TERM LIMITS FOR TEMECULA?
by Aury Smith
Can you believe there was a time in our nation’s history, when elected officials served for a sense of duty and honor to their country, and not for personal monetary gain? It seems hard to fathom, given the current plague of abuses of political power in the federal, state and local levels of government.
The founding fathers were acutely aware of the dangers of concentrated political power of an individual or body of government. They envisioned a citizen legislature, a governing body that is comprised of individuals who have full time occupations other than public office. The importance of “rotation of office”, or term limits as we know it today, did not go unnoticed by the framers of the Constitution. Statesman Roger Sherman of Connecticut believed that “the Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their Constituents.” Thomas Jefferson proposed limits on tenure of office for delegates to the Continental Congress, “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress….” He was later concerned with the Federal Constitution’s failure to provide mandatory rotation of office for the President and members of the Senate.
The idea of an elected office being a lifetime occupation is predominately a 20th century concept. Although term limits weren’t precisely included in the Constitution, frequent turnover was common due to extra-constitutional means; that is to say, officeholders voluntarily limited their own tenure. While this might seem unbelievable today, consider this: The first 30 men to serve as president limited themselves to two terms without any law requiring it.
This is quite a contrast to our current state of affairs. Our state senator, Barbara Boxer has been in Congress for 28 years; ten years in the House of Representatives and eighteen in the Senate. Senator Dianne Feinstein has nineteen years in the Senate under her belt. Even at the local level, our own mayor, Ron Roberts, has been in office almost as long as Temecula has been incorporated as a city. That’s approximately 20 years! Isn’t it time for fresh faces and new ideas? Murrieta’s residents seem to agree, as they just overwhelmingly adopted term limits for their council in the 2010 election. Maybe Temecula should follow Murrieta’s example, and adopt term limits for our city council.