ESCONDIDO — The City Council is considering asking voters in November if they would like to set term limits for elected municipal officials and potentially change the city treasurer from an elected to an appointed position.
Councilmember Mike Morasco brought forward both potential ballot measures at the May 25 council meeting. Both term limits and the future of the treasurer position have been subjects that the city and the public have discussed for quite some time, he noted.
According to Morasco, a recent city survey showed the majority of respondents want term limits for elected officials like the mayor, council members and the treasurer. He also agrees.
“I don’t think it behooves us to have people in office that long to become institutions unto themselves,” Morasco said. “I’d like to see new blood, young blood, other ideas, other individuals having that opportunity to learn, to grow, to have greater input and greater say as to what’s happening in the city of Escondido.”
Morasco is also the longest-serving council member currently on the dais. He was first appointed in 2010 and has been reelected three times since.
“As you heard in letters to the city tonight, people are tired of my perspective, so maybe we need to have that opportunity for people to know that I will not be an institution unto myself,” he added.
Of San Diego County’s 18 cities, only eight of them have term limits for their elected officials. Oceanside and San Marcos are currently the only two cities in North County that have term limits for elected officials in place.
There are a few ways the Escondido City Council could implement term limits on the ballot measure.
The cities of La Mesa, National City and San Marcos allow three consecutive four-year terms while Oceanside sets their term limits at three four-year teams, consecutive or not. In Santee, council members are allowed three consecutive four-year terms while the mayor is only allowed two four-year terms. Chula Vista, Coronado, and the city of San Diego allow two consecutive four-year terms.
At the May 25 meeting, the Escondido City Council appeared to favor a limit of three consecutive four-year terms for council members with possibly only two four-year terms for mayor. Council will again discuss the potential ballot measure at the June 22 meeting and provide direction to the city attorney to draft an ordinance.
Only Councilmember Consuelo Martinez was hesitant to put a term limit measure on the November ballot. Though not opposed to the idea of term limits, her primary concern was its timing given the potential of two other ballot measures at the same time.
Ballot measures are relatively pricey. The term limit ballot measure could cost the city between $48,000 and $78,000, which is a similar range for the other potential measures as well.
City Attorney Michael McGuinness said that if the measure is put on the ballot this year and approved by voters, it would affect terms beginning next year, which would include the mayor’s term as well as City Council districts 1 and 2, all three of which are up for election this year.
McGuinness also noted that council will have to move “fairly quickly” on approving a term limit measure for this November’s ballot and could wait until the 2024 election.
The other two potential ballot measures include a sales tax measure and modification to the city treasurer position.