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Organizers Submit More than 19,000 Signatures for Santa Monica Term Limits Measure
By Niki Cervantes
May 21, 2018 -- Organizers of a proposed measure mandating terms limits for Santa Monica City Council members submitted petitions with more than 19,000 signatures Monday morning to the City Clerk, sponsors of the measure said..
The number of signatures submitted was almost twice as many as needed to win a place on the November 6 ballot, they said.
The City Clerk will conduct a preliminary verification of the signatures before submitting them to County election officials, according to City Clerk staff.
“We’re excited,” said Mary Marlow, the activist who with Council member Sue Himmelrich proposed the ballot measure. “We’re gonna get this baby on the ballot.”
Marlow, who heads the Santa Monica Transparency Project, said about 10,500 valid signatures -- or 15 percent of the City’s registered voters -- are needed to receive a spot on ballot in the election next fall.
The number of signatures collected provide a wide margin for those that may be rendered invalid by the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office, Marlow said.
But leaders of the effort said they also wanted to send a message.
“There is a huge amount of support or this (term limits),” Marlow said.
She said the term-limits campaign has a 10 a.m. appointment Monday with the City Clerk’s Office to hand in its many boxes of petitions, proceeded by a media conference at City Hall to announce the submission of the signatures.
The measure seeks to amend the City Charter to limit each of the council’s seven members to three terms “whether consecutive or not,” and deems a partial term of more than two years as equaling one four-year term.
It would become effective after the November election, which includes two incumbents, Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown, who have each served twenty or more years.
Himmelrich is on the ballot as well, running for her second four-year term.
However, the amendment would only apply to council terms of office which begin on, or after, the election.
It does not apply to the terms of elected officials within Santa Monica, such as board members for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District or the trustees of Santa Monica College.
Many local governments throughout the state impose term limits, and California has term limits for its statewide elected officers and its Senate and Assembly legislators.
The City of Santa Monica’s appointed committees are mandated by term limits, although some members have exceeded the limits.
Generally, the city’s political establishment, including McKeown and O’Connor, oppose the concept of term limits for the council, saying it would eliminate the special experience and knowledge that comes with longevity.
A letter by Himmelrich and Marlow attached to the notice to circulate petitions noted council incumbents seldom lose.
“In the most recent 2016 municipal election, 100% of the incumbents for Santa Monica City Council were reelected,” the letter said. “And over the past 25 years, City Council incumbents in Santa Monica have been reelected again and again at an overwhelming rate.
“Term limits give voters a real chance for change and bring in fresh perspectives and ideas," the letter said. "Term limits encourage potential candidates to run and foster healthy competition. That is why they are so popular in the county and the state.”
The county must still certify the term-limits signatures and the council will also need to act by this summer to put the measure on the November ballot.
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