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The wrong solution

Proposition R, on City Council term limits, contradicts some reforms urged by an ethics panel. Vote no.

October 24, 2006

LOS ANGELES' Proposition R would relax term limits for City Council members from two terms to three, allowing officeholders to serve a maximum of 12 years. Looked at in a vacuum, it would be a positive step -- allowing members to focus more on the long-term good of the city, less on plotting the next stops of their political careers. Unfortunately, it comes with too big a price tag.

The problems start with the fact that Proposition R blends term limits with a mixed bag of changes to city ethics laws. Bundling the two might yet be declared illegal; if the measure passes, there will be a hearing Nov. 28.

The ethics provisions would tighten some rules for lobbyists and impose a host of other provisions. None of them are inherently bad, and some might even be good. The problem is that the reforms circumvent and in some cases contradict the city's Ethics Commission, which voters set up in 1990 to examine the minutiae of political fundraising, lobbying, contracting and so on. The commission has given the City Council dozens of recommendations, and members have passed some but notoriously sat on many others, especially those having to do with campaign finance.

Some of the provisions in Proposition R are directly contrary to the Ethics Commission's recommendations. Others are good steps that City Council members could (and should) take care of anytime by passing an ordinance, not by prettifying a ballot measure that protects their own jobs.

And make no mistake -- that's exactly what's going on here. Campaign mailers are billing this as a housecleaning measure to reform corrupt city practices; term limits are only mentioned by way of implying, falsely, that no such limits currently exist.

Voters deserve a chance to extend elected officials' terms fairly. That's why we urge a "no" vote on Proposition R.

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