There's no doubt that term limits are popular with voters. Here in California, for example, members of the Legislature and the Board of Equalization, as well as statewide officeholders, are limited in how long they can serve.
Accordingly, it shouldn't come as a surprise that politicians hopeful of establishing populist credentials propose term limits for the offices that they occupy. The latest in our area is Andreas Borgeas, a former Fresno City Council member who is now on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
As reported Friday by The Bee's John Ellis, Borgeas plans to unveil his "Fresno County Reform Campaign Act" at the Sept. 24 board meeting. The act proposes to speed up reporting of late political campaign contributions, limit individual campaign contributions to $4,100 per candidate in an election and restrict supervisors to three terms totaling 12 years.
We agree with Borgeas that it is often difficult for voters and even media to learn of late campaign contributions in county elections. But the best way for supervisors to increase transparency is to provide Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth with a budget sufficient to hire enough workers so that late contributions are put online immediately.
The proposal to limit campaign contributions is, at best, a Band-Aid for the problem of powerful interests bankrolling candidates. Even with a $4,100 per candidate contribution limit, big-money donors could still flex their political muscles by donating to independent expenditure groups, which wield more and more clout in elections.
As for term limits, there is no evidence that they improve the performance of elected boards and legislative bodies. All you have to do is look to Sacramento, where term limits merely have provided more opportunities for inept lawmakers. Or look to the Fresno City Council, where term limits force good representatives out the door and rob that body of important institutional knowledge and political savvy.
The fact is, voters have the opportunity to utilize the most basic of term limits. It's called "vote the rascal out" if an elected official's performance is second-rate.
Borgeas would need the votes of two other supervisors to put term limits on the June 2014 ballot. It's highly unlikely he will get them. And that's fine with us. Supervisor Debbie Poochigian called Borgeas' proposal exactly what it is in Ellis' story -- a publicity stunt.