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Kirk Effinger: Term limits place limit on our progress

If anyone is still wondering what has happened to governance in our state they need look no further than the examples provided with the help of term limits, the behavior of our own State Senator Mark Wyland (38th Senatorial District) as he bids for more life as a politician, and the future of our County Board of Supervisors. 

Wyland, who leaves office at the end of his term due to term limits, has announced he is running for the Third District State Board of Equalization seat about to be vacated by Michelle Steele — because of term limits.

Term limits were enacted in 1990, largely the brainchild of Republicans, and were sold to voters as a way to end the era of “career politicians.” Republicans were behind this because they were frustrated by one man, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who wielded power so effectively, unyieldingly, and in such a partisan manner they saw it as the only way to end Brown’s tenure and to forestall future Willie Browns.

Wyland was first elected to office as a member of the Escondido Union School District Board in 1997.

His election in 2000 to represent the 74th Assembly District truly began what can only be described today as his career as a politician.

In all the time he has served, what Wyland is most noted for is getting elected and re-elected as a Republican in districts that are generally Republican-leaning.

This isn’t entirely his fault.

As a member of the extremely minority party in the state legislature it’s virtually impossible to get any meaningful legislation passed but, the fact remains Wyland is, despite the intended aim of term limits, a “career politician.”

Since the concept of term limits has begun we have seen a constant stream of politicians hit the revolving door in Sacramento. Does anyone believe our state is better run since 1990?

Bringing the travesty of term limits closer to home, last year voters approved — with union and arguable Democratic Party support this time — limits on terms for the County Board of Supervisors, limiting them to two terms.

Anyone who has read my columns over the years knows I have long been opposed to the stacked deck that allows the 20-plus year tenure of most our current board members.

That said, I am equally opposed to taking away the people’s right to vote for and retain representation if that is their desire.

Thanks to the passage of the new term-limit law, in seven years our county board will have no one with more than two year’s experience on the body.

This lack of institutional memory and continuity is something you should try desperately to avoid as it increases elected official’s reliance on people who have no term limits, but who do have their own agenda that is sometimes in conflict with the will of the people, government employees.

Simply put, term limits subverts the will of the people and is contrary to the democratic process.

Kirk W. Effinger was born in San Diego and raised in Southern California. He and his family have been residents of San Marcos for the past 30 years. His opinion columns have appeared regularly in the North County Times and, later, the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1995. He can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @kirkeffinger