National City Ballot Measure May Reset The Term Limit Clock For Mayor
>> This is KPBS Mid Day Edition . I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. >> Two competing ballot measures are confusing voters. On the surface, measures B and C both placed term limits on officials. >> So, here's the short of a long story. Back in 2004, the voters of National City passed prop-T. Input eight term limit in place for the mayors office. Each term is normal for years and you can only serve 3 back to back. After that, times up. 70% of the voters said let's get someone else elected. >> The idea that term limits could affect politicians, the mayor would be termed out in 2018 as the selection cycle occurs. >> There is a new measure out, measure the. Inputs the term limit on all measure officials. Measure-B Woodmere what most other cities have, consistent term limits for all elected officials and not just the mayors office. >> This is basically in line with what other cities do. To this point, we haven't had turn -- term limits. Is not on all of our elected officials which includes the council members, city clerk and city treasurer. >> Not only does measure be set term limits, hits the reset button for one guy who is been in office for 12 years. Mayor Morrison. >> It would help the current mayor who would get an additional 8 years on this. This is changing the rules after the fact. >> It is a deceptive measure that would repeal the 2004 law allowing him to run for another 2 terms. >> Jose Rodriguez Liz and National City, he is running for city Council and he is fired up about measure B. We need a change. >> In response, he is pushing measure-see. -- A countermeasure was put on the budget. It says no, we will keep the original limitation on the mayor. But will put term limits on the city Council going forward. >> That means extending term limits to other elected positions about resetting the mayors clock. >> What happens and National City, people jump from one position to another. They stayed here for 40 years. I think public service good -- is good, but allowing new people to come up helps us deal with issues in the future. >> After 14 years on city Council and 12 years as mayor, what else does Morrison want to do? >> There are tons of stuff. We are getting ready to open up the waterfront and there's a big dispute. The groups that they back want to turn everything into parks which is really nice. The problem is, as cities -- the city is looking at deficits coming into the future. There's less revenue coming in. >> The mayor has been in office for quarter of a century. He hasn't accomplished what he wants to do. If you haven't done it in a quarter of a century, you're probably never going to do it. National City is an incredibly poor city. It is the second poorest city in the county. >> Between measures B and measure C, you will see any government with no one walking away the Victor. >> Often when you have competing propositions, it divides about and both words fail. >> Joining me is Jane Smith. Welcome. >> If 70% of National City voters back in 24 -- 2004 approved term limits and measure B would remove those term limits, how did that measure get on the ballot? >> I talked to Mayor Morrison about that and he said that a group of citizens called him up and asked for back story and history on term limits for the mayors office. He said he talked to them and this is what they came up. It was a group of citizens that push this. I know the measure is supported by a number of local businesses between National City. Even one big labor union supports this. It has quite a bit of support. >> Is Morrison a popular mayor National City? >> He is popular with the labor union. He is popular with local businesses between National City and Palais. He is popular with the Republican establishment for the most part. >> The Republican establishment likes them but the demographics of National City are changing. >> I spoke with the political scientist, Carl Luna, he says the demographics are changing and the leadership you see right now on the city Council on mayors office don't reflect what's in National City. >> Ron Morrison's term is a post in this year. Is there anyone running for mayor now? >> Yes, actually city Councilwoman is running unopposed right now. You have until August 10, that is the filing date for the mayors race and National City. There is someone who could jump into that race at this point. When I talked to Mayor Morrison, he said that is one of the reason he wants to see measure B past. He feels like the city Council -- counselor who is running is running unopposed. >> I have a question about this. Because, one of the reasons that labor is supporting measure B is because of some history between the head of the labor union and the city of -- Councilwoman. >> There's been speculation about politics going on here. With National City having its own movement, there was some allegations against one of the labor union leaders, Mickey Castle. He was accused of sexual assault. So, the Councilwoman was aborted of the accuser in this case. This is almost retaliatory. Castle through a lot of financial support against -- for measure B. >> Measure C is almost identical to measure B except it keeps the term limit for mayor Morrison intact. Or does the support for measure C come from? >> Measure C is supported by another faction of the labor movement in San Diego. It is supported by other Democratic politicians in San Diego. One of their fears is the current mayor and a lot of boards in the city tend to vote more Republican. They would like to see the Metropolitan transit board have more progressive voice on it that we support mass transit. This is tied National City is pivotal role in county politics into his local debate. >> By extension, you see the same support behind the only candidate right now, the Councilwoman? >> Exactly. You have a situation here where you have these 2 measures and right now, you have the support those supporting Trent into -- Solice behind it. >> The way that this is set up, when you have to competing ballot measures, one has to win by 51%. Typically, what happens, when they are competing, the vote gets divided and split down the middle. Neither ballot measure wins and you will end up with the status quo. If neither one of these ballot measures when, Morrison will term out in 2018 and things will continue. >> As you said, if anybody else wants to run for mayor, they have until when? >> August 10th, a cringe of the registrars office. >> To file and run in November? >> Right, people have until August 10 to file. >> I've been speaking with Jane. Thank you. >> Thank you.
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.
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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.