Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 7, 2013

City term limits vary in Bay Area

ABAG president, vice president come from governments with no term limits

The recent proposal to increase the term limit for Palo Alto City Council members from two to three consecutive terms — or do away with the rule entirely — would change a voter decision that dates back to 1991.

Palo Alto's not the only city to consider such changes, though.

In 2010, Fremont, which had held a two-consecutive-term limit for its councilmembers since 1996, shot down a proposal from one of its councilmen to put to a vote increasing the limit to three terms. The idea was proposed by Vice-Mayor Bob Wieckowski, who now represents the 25th district in the State Assembly.

Proponents of the change in Fremont made some of the same arguments Palo Alto proponents are making, saying it would allow council members to gain more experience and increase their influence on regional boards. Ultimately, the Fremont council decided not to put the proposal on the ballot, saying that a turnover in its ranks was healthy, according to 2010 article by the Contra Costa Times.

The reasoning was the same that Union City followed when it instituted a three-term limit on its councilmembers in 1996 to encourage qualified candidates to seek public office.

Palo Alto is not alone in its current rules. Nearby cities, including Mountain View, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, also limit council members to two consecutive terms.

Some cities, like Menlo Park, Hayward and Newark do not have term limits, and proponents of discontinuing them in Palo Alto say those cities are at greater advantage to build clout on regional boards.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), is one such entity. ABAG is regional planning agency composed largely of representatives from local governments in the Bay Area. It deliberates on issues such as housing and environmental standards.

Its current president, Mark Luce, has been on the Napa County Board of Supervisors since 1996 and has served continuously since. Records show he's been a representative in ABAG since 2005 and president since the beginning of 2012.

ABAG's vice president, Jan Pierce, is the mayor of the 10,000-person Contra Costa County town of Clayton and has been on the town council there since 1992. She was elected as a delegate in the agency only four years ago, in 2009. But prior to that, she had been an alternate at ABAG for Walnut Creek Mayor Gwen Regalia. •

Eric Van Susteren

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