Ventura County voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to limit county supervisors’ terms with Measure T, an initiative put on the ballot unanimously by supervisors at their July 24 meeting.
Proposed by Supervisor Peter Foy, Measure T would limit supervisors to three four-year terms in office. That means none of the current supervisors could be forced from office until 2020.
But the supervisors who agreed last year to place Measure T before voters aren’t necessarily supporting it. When reached by cell phone Friday, Supervisor John Flynn was noncommittal.
“I have no position on it, I’m staying out of it,” said Flynn, who voted against endorsing the measure even after voting to put it on the ballot. “Let the people vote on it.”
Supervisor Kathy Long is adamantly opposed to term limits in principle, citing them as one of the reasons California’s legislature is dysfunctional.
“I voted to put it on the ballot, but I was holding my nose as I did it,” Long said Monday. “I don’t support term limits — if people are unhappy with you, they’ll tell you.”
Since they have easier access to elected officials at the local level, Long said, people will express their views to representatives whether in offices or supermarkets.
Meanwhile term-limited state representatives won’t deal with tough issues “because they’re too busy worrying about their next position.”
Sean Kelly, an associate professor of political science at California State University, Channel Islands, generally agreed with Long’s
Kelly said the premise behind term limit laws is that governments need a constant flow of new legislators, as opposed to ones like West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, “who’ve been in office longer than I’ve been alive.”
But term limit laws create a new class of elected officials who are dependent on unelected bureaucrats for guidance, said Kelly.
“Often, you’re kicking out people who have become experts every six to eight years,” Kelly said. “Staff and lobbyists become the tail that wags the dog — new legislators come in who are more easily manipulated.”