The OC Register editorial board is rolling out its endorsements for the June primary ballot. Weighing in on the three proposed amendments to Anaheim’s city charter: Measures C,D and E, the OCR editorial board got two out of three correct.

The OCR supports a “yes” vote on Measure C (a bundle of largely technical modifications to the charter); and on Measure E – which would legalize the sale and use of safe-and-sane fireworks in Anaheim. The endorsement of E is no surprise, given the Register’s long-standing support for the legalization of fireworks.

Where the editorial board got it wrong, in my opinion, was in opposing Measure D, which would change the mayor’s term to two-years. The reasons the newspaper cites for opposing it:

The change would take effect immediately, rather than after Mayor Tom Tait has been elected to and served a second term

  • Concern that Measure D “will do nothing more than clip Mayor Tait’s wings.”
  • The editorial also expressed the suspicion that Measure D was “political gamesmanship” aimed at a single person – Mayor Tait.

The irony here is that by basing its opposition not on concern for how Measure D might affect the office of mayor, but out of concern for how it might affect a specific individual – the OCR editorial board is committing, in principle, the same sin of which it suggests Measure D proponents are guilty.  Tom Tait is not the last mayor Anaheim will ever have, and the city will have a different mayor in December of 2014, 2016 or 2018.

If it passes, Measure D will impact not only Mayor Tait but whomever follows him in that office. It will also change the dynamics of council elections for years to come. Shouldn’t arguments for or against D focus on wisdom or folly (depending on one’s point of view) rather than on whether it helps or hurts the present incumbent? Would the OC Register editorialize for or against repealing the 22nd Amendment based on who was president at the time, or on the merits of legislative term limits because of who would be pushed from office?

Measure D is an issue on which reasonable people can disagree. I happen to the think the arguments in favor of Measure D are significantly stronger than those being made against it. It will make the mayor more accountable to the voters, and it will end the pattern of council candidates elected in presidential years never having the mayor on the ballot with them, while council candidates in off-year elections always have the mayor on the ballot. If Measure D passes, Anaheim voters would have the opportunity to change a majority of the council every two-years rather than every four.

Arguments that shifting to a two-year mayoral term have little (if any) basis in fact. Every other OC city with a directly-elected mayor also has a two-year term, and there is no evidence that it weakens their ability to lead or forces them to engage in non-stop fundraising and campaigning. The rebuttal to the argument against Measure D points out the self-evident:

“Longer terms don’t make for better leaders. Good mayors can accomplish a lot in two years, while a bad mayor will accomplish nothing in four years.”

It’s too bad the OC Register didn’t weigh the more substantive arguments for and against Measure D, and instead based its position on how the proposed charter amendment would affect a specific person at a specific moment in time.