By Edwin Folven, 10/11/2012
Signatures being verified for WeHo term limits proposal
A group seeking to put term limits for the West Hollywood City Council on the March ballot has moved a step closer to allowing voters to decide the issue.
The group, which calls itself West Hollywood Term Limits 2013 and was founded by three longtime residents of the city, turned in 3,452 signatures last week that, if verified, could pave the way for a ballot initiative.
West Hollywood City Clerk Corey Schaffer forwarded the signatures to the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder’s Office for verification. Schaffer said the county has until mid-November to verify whether enough signatures were collected from West Hollywood residents who are registered voters, but the process could be completed sooner. Proponents of the ballot measure needed approximately 2,340 signatures to qualify for the ballot, but gathered approximately 1,100 more during a grassroots effort that began in August to ensure they would meet the requirements. The group also registered more than 400 people to vote during the signature gathering drive.
“I think it is a testament to the fact that the people of West Hollywood are open to change,” said Scott Schmidt, a founder of West Hollywood Term Limits 2013. “Most of the signatures were gathered in a volunteer effort, which is something you don’t see that often. We had around thirty people who volunteered, and around eighty people signed on as supporters through our website.”
Sheila Lightfoot, who along with Schmidt and resident Elyse Eisenberg founded West Hollywood Term Limits 2013, said she is highly optimistic voters will opt for term limits. The group’s proposal would limit council members to three terms, or 12 years in office. The incumbent council members could remain in office for three additional terms after the measure is approved, because term limits are not retroactive under state law. Current councilman John Heilman has served for 28 years, Abbe Land has been in office for 19 years, Jeffrey Prang has served for 15 years and John Duran for 11 years. Councilmember John D’Amico was elected in 2011.
“Because so many council members have served for such a long time, it is difficult for new people to come in and challenge the incumbents,” Lightfoot said. “New people should have the opportunity to represent their friends and neighbors on the council, and term limits level the playing field.”
Prang, West Hollywood’s mayor, said if the signatures are verified, the measure would be placed on the March ballot.
The city council could also decide to enact the term limits law without putting the issue before voters, but Prang said there is no support on the council for such a decision.
“The people have voted on this in the past, and progressive voters like we have in this city recognize the terribly destructive effect term limits have had on California, particularly in Sacramento. It’s not a model we want to duplicate,” Prang said. “I think the people of West Hollywood have been generally supportive of the work that has been done, and I think the people in the end will express support for those efforts and accomplishments.”
Schaffer said he might have a better idea next week about exactly when the signatures will be verified. Once they are approved, the city council must make a decision by Dec. 7, the last date to have the measure placed on the upcoming March ballot.
Schmidt added that proponents are currently waiting to see what happens, but remain confident.
“It’s like that Tom Petty song goes,” he added. “The waiting is the hardest part.”