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Term Limits for Council Members Put on Ballot : Politics: Voters will decide Nov. 2 whether to impose restrictions on the tenures of city lawmakers.

July 29, 1993|PSYCHE PASCUAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Downey voters will decide Nov. 2 whether to limit City Council members to serving two four-year terms.

An initiative spearheaded by lawyer and former Councilman Joseph E. Di Loreto was placed on the ballot by the council Tuesday night. The city was obligated to hold the election after Di Loreto gathered 6,094 signatures on petitions calling for term limits to be written into the City Charter.

The council decided not to include two other proposed charter amendments they had asked city staff to prepare. One would have limited elected officials to two consecutive terms, but would have permitted them to serve again after skipping a term. The other would have asked voters to impose no limits on council terms.

Council members said they wanted to simplify the issue for voters. Placing two or three alternative measures on the ballot might have confused them, they said.

Di Loreto said the city-proposed initiatives would have befuddled voters. After the decision, he commended council members.

"The City Council took the high ground. They did the right thing," he said.

Some residents and a majority of council members have criticized Di Loreto's measure and vowed to fight it. They contend term limits are unnecessary in Downey, which has had a regular turnover in elected officials during its 37-year history.

Four out of five council members have served less than four years, and only one, Diane P. Boggs, has served more than two terms.

"We don't have a good-old-boy network," said Boggs, who was elected to her third term last year. "I think we take a bashing we don't deserve."

Other council members accused Di Loreto of channeling voter anger at City Hall into the movement for term limits.

In May, voters in a special election rejected a plan to build a city-subsidized downtown theater complex on municipal land.

Councilwoman Joyce L. Lawrence said limiting the council's terms will not guarantee that voters will get better government.

"I think it gives false assurance to people . . . that it will throw the bums out before they can do too much damage," she said. "And that's the wrong idea to have about the people who serve you in local government."

Dissatisfaction with government has fueled a term-limits movement that has swept across the state in recent years. At least 27 other communities restrict council terms, including Cerritos, Redondo Beach, Long Beach and Los Angeles, according to a survey conducted last year by the League of California Cities.

The Downey council also approved placing two unrelated charter amendments on the ballot. One would restrict a political candidate from submitting a ballot statement that includes information about an opponent's character or qualifications. The other would allow some misdemeanor charges to be considered infractions.

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