Law professor Kmiec writes rebuttal argument in favor of Measure U

Opponents continue with their argument that the term limits measure is a power grab by incumbents.

Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Measure U proponents enlisted Doug Kmiec, Pepperdine University School of Law professor and legal scholar, to write and sign the ballot measure rebuttal argument in favor of the proposal that would increase the maximum number of terms a person can sit on the City Council from two to three. He is the only person who signed the rebuttal.

Meanwhile the rebuttal argument against the measure was signed by former Mayor Jeff Kramer, former Planning Commissioner Ted Vaill, attorney Henry Holguin and longtime residents Bill Carson and Bob Sutton.

Both rebuttal arguments were released to the public last week and will appear on the ballot in April along with the original arguments, which were released last month.

Kmiec wrote in the argument that the passage of Measure U would be “reaffirming the authority of the people and democracy.”

“Proponents respectfully rely on the simple truth that you should be free to democratically elect whomever you want, not just opponent’s ‘anointed’ candidates,” Kmiec wrote.

He further quoted from the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court opinion drafted by Justice John Paul Stevens in which the court voted 5-4 to reject congressional term limits. Several state supreme courts have ruled in favor of term limits.

Kmiec said in an interview this week that he is philosophically opposed to term limits altogether, but he felt Measure U was a decent compromise.

Former Planning Commissioner Richard Carrigan, who is heading the campaign against Measure U, said Kmiec missed the point of Measure U in his argument, because he did not address the issue of the City Council’s refusal to exclude current council members from being affected by the measure.

“We could have had a proposal before the voters for an extension of term limits that would only affect future council members,” Carrigan said. “And then we could have had a debate on that. But instead, the council decided to commingle the issue with self-interest.”

The two-term limitation was approved by nearly two-thirds of the voters in 2000. Mayor Pro Tem Ken Kearsley and Councilmember Jeff Jennings, who were elected in 2000, will be the first council members affected by the law. (However, if an appellate court panel affirms last week’s decision by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that Councilmember Sharon Barovsky is termed-out, then she would be the first to be affected by the law. See story at left.) Carrigan said Measure U is an attempt to keep Kearsley and Jennings in power.

The measure’s opponents focused their argument, which was written as a collaborative effort among all the signers, on the accusation that the measure was an attempt at a power grab.

“This [2008] will be the first time our term-limits law has the chance to be applied, and before it gets that chance, the council seeks to kill it,” the opponents wrote. “That is disrespectful of democracy and the overwhelming majority of us who voted for this law.”

The opponents further wrote, “These incumbents have been in office so long they have confused their personal desire for power with what is the best interest of Malibu. That is precisely what our term-limits law was designed to prevent.”

The council voted 5-0 last month to place Measure U on the ballot. The proposal to increase the term limits was introduced by Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who said she was concerned the Malibu government could lose its institutional memory.

Conley Ulich has said the only money she plans to spend on the campaign for the measure is the cost of putting up a Web site. Carrigan was quoted in the past as saying he would spend $24,000 in an attempt to defeat the measure. He clarified that statement this week, saying that he spent $24,000 in 2003 to defeat Measure M, the Malibu Bay Co. Development Agreement, and would campaign as vigorously against term limits as he did against the Malibu Bay agreement. He said he hoped that it would not cost that much to do that, but he would spend that amount if it were necessary.

Conley Ulich said she chose to have just one person sign the argument because “sometimes one person is enough.”

When asked about what he thought of the proponents using just one signer for their argument, Carrigan said, “I found it strange and curious. But I find a lot of things these days to be strange and curious.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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