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Santa Monica Watchdog Group Endorses Proposal for City Council Term Limits
By Niki Cervantes
February 21, 2018 -- A prominent Santa Monica watchdog group on Tuesday offered its endorsement of a proposal for November’s ballot that would impose term limits on the seven-member City Council.
The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) announced its support of the “Terms Limit Initiative,” whose authors -- a first-term council member and the head of another City Hall watchdog group -- will begin circulating petitions to place the measure on the ballot.
Over time, “a too cozy, symbiotic relationship often sets in with incumbent councilmembers, staff and the special interests who devote the energy and money to keep them in power,” SMCLC said in a statement.
“Talented and highly qualified Santa Monicans are at such a disadvantage that they are often discouraged from running,” the organization said.
It noted that in the past quarter of a century, all but two council incumbents have been re-elected.
Included are two incumbents whose seats are up for grabs in November -- Kevin McKeown, who was first elected in 1998, and Pam O’Connor, who won her seat in 1994.
“The power of incumbency here has been extraordinary,” SMCLC said.
McKeown is seeking another term; O’Connor has not announced her intentions.
The third incumbent on the ballot is Sue Himmelrich, who is seeking her second four-year term.
Himmelrich and Mary Marlow, head of the Santa Monica Transparency Project, are authors of the term-limits initiative.
The SMCLC announcement calls the term-limits proposal a “good governance initiative” and says both of its authors are “highly respected.”
If passed, the initiative will limit any council member to no more than 12 years in office going forward ("Proposed Ballot Measure Calls for Term Limits for Santa Monica Council Members," February 1, 2018).
It does not apply to seats on the school board for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), or to those running for seats on the governing board for Santa Monica College (SMC).
Terms limits are fairly common among California governing bodies now, from the office of governor to many city councils. Those serving on commissions for Santa Monica are also subject to term limits, although exceptions have been made.
The practice is not popular with many incumbents, however, who often complain term limits rob the public of representatives with extensive knowledge of how government works.
Both McKeown and O’Connor have spoken out against capping terms.
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