West Hollywood voters delivered a decidedly mixed message in Tuesday’s election: They approved a ballot measure establishing term limits for City Council members, while also decisively reelecting two longtime incumbents.
All but one of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council have spent more than a decade in office. Measure C will limit council members to a total of three four-year terms.
“This is really a mandate for change in the city, that the politics as usual aren’t going to be able to continue,” said Scott Schmidt, a West Hollywood resident who helped spearhead the campaign that gathered more than 3,000 signatures and put the measure on the ballot.
The measure easily passed with 2,690 votes in favor and 1,653 votes opposed, according to unofficial results released by the city.
About 800 additional ballots — including some vote-by-mail ones — are still to be counted, said City Clerk Corey Schaffer. Those will be tallied in coming days, Schaffer said.
Previous attempts at term limits were rejected. In 1997, voters balked at a measure that would have limited council members to two consecutive terms. Incumbents have lost an election only twice in the city’s 28-year history, city officials said.
Some community activists said they were tired of seeing the same people in office year after year. Schmidt said Measure C was aimed at keeping long-term council members from becoming too influenced by lobbyists and ensuring others have a fair chance to run for office.
The voters, Schmidt said, sent an “interesting message” by approving term limits and reelecting the two incumbents, Councilman John Duran and Mayor Jeffrey Prang, who ran against seven other candidates for the council’s two open seats.
The council members are elected at large, with the office of mayor rotating among the members yearly.
“From Day 1, we said this wasn’t about individuals or about personalities,” Schmidt said. “It was about the future of West Hollywood.”
Of 8,223 votes cast, Prang received 2,395 and Duran received 2,064, according to the city’s unofficial results. Steve Martin, a former councilman, received the next-highest number with 1,393.
Prang has been a member of the council since 1997, and Duran has been in office since 2001. Both were vocal opponents of the term limits measure. Prang said term limit measures reflect a “general frustration with government” but that his and Duran’s decisive victories showed that West Hollywood voters “are pretty happy with the way the city has been managed.”
“I think the voters ... demonstrate that when they know their elected officials and know what you’ve accomplished, they’re happy to keep you around as long as you’re productive.”
Duran said term limits will eventually hurt the community by forcing out council members with experience.
“Having years and years of experience gives an elected official more spine and fortitude to say no,” he said. “When I was a newly elected official, I wanted to say yes to everyone, and I wanted to be liked.”
The term limits will not be retroactive, city officials said. Existing council members will be allowed to run for three additional four-year terms.
“If the intent was meant to slap at the current council, it doesn’t really affect us,” Duran said. “We get 12 more years.”