Term limits put bureaucracies in charge

EVERY six years, the state Assembly clears out its membership and replaces them with folks with absolutely zero experience. It’s like the physician’s staff telling you as you are about to go in for surgery:

“We’ve replaced all the doctors having six years or more experience with newbie medical interns. That includes the guy who has your life in his hands. OK, Mr. Smith, let’s take out that spleen.”

Assembly members must leave after six years, state senators after eight. That’s not enough time for any man or woman to understand the state budget or keep a monster-sized bureaucracy in its place. By the time they’ve attended a hearing, or tried to read the budget (ha!), they’re raising money for their re-election while promising constituents the moon. Cut taxes? Make changes to state pensions? Tame a bureaucracy? Nah. These guys don’t have the experience nor the contacts across the aisle to effectively govern. Instead, they pass fragrant bills that make them smell good but really cover over the rot in Sacramento.

I understand the thinking (anger?) behind Prop. 140, – which was backed in large part by the San Gabriel Valley’s county Supervisor Pete Schabarum, who later said it was a mistake. But it hasn’t worked.

The Sacramento Bee reported in 2011 that 60 percent of Assembly members and 40 percent of senators termed out in 2008 were appointed or elected to another public-sector job. That’s about the same numbers as in 1980 and 1990.

The unintended effect is a dumber Legislature. And here’s my point: It puts bureaucracies in charge, not our elected officials. Heads of Caltrans and the California Air Resources Board have more power than elected officials.

The Public Policy Institute of California in 2004 said term limits “have eroded legislative capacities in unhelpful ways” while “careerism remains a constant in California politics.”

On Tuesday I met with some key water managers from local districts: Rick Hansen of Three Valleys and Shane Chapman of Upper San Gabriel Valley. Both have decades of experience on the complicated issue of water. They’ve seen imported water supplies reduced due to environmental erosion in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They’ve seen a compromise bill in 2009 that produced an $11 million bond measure for the November 2010 ballot get postponed until November 2012. Now, as they pointed out, many new legislators don’t know what to do with this measure because they weren’t at the table. Those who were got termed out.

The water folks are faced with re-educating the Legislature on this complex issue.

Likewise, Caltrans has been making moves that the Legislature seems unable to comprehend or stop. For instance, I reported Caltrans’ District 7 was trying to pass off responsibilities for Highway 39, the winding mountain road that provides access to the San Gabriel Mountains to millions of visitors each year.

Yet, aside from a letter of protest, local Assembly members and senators did nothing. At the same time Caltrans says it will never repair the 4.4-mile gap in the state highway and re-connect it to Highway 2 near Wrightwood, it also says it can’t afford to keep up repairs along the entire mountain highway.

Many residents talk about other powerful bureaucracies not being held accountable. For example, folks who’ve seen for-profit water companies raise rates by 20 percent or 30 percent are frustrated with the California Public Utilities Commission, which many water customers of Golden State Water Co. say is not stopping rate gouging. Shouldn’t it be our Legislature who holds the CPUC in check?

“Many (legislative) committees lack the experience to weed out bad bills and to ensure that agencies are acting efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent,” reported the Public Policy Institute.

That’s putting it mildly.

There is a measure on the June 5 ballot that will change term limits by allowing legislators to serve 12 years straight (instead of a total of 14 in both bodies). I don’t know if I’m supporting it or not. I just know that what we have now is the tail wagging the dog.


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Tributes for the late Rep. Jim Lloyd

The West Covina City Council adjourned its meeting Tuesday night in honor of former councilman-turned-congressman Jim Lloyd, who passed away Thursday in Florida.

Lloyd served on the West Covina City Council from 1968 to 1975 and immediately afterward was elected to Congress where he served three terms from 1976 to 1981. The centrist Democrat lost to upstart Republican David Dreier, who remains in office today.

In addition, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, was getting ready to adjourn the state Assembly in Lloyd’s honor.

Lloyd was a Navy pilot in World War II and Korea and also served as public information director of Guantanamo Bay in 1962 during the cuban missile crisis. He lived in West Covina with his wife, Jackie Vaughan Lloyd, until recently. Lloyd moved to Cameron Park, near Sacramento, to be with his son, Brian, 57, after his wife passed away last year.

Lloyd, 89, died after crashing his 2003 Acura on Scenic Highway in Pensacola. He was visiting his son, Seth, who is training to be a Navy pilot. Lloyd apparently sustained a massive stroke and lost control of the car. He died 11 days later. No one else was injured in the solo-car crash.

The story is one of the most clicked on stories I’ve written. I keep getting emails and phone calls about Lloyd, whom as far as I can recall, was the only West Covina council member to be elected to Congress.

Eileen Spiegelman, the former co-owner of Marty’s Restaurant, called me today and said she wanted to send her condolences to Lloyd’s son, Brian. She said Jim was “a very frequent customer.” She called Jim “a wonderful person.”

Marty’s Restaurant, formerly located at Vincent Avenue and West Covina Parkway, was a place where city hall types, judges and lawyers from the nearby courthouse would meet for lunch and dinner, she said.

She said Lloyd was a regular customer.

People can send letters and cards to Chris Freeland, deputy city manager, West Covina City Hall, 1444 West Garvey Ave., West Covina, CA 91793. There is no iinformation on any memorial service. Brian said his father would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the summer.

-steve scauzillo