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Question: What Do You Think About Term Limits?

A recent study calls them ineffective. But how do you think they're working out on a city level?

San Ramon Watch blogger Steve O'Brien cited a study that says term limits are basically ineffective in California.

“California’s legislative term limits have failed to create a class of ‘citizen legislators’ who serve briefly and then return home to resume private careers," reads the report just released by the Center for Government Studies. "A majority of state legislators stay in government and simply move to other elected offices.”

O'Brien writes:

Unfortunately we’ve got a similar problem in San Ramon. The average tenure for a current council member is a whopping 10 years. Ten freakin years!! King musical chairperson Dave Hudson has been bouncing around city council for 14 years, headed for 16, before he no doubt runs again in 2013. Currently Carol Rowley and Scott Perkins are jonesing for another four, which would put them both in the 12-year club if re-elected this Nov. 8.

Leadership in this city could see more change this year than in several past elections. Mayor H. Abram Wilson terms out. A former school district trustee, Bill Clarkson, and Rowley are running for that seat.

But there's some speculation – and O'Brien brings it up on his blog – that Wilson may run for one of the two council seats on the ballot this fall. Wilson hasn't stated on the record what his plans are. But say he does run. With Perkins running for re-election and Rowley running for another spot on the council, that means that if they're all successful, San Ramon will have the same five people at the helm that have been on for the past eight-plus years.

Of course, there are challengers. There's Clarkson, as I mentioned, and then Phil O'Loane, a former Planning Commissioner who made a name for himself last year as a leader in the successful campaign against a ballot measure that would have expanded San Ramon's urban growth boundary into the undeveloped Tassajara Valley.

(We'll publish Q&As with all the candidates as we make our way into election season, by the way.)

Anyway, I want to ask you, San Ramon Patch readers, what you think of the study's findings and O'Brien's commentary? Has San Ramon benefitted from term limits? How or how not? Tell us in the comments!

To read the entire 56-page report, just click on the PDF attached to this article.

Armie Bart July 26, 2011 at 11:08 AM
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Harry Sachs July 26, 2011 at 08:48 PM
Term limits at the city level are called elections. If you look at 2003 to 2011, San Ramon has had incumbents run unopposed and in 2009 Dave Hudson and Jim Livingstone ran against two residents. Apparently those who voted in city elections seem to like how the incumbents have performed. That is not to say every decision has been perfect. But if you look at the past eight years in a very challenging economic environment, San Ramon has: built 2 first class olympic pools at Cal High and DV high., Built a senior center, built two performing arts centers in DV, instituted a waste management and recycling system that is very effective, increased senior housing that is affordable, created its own police department, renovated the Glass House and Forest Home Farms, expanded its award winning parks system, and parks and recreation classes have not been cut as is the case in most cities. Not a bad track record. San Ramon was chosen as a top 100 city in the US and our business climate is healthy. If one's beef with city government is that they pay their staff well, I say look what you are getting. A resident gets very tangible benefits living here. its family friendly San Ramon, low crime, great amenities, nice parks and great schools. You want to throw the bums out based on this track record. You run on your accomplishments. Elections are the term limits.
Jennifer Wadsworth July 26, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Thanks for commenting, Harry! Good to hear your thoughts on this.
Jennifer Wadsworth July 26, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Got a couple more interesting answers from Facebook readers. I'll post them here ... Ken Koupal: The only reason they exist is because we don't trust our fellow voters. If someone wants the job, and we the people keep voting for their return, then why not allow it? So what if it's a "career"? Good, competent people should not be turned away. And Amy Johns: One of the many problems with term limits is the steep learning curve for legislators to fully understand the long term impacts of what they are voting on. Because new legislators are learning so many new aspects of their jobs, they must r...ely more heavily on support staff and lobbyists for their information. Additionally, legislators who have more knowledge of the history of why things happened as they did, are no longer around to help clarify. And while I do not believe that all lobbyists are bad or evil, I'm not sure that leaving so much "teaching" to the lobbyists is wise.

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