IMG_8079The OC Register has published a round-up article on the three local ballot measure before Anaheim voters this Tuesday: Measures C, D and E.

Measure D would change the mayoral term from four year to two years; the global limit on eight consecutive years as mayor would remain unchanged.

The article quotes the three mayoral candidates views on Measure D:

Mayor Tom Tait:

“If a two-year term makes sense for the mayor, shouldn’t it also apply to council members who serve four-year terms? A four-year term allows time for a mayor to set goals and implement a vision. If a mayor were required to run every two years, a significant amount of time would be spent on running for re-election, rather than on the job of running the city. Due to the great expense of running for office in Anaheim, passing measure D would further empower special interests.”

Councilwoman Lucille Kring:

“If you have a mayor who is out of step with the will of the electorate, and people are upset about it, then it would make sense to have a two-year mayor. Four years can be a long time for some people, and sometimes the person holding the gavel is not a leader. If they’re doing a good job, then they will be elected. If not, then the people will have an opportunity to elect someone who will move the city forward.”

Former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway:

“The mayoral race is extremely expensive, because you’re running for the highest office in a large city, so people need to start raising money a year before the election. If a mayor’s term is only two years, then they will consistently spend their time raising funds rather than concentrating on their work for the people in this city. Plus, you can’t accomplish very much in two years, because there are projects and policies that could span an entire four years.”

The arguments advanced by Tait and Galloway are, in my opinion and with all due respect, flawed and don’t match up with reality.

1. Let’s take the argument that if a two-year term is good for the mayor’s office, then it ought to be extended to councilmembers – which essentially ignores the fact that mayor and councilmember are different offices with different roles and powers. According to that logic, then all powers currently exclusive to the mayor shoiuld also be extended to the council. I don’t think anyone is up for that – including Measure D opponents.

Plus, applying two-year terms to the mayor AND council means that all five of them (or possibly all seven, in future elections) would be on the ballot. This defeats the advantage of staggered terms by creating the possibility of total turn-over of the mayor and council every two years, which would destabilize city governance.

2. Then there’s the “mayor’s need four years to set goals and implement a vision” argument. This ignores several realities. The mayor is not the chief executive of the city who are “implementing a vision”. Mayoral candidates lay out their platforms – their goals and vision – when they are running for office – regardless of whether the term they are running for is two or four years long.  Mayors cannot “implement their vision” unless they can obtain support from enough of their council colleagues to command a majority – regardless of whether the mayoral term is two, four or 10 years in length.

Mayor Tait laid out his goals at the beginning of his term: balancing the budget, tackling unfunded pension liability, a regulatory reform task force and his kindness initiative. All those were set in motion during the first year of his first term, because he had the support of his colleagues.  Since the debacle of the special council session called after the first GardenWalk vote, followed by his support of the Take Back Anaheim campaign that was blasting three colleagues who had been supportive of him outside of the GardenWalk issue, the mayor has had great difficulty putting together votes for anything.  That all took place during the first 18 months of his first term – the point being that the length of the mayoral term has had little, if any, impact on what the mayor has and hasn’t been able to accomplish.

3. Then there’s the “a two-year term means the mayor will continually be campaigning and fundraising” argument. Based on the experience of other OC cities with directly-elected mayors — all of whom serve two-year terms – there’s no evidence to support this contention. It’s simply conjecture.

Former Councilwoman Galloway says mayoral candidates need to “start raising money a year before the election” a statement belied by her own experience.  Galloway herself didn’t form a mayoral campaign committee until slightly less than a year before the election (and candidates cannot raise money without a committee). Furthermore, she didn’t begin raising money until earlier this year.

Tait had been out of office for nearly five years when he opened his mayoral campaign committee in October 2009 – barely a year before the election. During November and December of 2009, he raised $150,000. During March and April of this year, he raised approximately $50,000.

Obviously, candidates – especially incumbents – can raise sufficient campaign funds quickly, if they are motivated to do so, whether their term is two or four years long.

Furthermore, this argument ignores the cumulative effect that running every two years has on building name ID. High name ID has a value all it own. Candidates who have it don’t need to raise as much money or campaign as hard and long as candidates without it. If Measure D passes, an incumbent mayor will have built such name ID that they will be very difficult to beat by their third or fourth re-election campaign – unless he/she is charged with a crime or is otherwise a disaster as a mayor.