Answer: Bob Holbrook’s service was a great asset to the city of Santa Monica. However, my personal belief is that ultimate power corrupts. Rotation of leadership makes for healthy government. I believe Santa Monica needs term limits. For example, Bobby Shriver served two terms and was very effective for our community. He was active and efficient within his time limit.
Name: Pam O’Connor
Occupation: Historic Preservation Planner
Answer: The City Council currently has one member in his 6th term, one in 5th term, one in 4th term, three in 2nd term (partial terms and term 20 years ago), and one is in their first term.The Council is thus balanced with people with institutional memory along with new voices--and a majority of the members have served for less than two full terms. In cities with term limits, their Councilmember are unable to serve on regional bodies such as Metro where major transportation resource decisions are made because by the time they get the requisite experience their terms are over.
Name: Jerry Rubin
Occupation: Peace Activist
Answer: No term limits! Let the voters decide every 2 years who will be limited or re-elected. Bob Holbrook, Ken Genser and others who served our community for so many years should be applauded. The right for current and future leaders to have that opportunity should not be taken away.
Name: Sue Himmelrich
Occupation: Attorney at Western Center on Law and Poverty
Answer: Proponents of term limits argue that they promote diversity, limit cronyism, and disrupt cozy relationships between elected officials and lobbyists or special interest groups. Detractors argue that the government body loses valuable institutional knowledge and experience in grappling with public policy issues. Most of the studies of term limits have involved “career politicians,” which our City members are not (or should not be) since they are part-time employees who presumably have a day job. Nevertheless, the absence of term limits is reflected in the votes of purported progressive council members who lean over time towards outside special interest groups. I therefore would favor term limits of 4 terms. I hereby pledge that if I am elected, I will not seek a third term. Ever.