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National City Ballot Measure May Reset The Term Limit Clock For Mayor

A bridge in National City's historic area is seen in this image, May 9, 2018.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: A bridge in National City's historic area is seen in this image, May 9, 2018.

National City Ballot Measure May Reset The Term Limit Clock For Mayor

GUEST:

Jade Hindmon, reporter, KPBS News

Transcript

Two term limit proposals are on the June ballot for National City voters. On the surface, Measures B and C both expand term limits for elected officials. But one particular elected official stands to benefit most from just one of those measures; one who is already subject to an existing term limit law.

That existing law is Proposition T, passed in 2004 by 70 percent of National City voters. It put a term limit in place for just the mayor's office: Four years per term, with only three consecutive terms allowed.

"The idea was that term limits keep people from getting entrenched politicians," said Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna, who has been watching National City politics play out for decades. "The current mayor would be termed out in 2018, this next election cycle, when lo and behold there’s a new measure out, Prop. B."

Measure B would repeal the earlier Prop. T and put term limits on all elected officials, with a standard limit of two terms for all positions.

Its most vocal supporter, current National City Mayor Ron Morrison, said, “B puts us basically in alignment with what other cities do. The idea is two consecutive terms for all elected positions. Up to this point, we haven't had term limits, we’ve had term limit. So, it's on the mayor only and not all of our elected officials. Which includes the council members, the city clerk and the treasurer.”

Because it includes a repeal of the previous law, Measure B also hits the reset button on the term limit clock for Morrison. Under the current law, he is set to term out this year, after 12 years as mayor. If Measure B passes, he becomes eligible for two more four-year terms.

Luna said Measure B is "like changing the rules after the fact. It would help labor unions, business groups and other interest groups that apparently have very good relations with the current mayor and who may not want to change things. It helps the current power structure in National City."

City council candidate Jose Rodriguez said Measure B is deceptive, and he is critical of Morrison. "What he’s doing now is a testament to his leadership. He’s trying to change the rules allowing him to run again for office and this is how he’s run his tenure and it’s why there’s been staunch opposition against him in the community,” he said.

Rodriguez supports a competing measure, Measure C, which keeps the current term limit on the mayor's office and applies the same limit to other elected positions.

“What happens in National City is people decide to jump from one elected position to another and they stay here for 40 or 50 years. I think public service is good but people have to change with the times. And allowing new people to come up is going to allow our city to be flexible with issues in the future,” Rodriguez said.

Photo caption:

Photo by Katie Schoolov

National City Mayor Ron Morrison poses for a photo at National City City Hall, May 9, 2018.

RELATED: National City Considers Raising Sewer Costs

But Morrison feels experience is what National City needs, not new leadership. So, after 14 years on the city council and 12 years as mayor, what else does Morrison want to do?

“Oh my gosh, there’s tons of stuff. We're getting ready to open up the waterfront and there’s a big dispute," Morrison said. "The groups that they back want to turn everything into parks which is really nice … really nice. The problem is our city, like most, is looking at deficits in the future because there’s less revenue coming in because of internet sales and things along that line.”

Rodriguez countered, “the mayor has been in office a quarter of a century and he hasn't accomplished, he says, what he wants to. If you haven't done it in a quarter of a century you’re probably never going to do it.”

Luna said in between Measures B and C, there are also accusations of entrenched government — and the possibility of no one walking away the victor.

"Often when you have competing props it divides up the votes and they both fail. So you might be left with the status quo after all of this,” he said.

Video by Katie Schoolov

Two ballot measures may confuse voters in National City. On the surface, Measures B and C both expand term limits for elected officials. But one particular elected official stands to benefit most from just one of those measures.

Editor's note: A previous version of the broadcast stories stated Jose Rodriguez grew up in National City. He is a current resident but was not raised there.

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