Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/18/2011 01:32:23 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – A proposal to limit the terms of elected officials is moving forward, and an effort to cap campaign contributions has failed.

Sixth Ward Councilman Rikke Van Johnson sought to have the proposed measures referred to the Legislative Review Committee in order to prepare city charter amendments establishing the changes.

“Term limits increases competition, encourages new challengers and breaks ties to special interests,” Johnson said as he read from a statement at Monday’s City Council meeting. “There is less chance for corruption of government officials if time in office is limited.”

Under Johnson’s proposal, which he said is one of several reforms he would be bringing to the dais, no elected official could serve more than three consecutive terms.

An official who has served more than three consecutive terms would not be eligible to hold office again for at least two years.

A partial term of office would be considered a full term when more than half the regular term has been served.

Johnson said new politicians are less likely to have the knowledge to exploit the political system for personal gain and long-tenured elected officials “generally, if not always, become a little jaded, indifferent, cynical and arrogant – regarding the duties, responsibilities and objectives of their job – after they’ve occupied it for a long time.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Chas Kelley said he liked some of the ideas in the proposal and that he believed it was a good start toward political reform.

But Kelley then made a substitute motion to include a review of the city’s ward system and the possibility of scrapping it, saying council members are often criticized for seeing each of their wards as fiefdoms and kingdoms.

“So I thought,” he said, “if we’re going to be considering some charter amendments, that maybe we might want to look at eliminating the ward system so that all seven council members can be accountable to the entire city as is done in municipalities to the east and to the west and the south of us. So would you consider doing that?”

Johnson, who is running unopposed and later said he wouldn’t be seeking office after his next term, said that as cities grow, they grow toward the ward system, so to do away with it would be to move backward.

Still, the substitute motion was seconded by 2nd Ward Councilman Robert Jenkins and was passed on a 4-2 vote with 1st Ward Councilwoman Virginia Marquez and 3rd Ward Councilman Tobin Brinker casting “yes” votes along with Kelley and Jenkins.

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